Coming to Calm before the Conversation
My colleague Dorie Rosenberg shared this guided visualization with a group of psychotherapists considering retiring (or already have, as I already have). If I had known of it while still working, I would have used it with myself, my clients, and taught it to other clinicians as well. It’s beautifully calming of one’s nervous system and focusing of one’s attention.
Dorie taught this visualization as though we would use it ourselves, preparing to meet with a client. She also teaches it to clients (as below). Try it yourself. An excellent preparation to settle yourself before any important conversation.
Imagine you are outdoors, walking on a long pathway, with small stones. You feel your feet sinking, but not too deeply, just enough for some oomph. Or, you may have smooth pavers on your path, if that’s more comfortable.
There are lots of lush green plants and shrubs, even small trees like palm trees, on either side of you. You can smell the extra oxygen in the air, and enjoy breathing it in. (Take a relaxing breath in through your nose, and out through your mouth, as if you are exhaling through a straw.).
As you continue on the path, you see a pond ahead, either a natural or an attractive man-made one. Keep walking until you come to the pond. As you look around, you see the greenery surrounding the little body of water, and perhaps a Buddha or some beautiful statuary of some kind. As you feel yourself in this lovely scene, you become calmer, relaxing into it. (Take a relaxing breath.)
As you look around, you notice nearby stones, and decide to pick up one of them and toss it into the water. Notice the small splash, and watch one ripple after another slowly spread to the sides of the pool of water. It’s so pleasant that you pick up another stone, and toss it in, watching those ripples spreading out, becoming lost in the natural outflow of the water.
When you are finished, simply turn around, heading back down the pathway, slowly breathing in the enriched air, feeling relaxed and calm. You leave the path, come to my office, open the door, walk in and have a seat.
[and addendum:] If the client is in a calm, reflective state, I then say, “while your eyes are still closed, allow the most important things that you want to use your therapy hour for to bubble up to your mind. Then, when you’re ready, open your eyes.” I’ll ask them if they feel a shift from when they first came in, and they ALWAYS say “yes.” (Guess what, I do, too.) Then, I inquire about how they’d like to begin.
If we all took the time we need to slow down and become present before engaging with another human being, our exchanges would be far more authentic, respectful, and fruitful.
Please try an exercise like this the next time you have a good opportunity, and notice the difference it makes in the unfolding of the conversation.