What do mirror neurons and your unconscious mind have in common? Visualization

Somatic Experiencing | July 11, 2023

“Yes, we are on our way, but we are not there yet…,” said Tara. “The bottom line is, we are still basically a team of old white men.” 

My client, Tara, who you met in blog five (Your demons are hiding in plain sight), had known the previous CEO of the company she’d recently taken over for about 30 years. It felt like a family business, and the relationships were deeply entrenched. What Tara wanted, really, was to access her unique potential as a leader in this role. 

“I want to do things differently,” she continued. “I want to find my own style of leadership. I just don’t have a template to follow. I have no idea what that might look like.”

“Ok,” I said, “then let’s find out what your version of leadership looks like.”

By now, Tara and I knew each other well. I knew that Tara had a sense for how powerful it can be to visualize things we’re yearning for but can’t yet articulate. 

Visualization exercises are used across the world to help give your thinking brain access to the wisdom stored in your body. Visualization is also a means of connecting with the divine, or that “something greater than you” that you look to for guidance. 

When you’re able to see something through visualization, mirror neurons offer a felt sense of it –– in other words, a part of your brain reacts as if you’ve experienced it. When you have a felt sense of something, you’re able to understand it at a deep and profound level that was previously out of reach. 

Tara wanted to be a different kind of leader, one that tapped into her feminine power. Yet all she knew of leadership was its masculine interpretation. I suggested a guided meditation and visualization exercise. Tara was up for it. 

“I want you to close your eyes and settle into your body,” I began. 

Tara’s shoulders slowly dropped as she relaxed. 

I asked that she find a still point in her body and picture something that made her feel deeply calm, it could be a field of wildflowers or a vista or a cozy room in front of the fire. Once Tara had defined the space around her in her mind’s eye, I asked her to tell me how it felt there. She described the sights, smells, and sounds. 

In that still place, I invited Tara to picture a campfire and to take a seat next to it. Not just any fire, but a fire that’s been burning for eternity, that has always been, and will always be. 

This is often a starting point for any visualization journey.  I’ve learned from one of my own spiritual guides that it’s a beautiful place to begin. Into a fire like this you can throw whatever it is that’s holding you back, everything you no longer need, so that there is room to create something new. 

Now it was time to ask Tara a question: “I want you to invite the feminine power to join you by the fire.” 

Tara and I sat quietly for a moment before I asked if she would like to share whether or not anything had appeared to her. “I’m seeing a tall, regal woman,” said Tara. “She’s got silvery white hair and has on this beautiful velvet robe. She’s holding out a small pouch, lined with gems. She’s giving it to me.”

“How do you feel, being given this gift?” I asked.

“The gift feels old. Sacred. Powerful. And scary,” she said without hesitation. “I’m not scared of the woman. I’m scared of this incredible power she’s giving me.”

Slowly, I guided Tara back to the sacred fire, back to her body, and the room she was sitting in. When she was fully present, the first thing out of Tara’s mouth was, “I feel like I just had a psychedelic experience. What WAS that, Rachel?!”

“That,” I said, “is the power of a visualization journey. In your meditative state you were open enough to allow your deep inner wisdom -or some might even say, the divine-  to visit you in the form of powerful feminine leadership. You allowed yourself to be open enough to experience what that could feel like.”

After having experienced that power within her, Tara and I had a reference point to draw from. When questions arose on how Tara wanted to address a certain situation, she would tap into that experience and ask herself what a response would be from that kind of leadership power. Her decision making from that place was profound and effective.

There’s plenty of science behind the power of visualization. When we witness others in action, we experience the action as if we were doing it too. These parts of our brains activated by witnessing people in action are the same regions activated when we take the same actions ourselves. 

In Somatic Experiencing, one of the many modalities we draw from here at MettaWorks, we refer to this broadly as the work of mirror neurons. To boil it down, it’s because of mirror neurons that when we visualize what we want, we access the sensations of that lived experience. And when we know what it feels like to have what we want, we can take quantifiable steps toward achieving it.

Curious what you’ll find beneath the surface of your thinking brain? MettaWorks is here to help you unlock your internal riches. Check out my book, Who You Are Is How You Lead, and get in touch to book a call today

Rachel Rider
Executive Coach, Leadership Consultant