The Intuition Network, A Thinking Allowed Television Underwriter, presents the following transcript from the series Thinking Allowed, Conversations On the Leading Edge of Knowledge and Discovery, with Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove.


JEFFREY MISHLOVE, Ph.D.: Hello and welcome. Our topic today is "Creative Visualization," and my guest is Shakti Gawain, the author of Creative Visualization, a best seller, as well as Living in the Light. Shakti is the co-founder of Whatever Publishing Company, and also the founder of the Shakti Center in Mill Valley, California, and she leads workshops and seminars throughout the United States. Shakti, welcome.


MISHLOVE: It's a pleasure to have you here.

GAWAIN: It's good to be here.

MISHLOVE: You know, you talk about creative visualization in an interesting way. You say that events start at a level of energy -- that the physical universe as we know it isn't really solid, that it's all energy, in effect created by spirit, and that creative visualization is one of the ways in which we manifest, in which spirit creates itself. It's as if our thoughts, our thought forms, our images, are like blueprints for actual events that occur in the world. The tricky thing with that, I should imagine, is that we sometimes have thoughts that don't manifest, don't we?

GAWAIN: Yes, lots of them. And that's probably fortunate. I mean, think what would happen if we manifested every thought we ever had. What it is, is that the thoughts that we think the most frequently, and even more importantly, the deepest beliefs, the deepest feelings, the deepest expectations and attitudes that we have, are what we manifest. People often worry, when they first hear about creative visualization, that you create your own reality, they think, "Oh my God, I can't ever afford to think a negative thought, because I'm going to create it." Fortunately, it doesn't work that way. You don't have to be afraid of your own thoughts. It's just that the underlying attitudes and beliefs and systems that we have about life are what we create, what we attract to us.

MISHLOVE: I suppose if one looks about the planet and sees the problems that we have -- the threat of war, pollution, overpopulation, starvation, and so on -- one might think, "Gosh, have we been visualizing these things collectively?"

GAWAIN: Absolutely, absolutely. In other words, we have the expectation and the belief that these things are inevitable, and that they're natural. As I was just saying to somebody the other day, we've always believed that war is natural.

MISHLOVE: We've always had it, right?

GAWAIN: We've always had it, so obviously it's inevitable and natural. Therefore we continue to create it; we continue to think of it as a viable option. So I believe that what's beginning to happen, for the first time in human consciousness, is that we really are beginning to question that. We're beginning to look at this and say, this is insane, this isn't normal, this isn't natural, this isn't a viable solution to anything, this is just plain crazy. And for the first time a few people, or a number of people, are beginning to say, wow, maybe we shouldn't expect this and plan on this. Maybe we should create the idea that you could do things a different way.

MISHLOVE: In other words, just because we've always done it, we still have the freedom to envision something different.

GAWAIN: Yes, definitely. Absolutely. And I believe that whenever change comes about, it starts with a few people, or one person sometimes -- a few people beginning to envision something different. And what we do when we do that, is that we open our minds. We open to the possibilities that are always existing.

MISHLOVE: Another point that you made in that book that I found fascinating, is that creative visualization doesn't mean that you have to have visual imagery. A lot of people don't visualize very well, and your notion is that if you have a thought, however you hold thoughts in your mind --

GAWAIN: Right. Everybody uses their imagination, although some people don't think they do. A lot of people have such negative beliefs about themselves, they think, "I'm not imaginative." But everybody uses their imagination. An easy way to realize that is, I just ask people to close their eyes for a minute and imagine that they're at home in their room. Well, whatever happens for you when you do that, that's your form of visualization. You may have a clear picture. You may have sort of a vague picture. You may not have a picture at all. You may just think about being at home in your room, or whatever. But that's your form of imagery or visualization or imagination. And I always encourage people just to do what comes easily to them, don't worry about it. People get very hung up trying to visualize, and they just get in the way of the process. If they just --

MISHLOVE: [Makes sound of effort] Unnhhh, unnhhh, unnhhh, it's almost coming now.

GAWAIN: Of course that doesn't work. They just block themselves. And I've found with thousands of people that I've worked with, all you have to do is just relax, do what comes easily, and it works. It works.

MISHLOVE: And you really recommend this as a discipline for people, or a spiritual practice of sorts.

GAWAIN: Well, it's definitely a very important discipline, to be used at appropriate times. I used it for many years in my life, and now I only occasionally use visualization.

MISHLOVE: It's sort of second nature at this point.

GAWAIN: Yes, exactly.

MISHLOVE: But I suppose it's fair to say we're always visualizing all the time.

GAWAIN: Absolutely. So the first thing I say in my book, is that creative visualization is not something new. It's something everybody is doing every moment, every waking moment, and even every sleeping moment, when we're dreaming -- maybe not every moment, but a good part of the time. So you're always picturing and imagining what you expect to have happen to you. And unfortunately, most people are picturing and expecting all those awful things that we've been so programmed to believe in.

MISHLOVE: I mean, we're so accustomed to facing an unknown future event with the thought, "Oh, this is going to be awful."

GAWAIN: Right.

MISHLOVE: It's as if we're steeling ourselves for the worst.

GAWAIN: Exactly. We've been taught, you know, that we'd better expect the worst, because then we'll be prepared for it. I can remember having the superstitious belief, almost, that I ought to think about the worst thing, because if I think about the best thing, then I might be disappointed, and so forth. I'd like to clear one thing up, because this is something that people get very confused about. It's not as if you can't be afraid. Of course we're afraid. We're human beings. We feel afraid a lot. We have fears that come up for us, and a very important way of working with visualization is to also look at our fears -- to be willing to see them, to understand them, to delve into them, to look at what's underneath them. Not to avoid them, because that's just repressing, and psychologically that's a very dangerous thing to do.

MISHLOVE: And I suppose we really also need to be aware of potential pitfalls that may lie in front of us.

GAWAIN: You know, it's all about becoming conscious.

People think sometimes when they hear about visualization that they're supposed to take all their negative thoughts and deny them, and that's the most dangerous thing in the world to do. What you want to do is look at all your feelings, all your thoughts, all your images, and understand them, and then just whenever you can, begin to give a little extra energy to the ones that you really want.

MISHLOVE: So you're not really quite in the same tradition as Norman Vincent Peale and the power of positive thinking.

GAWAIN: I don't like to use the term positive thinking, because it creates this misconception for people. You know, there really is no such thing as positive or negative thoughts or feelings. We just get very afraid of certain of our feelings, and we don't want to feel them. And that's how we get stuck. So I'm very much a believer in accepting all of your feelings. In fact I do a lot of pretty deep therapy work with people, and that involves feeling your sadness, feeling your anger, feeling your grief, feeling your fear, all of those things, which are really very powerful and creative aspects of ourselves.

MISHLOVE: When we talk about creative visualization, I can imagine it on two levels. One level, which I think would be very understandable for people, is like a blueprint. You have a blueprint, you build a house. You have an idea before you make the blueprint even. And so it's the way we plan our lives. But there's another level, I think, that's going on, which is more parapsychological in a way. It's as if when you visualize something, you can almost attract it to you magnetically, as if it sends out some sort of resonance into this world of energy, and draws it there. And you apparently are dealing with that on both levels.

GAWAIN: Yes. Well, there are the active and the receptive principles, the male and female energies that exist in everything. And that's true of visualization as well. One aspect of visualization is where you think about what you want, and you set a goal, and you sort of set out to create it. And you put energy out to move toward your goal. And another aspect of it is where you really listen inside of yourself, and you receive whatever images or thoughts or intuitive feelings that come from your inner self, and you sort of allow yourself to attract and receive. And they're both important.

MISHLOVE: I suppose there's really a delicate balance when you're planning your life, because if visualization works as well as people claim that it does, you have to be careful what you visualize.

GAWAIN: Well, I don't worry about that, because your higher self, your higher intelligence within you, is in charge of the whole process. So it's not like you're going to go out and visualize something that's really, really wrong for you. Now, sometimes people do have an experience of visualizing something they think they want, getting it, and realizing, well, this didn't work for me.

MISHLOVE: That's the classic mythology -- you know, the story of the three wishes. Each one is worse than the next, until finally you have to wish to undo the previous ones.

GAWAIN: Exactly. Of course the point of all that is it's not the things in life that matter. When I first learned about visualization, I thought, "Well, great, now I can create everything I want" -- I mean, once I became convinced. It took me a while to become convinced that it was effective, because I was quite skeptical at first. But as I started to use it and I realized, gee, this really does work, I thought, well, OK, so now I can have what I want in my life -- which is true, but of course the point is not to get the stuff, because you can get everything out there and you're still not happy. The source of happiness comes from being connected to the higher self, or the spiritual self, within us. So you can visualize money and cars and new jobs and new houses and all sorts of things, and you can probably manifest them, if that's what you really want and need in your life. But of course you're going to discover in the process that what really makes you happy is the fact that you discover that you're a creative being. That's the joy, that's the fulfillment of the process. So as long as people are still hung up on the externals, they create a lot of disappointment for themselves. They either can't manifest what they want, or they manifest it and discover that it still doesn't bring them happiness. And, you know, sometimes you have to go through that for awhile. But eventually what it does, or what it did for me, is it takes you back to a sense that the process itself is what's really exciting -- the process of creation that we're doing every minute.

MISHLOVE: Let's talk about the process a little more. Can we break it down, for people who are unfamiliar with these terms? How does one begin consciously practicing creative visualization?

GAWAIN: Well, there are some simple techniques. The main technique is learning how to relax, which is a big one for a lot of us in this society. So I usually teach people some very simple kinds of relaxation and meditation techniques -- just close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, relax your body. Sometimes I encourage people to just lie down and put on some soft music -- whatever can help you to relax -- or some traditional breathing techniques, or whatever. And so the first step is just to relax your body, relax your mind, let yourself drop into a quieter, deeper level of consciousness, which puts you more in touch with your intuitive or creative self. After that, the basic technique of visualization is to create an experience within yourself of whatever it is that you want. That can be an external thing or an internal thing. In other words, you could visualize or imagine yourself in your new house, or your new job. Or you could simply visualize or imagine yourself feeling self confident, or feeling very creative, or learning how to express your feelings more directly, or anything that's important to you.

MISHLOVE: It could be an internal state as well.

GAWAIN: Anything, absolutely.

MISHLOVE: I mean it could be a state of enlightenment, something of that sort.


MISHLOVE: I don't know quite how you visualize that, but I imagine there are ways.

GAWAIN: Well, whatever it means to you. What enlightenment means to me is just completely loving and accepting myself as I am, and enjoying myself moment by moment.

MISHLOVE: How do you visualize that?

GAWAIN: Well, I just imagine what it would be like to go through my day feeling good about myself, not judging myself, but loving and appreciating myself, being very spontaneous. It's kind of a childlike state -- being very spontaneous, and just doing what you love to do, and enjoying yourself. And if you feel sad, you feel sad. If you feel happy, you feel happy.

MISHLOVE: So you could think of it as almost like a fantasy.

GAWAIN: Yes. Visualization and fantasy are very closely connected. The only thing about fantasy is that we usually tell ourselves that our fantasies are impossible: "Oh, that's just a fantasy." One of the first things I do with people in using visualization is I start encouraging them to fantasize, and to believe that there's the possibility that their fantasies might be true, or at least that they always contain a kernel of truth in them.

MISHLOVE: One of the rules or guidelines that many traditions express, and that you mention, is to visualize this as if it's already happening.

GAWAIN: Oh yes, absolutely.

MISHLOVE: You put it in the present.

GAWAIN: The idea of visualization is to create an internal reality, which then tends to attract that to you externally. So if I can have a sense of feeling, like I said, very good about myself as I go through the day, there's a chance that later on, as I'm going through my day, I'll just kind of click into that state and remember that. It doesn't mean it's absolutely going to happen from then on, but there's a greater chance that I will start to remember that.

MISHLOVE: You're increasing your likelihood, at least.

GAWAIN: Yes, and for things like externals -- like for example, suppose I want a better job. If I've been creating and visualizing and imagining, "What would it be like to have a job that I really love? What would it be like to get up every morning and go to work and feel wonderful about what I'm doing?" And I kind of imagine, perhaps, some of the particulars of it, like I'm working with people I really like, I'm expressing myself in a way that I enjoy, and just create that feeling inside, what it seems to do is open us up to more of the possibilities that already exist. It's almost like a little trick we do on ourselves, because most of us go around like this [indicates putting on blinders] most of the time. We only see about ten percent of the possibilities that really exist. So when you start to visualize, you simply open up your own horizons, so that you start to notice opportunities that you wouldn't even have thought of before, and you seem to create an open energy field that starts to bring things in to you.

MISHLOVE: So in one sense it's psychological, then; you're changing your own attitudes.

GAWAIN: Absolutely.

MISHLOVE: And in another sense, it's as if you could call it spiritual or parapsychological. You're working with the forces of the universe.

GAWAIN: Yes, exactly. I can't even really begin to explain exactly how it works, but I know that it works. I'm a very pragmatic person, and when I first found out about this I thought, "Hmm! I don't know; that sounds a little simplistic," and so forth. But something in me thought, "You know, there's some truth in this." And I started to try it, and it works.

MISHLOVE: Well, you seem to be a good walking example of the technique, with the success of your books and your publishing company and your seminars and so on. So for practicing the method -- now, I'm closing my eyes, and I'm visualizing everybody loving the TV program, or something to that effect.

GAWAIN: Right, right.

MISHLOVE: Now I hold the image. I see thousands of people out there clapping and applauding. Where do we go with that? Then what?

GAWAIN: OK, then usually what I do is I use a very simple technique that I call the pink bubble technique. Once you've created the scene or the feeling that you want, you just imagine that you put it in a beautiful big pink bubble -- this is fun, you know -- and you just take that pink bubble containing your image or the feeling that you want. As I say, it doesn't have to be an image, it can just be a feeling. And just very lightly toss it in the air and release it. Let go of it.


GAWAIN: Now symbolically, what this means is that you've visualized it, you've created it, you've asked for it, and you release it. The reason we need to do that is because we have a tendency to want to hang on to everything, and to try to make it happen. That's how we've been taught, is that for anything to happen you have to make it happen.

MISHLOVE: That's the American way, isn't it? The "can- do" attitude, right?

GAWAIN: Absolutely. With your will; and you just force it, and you just push and you struggle and you make it happen.

MISHLOVE: Right. John Wayne.

GAWAIN: But really, that's the opposite of how it really works. You have to allow things to happen. The more you sort of relax -- it doesn't mean you don't pursue something or work at it, but the more relaxed you are as you're doing it, the more open you are, the more you can see the different options that you have. So as you release the pink bubble, symbolically you're saying, "OK, I want this to happen, and now I'm open. And I'm willing to have it happen, and if it's not going to happen, I'm willing to see something even better." I sometimes say that affirmation: "This, or something better, is now manifesting for me." Because sometimes we think we know what we want, and in actual fact there's something even better for us that we haven't realized yet.

MISHLOVE: Well, we certainly often change our goals, change our directions.

GAWAIN: Oh, definitely. And you don't want to limit yourself to what you thought you wanted yesterday, when by today it's already changed. So you always affirm that it's this or something better. And then you just let go and you go about your business. Now, there's a very important follow-up to all of this, though. First of all, you can do that as often as you want. I usually suggest that people do a visualization maybe once a day or twice a day.

MISHLOVE: And the whole process may only take a minute or two.

GAWAIN: Yes, especially once you learn to do it. The only part that takes any time is usually getting in kind of a relaxed state. And once you learn how to take a few deep breaths and relax, you can do an instant visualization.

MISHLOVE: Now, what if I have a hundred different things that I want? Is there a limit to how much a person should do this?

GAWAIN: I don't think there are any absolute rules about this. I don't think there are any absolute rules about much of anything. So I tell people to try to do what works for them, because people are different. Generally you don't want to get too complicated with all of this. Keep it simple. Start with maybe one or two things that are most important to you right now, and just go with those for awhile. And then when you get bored with that, or you feel like you get stuck, try something else. Or when you get that thing, move on to the next. I usually ask people not to make it too complicated, especially at first. And of course, more and more as you use this process, you begin to get in touch with the deeper things that you really want, and it gets simpler. Most people begin to realize that they don't want a million and one things. What they essentially want are a few simple, important things in their lives.

MISHLOVE: I would imagine if you really asked people at a deep level what they really, really want, they want to feel connected.


MISHLOVE: With themselves, even -- a sense of self love.

GAWAIN: A sense of connection to yourself, connection to the higher intelligence, a connection to the world and to other people. You're a hundred percent right.

MISHLOVE: And I would imagine that being able to visualize and manifest other things almost flows from that sense of connection.

GAWAIN: It does, yes. So what the process of creative visualization of course did for me, was begin to take me more and more into connection with myself, where I realized the power of creation is within me, it comes through me. But it comes from a higher source. I had been an atheist up until then, and it began to make me realize that whatever you want to call it, there's some other force, there's some higher intelligence than just my ego self at work here. And I began to get very interested in finding out what that was, and becoming more and more connected. And gradually I lost interest in the idea of trying to make everything happen in the way I thought I wanted it to, and simply learned to allow that guiding force within me to show me the way. So I developed an increasingly surrendered attitude, which is, "OK, you show me what you want." Because whenever I move with my intuition, I get everything I want anyway.

MISHLOVE: You know, I was wondering about that, when we talk about the active and the passive. If I sit down actively to envision something, it's coming from the intellect, sort of the top layer of the cortex. Whereas if I sit down and intuit: "What does the deep self want?" it's as if the image forms of its own accord.

GAWAIN: Absolutely. And that's why I do relatively little visualization anymore. It was a very useful thing for me to practice for a long time, because I was overcoming my old victim sort of process about life. You know: "I don't have anything to do with this; things just happen to me." I was stepping into the role of being powerful and creative in my life. But once I realized that I'm powerful and creative, the next step was to say, how does that creative wisdom within me, want to express itself? What does it want to do? And so now my meditation is more the practice of moment by moment listening to my intuition, trusting it, and acting on it spontaneously, to find out where it takes me. So I'll do a visualization if there's something that I want. Like I want to have a beautiful retreat center in Hawaii. OK, I'll visualize that. I imagine that, put it in the pink bubble, release it. And then I practice, moment by moment, listening to my inner guidance, my intuition, my gut feeling about things, acting on it. And then that's what guides me to create it, to manifest it.

MISHLOVE: Now, what about people who are in such a negative state that if they sit down and try to tune in to their inner self, what they're going to get is a lot of sort of negative, destructive images?

GAWAIN: Well, that's where the therapeutic aspect of this comes in. We do this in order to heal ourselves and get in touch with ourselves. It's very important to start allowing those so-called negative fears and voices and so forth to begin to express as well. Those are parts of us that are simply frightened and have had painful experiences.

MISHLOVE: So they're expressing fears. But there must be a delicate thing about wanting to allow the expression of those fears to occur, without the manifestation of the things we fear.

GAWAIN: It's very much a misconception to think that because you've put attention into something, it's going to manifest. Things manifest because they've been denied. If you have a fear or an experience in your life that you don't want to look at and don't want to face and don't want to deal with, and you repress it, it goes into your unconscious and it manifests it, because it has a lot of power. The power builds. If you're willing to look at it, feel it, express it, get help with it, whatever you need, it releases. The power releases. It's really a misconception to think that if you allow yourself to think your negative thoughts and feel your negative feelings, that it's going to manifest. We need to allow ourselves to feel those things -- not to just run around in a little stuck groove with them, like a lot of people do, but to get help to go deeper with it and find out, why do I feel this way? So I do a lot of work with people, even to go back into childhood, discover what the painful experiences are that we had, and to heal them. They get healed simply by being understood and loved. All our feelings need to be loved. So, for example, if you're getting plagued with a negative thought, what I do is I have somebody sit down and ask to really feel it and to really experience it, and to really understand why it's there, and to love that part of yourself that's afraid.

MISHLOVE: To really be with yourself in the negativity.

GAWAIN: Totally, absolutely. And to love and to parent yourself -- you know, to give yourself the compassion and the help and the support that you need. And to get other people for that, too -- to get a therapist, get a friend, get a counselor, get a group, get other people who you can work through that stuff with. It's real important. And gradually, as you do those things -- you know, you learn how to let something come up, come to the surface, you recognize it, you feel it, and then it dissolves. And then the next thing that happens is that the creativity comes forth.

MISHLOVE: Now, when you're dealing with a positive image, is it useful then, if you want it to be powerful, to hold it inside -- not to talk about it, but to just kind of be with it yourself?

GAWAIN: Yes, sometimes it's important to do that. Again, it's an intuitive thing. Sometimes it's important to tell people, because you want to get the reinforcement and support. Other times it's much more important to keep it in yourself, especially if you're in a negative environment where if you tell it, people will start putting it down, contradicting it, and so forth. Sometimes then it's important to keep it, and say, "OK, this is my dream, and I believe in it."

MISHLOVE: I can imagine in some business environments if you say, "I'm doing creative visualization" --

GAWAIN: You'll get laughed out of the room. So yes, you need to know when it's appropriate to express it and when it's not. And definitely, if you keep it to yourself, it's still very, very powerful.

MISHLOVE: It seems as if what you're really saying is that creative visualization is a tool, but to use it most properly it should be at the service of our intuition, and that at a deep level our intuition can always guide us into how to use it properly.

GAWAIN: Absolutely. Of course that's what my next book, Living in the Light, is about -- how to learn to get in touch with your intuition, and to trust that, and begin to express that in your life. Then visualization becomes a very useful tool, to use at the moment that you want to use it, rather than using it to try to control your life.

MISHLOVE: Well, that should be the topic of another interview, I think, Shakti. Intuition is such a deep topic we could go into it for quite awhile. Thank you very much for being with me today.

GAWAIN: Thank you. My pleasure.


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