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Trying to Capture the Uncapturable

02 Jul

Hello again.

At 4:30 this morning here on Martha’s Vineyard, by Nantucket Sound, I raised the blinds and got splashed by this showstopper of a sunrise.  I ran outside with my Blackberry, which was all I had at hand, and tried to capture it.  Fat chance, I know.  It’s not capturable.  But still, this might give you some idea.  

A far more dazzling, multi-sensory and unreplicable image is in my head, where it will hang around for a while. That image includes the feel of the breeze on my skin, the sounds of the birds waking up and the redolent scent of fresh sea air.  I’ll pull it out and savor it until it starts to fade and make room for other, more recent offerings from the sensory feast around me.

And, like most of us, I know that if I were a little less preoccupied with my to-do list and a little more conscious of each moment, I’d have a constant slide show of Glory in my head. Oh well.  We do what we can, don’t we? We all have these moments, and a to-do list does have its merits.

This reminded me of the lovely description of the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery & Music I’d just read online the night before in the Edmonton Journal.  It was by a music therapist working in palliative care named Sheila Killoran.

There’s tremendous power to the Bonny Method – I’ve had some pretty amazing, show-stopper experiences with it myself.  And since I can’t beat her words, I’m including them verbatim here. She writes, 

As a music therapist working in palliative care, I have often been struck by the impact of imagery and personal images for my clients at the end of their lives. Some clients could vividly describe the meadow they used to play in as a child, or the way the moonlight reflected on the lake during a summer vacation. Images can powerfully transcend our physical limitations and help us to experience someplace new (or remembered) with all our senses.

When I studied a method of therapy called the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music, I began incorporating it into my work in palliative care. Originally developed by a music therapist named Helen Bonny, this method was adapted for use with palliative clients. It involves the client listening to carefully sequenced classical music programs in a deeply relaxed state, and verbally reporting the images that emerge as a response to the music. Images could be visual, memories, emotions, physical sensations, smells, or spiritual imagery.

Clients may imagine a place of beauty and serenity where they feel safe and at peace, such as a flower garden in bloom, or walking along a path in the forest. Some clients have images of their family and loved ones. This could include the image of a deceased loved one, such as their grandfather bringing them a message of love and encouragement. Often, clients report that the method helps lessen their anxiety or distract from their physical pain as well. As the method relies on the person’s own imagery, it can be very personally meaningful and reveal how the client is feeling or what they are facing as they prepare for their death.

The imagination is a powerful place. It can help us to transport beyond our suffering, and access places of beauty, love, support, laughter, and memory. In my work as a bereavement counselor, I have also used the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music to help my clients process their grief. The music and imagery may help them to connect with emotions, remember their loved ones, or imagine their hopes for the future.

Sheila Killoran MA, MTA

So one more time, I’ll remind myself to be aware of beauty whenever I can.  I know this will morph into a stockpile of nourishment for the times I need it (and for the times I just want it).  

Take care and be well,


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