The essential practice of Guided Imagery

If images speak louder than words to you, then your spiritual director may invite you into guided imagery at times. It’s a way of letting your imagination mingle with the Spirit and run free.

You can also use guided imagery on your own in your prayer time. Here are three of my favorite, simple ways to use images:

  1. Imagine yourself the director of a stage production sitting off to the side of an empty stage. Imagine thoughts to be like actors jumping on the stage. Your goal is to keep the stage empty and clear. When a thought-actor jumps onstage, gently ask it to exit the stage. Imagine all the thought-actors quietly sitting off-stage, in silence, while the stage is empty. (This is a way to enter into meditation visually—emptying the stage.) This guided imagery practice is from David Rock’s book Your Brain at Work.


  1. Imagine Divine Light moving from the top of your head throughout your body, illuminating every cell, every organ, every system in your body. When you can see yourself filled with light, stay in that awareness for a period of time. End with a prayer of gratitude for the healing of the Light.


  1. When you find yourself in a situation of inner conflict, ask God to give you an image representing that conflict. When you have a clear image that feels right to you, imagine it sitting to the right of you. Then ask God to give you an image that represents God’s presence and energy. When you have a clear image that feels right to you, imagine that image sitting to the left of you. Now ask the presence of God (image to your left) to interact with the image of your inner conflict. Be in silence as you allow this coming-together of the images. Notice what happens to each image as they interact.


Some people find working with images exhilarating. Others are skeptical. One of the biggest blocks to working with images is when a person discounts their imagination as a vehicle for God’s guidance and grace. They may say “it’s all in my head—that’s not God.” While I understand the argument, I encourage skeptics to consider how their imagination, desires and hopes influence their lives.  And to consider that these gifts are from God and are used by God. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake partly because she was open about experiencing God in her imagination. Her detractors feared that kind of experience, but Joan assumed God was active in all of life, including her imagination.

For more about spiritual direction as I practice it, check out my website. If you have questions or comments about the content of Spiritual Direction 101, please let me hear from you in the reply section below.

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