Imagery, meditation and the inner dog…

What do imagery and meditation have to do with dogs?  I share my home and my office with 2 wonderful large dogs, who as I write this are lying in front of the woodstove, basking in the warmth and feeling safe and content. But I also have an inner dog, who lives deep in my brain, in that ancient mysterious part of the nervous system that we humans share with all mammals.

My inner dog has a lot in common with my two relaxed friends; it is protective of me and it wants me to be safe and happy. It can go from tail-wagging pleasure to a growl in a nanosecond. And it can’t tell the difference between what is real and what is imagined – whether a dangerous intruder is ringing my doorbell, or the ring is happening in the movie playing on my TV.

Our inner dog responds to our stress and our fear by creating a physical stress response in the body – tense muscles, a rush of adrenalin, pulling blood out of our digestive systems and our thinking brains and sending it to our muscles so we can run away from the tiger – just as it responds to pleasure by sending relaxing chemicals coursing through our blood. But like my dogs and the doorbell, it can’t tell if it’s real or imagined! Is a hungry tiger running toward you, or are you just focusing on something scary or traumatic that happened in the past?  Is a tree about to fall on you or are you worrying about losing your job? Is someone about to attack you, or did an inconsiderate driver just cut you off?

Either way, the stress response is real, the biochemical reactions in the body are real, and the toll it takes on our health and well-being is all too real. The mind-body connection is a remarkable thing, and imagery is the language that our brains and our bodies use to communicate. When you realize how much unconscious communication is going on every minute, you can begin to glimpse the powerful tool available to you when you make that communication conscious and use it creatively.

Many clients have said to me, “I just can’t visualize, I’m no good at imagery.” But the truth is, we are all absolutely expert at what I call ‘negative imagery.’ Sending our bodies messages that they obediently respond to; “I’m clumsy, I’m fat (and I’ll always be fat!), I have a bad back, a sensitive stomach, that medicine will make me nauseous, I’ll never heal…” the litany of negative thoughts and imagery goes on all day.

So what if we could harness this energy and creatively use it for health and healing? What if the messages were positive and health-promoting? What if you could use this innate ability that we all have, to tell your inner dog that all is well, you are safe. Your inner dog could stop growling at imaginary tigers and tell your body to relax, stop pumping out stress hormones and inflammatory compounds and get on with the business of healing. Which is what it really prefers to do!

And that’s what guided imagery is – guiding your thoughts, your imagination, your images toward the outcome you desire. I have found that by incorporating guided meditation with imagery work, it is easier and far more effective. In meditation, your mind, body and spirit are in a relaxed, centered state where you are more connected to your deeper, inner self and your mind-body communication is enhanced.

So if you haven’t already gotten your free download of my guided imagery meditation mp3 Six Minutes to Peace and Relaxation please sign up in the sign-up box and give yourself a taste of what this work can do for you. If you’d like to learn how to meditate, try my mp3 “Four Steps to Center” in my mp3 store. And take some time every day to send your inner dog soothing thoughts of lying on a soft bed in front of a fire with a full belly… it sure works for my dogs!

Yours in peace and safety,


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Shakaya - November 16, 2010

I liked this a lot…I agree that I am all too able to conjure up negative scenerios based on worry or fear- and yet the positive visualizations are more difficult and take more conscious effort on my part.
Visualization and affirmations and any positive tool to help us stay focused on what we want instead of what we don’t is super important for health and happiness. Looking forward to your mp3 and would love to learn more.

Carol - November 17, 2010

Thanks so much Shakaya, it is so interesting to me that we are all so much more adept at the negative, at worry and fear and thoughts that cause us pain, than at imagining future safety or happiness, which would feel SO much better!

Deb - November 17, 2010

I love guided imagery, but have not taken the time lately to go on a magic carpet ride, that is mine! I look forward to getting your mp3.
Thanks, Deb

Reverend Diane Epstein - November 19, 2010

Aren’t we just so facile—like you said—at creating negative images? Especially the self talk. It’s said that for every negative thing we think or say about ourselves that it takes twenty of the opposite, positive messages to negate it. Thank you for reminding us all that there really is no tiger—he’s just a habit—and we can actually relax more. Woof!

Carol - November 19, 2010

I have heard that statistic too, but I don’t really believe it. I believe that positive, life affirming energy is far more powerful than the negative.

The image for me is of a seedling sprouting under the earth and pushing toward the sun through dense soil, rocks, all kinds of impediments. It is our nature to grow toward the light, so a single clearly focused intentional image of healing can be more powerful than an automatic, habitual negative one.

Sunrise Sheryl - November 22, 2010

Hi Dr. Carol: Great post! I love discovering ways to nurture my inner pup. I’ve noticed that the more I’ve included practices like guided imagery, the less likely it is that my pup gets riled up. Naturally, I am healthier–body, mind, and spirit!

I recently learned a very simple, effective mind/body technique that our friend and colleague, Rue Hass, shared. It’s called Intentional Resting. The premise is that we can find health and well being by simply closing our eyes, locating the physical symptom or emotional disruption, and say “I’m now resting for this (symptom or disruption) or I’m now resting into this (symptom or disruption)–whichever statement feels best to you, take a deep breath and repeat the “I’m now resting” statement. Check in with your body again. Repeat the statement, if necessary.


Carol - November 22, 2010

Hey Sheryl,

Thanks for stopping by! I love the Intentional Resting concept, thank you so much for sharing it.

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