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Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Power of visualization

Was out on a run this morning and was so lost in thought I almost got hit by a car. Not good. (Note to self: Come back to reality when crossing streets.) I know a lot of people who strap on the headphones and jam to some thumping, inspiring music while running. I, however, prefer to listen to the music in my head. Running gives me the chance to run through ideas, conversations, possibilities, dreams, blogs, stories and, yes, music while burning off the sometimes-destructive excess energy that tends to build up in me. I take ideas through to some conclusion (sometimes logical, often not). If only I could take notes while running. I'm a killer multi-tasker, but not that good.

While I'm running, I'm engaged in visualization. Call it mindfulness while exercising. I imagine myself achieving certain things, pushing myself toward realizing my goals. Takes my mind off of the actual physical task of exercising. Although there are certain risks, as noted above.

I've been doing this consciously since high school, unconsciously probably all my life. In 1984, the summer before my senior year in high school, I stayed up late every night to watch the USA woman's volleyball team play in the Olympics in LA. I mastered my spike by watching the players and studying their steps, their arm movements, their jump and the position of their hand as they smacked the ball into an opponent's face. Mentally, I would take myself through those same moves. When camp started, I was much stronger and did a better job of playing the front line.

I've seen my kids use similar techniques. My son, Ryan, played his first year of CYO tackle football last fall. His dad (no stranger the game) worked on drills with Ryan throughout the summer, while Ryan ran with me to build up his endurance. The result was astonishing. Come time for football camp, he was far better prepared physically than most other kids. He studied the playbook (which was rather large for fifth grade) every night and earned a spot as the starting running back. He played well and strong because he prepared well and visualized himself running with the ball into the end zone (which he did nine times during the season).

Patrick is very fond of baseball. When he was five he wanted to toss a basball and hit it by himself. He didn't want anyone to show him how. I watched from the window as he stood in the corner of the yard known as home plate. He would toss and swing, toss and swing, over and over. He mastered the move (rather difficult for a 5-year-old) because he visualized himself making contact with the ball. And Michael. He may use a combination of visualization and out and out moxie. At 5, he taught himself to ice skate. I skated along next to him, but he didn't want or need my hand. He would do it himself. And indeed, he did.

So now I'm using visualization to see myself as a successful independent writer. I've been a published writer for 15 years, so I guess you could say I have been successful. But I'm pushing my skills, more determined than ever to write on a higher level and for a larger audience. Like my boys, I'll also add a healthy dose of moxie to my vision.

On a completely unrelated note: I love to read and hope to share with you from time to time the books beside my bed. Currently, I'm re-reading "On Writing Well," by William Zinsser, which is actually on my desk. I started reading, "The History of Salt," but it's not holding my attention. Good prose is like food; I need it for survival, finding nourishment for my soul in words and stories. And so I perused my bookshelf of all-time favorites last night and pulled down Henry James' "The Portrait of a Lady" for a re-read—my oxygen.

"I cannot live without books." — Thomas Jefferson

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