An Exercise

This is a visualization exercise, an exercise of the imagination. Its intent is to help you connect to yourself, to give you access to feelings too fine to notice in the whirl of the everyday. In a way, it’s a form of “brain gym.” In another way, it’s a form of divination.

What’s on your mind today? What kinds of questions are you pondering? What puzzles you? Answering those questions to yourself, whether internally or out loud, can make your new dimensions of your answer appear in sharper relief. Try this visualization, and see what turns up.

If you’re considering doing this exercise, you may want to read it through one time, and then, after centering yourself, close your eyes and see where you go with it.

Before you begin, take some time to get settled. Let out a slow exhalation. Feel the back of your head, your neck, your spine, and imagine that warm, delightful water is falling down your back. Allow the water to calm your breath further. Let your face relax. Let your feet connect with the floor, as if your exhalation were making them heavier. Take your time.

* * * * *

Imagine you are at a cafe, on a sidewalk in Downtown Big City somewhere in your memories. You can see everything in this memory: the rich beauty of the white linens underneath your coffee cup and saucer, the mirror polish of the cutlery. The black gum on the grey concrete. The Burger King bag in the gutter of the street, crumpled, flattened, blackened from being run over by parking cars. The busses going by. The cabs. The scissoring legs of well-dressed professionals walking from lunch to work. The fall of the men’s slacks as they stride. The pigeons, the streets signs, the leaves on the springtime trees. What else do you see in this city?

Now hear everything in this memory: the sound of cars starting, stopping, honking on occasion, accelerating too quickly, or too slowly, diesels and turbos and wheezing old Fords. The murmur of cafe guests nearby. Perhaps a specific conversation you’ve been tracking. The sounds of the kitchen, deeper into the cafe. The birds. The wind in the leaves. The shoes of those passing by, clicking, scuffing, squeaking, clopping. What else do you hear in this city?

Perhaps you know now which city you are in; perhaps you can recognize it as an amalgam of many places you’ve been, or of cities you’ve seen in movies or imagined from books, or from your own dreams. Recall again the sights, the sounds of this city–and now the smells. Inhabit your chair on that sidewalk in your city as fully as you can. Now, in your imagination, close your eyes. Listen more fully still in your imagination. Listen not to specific sounds, but to all the sounds at once. You’ll need to relax your attention without disconnecting yourself from your imagination. Listen to the whole symphony of this place. Listen.

Now. Now, you are there.

What feelings do you hear in this place? Who or what about your city stands out–and what do you feel about it?

Consider the whole. What about this symphony resonates in your heart? What feelings are creeping through the spaces between the clicking shoes and the rustling leaves? How is your heart dancing to this symphony?

In dreams, everything is You. Every character, no matter how alluring or grotesque, is you. This whole city is you. What, then, does this city tell you about those parts of you that are usually so deep, so subtle, that they are drowned out by your real life in your real city?

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2 responses to “An Exercise

  1. A very cool exercise. I wonder how many people find their city is not a city–that is, the place where their imagination speaks to itself is a monastery, a village, a farm,or the open ocean.

    In waking hours, I occupy Manhattan or Brooklyn in my imagination. When I’m sleeping, it is a completely imaginary place, where there are mountains on three sides, and all of the buildings are linked together by a bunch of wooden walkways put together as wildly as the hallways in the Albuquerque Press Club.

  2. I love the concept of brain gym — and as with most good exercises, this one focuses on those underused brain “muscles” which has a really invigorating effect! I think your suggestions are really helpful in shifting out of the well-worn familiar thinking patterns that many of us know so well: fretting, planning, practical problem-solving. Visualizing and pondering are great to balance those other ones out.

    Your motto could be “Fret less, ponder more.”

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