Visual Experience in Meditation

Question

When meditating I see images of people’s faces zoom in and out from all directions, then I see a vortex when I shift focus. What does this mean?

—ANGELA FLAHERTY, England

Answer

Dear Angela,

Our mind actually operates from three levels of consciousness: conscious, subconscious, and superconscious. There are two levels of consciousness where we may have visual experiences, the subconscious, and the superconscious. During meditation, our mind can easily drop into subconscious if we do not use a meditation technique. A good indicator of the level from which the visual experience comes is the feeling associated with it. Our subconscious is the reservoir of our history, old reactions, old habits, emotionally charged past experiences, and our mind when wandering aimlessly, often goes there. If we have visual experiences associated with this level, we may have dream-like images that are vague, cloudy, or emotionally charged and not necessarily uplifting. Our normal dream state of sleep is a subconscious state. Our superconscious is that level of our consciousness that contacts the divine in some aspect. We most often access this level of consciousness in meditation but we may also go there when something in our experience awakens our superconscious awareness. When we access this level, we recognize that our experience is in some way exalted, spiritually uplifting, and not like normal daily awareness or subconscious mental wandering. An inner visual experience that is superconscious is accompanied by increased stillness, peace, joy or another spiritual quality. Our conscious mind is that level that is engaged in sensory experience and outward activity in the world – making plans, getting things done, etc.

Your description of your visual images during meditation does not sound like they are superconscious in nature especially since superconscious experience has a still rather than a ‘zooming’ quality. I suggest that you explore a formal meditation practice using a meditation technique. Techniques will help you tune into superconsciousness during your meditations. Paramhansa Yogananda taught a simple and very effective meditation technique called Hong Sau which we share with all who are interested in meditation. This technique can help you move past these restless images into deep stillness. You can find out details on our website: https://www.ananda.org/meditation-blog/. You will find guided meditations, written material, online lessons, and personal support for your practice.

Many blessings to you in your spiritual explorations.
Nayaswami Mukti