I had a vision. How do I do it again?
February 20, 2008 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Recently I saw the future (I think). How can I do it again?

This is going to be a long story no matter how I cut it, so bear with me.

Recently I went to a hypnotherapist to help me lose weight. I entered the room skeptical and left the room equally skeptical (it didn't really work) but there's no doubt she got me into a very relaxed state. I didn't enter a trance or anything and was entirely conscious throughout.

One of the techniques she used was for me to imagine myself going down a set of steps, and the more steps I walked down, the more relaxed I became.

Near the bottom of the steps, I had a powerful vision. It came from nowhere and was unconnected with any thoughts I was having at the time, or anything she was saying (she was droning on about relaxing -- I think it was because she was so boring that my imagination ran away with itself).

I was an old man and I was walking down the steps of a house into a kitchen. At the bottom was my family, and my granddaughter was at the bottom, making sure I didn't fall. What made it very strange was the emotion I felt -- I'm a young man and haven't got children, but I really did feel what I presume was pride for my children, and my granddaughter in particular. It almost brought a tear to my eye. For days afterwards the feeling lingered in me. It was nice but rather bizarre. I felt like I understood what it was like to be a dad.

The vision went away as quickly as it came and we carried on with the hypnosis stuff which, as mentioned, didn't work.

But what happened to me? How can I make it happen again? It felt like my imagination had been cut loose, whereas normally I drive it forward. I'm aware of the phrase "dream quest", but researching it is difficult because it's a common pop culture phrase.

Before you ask, there was nothing untoward about the hypnotherapist. This all took place at the doctor's surgery, where she practices, and I understand she's professionally qualified.
posted by humblepigeon to Religion & Philosophy (24 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Hallucinogens. Start with mushrooms, then, if that works okay, salvia and acid, then DMT.

Your mileage may vary.
posted by nasreddin at 11:12 AM on February 20, 2008 [6 favorites]

I would think the best way to make it happen again would be to try hypnotherapy or deep relaxation again, either with or without a therapist.
posted by rocket88 at 11:20 AM on February 20, 2008

There's a bit of Zen jargon by name of "makyo." It refers to getting hallucinations/visions/percept distorions, etc., which can happen from time to time during meditative states. General rule of thumb is to not get too hung up on them and to treat them as interesting distractions but not inherently meaningful. Sensory deprivation can also trigger hallucinations, and when you get right down to it, a lot of structured meditative activities are that--deliberately limiting outside input both obviously (closing one eyes) and more subtly (concentration of attention on inward states). It's just something the brain can do, just like generating thoughts, riffing on memories, etc. (It's my suspicion that the brain's doing this kind of thing pretty much continually--and simply that most of the waking time, it's inhibited from hitting the conscious qualia level.)

To deliberately trigger them, keep doing the same activities that caused it in the first place. Go somewhere quiet and without distractions, and concentrate on similar repetitive visualizations. Stairs, corridors, sitting on an empty beach watching rhythmic tides, etc. The tricky bit will probably be that the more you want that to happen again, the less likely it will to be--a key component tends to be that they "just happen," and when chased after, tend not to.
posted by Drastic at 11:21 AM on February 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Hallucinogens. Start with mushrooms, then, if that works okay, salvia and acid, then DMT.

Your mileage may vary.

Will they give me actual tangible visions, or just make everything appear zowie-weird for a few hours? Actually, I can answer that myself. We all can.

Drugs might assist this process, but I don't think they're going to cause it. They're too unreliable and unpredictable.

I managed it without drugs and would like to do so again.
posted by humblepigeon at 11:22 AM on February 20, 2008

You could try and practice Active Imagination, or some variation. I started practicing (although not quite as formally as the word may imply) an ad hoc version of this after reading an interview with Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel where he noted that he used this technique frequently. From the interview:
Jeff: Yes. I spend a lot of time practicing active imagination before I go to sleep. What I'm feeling will manifest as images through active imagination. And then I go to sleep and those play out even more in my dreams.

Pitchfork: What is "active imagination"?

Jeff: It's a Carl Jung term. It's sort of staying in that place between sleeping and waking. Just allowing your mind to completely begin to flow with images. Allowing it to become whatever it becomes. You know, you go to bed filled with worries and thoughts, caught up in that everyday kind of thing. With this, you try to concentrate on what you think is really important, or some type of interesting or mysterious image, and then allow your imagination to become like a stream. You can let the stream go, and just observe it to see what happens.

I've always been interested in recording other people's dreams. A lot of people are. You heard the montage piece. I'm trying to create a dream world with the montage. It's like when you look at a Dada or surrealist montage-- I just love taking fragments from everyday reality and recombining them. Everything in the natural world is so amazing, but because we're used to seeing it in one way we take it for granted. We can see an anthill or a roach or a flower or anything, but we have this frame where our mind recognizes an anthill and then moves on, without taking the opportunity to have the sense of awe that we could have if we really looked at it. The montage is about taking pieces of reality and rearranging them-- creating new frames to make you have to stop and look at things in a fresh way. It's basically taking pieces of everyday reality and rearranging them to show people the magic that is inherent in all of these things already.
It's not quite "seeing the future" but since starting I've had a number of visions along the lines of what you describe in your post.
posted by buddha9090 at 11:24 AM on February 20, 2008 [6 favorites]

You probably can't deliberately duplicate the experience, but it's very cool nonetheless. I have been regressed into past lives a number of times and the experience is extraordinarily vivid, like yours (I kept a journal of the regressions). I was convinced that I was experiencing "someone else's" life -- and death, too, because each episode involved "my" demise, sometimes in pretty novel ways -- one "self" was drawn and quartered and I'd prefer not to have to relive that one, thanks.

I have never experienced a precognitive experience but you know what Shakespeare said about there being more things in Heaven and Earth. I suppose if you want to research it you'll have to resort to psychics. And as nasreddin says in his otherwise silly remark, YMMV.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:25 AM on February 20, 2008

I suppose I should have said that I was not hypnotized per se during my regressions, but I was "talked" in to the "past lives" by a trained therapist. I experienced it as a light trance state similar to the one I was in for smoking cessation (which, by the bye, worked amazingly well -- I haven't had a cigarette since my first hypnosis session more than 22 yeras ago). Each regression was achieved quite quickly, in less than a minute or two. I guess I must be very suggestible or something.

Sure, how much do you want for that bridge? Oh, you have three of 'em?
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:31 AM on February 20, 2008

Probably, if this is going to happen again, it will happen in a hypnotic / meditative / extremely relaxed state. You can hypnotize yourself. You can get tapes that hypnotize you. I would suggest getting some product, like books or tapes or dvds or something like that to help you.

The drug thing is not as wild as you might think. Drugs shift your mental state and have been used for exactly this kind of thing. Precipitating visions of the future. That said, I would not recommend it.

But the big thing, I would think, is not to need this to happen again. If you try to push it, surely it will elude you.

Also, be open to the possibility that these are not predictions but projections. Not with out their own value, but don't bet the farm on them.
posted by d4nj450n at 11:37 AM on February 20, 2008

You might want to experiment with Lucid Dreaming techniques.

A friend told me that after a few weeks of writing down everything he could remember about his dreams immediately upon waking, he could reliably experience lucid dreams. A side effect was that while awake, he would sometimes momentarily feel like he was dreaming.

You did not see the future, but like everyone else you have an awesome and largely untapped capacity for imagination.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:39 AM on February 20, 2008

Edgar Cayce received his visions while under self hypnosis, apparently he believed everyone to be capable of such behavior and encouraged its practice. Right up your alley.
posted by prostyle at 11:42 AM on February 20, 2008

I had quite a powerful vision/awakening several years ago (without the use of any drugs) ... and have been practicing ways to reproduce it (so far with no success).

I think the best advice you are getting here is to remain drug free, and to strengthen your mind through meditation, isolation and inward focus. It definitely cant hurt, but there is no guarantee it will reproduce exactly what you want.

Sometimes you have to accept that "visions" are random events (and may occur again at any random time). How much meaning or weight you put into them, I guess is up to you. I understand completely what you describe though, because the experience I had was irrevocably life changing, and the desire to experience it again is palpable. (so much so in fact that everyday average reality is really not so satisfying anymore).
posted by jmnugent at 11:46 AM on February 20, 2008

While I approve of the use of hallucinogens in this quest, Salvia won't get you anywhere other than the living room floor in a puddle of drool. Stick to the three letter options.
posted by unixrat at 11:51 AM on February 20, 2008

The advice about not treating the hallucination as externally meaningful is good—people who believe that visions predict the future tend to have a very low success rate. But that's not to say that visions can't be internally meaningful, or that you can't construct your own meaning for the visions.

As for the drugs/no drugs question—drugs are a tool here. You can get back to visions without them, usually through meditation or sensory deprivation. Your mind, if it's anything like my mind, will counter silence with noise, and that noise is in the form of hallucinations. I get 'em almost every night as I drift into sleep, which I'd say is a pretty decent analogue state for your deep relaxation. In fact, dreams may be the easiest (least effort) way to get back to visions. The tricky part is remembering them, along with the incorporation of non-primary senses (I often dream visually and aurally, but rarely with tactile hallucination). It sounds as if you had at least some perceptual shift that went along with your vision.

But drugs can make all of this easier. I could drive a nail with the end of a screwdriver, but a hammer's a faster way. There are two broad classes of entheogens that cause hallucinations—psychedelics and dissociatives. DMT, salvia, ketamine and datura are all dissociatives, and tend to have a delirium effect. You hallucinate like a fever dream. Some cultures (or individuals) prefer this type of hallucination, where you tend to lose a sense of self and the associations are more dreamlike and rolling. The other class, psychedelics, which includes mushrooms and LSD and a whole host of "designer" drugs like 2CB, tend to give more control and encourage more active mental engagement with the visions. I tend to prefer these drugs, as I tend to prefer more analytical and phenomenological approach. Less "vision quest" and more therapeutic, in my experience.

In either case, whether attempting to do this with or without chemical aids, the important part is finding a quiet space free of distractions, and just letting your mind wander enough that it clears out the active thought in your consciousness—it's hard to hallucinate if all you can think of is getting that doctor's appointment, or finishing up your auto insurance claim, etc. Past that, it's going to be up to you and your brain, but you should be able to have these powerful moments again—in my experience, the first one is usually the one that's hardest to get, and with experience you can get into the state more and more easily.

Oh, and hypnosis is largely hooey. Just so ya know.
posted by klangklangston at 12:01 PM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Did the hypnotherapist teach you to put yourself in a relaxed state?

Years ago I did some work with a hypnotherapist who specialized in treating people with chronic pain. He and I worked together on some insomnia problems I was having. It was outside of his specialty, but I was referred to him by a partner in his practice. It was probably very similar to your experience, e.g., in medical setting with a very well qualified practitioner. In fact, we did the exact same walk down the steps exercise.

He taught me to tap my finger I was was entering into a relaxed state. It's a physical association that really helps to trigger your reaction when you try it on you own. Those weird vision type things are just your brain spinning. Sometimes you can play armchair psychiatrist and figure out what caused the thought, sometimes you can't.

If you practice the mediation, self-hypnosis techniques you may be able to have these more frequently. Maybe a book or a CD would be easier for you than a practitioner. You need to trust that person and it may be easier for you on you own.

Not that you asked, but I had very good results. Over a decade later, I can still put myself into a deeply relaxed state if I practice regularly. I usually fail the first few times I try it, but after a week of practice I can resume the skill.
posted by 26.2 at 12:02 PM on February 20, 2008

"While I approve of the use of hallucinogens in this quest, Salvia won't get you anywhere other than the living room floor in a puddle of drool. Stick to the three letter options."

Salvia can be a powerful dissociative hallucinogen, but it doesn't affect all people that way. For me, the problem was that salvia could give me a powerful trip that lasted about five minutes, and then a bunch of coughing and a vaguely hungover feeling. So while I echo your advice to stick to manmade options, I realize that's a personal choice.
posted by klangklangston at 12:06 PM on February 20, 2008

So while I echo your advice to stick to manmade options, I realize that's a personal choice.

Agreed. Humblepidgeon, if you do go this route do not *start* with Salvia.
posted by unixrat at 12:14 PM on February 20, 2008

I agree with the comments on drugs. It may take some experimentation, but I think you'll find they help to kickstart the process. You won't know until you try it, but if you are looking for tools, they are one tool in the box. (And don't get stuck on one drug. And certainly don't take drugs that are addictive!)

I second what folks are saying, if you experiment with drugs, you need to be in the right environment with the right oversight. (Sorta like a designated driver who has experience with the drug in case you trip harder than you should.) You need to start any session with a positive mental outlook. Don't do it on bad days.

I recommend delving into doing some reading about drugs and the things other have been through. "The Teachings of Don Juan" is a good place to start.

If you live in the US, most mind altering drugs are illegal. If you are looking for a source, keep in mind that mushrooms are legal in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
posted by bprater at 12:15 PM on February 20, 2008

You may or may not have traveled through a time wormhole, which is more common then is thought. This article might bring you some idea and clarity on the matter.
posted by watercarrier at 12:30 PM on February 20, 2008

Hm, reminds me of that Kevin Bacon film Stir of Echoes.

I have a friend who tried salvia, she did not like it one bit, although she said it did in fact have short term hallucinogenic effects (like a half hour), followed by several hours of creeptastical-feelings related to using it.
posted by bitterkitten at 1:28 PM on February 20, 2008

Have been swallowing my saliva and closing my eyes for about 10 minutes until I figured it out, SALVIA.
posted by philad at 1:48 PM on February 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

I think you just had one of the more unusual bouts of déjà vu, in this case a "memory" of something imagined. Unfortunately, they're almost impossible to replicate.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:46 PM on February 20, 2008

I've had a similar experience during an extended (+15 mins) meditation following a yoga session.
posted by Caviar at 6:03 PM on February 20, 2008

Mod note: a few comments removed - please take extensive derail material to email or metatalk, thanks
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:41 PM on February 20, 2008

I have nothing against getting high, but drugs won't get you where you want to go. DMT is outside of my experience but the other psychedelics create a weird distorted mental space. That can be fun, and sometimes even profound, but it also has a very different feel then hypnagogic imagery.

Your vision was a spontaneous image. It isn't something you can set out to do again. It's like asking how can you have the same dream. My understanding of dreams is that they are random bits of imagery generated or at least influenced by the firing of neurons during sleep. The emotional response we have to the images is what is revealing, not the actual content of the vision. So what you can get more of is making space for a personal response to randomly generated imagery, but it's quite likely that you'll never get the exact same feelings triggered again. Since you are seeking out the makyo, don't practice meditation. I think that meditation is good for most people but it's not really congruent with your goal. Look into some of the other suggestions, active imagination, self-hypnosis, progressive relaxation, and lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming will give you the most active control over the imagery.

The hypnotherapist probably mentioned this, but you do know that your attitude about hypnosis has an effect on the session? There's a lot of misconceptions about what it can do. If you expect it to come in and do the work you'll be disappointed. It can manifest as remembering your goals right before you eat. Effort will still be involved, you'll just be better aligned to achieve. Automatic responses are over emphasized in the popular imagination.
posted by BigSky at 4:46 AM on February 21, 2008

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