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How an Experience with GIM (Guided Imagery & Music) Blew Belleruth's Mind (Totally)

10 Apr

We’re posting some Hot Research about an imagery technique called GIM (Guided Imagery and Music) and what it can do for people on extended sick leave. The study finds that using GIM was associated with better mental health and an earlier return to the workplace.

GIM is a therapy technique created by psychotherapist and violinist, Helen Bonny. It’s a guided process that starts with playing classical music pieces and then prompting the client-listener to look inward and let whatever images or feelings evoked by the music come to the surface, so they can be explored in the context of whatever the client has been working on in therapy.

My first experience with GIM blew my mind, and it’s remained blown open ever since. At the very least, it speaks to the powerful, altered state this technique can take you to.

I was at a workshop at a Common Boundary Conference in Washington DC, 35 years ago.

There were about 50 of us, sitting on the floor against three walls of the room, listening to something classical, stirring and beautiful – Beethoven, I think. We were encouraged to just get lost in the music, which I happily did. I don’t remember what the presenter said to us. 

Suddenly, a place popped into my head, as visually crisp and clear as one of those black and white photos from the 1940’s. This wasn’t the usual, fuzzy perception of something gradually emerging and fading. Rather, it showed up all of a piece, visually complete and stunning. 

I’d never seen anything like it before. Not even close. There was a high, broad trapezoidal platform with crisp, clear lines, in some sort of broad, expansive public square or space. It was stunning and breathtaking, infusing me with a powerful, peaceful, deeply joyful feeling.  It was wonderful and immediate. 

There were no people there, just these clean geometries, with bright, white light shining on them, creating sharp contrasts and shadows. I knew right away this was a place of holy ritual and sacred ceremony, coming from somewhere eternal, out of time and not of this world.

Just as soon as it registered on my mind as a major “WHOAAAA!”, it disappeared, just as fast as it had popped in. 

I really, really, really did not want this place to go away, but I had no say in the matter. I spent the rest of the workshop fecklessly trying to bring it back, even though I kind of knew better.

Haven’t seen it since. But it remains sharp and clear in my memory; and the extraordinary feeling that resided there as well. So I guess you could say it never left me.

Whatever this was, it was unquestionably a gift. You might want to consider giving Helen Bonny’s GIM technique a try, too. 

All best,

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Belleruth 

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Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award