In my daily life, I am often reminded of the practical effects of visualization. In short, they help organize my mind and actions at many levels and align them with a certain outcome, making that outcome more likely.
I have written about the specifics of this in other posts, although I can repeat some of them: At the mind, emotional and behavioral levels, there is a reorganization and realignment with the content of the visualization, making it more likely to happen. Obstacles at the mind and emotional levels tend to be reduced or go away. I look for small steps in daily life to bring me in the direction of what is visualized. I find more easily in my self and my life the qualities I visualize. I look for opportunities, and are more likely to recognize and grasp them when they arise. I actively engage in behaviors which brings me closer to the outcome. And of course, the more vivid the visualization, the more it seem real here and now, the more all of this tends to happen.
It is interesting to note that this is a process that happens anyway, all the time for most or all of us. We visualize something in the future, and it tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy for us. Often, we don’t realize that this is what is going on. And if we do, may take the specifics of the visualization as inevitable, or something outside of our control. When I consciously visualize, I am just using a process that is there all along, whether I notice it or not, and whether I consciously interact with it or not.
The process of visualization is a tool, and as any tool it can be used for many different purposes and in many different ways. Mainly, it can be used as part of a spiritual practice, as an aid for awakening, it can be used to change the conditions of my inner life, and it can be used to make something happen in my life in the world. Either of those are fine.
Tibetan Buddhism is probably most sophisticated, and at least most complex, in how they use it as an aid for changes in the inner life, and ultimately awakening. But even theistic traditions use visualizations, for instance through prayer. I visualize Christ in my prayers and contemplations, and it inevitably has an effect on me. I bring some of the qualities I see in Christ into my own life. The visualization becomes a reminder of what is possible here now.
And then there is of course those using it to either feel better, for instance visualizing themselves as happy, or to get something in their outer life, for instance a new job, a partner, or more money.
In either case, it is good to keep it all in perspective. Visualizations are about getting something that appears to not already be here, so it is easy to get into the trap of a sense of split here, to identify closely with seeking mind and not finding ourselves so often as non-seeking mind. So it can be good to ask ourselves a few questions. What happens when I believe I need this in my life? What will change if I have it in my life? Is it true that what I am seeking is not already here?
These questions may help us see and feel that nothing is really missing here and now. It is complete as it is. And yet, within that context, it is still fully possible to use visualizations for practical reasons. It remains one of many practical tools, although now not used to fill a hole in me or to get something I believe I really need.
Visualization is just one of many tools we use in daily life, and we tend to use it as we use all of the other tools.
If we believe we really need something that is not here, then any or all of the tools are used within that context. If we look for solutions that only benefit us or our small group, then the tools are used in that way. If we look for solutions that benefits ourselves and the larger whole, the big inclusive we, then they are requited for that purpose. If we notice that what we seem to need is already here, then they are used within that context.