Image Streaming Back-Up Procedures

Special insert for those who did not at first “get pix”

by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
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For years it was cited as “a scientific fact” that one American in three is unable to “get pictures,” to visualize. In our experience, not one person out of thousands has been able to get through the following “back-up” procedures without getting pictures in his or her mind’s eye and thus begin to harvest the benefits of visual thinking. And: oh, yes — this writer was one of those who “absolutely can’t visualize” until, by dint of methods much harder to use than those here, he finally became able to “get pictures in his mind’s eye” and to start thinking visually. He found visual thinking so very, very useful, that he began teaching it to others — initially by methods similar to the ones he had been taught by, only those didn’t work for a lot of people. Consulting his own visual thinking for guidance how to enable this person or that one to begin getting visual imagery, one method after another literally taught itself to this writer. One of the first remains one of the strongest, the “Helper Technique” version of Image Streaming.

1. Helper Technique for beginning Image Streaming

For this technique you definitely do need a live partner, following these next instructions with you.

Normally, it’s preferred that you simply close eyes and begin noticing — and describing — whatever images happen to be there. Imagery is going on there all the time, an ongoing commentary on everything. For some of us, though, that natural, ongoing process is far enough unconscious that this “Helper Technique” may be needed —

— Though that imagery goes on all the time, some images come through a little more strongly than do others, and while this is happening, you automatically make little responses which are visible to outside observers. These little responses are “attention cues” because you make these responses when you start to give attention to some stimulus. A partner observing these cues can, whenever they happen, gently ask, “What was in your awareness just then?” — until the one who was asked, realizes s/he was seeing something just then, and thus begin the flow of description from that point.

Here are ways to make two of these attention cues highly visible and obvious enough that an untrained observer can spot them and appropriately ask you that question —

a.   When you start to give attention to something, you hold your breath. If your partner is instructed to breathe slowly, smoothly, rewardingly, and continuously, with no pauses between breathing in and breathing out, then the attention-cue pause in breathing becomes highly visible by contrast, and an occasion for asking that partner, “What was in your awareness just then?”

b.   If partner keeps eyes closed and the observer notices them moving around under the lids, what is it that they are looking at? Eye movement under the closed lids is what is significant here, not eyelid flutter. When you spot that eye movement, ask partner, “What was in your awareness just then?” When in doubt as to either cue, go ahead and ask the question.

— Meanwhile, if the one who is to Image Stream notices any images happening, go ahead and start describing them anyway, instead of waiting for your partner to ask you what was in your awareness just then.

Once anything at all is spotted, the would-be Image Streamer is to describe the dickens out of it in as much detail as possible, even forcing some made-up detail if need be, to get the flow started. (Spotter asks no more questions unless flow falters, in order not to slow the flow or interrupt it.) More, much more imagery will come and, after awhile, the Image Streamer can truly begin enjoying functioning as an accurate reporter of increasingly meaningful and intriguing internal event perceptions.

This spotting and identifying of attention cues is the preferred way to get Image Streaming started if you weren’t able to simply look in and self-start as above. However, with so many other back-up techniques available: if 10 minutes’ try of such closed-eyes breathing and cue reinforcing does not bring about the sought-for perceptions and experience of “pix,” switch to one of the following alternative methods.

In each of these procedures hereafter, we will refer to the person seeking to see images as the Image Streamer, and the listening partner as Listener. Once both of you get images going you can both play both roles simultaneously, one of you describing until you have to pause for breath, the other then rushing in with some description of his/her own images and vice versa, to get a lot of viewing and describing into the available time. Some of the following, including # 2, “After Image” next below, can be done by just the Image Streamer working alone with a tape recorder.

2. After-Image 

After-Image is another way to get inner visual impressions going, as basis for that descriptive flow which leads to further visual mental awarenesses. Stare at a bright light (but nowhere nearly as bright as the sun! — 20-40 watts is more than bright enough) for a half minute, or another part of the room or windows which have strong light/dark contrast. After that, especially when you close eyes, you should have momentary after-images, left-over prints of that light on the retina at back of the eye. You may experience seeing a gloating blob of light or color, perhaps a line or so. Describe that in some detail and continue describing it as that afterimage begins to change color and shape.

Unreinforced after-images last only a few seconds. Reinforced by attention and description, your after-image can last long minutes — we’ve found experimentally some which lasted 4 hours! If yours fades out after a few moments, recharge on the light again and resume describing.

At some point in that process of examining and describing your after-images, you may notice experiencing some other kinds of image, whether just trace impressions or a momentary eye, face, landscape, vase or whatever. It’s those other kinds of image which we’re hoping to get to and describe in this experience, so please notice when this happens, and switch to describing that new image — in present tense, as if you were still looking at it even if it were only a momentary glimpse that you caught. With sufficiently forceful and detailed sustained flow of description, more images will come.

Again, if 10-20 minutes’ sustained effort with After-Image did not lead you to more interesting images, try another procedure. The same for any of these procedures. No one has “run the gauntlet” of these several various procedures without getting pictures in their mind’s eye with which to begin visual thinking. Once you have a procedure productive for you, practice the imagery-and-describing as such. After getting started, do not try out all the other back-up procedures since that would slow down your more essential practice, unless you plan to teach visual thinking to others and so wish to familiarize yourself with all the techniques for getting people started into imagery. What matters is the Image Streaming itself, not how you got it started.

3. Worth Describing 

You may have been getting blobs of color, lines, patterns, other visual impressions and not reporting them because you thought they were too trivial to mention. — Or impressions in other sensory channels — sounds, tingles, impressions of pressure or movement. These are still inner phenomena worth reporting and if you report them rapidly and detailedly enough and sustain that flow of description, you will find this leading to other impressions some of which clearly will not seem so trivial to you.

If, after 10-20 minutes of reporting blobs of color, this has not led to any other kind of imagery that you’ve noticed, you can, with eyes kept closed:

a.   Deliberately look beyond the color as beyond a colored screen, just a few feet further distant, and see….. (whatever impression: resume describing from there). Or,

b.   Breathe as if to “breathe in” the nearest of the colors, clearing thereby the way to see other impressions…..

4. Phosphenes 

Gently rub your own closed eyes like a sleepy child, and describe the light and-color blips which result from that changing slight pressure. Go on with describing from there…..

The next two procedures become deeply enough introspective that it’s easy to nod off — the reason Einstein kept a rock in either hand — so for these two we strongly recommend using a live partner as listener and “spotter.” Another reason for using a live partner with either or both of these is that we will be using again those “attention cues” from “the Helper Technique” — The instructions for these next two procedures are worded for the use of your listener/spotter partner to follow in working with you as the intended Image Streamer.

5. Stream From Memory 

Have your image-seeking partner, still with closed eyes, remember a real scene, especially a very beautiful landscape or object or even a dream. Or have him/her make up a beautiful garden or park. Even if these are just made-up story words at first and not a perceived experience, have your image-seeking partner begin describing that scene to you in as rich detail as possible while keeping eyes closed. Have your image-seeking partner, like a reporter, sending that description to you from amidst that scene as if it is going on right now instead of being a memory of back when. While your partner is describing this memory, watch his or her closed eyes closely: when you see them move under the lids, seize that occasion to ask your partner what s/he saw just then….. It’s noticing those images that’s our key to pick up on and switch the describing to, whether they are memories or new fresh images. — Especially when images show up that don’t fit the “story” or scene being described…..

Keep encouraging description until it is flowing, even if it has to be from word-memories or make-believe and not pictures, until images are in fact flowing. Once description is flowing, “get out of the way of the flow” by not interrupting with questions or with any encouragement more involved than a lightly positive “um-hm.” The flow of description will bring flow of pictures, sooner or later, if that description is in richly textured detail, sustained without interruption or lapse or much repetition, and if the describer keeps eyes closed to see more freely.

6. “Door” 

Much the same as with #5 just above, except instead of a garden, park, or remembered beautiful scene, have your partner imagine being in front of a closed door. Have your partner describe that door, and the feel of that door as if s/he had just put a hand on it. Then have your partner suddenly fling open that door to catch by surprise whatever’s there to see on the other side of it, and ask his or her first impressions of what was there or “what might have been there.” Get your partner to describing that impression, even if it were hardly there, as if it were still there, see what else comes into view.

If nothing at all came, repeat the door procedure but with colorful, textured window curtains, or with jumping around the end of a high wall, with the idea that something unexpected but valuable or useful will likely be in view on the other side if partner opens that view suddenly enough. The more unexpected the contents of the imagery, the better your chances that the image is coming from further ranges of the brain and not just the conscious treadmill portion (which is likely to deal up pictures of what you already consciously know about the context or present situation) . The more surprising the imagery contents, the better your chances of getting sensitive, comprehensively based fresh perceptions and insights.

Both you and your partner please note: after you have become conscious of your imagery and have some practice in observing and describing it, you can also use such doors, curtains, corners, etc. as a way to find ingenious possible answers and solutions to questions and problems. In contact with this side of the visual barrier, pose your question. Then, suddenly, look into the “answer space” beyond and describe your first impression of what’s there, with the expectation of being surprised. If your answer is metaphoric and hard to understand, as sometimes happens, find second and third such “answer-spaces” but program to be shown exactly the same answer to the same question, though shown to you in a wholly different way or picture. What’s the same when everything is different, becomes key to the meaning: inductive inference. Take any answer, however clear or certain-meaning, with a grain of salt, verify it as you would ideas and answers from any other source.

Key to the above, the following, or any other “back-up” procedure to ensure visual imagery happening, is:   Once you find any kind of impression at all, “describe the dickens out of it” as if it were still in view, until more appears. Keep finding fresh things to say about it which describe it, even if it’s long gone, until more appears. The ideal discovery state, and the ideal personal growth state, is the process of rapidly describing in rich, accurate detail the flow of visual mental images which are undirected except for their intermodulations with your rich treasure-trove of beyond-consciousness understandings and perceptions.

The ability to Image Stream is natural; the difficulty some initially have is learned, artificial. Children just don’t have any difficulty seeing their inner images. The very highest incidence of people having difficulty “getting pix” this writer has thus far met have been people who train other people in imagery or in various forms of meditation! Yet none, even of these, is able to go through all 6 of the above back-up procedures and all of those following below, without “getting pix” and starting to get the benefits of visual thinking.

It almost doesn’t matter how you get the rapid flow of detailed, sensory-rich textured description going. Once you do have it going, to report accurately actual ongoing inner phenomena is so much more rewarding than is “just making up a story” that, over time, this reinforcive effect in the practice of Image Streaming will train anyone to be a highly efficient, sensitive, accurate observer, not only of his inner imagery but in all senses, interior and exterior. It’s getting the richly textured flow of describing started, and keeping it going without interruption, pause or much repetition, that’s important: the rest will naturally take care of itself. Here are some more ways to get that initial flow going:

7. Music 

Listen to some richly textured music with your eyes closed (and tape recorder ready to record) — preferably classical music, French Impressionistic music or progressive jazz, with “enough music per unit of music” to attract and involve your more sensitive faculties. Notice when you have an image or images and begin describing, persist in that describing. (A very old idea indeed — remember Walt Disney’s Fantasia?) If you’ve really had a problem visualizing, up until now, a live partner could be invaluable at this point, not only as your live listener but to spot your attention-cues when some especially strong image starts to catch your attention: eye movements under the lids, or breathing pause, or shifts in face and neck and shoulder muscles …

8. Background Sounds 

Pick up a record or tape of background sounds, at one of the “New Age”-type record shops or bookstores or health food stores. Listen to these background sounds with eyes closed. Detailedly describe, to tape or to live listener (who can also act as your Spotter alerting you when you are responding with attention-cues — “what were you seeing just then?”) what images these sounds evoke for you (which may or may not be the images those sounds logically should evoke for you — go with what actually comes up). Let the sounds end but keep on describing, noticing when other images emerge and describing these in turn, since this use of evocative sounds is a form of directed imagery and you wish to go on to the undirected form — i.e., Image Streaming.

9. House Blindfolded 

Go around your house blindfolded feeling different objects. Describe at length the appearance of each item you feel. Or, get someone to set up a grab-bag for you, of many highly diverse objects, each object for you to feel, to describe the feeling of, and regardless of whether you successfully identify what it is, to describe the appearance of. See if at some point in working through your grab-bag this way, eyes closed or blindfolded, you don’t notice other images also coming…..

(This is also a mildly effective creative problem-solving technique. If you’ve been working to solve a problem and haven’t yet gotten your a-ha! to resolve it, you can turn to perception by asking yourself, ‘How would a blind man experience this problem differently than I? How would he see it differently than I’m seeing it now?’ — or deaf person? Or any other sense handicapped? or dwarf? Or 7’2″ basketball center? Anything to change the way you are looking at the problem and to get you from your stuck “knowledge” and your neuronal habituation into perception…)

10. Air Sculpting 

With eyes closed (and other people not about!) begin “sculpting” from thin air (or even from clay) some object d’art. Keeping eyes closed, then “hold your sculpture in your hand” and describe its appearance in detail. See if other images don’t also begin to emerge for you.

11. Passenger 

When riding as a passenger in train, bus or car, describe in detail with your eyes kept closed what you think is the appearance of the landscape or street scenes you are riding through. See if after some of this you don’t notice other images also happening.

— Each of these, you see, is calling on other resources to help you visualize your way through these situations. How many times have you had to feel your way through the dark to some goal, even though in your own house — such as going to the bathroom without waking anyone else. What about all those fictional stories about being kidnapped and the victim figuring out where he was while blindfolded in the escape car?

Another item of the same type, setting up a situational, multi-sensory demand upon your imaging faculties to bring their response above conscious threshold:

12. Eat Blindfolded

Describe the appearance, in detail, of what you’re eating and see if more pictures don’t also come.

13. Aromas

Arrange 4-5 different delicious aromas from your spice rack. Set them before you, unstoppered. Shuffle them around with eyes closed and with eyes kept closed, try to identify them. See if any of the aromas trigger further visual images. If they trigger only memories instead, describe a scene from one of those memories in as vivid detail as you can, with eyes kept closed, and see if other images don’t develop which can then also be described ….

Another type of method, again the goal being that of providing some visual stimulus from which to begin the rapid flow of describing to pull onto line other, subtler free imagery also to describe …

14. Lights Out

At night with all lights out, just inside your bathroom, eyes open, orient toward the lights, turn them on and immediately close eyes! You should find some rather elaborate after-images or even a scene of some sort — describe the dickens out of it and see what else comes…..

Variant: flicking the bathroom lights on and off several quick times with eyes open, then closing eyes and proceeding as above. See how your after-imagery comes out with the lights finally out; and with the lights finally on.

15. Obtain a Simple Stroboscope 

(IF you are not epileptic!) Set a stroboscopic light to somewhere between 4 and 12 beats per second. Look into that stroboscopic light with eyes kept closed — describe as best you can the evoked colors and patterns for awhile and be alert to other images also happening.

IF no other kind of image happens after 10-15 minutes of this, start describing some imagined or remembered scene in detail, while continuing to look into the strobe light with closed eyes and be alert to such imagery as may develop for you …. If nothing additional still comes, try again with the strobe set to different frequencies, whatever frequency makes the greatest color and pattern display to your closed eyes ….

Another type of method —

16. Read a Book

Read a good, fully entertaining novel, or at least a story long enough to get really into. Then with tape set up and eyes closed, “word-paint” some scenes from the story besides those described by the author. See if more also then unfolds. Or, remember a very favorite story or novel and do likewise with that. Again, see if you can pick up on noticing other images also happening as you get well into the rapid descriptive flow, so that you can move from directed to undirected free association imagery.

The key in any event is (1) to get anything at all started from which to describe; (2) to describe so rapidly, run so fast, that to keep up the flow you have to reach beyond what you’ve consciously calculated, so that you can (3) force your loud-conscious mind to accept for processing fresh inputs from your subtler resources — from beyond where it’s already got everything all paved over.

You can make work out of this, or each of these and other options can be a fresh, enjoyable new exploration bringing you new experiences and opening toward new skills. Because we perceive more with pleasure than we do when not experiencing pleasure, we suggest that if you need any of these resources to get your Image Streaming going, make that ploy as enjoyable an exploration as you can. To do so improves the chances that your senses and mind will open to fresh new perception, which is your purpose.

Other “Start-Up” Procedures for Anyone’s Use:
Guided Paths Into Unguided Image Streams

Favorites of many people are the 8 following procedures. Each provides a special guided imagery device which then can open for you into some especially enjoyable unguided free-flow Image Streams. So much so, even if you are already normally able to simply “look in” and “get pix” with which to start describing to tape recorder or listener, you may want to occasionally vary your entry into the Image Stream with one or another of the following guided starts — one of this author’s personal favorites is this next procedure ….

17. Tree and Cloud

Imagine, and describe, walking in a meadow. Find yourself going uphill in this meadow toward a single immense tree at the very top of the hill. Engage all your senses in the experiencing of warm breeze, sunshine on your neck, face and shoulders, smells of the meadow, the pull of walking up a gradual slope for a long time, the variety of wildflowers, the sounds of the grasses, the sounds of your own steps in those grasses, and of your breathing …. To rest up from climbing that long hill, lie down in the soft moss at the base of the tree — look up the tree’s immense trunk, between its branches low and high, near and far, at the sky. See the clouds moving across the sky, as you lock at them up the trunk and from between the branches. See how the movement of the clouds makes you feel like the tree is moving instead. Experience how the movement of the clouds across the sky makes you feel as if it’s the tree, the hill and you who are moving instead of the clouds …. Let that movement, let that experience, take you wherever, describing as you go…..

18. Windblown Leaf 

Be a leaf, or a fluff of dandelion, blowing with the wind, around corners of buildings and over trees and swiftly racing across an immense landscape….. Describe as you go, toward wherever ….

19. Beneath the Boat 

Imagine riding a boat gently onto the lake or downstream in a broad slow river. Peer down into the water, past the sparkle and the ripples, try to make out what’s below there. At first maybe you see only the water reflections, ripples and sparkle in this imaginary boat ride but as you peer more intently, you begin to see …. ?

20. Climbing

Climbing a steep hillside or mountainside, through a forest: describe this fully multisensory experience. As you approach the top, you near a clearing, the scenery unexpectedly opens up to show you …. what?

These next three are liked especially by those who are oriented toward science and technology —

21. Elevator 

The elevator you are on is stopping, its door is opening — where? (Some scene you’ve not seen before, some place you’ve not been before, the door slides open and — (fast, very first impression!) —

22. Be a Seed

Be a seed or spore, floating in far outer space, cocooned and having floated comfortably and safely in space for millions of years. Now approach some world, different from any world you’ve ever seen before. Drift down onto that world, reporting back here as you go there, rapidly describe in detail as you see and experience more and more of this new world ….

— Now be a person on that world. Suddenly look down where your feet would be if you were human, what do you see? What surface are you on? Continue describing from there ….

23. Radio Pulse 

Imagine what it might be like, simply flowing as a pulse of electricity along some wire — into a great radio telescope and transmitter — what would it be like to be a radio wave pulsed out through that telescope? — across deep space, between stars, between galaxies, to….. where? First impression: describe ….

This last device for now is of a type which frequently gives rise to truly high, great, illuminating experiences…..

24. Tremendous Light 

You sense light on the other side of the door (or curtain), at the head of a long climb of stairs. A sense of excitement, expectation, high exhilaration, seems also to await you on the far side of that door (or curtain) . Describe that door or curtain, feel it, stroke it, describe it further; you sense something very bright or very powerful or very illuminating behind it. Suddenly: open that door, rise exhilarated into that light! — So much light, at first you can’t quite see what’s there, but you begin to clear the air by breathing in the light, slowly and luxuriously and feeling more exhilarated with each breathful of light you take in, and there you begin to see around you…..what?

You can easily think of hundreds of other such devices for “triggering” a flow of images and experiences, and for shaping or partially shaping contexts without directing the images themselves.

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