How to create a vision board

Photos by Carla Kucinski

I like to think of vision boards as a visual inner compass; it’s a creative way to help you focus on who you want to be and what you desire your life to be. Vision boards can help you see your goals and achieve them. Assigning an image to the goal (or multiple goals) makes it feel more attainable. It’s no longer a thought floating around in your head; it’s real and has meaning. If you can’t see the goal, how do you know where to begin or where you’re headed? And when you finally get there, how will you know you’ve arrived?

I started creating vision boards about 8 or 10 years ago, when my therapist introduced me to the process. She didn’t refer to it as a vision board necessarily; rather, it was like drawing a map of your subconscious mind. The process involved flipping through a stack of magazines and tearing out anything that sparked something in me. You’re not supposed to question your selection or hesitate before ripping it from the pages. It’s supposed to be a free-flowing process. No second guessing. No questioning.

At the end, you glue the images to a piece of paper or poster board or you can paste the images to your canvas as you collect them. Then you sit back and analyze what you see. I found the experience freeing and eye-opening — and at times surprising. Objects appeared on the board that tappped into parts of my subconscience that hadn’t been unearthed. Seeing my completed vision board was always an “a-ha” moment.

Our busy lives create busy minds that prevent us from connecting to ourselves and listening to what our hearts truly desire. Vision boards help us pause, take a deep breath, and dive into our subconscious minds to discover what we truly want in our lives.

Creating a vision board is a very meditative process. It quiets the mind. (I recommend doing the exercise in silence so that you can fully immerse yourself in the process and limit distractions.) The experience feels similar to painting or writing or wandering through nature snapping photos. You get in “the zone.” Hours glide by without noticing.

Although you can create a vision board at any point in your life, I find I gravitate toward vision boards after I’ve undergone something life changing or I am in the middle of something that feels life-altering. (It’s definitely been one of those years.) I recently decided to create a vision board after reading life coach Martha Beck’s “Steering by Starlight,” a fantastic book about finding your destiny and how you can guide yourself to that destiny. She calls her vision boards “pictorial star charts,” a collection of images that represent the vision for your life. In her version, you can tear images from magazines, but she also recommends printing images from the internet if you have a specific goal in mind.

Once your star chart is complete, she suggests closing the activity with a “spell” or a prayer. Some sort of statement that you send out into the universe. She likes to start her statement with one simple word: “Thanks.” It’s “gratitude for what you’ve received (in the future.)” I love that concept of believing you will receive what you put out into the world. Already imagining that you will obtain your destiny gives hope. Beck says that most of the time her clients’ charts come true, sooner than they had imagined.

For my board, I adopted Beck’s statement method but added a twist. In addition to stating gratitude, the statement should be a phrase that you tell yourself. Maybe that phrase is to help guide you (“Follow your heart.”); or to keep you from feeling discouraged (“Great things await you.”); or a sentiment that you need to express to yourself daily (“Trust the journey.”). Perhaps it’s not a sentence that resonates with you but one single word or a title for your vision. (Dream. Strength. Peace.)

The vision board I created is a combination of the approaches by Beck, my therapist, and author Julia Cameron, who briefly shares her thoughts on the practice in her book, “The Sound of Paper.” Definitely worth checking out.

Below are my step-by-step instructions to take you through the process of creating a vision board. Set aside an hour — two if you really want to dig in deep — and unlock your subconsciousness. Ready. Set. Go.

Step 1: Gather supplies


I picked up this square cork board and the dry-erase board at Target for $9.99 each, along with some fancy push pins for under $3 (also a Target find). I liked the idea of hanging my vision board in my office with my “statement” written on the dry-erase board underneath. You can also use a plain sheet of paper or poster board or a small canvas and glue the images to the material.

Step 2: Grab a stack of magazines


Aim for a good variety of about 12 of your favorite used magazines.

Step 3: Let it rip


As you flip through the pages, tear out any images that ignite a positive response. Anything that evokes feelings of freedom, pure joy, etc. It’s usually the images that cause you to pause that you should tear out. Don’t question why you’re gravitating toward that image; it will all become clear later. You can use scissors to cut out your images or for those of you who desire a more “freeing” experience, use your fingers to gently tear the inages from their pages. Feel free to rip out any words that grab you, too.

Step 4: Assemble


Now comes the fun part. Pin (or glue if using paper) the images to your board. Try not to edit yourself during this process. Let your intuition guide you as you place the images on the board. Again, don’t question or try to analyze your board until it’s complete.

Step 5: Step back and observe


Take a step back from your masterpiece and for 5-10 minutes observe what you’ve created. Journal about what you see. Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself.

  • What sort of themes emerge?
  • What do the images have in common – if anything?
  • What’s the overall tone/mood?
  • Does anything surprise you?
  • What goals are present?
  • What’s the overall vision?
  • If you could give the piece a title, what would it be?

Once you feel like you’ve fully explored your board, write or say “thank you” followed by your statement/affirmation/prayer.

Place your vision board somewhere in your home where you’ll see it every day. Then sit back and enjoy the journey.

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Somewhere in the middle

I’ve been craving calm lately, and rejuvenation. I’ve spent the last few weeks perusing yoga retreat websites, searching for the perfect destination. I needed something restorative but also inexpensive.

Then I heard about Yoga Fest from my yoga teacher, Andrea. The annual day-long retreat in Raleigh features dozens of yoga sessions from meditation to acrobatic yoga. I attended my first Yoga Fest on Saturday, and it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. It was a day of releasing for me. I let go of emotions, tensions, judgments. By the end of the day, I felt cleansed, lighter and looser. It was a powerful experience and more than I could have imagined.

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My day started out with an amazing Yin Yoga session with my yoga teacher Andrea. She’s the coolest yogi I’ve ever met. I just adore her! She’s a wonderful teacher. See how happy and relaxed I am after her class? 

The biggest turning point of my day came in the afternoon. Between sessions, I visited the exhibitors’ area and had my aura read for $5 by a woman from a Raleigh yoga studio. I’ve always been fascinated by aura readings and curious about what my own aura looked like. I’m not an expert on the subject of auras, but I’ve been reading about them since I received mine. The best way to describe an aura is it’s a field of energy that surrounds a person and reflects their essence — who they are and what’s happening at their core. The rainbow of colors that appear in an aura are supposed to reveal one’s emotional, physical, spiritual and mental well-being. Since I’ve been dealing with some heavy emotional “stuff” these past two months I was eager to see what my aura would reveal. I placed my hands in the outlines of what looked like two metal fingerprints and within seconds my aura appeared on the screen in front of me.

I studied it for a second and turned to the woman beside me anxiously awaiting her analysis. My aura contained an overwhelming amount of red, which she said represents high energy, creativity and love. “You have a lot of passion,” she said to me. I smiled and nodded. But red, she continued, can also indicate anger, stress and too much thinking and analyzing. She asked if I had been under a lot of stress lately, and I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Not really.” I’ve been managing my stress better at work, doing more yoga and meditation every morning and sleeping well. So no, no stress. She said I have so much energy, creativity and ideas that I want to accomplish, but I’ll never be able to accomplish any of them unless I focus my energy. True. That’s been an ongoing issue.

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“This concerns me,” she said, pointing to a darker area on the screen. I looked closer at the cloudy blob of darkness sitting in the center of my chest. It looked like an ominous, black hole and it was near my heart. I noticed more murky blackness along the edges of my aura, around the crown of my head, but the hole in the center of my heart appeared the densest. “You’re protecting yourself, keeping your emotions closed in,” she said balling her hands into fists and pulling them to her chest. She mentioned illness and grief. I told her I had suffered a great loss in February. She nodded as if she already knew.

It’s been almost two months since my husband and I lost our baby. And it’s a loss unlike anything I have ever felt. It’s a shock to the heart, to the body. Most of all, I grieved the potential, what could have been. Now, what I’m mostly left with is anger. I’ve been through a lot of tough experiences in my life – chronic illness, deaths, divorce – but nothing compares to losing our baby. That black hole, it feels like an abyss. And I was staring directly into it. As I sat there studying my aura on the screen, I saw so much sadness. It’s a strange thing to see your emotions displayed in front of you. It was almost like looking at a self-portrait I had painted. But it’s up to me to change the canvas. The woman who did my reading recommended I meditate more, do some deep meditative breathing and yoga postures to open the chest and release the emotions I’m holding onto. “The gong bath will be good for you,” she continued. “It’ll be interesting to see what your aura is like after the gong.”

Gong bath. I had been hearing about this all day but had no clue what it was, and for some reason I never felt compelled to ask someone. I guess I wanted to be surprised and not go into it with any expectations. With my phone, I took a photo of my aura on the screen, thanked her, and went off to my final yoga class of the day: Cultivating Calm. How appropriate.

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The whole time I was in the class, I couldn’t get the image of my aura out of my head. Every time I tried to concentrate on a particular posture or my breath, my glowing red silhouette with that black hole in the center kept popping up. I kept thinking about how much better I thought I had been doing, how my life was getting back to normal … almost. But I’m still healing. As a friend so eloquently put it, I saw my “true colors,” and it scared me.

“Breathe in possibility and optimism,” the instructor said during our final meditation. “Breathe out fear and doubt.” As I breathed out, I pictured the black hole in my chest leaving my body and light coming in. My closed eyelids trembled as I tried to hold back the tears.

As I waited for the gong bath to begin, I pulled out my phone and Googled “gong bath.” The first result brought up: “A gong bath is a form of sound therapy where the gong is played in a therapeutic way to bring about healing. … The term gong bath means that you are bathed in sound waves, there is no water involved, or clothes removed.” Well, that’s a relief.

I closed my phone and laid down on my yoga mat, waiting to be healed. A woman with thick, blonde curly hair, black and white geometric yoga pants, and an off-the-shoulder black flowing t-shirt entered the room pushing on wheels a gong the size of a Smart car. She suggested lying down on the yoga mat with your head toward the gong and laughed as she told us one of her friends describes the gong bath as a “magic carpet ride.” The idea of floating around on a magic carpet sounded good right about now. The ultimate metaphor for freedom.

She turned off the lights, and as I laid there looking up at the dark, empty ceiling, I kept thinking about the words “healing” and “unreleased grief.” “Give yourself the gift of letting go,” the blonde-hair girl spoke gently into her wireless mic. And with that, the gong bath started. The sounds of the gong began gently like ripples of water, then increased in intensity. I could feel each sound wave reverberate throughout my body. I tried to stay grounded in the present and not let my mind drift, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the past – and that black hole. Eventually, the obsessive thoughts stopped and I let myself just be.

I’m not sure how long the gong bath lasted. Ten minutes? Fifteen? When the gong music stopped, I laid there waiting for something to happen to me. Was it over? Am I healed? What am I supposed to be feeling? Do I feel any different? With the lights still off, a musical recording began to play a New Age song I wasn’t familiar with. I didn’t know what the song was about because the lyrics were in another language, but it was beautiful and moving. As I laid there flat on my back, palms turned upward toward the sky, something broke inside of me. Hot tears slipped from the corners of my eyes and slid down my cheeks. My throat tightened and my chin trembled as I tried to hold back the tears. This is the stuff I’m still holding onto. Let it go. I surrendered to my grief and started a flood. Tears streamed down both sides of my cheeks. Some tears pooled in my ear canals and slid down my jaw bone and down my neck. Others rolled off my skin not knowing where they landed. I felt like I would never stop crying.

When the lights came on, I dug in my bag for a tissue and dabbed the tears from my eyes. I was a mess. My cheeks were wet, my neck, my chest. I felt like my whole body was covered in tears. I kneeled on my mat and started to roll it up when I noticed there were tears the size of dimes pooled on it. I had never seen my tears manifested in that way. They looked so big — perhaps the larger the grief, the bigger the tears.

I took a few deep breaths, then collected my things and hurried out the door to my car. I didn’t want anyone to see what a mess I was. When I stepped outside, the gray rain clouds that followed me on my morning drive had dissipated and the sky was now a cloudless blue. I turned my face to the sun and let its rays dry the rest of my tears. And I told myself, “I’m going to be OK.”

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Andrea introduced me to the works of poet Thomas Merton after her Yin Yoga session. “Sit still and rest.” Ah yes. And I love the second poem “At the End …” I think I’m somewhere in the middle.

 

How to push through a creative block

Hello, world.

I feel as though I’ve been absent for some time now. The thing is, September and October were a complete blur for me and my need to write was extinguished by a series of, well, craziness.

We packed, we moved, we unpacked. Then, I discovered I had not one but two ovarian cysts. This news was followed by a brief walk through a patch of woods that left me covered front to back with poison ivy for three weeks; it was a nightmare. And then, my dog chased a squirrel into the woods and got speared by a tree branch in the process, resulting in a puncture wound and emergency surgery. My poor girl.

In retrospect, these series of events could have been great fodder for blog posts, but I’ve been unable to create lately. I’ve been feeling blocked. And if I’m being completely honest with myself, I haven’t been feeling like this for just the past two months; it’s more like the last year – or longer. I’ve journaled about it, reflected on it, read books and articles on the topic, but I could not figure out what was at the heart of this creative wall.

To help me uncover what was at the core, a few weeks ago, I turned to an online writing series facilitated by friend and poet Jacinta White. Becoming Undone: Unpacking Life’s Weight helped me identify the things in my life that are weighing me down and keeping me from moving forward. My “A-ha” moment came during the first writing prompt, where we had to write a list poem that began with the line: “Daily I carry … ” Without hesitation, guilt was the first word I scribbled in my notebook.

Photo by Carla Kucinski.

Photo by Carla Kucinski.

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