What is your image of your future? For that matter, what is your idea of yourself right now: your self-esteem? As a child of an emotionally abusive unhappy mother, for decades I had chronically low self-esteem.
Nearly everything my mother noticed about me was met with disapproval so I began seriously hiding. I shared nothing. I stuffed my feelings as best I could. When this became both painful and nearly impossible, I drank. I drank too much. My liver isn’t strong enough for that to go on very long. I found myself in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. At one AA meeting, another attendee shared that she realized that she had low self-esteem and she’d started to address this in various ways. I recognized immediately that this was my problem too.
When did we stop dreaming? Not the dreaming that bridges deep sleep and waking but imagining while you are awake.
In the book Oh, the Places You’ll Go” Dr. Seuss says,
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
Dr. Seuss always affirmed the power and capability of all children to do great. things. I needed to claim a better idea of myself, so my choice was to heal and reclaim my wholeness so I could appreciate brighter possibilities.
When I read the first of AA’s 12 Steps, “We admitted we were powerless…,” it was not a healing step up for me. I already felt powerless; that needed to heal. Nevertheless, I faithfully attended AA for 2 years. Later on, I learned that at the time insurance companies did not feel a potential customer had left their alcohol addiction behind until they had been sober for 2 years. Of course, in real life, relapses can happen at any time, even decades later.
I found an alternative to AA, It focused on self-esteem and was developed by Charlotte Kasl. She is a U.S. Psychologist ands author. She developed the 16 Steps to Discovery and Empowerment. There was a local meeting that used her book Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the 12 Steps. I attended that meeting for two years. I was determined to heal the low self-esteem problem. That focus was key to my recovery and Kasl’s 16 steps helped me tremendously. That was almost 20 years ago.
When my self-esteem was extremely low, I had no idea of what I wanted my future to look like. I didn’t even look forward to something the following week. My past and present was full of pain and the future did not exist. Although I would not have said so at the time, one sign of my increasing wellness was getting back my future. It came little by little and it rested on my improving self-image. As I felt better about who I was, I looked forward to seeing friends, to community and work celebrations. A future was possible and possibly good, at least as good as I saw myself to be.
It was probably 10 years later before I could really look forward in any way to see a future life. Even then I needed to trick myself into it. It’s perhaps related to my inability to journal. When I was a little girl, I could buy a little diary with a lock on it. I would write in it and hide it under my bed. My mother would find it and always thought I was writing terrible things about her in it. Even 30 yers later I could not keep a journal, until I tried writing entries in poetry. Similarly, I needed to used imagining, mining ideas from my subconscious, to peek into my desired future. What people call visioning worked well for me.
Just as dreams are not logical, visioning is hard to define. One tool to discover the vision you hold is to create a vision board.
The first book I read about making a vision board was Lucia Capacchione’s Visioning: Ten Steps to Designing the Life of Your Dreams. The preparation she suggested made for my best vision board ever.
She suggested starting with a large envelope. Mine was 9" X 12.” As we read magazines or newspapers, if something appeals to us, whether an image or words, we cut it out and put it in the envelope. It could be a picture of a quotation or an image. She recommended doing this for several weeks or even longer before making the vision board. Spending time collecting images and words as a side activity over time is effective. It engages the subconscious mind more than flipping through a pile of magazines on the day you plan your design.
When I have made a vision board at other times, on the day itself we selected images from magazines that others had brought. The conscious goals active in our minds at the time drove our selections and the resulting creation. We made little access to the subconscious mind. Whereas, collecting images and words over time as Lucia Capacchione suggests, we use current feelings at moments here and there to yield a rich result. Feelings are like windows to the subconscious. They are ways we experience the moving panorama of dreaming mind while we’re awake. Feelings emerge from our bodies, from our values, and deeply help beliefs, just as out dremas do and not from our intellect and reasoning power.
Back to the Capacchione method: when the time comes to make the vision board, we empty our envelopes and pull from the collection the images and words that are most powerful and set aside the rest. Repeating the thinning process several times ensures that only items with the greatest impact go on our board.
When we create the board, Lucia exorts us to dream big. We are to include things we want but almost can’t imagine owning, imagined activities beyond our present abilities, famous people we’d like to meet and prizes we’d love to win. It’s time to expand beyond the facts of the moment.
When the board is done, we display it so we can see it every day. Each time we glance at our vision board, it makes those yearnings live in us again. As days pass, the things we pictured come into our lives for real.
In the first vision board I made using Lucia Cpacchione’s method, every image placed on it came into my life. That’s why I say it was the best board I ever made. I had put an image of India on it, I dearly wanted to visit India. I had sutdied Sanskrit, a classical Indian language. I had studied Bhagavad Gita and several principal upanishads like Isha, Kena, Katha, Manduka, Maandukya, a little Taittiiriya and even Brahma Sutras all under guidance of the late Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati (we’re known as the Piercy batch since we stodied with hinm in Piercy, CA) , but I had never gone to India, the birthplace of all of them. At the time I made the board the trip seemed an impossible dream. When I learned that a trip to India was part of the Women’s Spirituality Program, I enrolled immediately. Within two years, I had visited India.
I used to think that vision boards were something only women do, and, even more: only women in privileged western societies with lots of glossy magazines. But TV producer James Ouma’s blog tells that he has created vision boards with young men in Kenya.
What lights the way for each of us comes from within us. Visioning and creating vision boards can be a way to access that wisdom.
Make yourself a vision board and let your dream come true.
To read more by Aikya, click here.