Over this past three weeks we have explored the concept of the Observing Self and how we can use it and the Thinking Self to hear God's voice clearer and without distraction. In doing so, we have explored cognitive strategies to work with our thoughts including diffusion and mindfulness.
However, not all of us are good at using thought based strategies to quieten our mind and instead find that visualization techniques are a more effective strategy. In our final week on this topic we are going to explore how the Psalms use imagery to relate who God is and help us know Him more clearly - thus helping to quieten our mind and hear and "see" God.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. - Psalm 23:2-3
I want you to start by taking five deep breaths. Breathe in through your mouth, inflating your stomach for four and then breathe out through your mouth, again counting to four. Repeat another three times, feeling your body relax and all the tension leave with your exhale.
Now start to imagine that you are lying nearby this beautiful pool. The grass is soft and comfortable underneath you; the wind is gently blowing through your hair and you can smell the freshness of the river. You are nice and relaxed as your body slowly sinks into the ground, comforted by the knowledge that the ground is supporting you. As you relax by this pool, you can hear the water trickling, flowing past you. There is no one around you - nothing but refreshing stillness.
Now I want you to imagine Jesus comes to sit beside you. What does he look like? Is he old and wise? Or young and hip? Notice the color of his hair, what he is wearing - the confident and relaxed posture he is in.
How is sitting in his presence - do you feel safe, calm and relaxed? He is talking to you now - what is he saying? Observe the sound of his voice – is it gentle? Warm? Friendly? What is he saying to you? How do His words make you feel? Reflect on what he is saying and what you are feeling and then in your own time take another five deep breaths, inhaling for four and exhaling for another four; starting to notice your body and then the world around you.
How was that? What did you notice about this exercise? Did you sense Jesus in your imaginings? Could you hear him? Our imagination is an incredible gift we can use to create visual images such as this to connect the God who is with us, described so helpfully in passages like Psalm 23 above. Note, very importantly, that we let the word of God inspire our imagination and guide us to Jesus - otherwise, we could well be making up just about anything and calling it Jesus.
We can visualize our conversations with him in a similar manner. For example - when I am feeling poorly I visualize myself curling up like a baby in God’s arms. Similarly, I often talk to God imaging him like Aslan from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. These visualizations allow me to focus on him, connect with him and be welcome to him speaking to me.
The most important thing, in the end, is to use your mind to create spaces for God to become present to - God is of course not simply confined to our minds, but by his Spirit he certainly can and does speak into our thinking and animate our imaginations with powerful insights from him.
So, as we finish this series, I hope that it has helped you to feel closer to God; to hear his voice and not get distracted by other things going on in our mind.
Written by Ashleigh Crosilla