A few years ago, I started to attend meditation classes. It was guided meditations led by an instructor. The guided meditations took place in a safe space. We would come in, relax, go through the guided meditation, and then discuss it. I had done meditations before, but always on my own.
My experience with meditations has been interesting. I would go to YouTube, find an interesting meditation, and play it. My meditations weren’t very eventful. Almost every meditation started with “visualize.” I knew what the word meant, and I always found it interesting. Why? Because I can’t conjure up images in my mind. Yes, you read that right. When I close my eyes, I just see darkness. I see the back of my eyelids. I don’t see colors. I can’t visualize an apple or a beach. I just get the back of my eyelids. You can imagine how my meditations were nothing really exciting. You can also imagine my confusion when my fellow meditators shared their vivid meditation experiences.
I decided to start asking people. “Can you um actually see a beach?” The answer was yes. I also got some weird looks that came along with the verbal answer. I went to work, and asked the girls to close their eyes and visualize a beach. They would close their eyes, and instantly smile. “Yes, I see it.” They said. I grew more frustrated by the minute. But how? How can you see it? The answers always revolved around “my imagination.” Well, I can’t conjure up images. Does that mean I have no imagination? This was stressful for me. Imagination was the one thing that carried me through my childhood. I made up safe spaces in my mind. I would go there and hide when things were bad. But, I never actually saw them. I just knew they were there. I knew what they felt like. I knew what they looked like. I could also dream. My dreams were vivid and clear.
So, let’s backtrack… what was happening prior to me finding out that people actually saw images. I was meditating. I was getting things. I just wasn’t seeing said things. I would listen to the track and follow along. If I was supposed to be in the woods, I didn’t actually “see” the woods in my minds eye. I just knew I was there. I relied on my knowledge and feelings. If I was supposed to meet someone, I relied on what came to my mind. Not a picture. The best way I can describe this is like listening to an audiobook. Everything is being narrated and I was able to follow. I just couldn’t “see” it. It wasn’t a Hollywood style movie. It was just a narration of my mind telling me what was happening as I was following the meditation. For example, in one meditation, I was to meet a man. I instantly got a reminder of Dumbledore. I also would hear my mind tell me… “but he’s thicker and wears dark blue.” That was my image. That’s how I conjured my images.
Realizing that people were actually able to visualize was hard. I felt broken. Depressed. Left out. This was one more thing that life cheated me out of. How wonderful would it be to actually close my eyes and see the rich worlds I’ve created since I was a going girl. How wonderful would it be to be able to see these majestic creatures? I don’t know. I wish I knew. At first, I wouldn’t share my meditation experience. Why? Because I was cheating. I didn’t actually “see” anything. I just knew. I made it up. What if I was making it all up? Was it even valid? I stopped meditating for a bit. I searched online. There wasn’t much on this. Apparently, most of the world could visualize. This made me feel worse.
After a few months, I decided to search again. I decided to ask people. I found a blog that said visualization didn’t have to be just “seeing.” It could be a combination of things. I felt encouraged to continue. I began to meditate at home again. I wasn’t questioning the validity of what I got. I decided to go with it. I still felt terrible about not being able to see, but I had to make do. I couldn’t feel sorry for myself. I also began to attend meditation again. I was sharing my experiences. I was sharing my results. It felt good. I felt included.
I continued to ask around, and a friend sent me a link. The link was to a study on aphantasia. While Aphantasia sounds like a majestic far off land. It’s actually the name of the condition that prevents people from summoning mental images. That’s right! There’s a name, and it’s a condition. There are others… this gave me hope. So far, there isn’t too much on it, but more and more people are talking about it. Every few weeks, I pop in the name into a google search and hope for new developments. Some people describe exactly what I experience, and others describe something a bit different. There’s even one person that claims he was able to “cure” his aphantasia through hard work and mental exercises!
I’m still hopeful to one day be able to see images in my minds eye. There are days where I still feel depressed over it. There are days where I don’t meditate because I won’t be able to “see.” There are days where I’m incredibly frustrated over it. One thing I have learned is that my experience is just as real as anyone else’s. My method is just different. I’ve received readings where people describe my guides, and they’re describing exactly what I got. As you can imagine, that’s extremely validating. There are times when I’m doing readings for someone, and I end up describing an “image” I’m getting, and it resonates with them. That is also extremely validating. It makes the process easier. It makes me want to continue. It makes the frustration lessen… at least for a day or two. I’m learning self-trust. I’m learning self-confidence. Maybe my aphantasia is the teacher? I believe it is.