Awareness – Perception – Using Our Visualisation Guides

by pre., Friday, February 1st, 2008.

The Oxford Dictionary defines “Hypnosis” as “the induction of a state of consciousness in which a person loses the power of voluntary action and is highly responsive to suggestion or direction,” implying that a hypnotised person is powerless, under the control of some powerful hypnotist who exerts their will over their subject.

Using that definition, it seems unlikely that hypnosis even exists, and it’s not surprising that the popular conception of what it means to be hypnotised is a stage-show farce, more smoke and mirrors than effective personal change.

We don’t really care if hypnosis exists, if hypnotic trances are ‘real’ or ‘pretend’, if a hypnotist can overwhelm someone’s will against their better judgement or if hypnosis is just a show-biz sham.

We know, however, that people do vary in their suggestibility. That some people are more suggestible than others, that any given person is more suggestible at some times than others, and that any given person can put their brain into a more suggestible state by some simple relaxation and visualisation techniques.

In this ‘altered state’, when a mind is more suggestible, you will find that visualisation, metaphor and imagination can alter your mind, bypass your filters, in ways that you may naturally fight when in less suggestible states.

While others can perhaps guide you into a hypnotic state, every example of hypnosis ever encountered was in fact produced by the person being hypnotised. You can ONLY do it to yourself, even if you are instructed how to do so by others.

This suggestible state of mind can be useful. If we can convince ourselves to eat more healthily, or behave more profitably, or see more clearly, or ditch our bad habits, if we can bypass the usual disbelief and mental blocks that prevent us from doing these things, it seems churlish to argue about how exactly these things can work. And they can work. People undergo operations under no anaesthetic other than the suggestion they’ll feel no pain, they change their lives overnight under a suggestion that it can happen, they perform strange acts on stage that otherwise they would find difficult.

So the question isn’t “does hypnosis exist” but “how can we best use it, whatever it is, to our advantage?

The answer is, and this will be an answer we repeat often, that we get better at things though practice. We’ll get better at being in that state through practising being in that state. We’ll get better at giving ourselves useful suggestions by giving ourselves useful suggestions. We’ll get better at changing, by changing. We can even improve just by imagining that we’re improving.

So-called “hypnotic” change is effected by metaphor, visualisation, imagination and belief. Your brain finds it hard to tell the difference between seeing something and imagining something. You can test this for yourself by, now, imagining the heat of the sun on your back. By feeling it burning deep into your skin, warming you. You can close your eyes and enjoy the sensation of that light heating your clothes, radiating energy into your skin, your body, warming your soul. You can, right now, feel that hot sensation. It may not be easy at first, but the longer you pause and think about and imagine that heat, the more likely it is that you’ll start to feel that heat. Close your eyes now, and note how your skin is warming under the light of that imaginary sun. It may be heating your shoulders, or I may be wrong and it’s heating an area lower in your back, or your arms, but you certainly can pause to think about that warmth until you start to feel it somewhere on your body. Do that now and then continue to read when you have felt it.

You can fool yourself into thinking that you feel that heat, and equally you can fool yourself into thinking, feeling, seeing, tasting, experiencing, anything that it’s possible to think, feel, see, taste and experience. The power of your imagination can’t affect the world around you, but it can affect your own mind.

Which is what our visualisation guides are designed to do. We won’t hypnotise you and make you experience impossible things. Nobody can do that. The only person that can hypnotise you, that can force you to experience impossible things, is yourself. But if you let our files guide you, if you relax and use your imagination, you will soon find that you can improve your mind just through practice, through learning what it would like to have that improved mind. You won’t do impossible things, but you may be surprised at what’s possible.

Further, you don’t even need to be awake to use these skills. Your dreams are practice for the real world. They are metaphors and stories which evolution has built to improve and build your mind, to change the way you think. If you can suggest effectively to yourself that you will change your dreams, your dreams in turn can help to improve your perception of, and effectiveness in, the world.

How to use our Visualisation Guides

We think that the best time to review your day, and to prepare yourself for the next day, is just before you go to bed. This is the time when your self-suggestions can best influence your dreams in the night ahead, when you are relaxed, and sleepy, and more open to suggestion. So we have designed our files to guide you through a few minutes of imaginative visualisation which should help you to explore what a more transcended state will be like, to practice it, and to influence the way you behave the next day.

So each night, ideally as you lie in bed but before you sleep, you can relax, let your filters down, close your eyes, and start to imagine. You should be able to hear our guide, but not so loud it overtakes your entire consciousness. It will not magically put you ‘into a trance’. It will help you to put yourself into that receptive state, where you will be more willing to learn, to accept suggestions. It will not force you to do anything, but it will remind you not to become distracted, and to focus, concentrate on the images you’re trying to give to your own mind to teach it the lessons it needs to have the effect you desire.

For our first visualisation guide, we wanted to produce something which will have a real and immediately noticeable effect. Something you can measure, so we have built a guide to help you to increase your Perception Awareness. To help you to notice the world around you, and to increase your visualisation skills in order to make future guides easier to use.

Usually, we’d expect you to be in bed with the lights out ready to sleep before you started listening to our guide, but since perception awareness is all about being aware of your perception, it’s more useful in this instance, just this once, to keep the lights on and your eyes open. You will be paying attention to the way things look, and it’s hard to do that with your eyes closed.

So begin in the bedroom, ready to get into bed, but before you actually climb under the sheets. Relax, and start your player. The file will guide you as you relax further, probably closing your eyes, until you begin to reach that receptive, suggestible state. Then you’ll be asked to open your eyes, to really look at some object in the room. To examine it closely and pay attention not only to the object, but to the way it feels to pay attention to an object.

Later, you’ll be asked to turn out the light and go to bed, paying attention to your sense of smell and touch, then later to listen closely and pay attention to noises and sounds, then to practice your visualisation by remembering how the object you were examining earlier looked, before visualising yourself dreaming in more detail and remembering to pay attention to the world tomorrow.

We appreciate that to many people it’s hard to believe something so simple could actually have an effect. This is part of the reason we chose perception awareness as the starting point in our journey. If you don’t believe it can work. TEST IT. Do it most nights one week, that’s at least 4 times in seven days. We’re confident you’ll notice your world more, become more aware, and also become aware of the fact you’re becoming more aware. If you manage to not only listen to the guides, but also to follow instructions and imagine and visualise the things you’re asked to imagine and visualise, we’re sure you’ll see the potential in our methods.

Next week we’ll talk about what it actually means to pay attention, but if you’ve properly used this first file a few times between now and then, you’ll already be part way to understanding it intuitively, at least you’ll have improved your skill. You’ll have noticed yourself doing it.

For now though, here’s our first guided meditation mp3. The background music was written by Chemica Solutions especially for the Transcendence institute. As our course progresses, you’ll no doubt want to use our techniques in areas other than the ones we are concentrating on. Each of our files also comes with a “music only” track, which you can record your own voice-overs to. We encourage you to experiment with guiding yourself into different areas of your own psyche, improving your own mind, and if you hit on something that’s particularly successful for you then post it to our forums. This isn’t a guided tour. We’re exploring the path to transcendence together.

Awareness – Perception – Paying Attention

by pre., Friday, February 8th, 2008.

Pay attention, I’m only going to write this once.

Whether or not you obeyed my instruction then, you at least know what you’d have to do in order to obey it. You can, on request, “pay attention”, focus your concentration onto something, look more carefully at something. So why don’t you do that all the time? Does it actually require extra effort?

Possibly it does, but like anything your mind does, the more you do it the more practised you’ll be. The more you practice it, the better you’ll get. The better you are, the less effort it’ll be. So why not try to pay attention, concentrate, look carefully at what you’re seeing all the time? Surely not because you’re worried you’ll burn too many calories? You’ll end up like skin and bones with no flesh on your frame?

Concentrate on the full stop at the end of this sentence, really look hard at it, count the pixels if you can, take in all there is there to see, look closely.

Was it round? Or square? Was it black, or some kind of dark blue? Was it’s background white, or a mix of red, green, blue, all joined up so close together they look white?

It seems that the main problem with trying to pay attention to the things you’re looking at, the things you’re seeing, the things you’re hearing and feeling and touching, is remembering to do so. Which begs the question: How can you remember to pay attention more often, get the practice you need to pay attention properly all the time?

You are already part of the way there. Just by knowing that you can vary your attention, and by knowing that the higher you can raise the bar there the higher the bar will rest, the higher it’ll be able to rise. Next time you notice you’re paying attention, or not paying attention, you’ll know to turn it up a notch. You’ll remember to look at things more closely, just by knowing you can look at things more closely.

There’s more you can do than that though. You can listen regularly to our self hypnosis file. It’ll help you to understand what it means to focus, to pay attention, and remind you now and then throughout your daily life to notice what you’re doing, what you’re seeing and how you’re feeling. And as you notice it more, you’ll do it more. As you do it more, you’ll get better. As you get better, it’ll get easier and you’ll learn to see what you’re actually seeing.

Ask yourself: Did you pay more attention to this article than the last thing you read? Was the constant reminder to wake up and listen all it really required? If so, you’ve already taken the fist step. Now take the next. Resolve to notice the world around you

Awareness – Perception – What Is Visualisation?

by pre., Friday, February 15th, 2008.

You’ve been asked to ‘visualise’ things for a few weeks now, to conjure up images in your mind, it’s time to address what exactly it meant by the word ‘visualise’.

In short, we’re talking about visual processing, essentially using the area of the brain devoted to visual reasoning, spacial skills. In theory, a blind man should still be able to visualise. He can still touch his fingers to your face and gain an ‘image’ in his mind of what you ‘look’ like. Indeed, if only in the movies, we see blind people “visualising” though their fingers all the time.

Just about everyone who’s not suffered a stroke or other brain illness is capable of visual processing. To take an example from a Stephen Pinker book, “How The Mind Works”, imagine a capital letter D, rotated clockwise by 90 degrees. Further, visualise the number 4 on top of this newly rotated D, standing on it’s back. When you have that image fixed in your mind, drop the right-hand side of the number 4 to leave just a triangle on a stick standing on the back of the capital letter D.

Ask yourself: What does this new shape represent?

Almost everyone correctly identifies it as an iconic description of a sail-boat.

This is what we mean by ‘visualisation’, that same skill you used to identify the ship, the sail, the mast. The output from the visual processing system.

We use this system all the time in daily life. If I tell you that Jane is taller than Joe and Joe is taller than Jim you can arrange these people in height order in a mental image fairly easily. Even without knowing what Jim or Joe or Jane actually look like, you can still ‘visually’ arrange their symbolic representations in your mind in height order. Indeed, you can continue to do so as we add in John, who’s between Joe and Jim, and Jerry, who’s between Jim and John. This is certainly a useful way of thinking, and probably what most people intuitively do when asked to think of these people, their heights, and answer questions about them.

Much of this processing will be done unconsciously, but even in people who are aware that these kind of tasks activate the visual cortex of a brain in a PET scanner, even in people who deliberately try to imagine a picture of these imaginary people, the experience is of course not the same as actually seeing a line-up of real people.

For a start, it’s not actually visual. There is nothing in your visual field, it can be done with your eyes open, while staring at a blank page or watching a TV show. It’s using the visual processing units of the mind, but it’s not the same as actually seeing. Compared to actually ’seeing’ it’s a shadowy and vague experience indeed.

The second main difference is that of detail. When you look out at the real world, the one you can see with your eyes, the area of the visual field in which you actually see with proper detail, the part of your retina which has enough rods and cones to be worth a damn, covers about the area of your thumbnail at arms length. I know it doesn’t feel like that, but if you fixate on one point and try to see details in a moving thing away from that point you’ll find it impossible. In order to actually see the detail in a thing we have to move your eyes to look at at.

The entire scene is built in your brain from a series of rapid saccades, scanning for detail and finding it and filling it into a scene. When you’re looking at a sentence on this page, you can’t see enough detail to ‘read’ a word just two words away from the one your eyes are pointed at. If you stare at a “word” in this sentence you can barely read the preceding “Stare”. The detail just isn’t there until you look at it.

Now the same is true of ‘visualisation’, you can only ’see’ (IE process) a minute bit of ‘visual’ information at a time. In order to ’see’ detail you have to zoom-in, focus, succade your minds eye from one segment to another.

Perhaps the biggest difference between seeing and visualising is that when looking at an object the data comes in through that dense patch of retinal neurons whereas when ‘visualising’ an object the data has to be constructed by the mind. Which is much harder work!

When using visualisation processes to try to change your brain’s response to something, to practice something, to exercise a transcendence skill, you should use as much detail as you can imagine because this will lead to a stronger emotional response. Note that this is still imagined detail. Visualisation is an inherently constructive process.


At this point, an example will be useful. Compare the following two descriptions, try to take note of any images that form in your minds eye, of emotional responses to those images, of the vividness with which the images project.

Description One:

A man sat on a chair

Description Two:

A tall man, wearing a long grey overcoat, timidly approached the plush green armchair before suddenly turning around and immediately dropping his arse down into the soft cushion, the momentum of his denim trousers pushing creases into the velvet lime seat-covers.

Now, neither description actually projects onto the visual field. Reading neither of them can tell you what the gentleman in question actually looks like, yet the second is still more ‘visual’, it enables the visual cortex to join in the processing, forms more emotionally vivid impressions on the mind.

The more time and effort you put into mentally succading from one detail to another, trying to build up an entire scene, the more emotionally relevent the ‘picture’ will become.

Finally, try to remember that there will be massive variation in people’s abilities in these skills. When trying to visualise a scene, as with looking around at the real world, some people will be more aware of the process than others. Some will know that in order to see the detail in the eye of a painting they have to look at the eye, while some will look at that eye and not notice they have done so, just assume the whole time that they were looking at the whole picture.

There will also be variation in people’s level of self deception. If you ask someone to imagine a clown, no doubt they will. If you then ask them “What colour are his eyes” some will mentally succade to the eyes and have an answer before they’re aware they’ve done it. Others will be more aware that they’re constructing the colour of those eyes, previously unnoticed, in order to give the report.

Likewise, some will not notice that the detail in their imaginary images wasn’t there until they looked at it. They’ll just look, without even noticing they have succaded their minds eye, and find it there.

Variation will also exist in what people think is a fair report of their internal experiences, what they mean by the word ’see’. How readily they will claim to ’see’ mental images, or chemically induced hallucinations, or the solution to a problem, or the meaning of a sentence.

Some of this variation, no doubt, will be genetic. Some, equally doubtlessly, will simply be a question of how practised at the skill a person is. It may be impossible for some to visualise as well as others, but it’s unlikely that anyone would find it impossible to improve.

We have designed this month’s guided meditation file to help you to improve your visualisation skills, to better understand them. To this end you are asked, very explicitly, to physically look at an object, and then later to visualise it. To compare the two experiences, to learn how to make the second more like the first.

We’ve spent a whole article on what we mean by ‘visualisation’ because it’s very important you don’t get discouraged that your imagined experiences aren’t as striking and immediate as watching a movie. They aren’t that way for anybody. They do not have to be in order to work.

They are, however, more vivid for some than others. Some people automatically fill in the details as they mentally succade to different parts of a mental image. After a lifetime of imagining and playing, many people fill in those details automatically, without thinking. As you practice it more, you’ll find it easier, there’s no known reason why these skills can’t be improved with practice and attention just as
every other skill can be improved.

Awareness – Perception – Seeing Like An Artist

by pre., Friday, February 22nd, 2008.

In “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Betty Edwards suggests a valuable exercise. She asks her readers to select an image at random. We suggest a portrait, a face, but it’s not important. She recommends her readers, assumed to be naive of artist’s skills, try to copy that randomly-selected image.

Then, after that attempt, she advises they try again. Copy the image once more, but this time do it upside down.. Put the source image upside down in front of you, and draw a copy of it, so that your copy will be upside down too.

Most people find that, contrary to expectation, when they turn their copy over and compare it to the first copy which they made right side up, the second copy is a more accurate duplication of the original image than the first was.

Why should this be?

When you perceive a scene, your brain immediately begins to interpret that scene. It’s hard to see a nose or whatever as a collection of shapes and shades because you know that it’s a nose. Since your visual system is less used to seeing upside-down noses your “it’s a nose” neural response is dampened, and you’re more able to see the outlines, the subtle textures and tones, and thus more able to reproduce those abstract shapes on paper.

Edwards further suggests, and we concur, that you do it again. This time paying particular attention to the way you see while you’re copying one image onto another. Notice how different your perception is when you’re trying to draw your internal representation of a nose, rather than copying the upside-down projection of shapes you see on your retina.

This second state, where you’re concious of the way things look is what we mean when we talk about awareness of your perception. Edwards calls it “seeing like an artist” and claims that her students thank her for teaching them to see this way, saying things like “Everyone looks beautiful now.”

We suspect this is what Zen Buddhists mean when they talk of “Kensho – “Seeing things as they really are”. Although if this is what those philosophers mean, they are mistaken. You cannot see things as they really are, only see how they stimulate your nervous system. We know that your fingernail is actually a swarming dancing field of energy, each atom a quantum blur with neither true location nor momentum. You can’t see that. But you can see the very base level of input into your nervous system. The patches of shade, the sparkles of light, the colours and textures and forms.

How is this useful?

The aim is to become more aware of how your perception system works. To increase your awareness of each stage of your perception. From patterns and shapes and colours, up through the texture and models and types to the meaning of the things you perceive. To see as an artist does.

For example, if you see an expression on someone’s face, you need to know why that face is looks ‘angry’ or ‘happy’, know which visual signals are indicating this. If you don’t learn to understand this process there’s a danger you’ll be fooled by your own suggestions, expectations and subliminal associations. Worse yet you’ll be more more easily beguiled, fooled into seeing illusion, misdirection, or phantasmagoria. Learning to notice what you actually see, rather than what you think is there makes you less likely to fall for illusion.

It will also help with your visualisation skills. Much of the process of self-reprogramming involves visualization. Often the easiest way to practice a skill is just to visualize it happening and having an artist’s view of the world will help to make your internal visualization more vivid, clear and accurate. It will make your visualizations more believable, more real.

You will likely also find that it improves your memory. If you notice the shape of something, it’s another detail which make later jog your memory, more mnemonic evidence that something actually happened and wasn’t just a figment or illusion. If you’ve paid better attention, you’ll be more likely to recognise and remember things later. If you need to remember something, remembering how it appears is at least a helpful trigger.

Finally, it’s fun. There’s an unbelievable aesthetic joy in looking at the way the sun glints off of a person’s eye; or to notice the shade, bend and texture of a wall; the composition of your visual field or the burning brightness of colour and light in a fire. It can literally reduce boredom to look in detail at the world around you, to see how it’s built from shapes and colours and shade and form.

How can you improve?

The best and easiest way, of course, is to practice. To look closely at the world around you. You can do this at any time. Next time you think “I’m bored,” start to really examine whatever it is that you can see. To see the tiniest detail, the shape of the marks of dirt, the specks of dust, the shine and glint of light off of it’s surface. The more you practice looking at things the better you will get.

More time-consuming (and often disheartening to start with at least) is to practice drawing things. Try to represent as accurately as you can not the objects you are drawing but the shapes they project, the patches of colour, the jigsaw of space between the objects. To get the image as photo-realistic as you are able.

Finally, if you find that you forget to do this as often as you may like, our self-hypnosis audio file for increasing your perception skills will help you to get used to how it feels to really pay attention to your perception, and to remember to practice the skill more often.

Awareness – Perception – Priming your perception

by pre., Friday, February 29th, 2008.

In Prometheus Rising, Robert Anton Wilson suggested an exercise which can be pretty instructive:

1. Visualize a quarter vividly, and imagine vividly that you are going to find the quarter on the street. Then, look for the quarter every time you take a walk, meanwhile continuing to visualize it. See how long it takes you to find the quarter.

(English readers might get a better result using a 5p piece, adjust for your local currency)

Wilson advises that you try this exercise at least three times. The first time as a control, the second time imagining that there are quarters lying around in the street everywhere that you might find, and the third time imagining that you can materialize street-money with the power of your mind.

Now it’s clear from context that Wilson finds it more likely he’ll find the pavement-pennies when he thinks he can magic them out of thin air. Presumably that’s the results he got when he was testing. Personally I found that I found the 5p piece more quickly, on average, when searching for money I thought must surely already be there, lying just around the next corner. But it was close. Way within the margins of error.

Here’s what’s interesting though: Usually it’d take less than a month to spot some road-riches, more quickly than if I wasn’t visualizing at all of course, but the coin that I find was always the coin that I was searching for. I never spotted a 2p piece while searching for a 5p. I never spotted a pound coin, or a 20, or a 50, or a 1p. Even the buttons and washers I spotted were all about the same size and shape as a 5p coin.

Why would this be? I mean it’s clear that actually looking will mean you find something more quickly, more of your attention and time will be spent on it, but why should it be that you’ll find the very thing you’re looking for rather than something else?

Consider this. It’s a common enough experience, I’m sure it’s happened to us all: you’ve been listening to some pop song, and the singer’s voice is so tortured and drawling that you can’t make out what the hell he’s trying to squeal. Was that something about dragons? Did he say he wanted to hear a fake dragon roar?

Then months later you hear a cover of the song, and the words are more clear, and they’re so obvious and right that you know now what’s being said. Listening to the original again you find that despite the lyric still being scrawled and mewled as much as sung, despite the same pressure-waves, the same noises reaching your ear as before, you can hear the words now. And never again will you struggle to understand or perceive it.

Your senses, your attention, has been primed.

Sine Wave Speech

If you’ve ever heard ’sine wave speech’ it’s primed your auditory system. Just listening to these strange noises in the right context changes forever the way you hear a few bleeps and whistles.

We understand the basis upon which this happens down to a very basic level; it’s a result of the way neurons function and grow, of what’s called Hebbian learning, often summarized as “neurons that fire together, wire together.”

Your brain is a pattern matching machine. It’s constantly looking for similarities, for examples, clones, imitations. So when you visualize that quarter, you’re reinforcing the pattern, the archetype of the coin in your mind. By imagining it lying on a pavement, you teach your brain to better spot things that are like that. Which includes the shade, shape, size, shine, and situation. You’re more likely to notice it because you’ve trained your brain to see it more easily. Effectively practiced seeing that kind of thing.

At any one time there are billions of patterns in your perception and memory, all fighting for your limited attention. Your massively-parallel neuronal system lets these patterns battle it out in a metaphorical war, those which have been the most reinforced, those patterns it finds most familiar, those wires that have fired most together, are the ones that will finally win your attention.

Which means that the more you can get memes like “street” and “shiny” and “find” and “5p” or “quarter” to associate together, the more primed your pattern-matching brain is to notice when a combination of those things comes up. The more likely you are to notice when you see something that’s close to that pattern. Which means you’re more likely to spot the edge-case.

Some people take this effect to be magical, proof that what you believe will happen will happen, like conciousness itself can effect the physical structure of the universe. It’s a convincing illusion too; you’ll be more likely to see what you think will happen as a direct neurological consequence of expecting to see it. Especially if you fantasize a little about what it’ll look like.

More than just convincing, it’s also a useful illusion. If it makes you spot opportunities, go out and do things, search out what you seek, then the illusion can make your life better. Which of course reinforces the illusion again since it makes you think you’re on the right track.

Are we better off believing the illusion?

Are we then better of believing this illusion? In short: No.

These neurological effects aren’t actually based on belief that they work. They’re based on neurological Hebbian learning. On electrochemical and computational processes. If we understand the process we can better manipulate ourselves using it. Spend time visualising the right things instead of wasting our time trying to convince ourselves we can levitate as Wilson apparently did.

These effects probably even work better when you understand their mechanism. You can smile knowingly to yourself and think I’ve just noticed that pattern because I’ve been priming myself to do so, and realize that this is proof that it’s working. You can pay attention to the changes in your brain as you feel them, which always makes practice work more efficiently. You can predict the affects of your actions better, understand your own pattern-predilections and so know which imagery and associations are likely to help you notice the desired opportunities or reinforcements. In general, you have more control than an unsophisticated groping attempt to to visualize yourself thin or powerful or owning a large bank account or experiencing metaphysical transcendence or whatever.

Do try out the exercise though. Let me know how you get on.

Guided Meditation File 1 – Awareness – Perception
Backing Music “Attention” By Chemica Solutions
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