Thanks for joining me this week on Your Sleep Guru podcast for calm and sleep. Please feel free to visit my website, yoursleepguru.com, where you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify, or any other platform you like so you'll never miss a show. While you're at it, if you enjoy the podcast, I would appreciate a rating on iTunes – or if you'd simply tell a friend about the podcast, that would help me out too.
Before we begin the visualization, which is based on the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, please find a comfortable place to relax. Take a few moments to completely clear your mind of all thoughts, and focus on your breathing.
You are walking in an antique land.
Few people venture this far out into the desert.
In the distance, a few goats, camels and sheep graze on the dusty grass that struggles to grow between the rocks of the parched earth.
Their bells break the silence of the empty landscape.
Banks of clouds cast long shadows over you while you walk—providing shelter from the heat of the sun.
A mirage on the horizon lures you further into the desert. Tempting you with the notion of an oasis or something else.
Underneath your feet, blue glazed tiles with designs of dragons and bulls decorate the road recently exposed by the desert wind.
The mirage materializes into a structure. Before long, you arrive at a massive cedar gate set inside thick crumbling walls.
They open easily into an enormous courtyard filled with an overgrown date grove. In the centre of the place are the ruins of a tiered pyramid, encircled by a shallow lagoon.
Patches of papyrus, wild iris and lily pads bloom in the clear water. Multi-coloured carp swim lazily in the shallow depths—specks of gold glitter from the bottom of the pool.
You cross over the lagoon by oblong stepping stones.
On this side is a wild orchard of pomegranate, orange and fig-trees probably as old as the monument.
Tangles of blooming roses and jasmine cover the decaying walls.
A broad set of cracked stone stairs lead to another level. At the top, you discover a fountain encircled by broken columns, a fractured obelisk and other debris. The roof has collapsed. Chunks of stone carved with parts of lions, horses and other mythical creatures are scattered throughout the dense grass and wildflowers.
As you start walking towards the fountain, a light desert rain begins to fall, and you find shelter under the only part remaining of the roof.
Where you sit, pottery shards of tablets inscribed with lettering strewn are all over the ground. One of them has an astronomical map of planets.
You imagine the people who created this place and the others who were here so long ago.
The sound of the rain and the fountain are peaceful.
The slight desert breeze carries and intoxicating scent of the earth that mingles with the aroma of the flowers from the forgotten garden.
You decide to stay here for a while longer and to always keep the place a secret and forever remain a mystery.
You close your eyes and breathe.
This guided visualization is based on the path to Shambala, which is a mythical kingdom in Tibetan Buddhist and Indian tradition.
Before I begin, please find a comfortable place to sit or lie down.
The tea bushes stretch across the hills in neat, perfectly straight rows as far as your eyes can see. The precisely pruned hedges could almost have been transplanted here from an old English topiary garden.
There isn't a soul in sight. A large woven basket of freshly picked tea leaves has been forgotten next to one of the hedges.
On the horizon, you see your destination. The ancient monastery clings precariously to a fold in the ravine under a snow-covered mountain that rears high above the clouds.
After a while, you reach the forest of the foothills. You begin walking on a well-travelled terracotta-coloured path.
Impressions of bird tracks in the soft earth look like tiny arrows pointing you to the place you are travelling.
The track switchbacks gently upwards through a dense forest of rhododendron and pine trees. The rhododendrons are in full bloom. Layers of large scarlet blossoms festoon the deep green leathery leaves.
Shafts of afternoon sunlight slant through the foliage, weaving a tapestry of shade across the forest floor.
The trail reaches a small river, which you cross on an unsteady footbridge. Faded prayer flags hang on one side of the railing, which sways gently in the breeze.
The water below looks fresh and inviting, so you climb carefully down a small animal track to the edge of the river. You take off some clothes beside a shallow pool that has been smoothed and hollowed out over aeons.
Plunging in, the water is cold, but as you immerse your body, all your troubles seem to wash away in the gentle current.
When you climb out of the pool, you feel refreshed. Renewed.
You dry off and continue walking along the path that now starts to wind upward through the forest.
Some people are heading toward you, returning from their pilgrimage. They are dressed in bright flowing clothing that jingles as they skip down the path.
Their eyes are kind, and they smile. As they pass, one of them gives you a deep orange marigold.
As they disappear, you hear their laughter through the forest.
A warm rain begins to fall, and you run over to an abandoned shepherd's hut. It is unlocked, so you can shelter inside.
The strangers who were here before you were kind enough to leave behind a collection of wood in the fireplace and some matches.
Before long, you have a fire going. Blue smoke coils in the still air. As the room warms up, a fragrance of incense permeates the room.
You look around and admire the beautiful woodwork around the window frames and shutters. The carvings have been painted indigo blue, with edgings of teal and red.
Today may not be the day you reach Shambala. For now, the small shepherd's hut feels like a sanctuary with a spirit of deep calm and connection.
You listen to the rain on the roof and the crackle of the fire in the hearth. The noise of the birds you don't know the names of in the forest outside. And you settle down for the night.
This guided visualisation is through the Camargue region in France. The Camargue region is sometimes known as the "Wild West of France." Located in the southeast of the country, it is Western Europe's largest river delta. You will drift peacefully down a saltwater lagoon, encountering shorebirds and wild white horses along the way. The visualisation will end up at an antique lighthouse.
The kayak drifts slowly along with the current through the shallow lagoon.
The edges have disappeared. The calm water of the salt flats meets the horizon seamlessly mirroring the sky, creating an illusion that you are floating in the air.
A slight breeze gently sweeps the low lying clouds overhead, casting an inky patchwork of patterns on the surface of the water.
Nearby the shore teems with different birds. You notice curlews, ducks, grebes, ibis and herons feeding in the shallow water that laps up against the mudflats of the marsh.
A disturbance on the horizon out of the corner of your eye.
You turn the canoe.
Like an apparition emerging out of the water, a herd of white horses gallop towards you. Stampeding in spirited wild abandon, kicking up the water into a veil of foam and spray.
When the horses see you, they veer off into the marsh, tossing their heads, bucking high sideways scattering the shorebirds.
As they disappear the air trembles from the disturbance of their hoofbeats on the earth.
Then tranquillity returns.
In the distance, you see a white lighthouse with an orange tiled roof.
At a wide strip of sand, you pull the canoe ashore up the bank,
and begin walking towards the lighthouse on a trail made of gravel and crushed oyster shells.
Sea lavender, grasswort, tamarisk and wild rosemary grow in hedges on either side of the track. The middle of the road is overgrown with thick grass and dandelions.
After walking a while, you arrive at the entrance of the lighthouse. The front door is wide open, so you go inside and begin climbing up a spiral staircase to the first level. A bolted trap door blocks you from going any further.
Here there is an empty circular room. The place is white except for sheepskin covered chair in front of a window. On the floor next to it is an accordion with numerous buttons.
You walk over to the window, open it and look out at the view.
The sublime lagoon. The surreal way the sky meets the water. The sound of the birds. The scent of the sea air and lavender wafting through the air.
Suddenly a vivid flash of colour. Flamingoes. A flock of flamingoes. Their necks outstretched, followed by a pink bloom of flamboyance. A hurling cloud of brightness and noise.
And then silence again. You sit down. The sheepskin on the chair is warm from the sunlight shining through the window.
You feel drowsy. You close your eyes and listen to the soothing sounds of nature surrounding you.
This guided meditation is from a deserted corner of Baja, Mexico.
You are alone on a deserted beach. You can feel the granular texture of the sun-warmed sand under the soles of your bare feet.
Away, to your left, you see a stark landscape of tall, jagged mountains. The mountainsides are covered with Cardon cacti, like the saguaro cacti of the Sonoran Desert. An eagle lazily glides on a thermal breeze above the peaks.
There isn't a cloud in the sky. The air carries a faint scent of sage and mesquite.
You gaze shifts to the sea.
The aquamarine waves gently lap against the beach.
You decide to walk through the water along the shoreline.
A formation of pelicans glides in front of you. One of them breaks away, dives into the water and returns to the surface with a silver fish in its beak.
You notice a small yellow-painted boat coming toward you. At the helm is a woman with long, black hair. Her dress is almost the same colour blue as the sky.
When she reaches the shore, she invites you to join her on a boat ride to a small island, you can faintly see in the distance.
You climb on board. As the boat heads out into the water, a refreshing breeze gently brushes against your face. The sails give shade from the sun, and the motion of the current feels relaxing.
You can see the island more clearly now with a mountain rising from the middle like a sombrero.
A few seagulls follow the boat.
Other sea birds are diving for food. But then you recognize they are manta rays leaping out of the water. Momentarily hanging suspended in the air, flapping their fins like birds, before plunging back into the sea.
The woman points to fins in the water over the starboard side of the boat.
Soon there are more and more fins. An infinite number of dolphins, chasing and leaping past the boat.
When you look down over the edge into the clear water, you can see layers and layers of them swimming below to the inky depths.
In moments they vanish and the calm sea breeze once again envelopes you.
The boat continues sailing towards the small island.
The woman once again looks intently over the bow of the ship.
In the water are several large, perfectly formed pads of ripples.
Within moments a broad barnacle-encrusted back appears by the boat.
The whale exhales, and the mist from its breath captures the sunlight.
Two rainbows appear.
Then a pure white tail rises above out of the water. It hovers for a while, then vanishes beneath the surface.
The island is getting closer now.
The small ship glides into a shallow lagoon.
The woman beaches the boat on the sand.
She points to a narrow sandy path leading into the island.
You start walking on the path.
Soon you arrive at a cave.
The cavern is cool inside.
The walls are encrusted with skeletons of sea animals. You recognize shells of giant clams, nautilus, sea urchins and seaweed.
The fossils are a snapshot in time. An impression life teeming in the sea here ages ago.
You sit down in the cool sand and gaze out of the cave. There is no hurry. You dig into the sand to create a pillow for your head. Close your eyes. And relax.
Today the visualization will be about the quiet city.
Before the visualization begins, I would like to start with a couple of simple self-care techniques. The first one will help release tension in the head, especially if you are experiencing headaches. Massage your temples lightly with your fingers in circular motions.
If you clench your jaw often during stress, another one to try would is place your thumbs, one on each side of your jaw, below your earlobes. Run your thumbs downwards several times along the bottom of your jawline until they meet in under your chin.
If you like, you can add this simple massage into your regular self-care routines for relaxation and stress management.
The streets are empty now. Everyone has retreated to the safety of indoors, behind the walls, the doors, the windows and the shutters.
You only have a small window of time outside for yourself.
As you walk down the canyon of the street, you are aware of the people cocooned inside-- waiting and hoping for transformation, unfolding into somewhere new and something different.
Occasionally you hear soft music, the voices of children, and you can smell bread baking.
All the cars and motorcycles are parked, and bikes lean against the walls. Some of the walls along the way have murals or graffiti with messages like "hope is stronger than fear", "Stay home, life is beautiful", "Thank you, heroes".
In a short time, the birds have returned and reclaimed the town. A chorus you haven't heard before within the city walls, but one you have heard in the countryside.
Walking along, you notice a murmuration of starlings. They are migrating on their way to somewhere else. Unfettered by passports, or stay at home orders. An inky banner of them furling and unfurling around the dome of the cathedral.
The air is clear, and the sky so blue everything stands out in sharp relief—the small details in the architecture that used to be invisible, the distant forest of pine trees miles away on the hillsides surrounding the town.
Pink and yellow wildflowers push through the pavement cracks and in between the bricks on some of the walls. And blossoms in the park you can no longer walk in are blooming like never before. The leaves on the trees seem illuminated from within, an other worldly shade of green. This spring is unlike any other.
Standing on the bridge, you notice the river has changed colour from murky grey to clear blue. Looking down, you see the water, like the air, is clear, transparent. Clear enough to see the fish have returned to the city, like the birds and the wildflowers.
A cool breeze brushes your face, bringing with it the scent of the ocean from several miles downstream.
You would like to walk further, but it is time to retrace your steps back to the safety of home.
When you arrive, you go up the stairs to your bedroom for an afternoon nap. After closing the curtains, you lie down and hear the birds singing outside your window the way they did years ago when you were a child.
ClicBefore the visualization, which will be about El Camino, I will begin with a simple yoga pose to invite tranquillity. If you like, you can add this pose as one of your self-care techniques to help with relaxation.
Sit cross-legged or in a chair with feet flat. Rest your right elbow on your right knee. Lean your right cheekbone onto the palm of your right hand. Close your eyes and relax for 1 to three minutes.
Once you have done this, complete the exercise on the opposite side. Rest your left elbow on your left knee, and your left cheekbone onto the palm of your left hand.
The white village nestled in the notch in the hillside becomes smaller the further you walk along el Camino. At one point the city seems to be floating above the mirage. The last thing you see is the tall church tower, and then it disappears in a haze of heat.
The small mule carries a pack that contains a blanket, a drink and a snack. He follows closely, willingly without any need for a rope. Occasionally the mule touches you gently with his velvety nose maybe for reassurance or camaraderie.
White granite cairns mark the route of the trail that zigzags across a high pasture of tall grass bleached by the sun. Sheep graze the area. Their bells toll gentle music.
At a turn in the path, you find a large feather with black and white stripes. You stop and pick it up. When you brush the feather against your fingers, the strands are so fine you can't feel them against your skin. You put the feather in the band of your straw hat and keep walking.
The parched fields open up to a vast patchwork of fields of brilliant yellow flowers over which butterflies find their path, and you start hearing a chorus of crickets. Swifts occasionally fly overhead.
El Camino now traverses fields of tall yellow flowers that reach up almost to your head and are taller than the donkey.
At the top of the incline, you arrive at a stand of trees and large granite rocks. Thick green velvety moss covers all the boulders. You decide to stop.
You begin to hear the sound of a stream. It seems impossible that there would be water here, but you soon discover a small blue spring.
After you unpack the mule, you take off your shoes and soak your feet into the refreshing water. The donkey drinks and wanders nearby to eat grass.
The spirit of the place is so peaceful. You lie on the blanket and look up at the sky and the clouds filtered through the juniper trees.
You feel relaxed, calm. And you close your eyes.
Before the visualisation is a tropical island escape, I would like to begin with another simple relaxation technique. However, if you are pregnant or suspect you might be, this one isn't recommended.
Sit or lie down comfortably. Close your eyes.
Find the pressure point in the webbing between your thumb and index finger. Stimulating this point will help reduce stress, headaches, and neck pain. Massage the pressure point for four to five seconds, taking slow, deep breaths.
With your index finger and thumb, apply firm pressure to the webbing between the thumb and index finger of your other hand. Massage the pressure point for four to five seconds, taking slow, deep breaths.
If you like, you can add this simple massage as one of your self-care techniques for relaxation.
It's been a long journey, but now you are on the last leg.
The old bus grinds gears it rounds the bend on the narrow road hugging the hillside. On the right, you see glimpses of empty sandy beaches through the palm trees.
A refreshing ocean breeze occasionally breaks the stuffy air inside the bus. The sight of the turquoise water makes you long to be in it.
Along the road, the bus passes street vendors making food. Occasionally exotic smells of cooking, spices and firewood mingled together with the sea breeze waft through the window.
The bus now passes through a village—flashes of brightly painted storefronts, and people walking on the sidewalk wearing colourful clothes.
The bus rounds a corner and begins climbing uphill, along the side of lush mountains. In places, the road is overhung by trees; the sun almost disappears as it passes through the leafy tunnels.
Finally, you reach your stop in front of a tall wall of thick scarlet hibiscus bushes.
The bus disappears in a cloud of dust.
A tall thin elderly man appears beside you, silently picks up your bag and leads you through an iron gate. You follow him into a tropical garden. Jasmine and frangipani are blooming in front of your cabin, which has a roof made of palm fronds.
Inside sunlight filters through a small window, and small chinks in the wall.
The man puts your bag down inside the door, waves, and silently walks away.
Immediately you change into your bathing suit and follow a sign that says "sea this way."
At the end of the path, you reach a volcanic cliff with wood platforms raised over the water.
The sea is deep indigo blue. You walk over to a ladder and lower yourself into the water. As you are on the ladder, the swell rushes around you as if in welcome. You let go and drift out into the warm water. You close your eyes, float on your back. The journey, the stress, the tension magically dissolve.
After a while, you float back to the ladder, climb out and lie out in the sunshine on the smooth towel. Close your eyes, and drift off to sleep with the sound of the waves.
In stressful times, it is healthy to take some time for relaxation and self-care. Before we begin the visualization today, which will be about cherry blossoms and temples, I would like you to take a few moments to practise a simple self-care technique.
Today, you will try it for a couple of minutes, but I would suggest practising this simple massage regularly during the week for about five to ten minutes.
Sit or lie down comfortably. Close your eyes. Touch the spot between your eyebrows with your index finger or thumb. Take slow, deep breaths and apply gentle, firm pressure in a circular motion.
You are wandering beside a stream carving its way through a dense pine forest. Here and there you see maple trees. You notice the weeping willow hanging over the water is starting to show bright green neon buds.
The air is alive with spring. The birds have returned, and you can hear the sound of tree frogs croaking somewhere.
In places on the forest floor, you notice pale mushrooms pushing up in between the tree roots in the dark earth.
Soon you reach a small wooden bridge which you cross. The bridge has been painted bright red, but the paint has long since weathered and faded to orange.
As you stand on the bridge for a few moments, the slightest scent of lilac rose, and vanilla wafts through the air.
Once you cross to the other side of the creek, you pass underneath the tall pagoda gate. Some Japanese lanterns and wind chime hangs from the massive ancient beam.
Now you are inside an orchard with ranks of cherry trees standing before you; their branches decked with pink and white blossom, and their flowers are humming with bees.
The earth appears drenched by pale confetti of petals. A gentle breeze makes them scatter around you.
Concealed behind the sakura trees is a small temple with a tile roof covered with moss.
At the moment the wooden shrine is locked and shuttered up. All the same, you sit down under the old cypress eaves of the roof.
People have attached paper prayers to the slender railings in front of you.
Some of them have fallen off and mingle with the cherry petals on the path.
It is peaceful and calm here.
A breeze brushes your face.
It begins to rain.
Before we begin our visualization, which will be a celebration of spring from Holland this week, I will start with a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh.
"We have a tendency to think in terms of doing and not in terms of being. We think that when we are not doing anything we are wasting our time. But that is not true. Our time is first of all for us to be. To be what? To be alive, to be peaceful, to be joyful, to be loving. And that is what the world needs most."
The grey city fades away behind you, and the bumpy cobblestone street ends by the outskirts of the village.
The landscape is completely flat in a surreal sort of way, crisscrossed by straight canals and dirt roads.
The lane on top of the embankment stretches before you disappearing over the horizon into the vast Dutch sky.
Lining the narrow dykes are thick, tall reeds and bullrushes which sway and sigh gently in the light breeze.
You startle a swan, and it runs clumsily away on the water before taking off.
After a while, the road begins to border vast tulip fields. Neat, full beds of them stretch away—deep purple, pale purple, brilliant red, dazzling yellow. A kaleidoscope of colour, the intensity of which is heightened even more by the heady scent of the flowers.
You stop beside a section orange tulips and pick a bunch. While you are putting the flowers into your bicycle basket, you notice a windmill in the distance.
You decide to bicycle over to it, and before long you arrive.
The black windmill towers overhead. The sails are covered by beige sailcloth and move purposefully, rhythmically in the slight breeze.
You walk around to the front of the windmill and discover a herb garden, a path, and steps leading up to the front door.
You have to time when to walk up the steps to avoid the sails.
The door is slightly ajar. When you push it open, you enter a circular light-filled room. The room is whitewashed and empty apart from a staircase leading upstairs, a window seat and a pair of ordinary wooden clogs hanging on the wall by the side of the door.
You walk over and sit down on the window seat. At one time, it must have been somebody's bed. The window overlooks the flat landscape, that looks like a canvas framed by the road and the reeds with the fields of tulips as the broad, colourful brushstrokes.
The sails outside hypnotically break your perspective. There is a lull in the breeze, and soon the sails stop. The empty room becomes tranquil and quiet—the afternoon sunshine floods through the window. You open it, lean back, close your eyes and listen to the birds outside.
The podcast this week is based on visualising Frida Kahlo's garden.
First, I will begin with a quote by Frida Kahlo.
I used to think I was the strangest person in the world, but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me, too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it's true I'm here, and I'm just as strange as you."
You are pedalling down a wide dusty street during siesta time.
It is almost as if the whole town is asleep behind the colourful shuttered windows. Even the birds seem to be resting. The village is hushed. Suspended in time.
At the very end of the leafy tree-lined street, you see the bright blue house La Casa Azul.
When you get there, you lean the bike against the high stucco wall and walk over to the tall, green door. You knock, but no one answers.
As you are expected, you turn the handle and push the door open.
Immediately you leave the hot, dusty street behind. You are enveloped by the cool shaded garden courtyard. A refuge filled by a riot of exotic tropical plants. Jacaranda, oleander, philodendron, roses, sunflowers, fuchsia, marigolds, palms, ferns, fruit trees, and many kinds of cacti and succulents. The roof is covered by a cloud of blazing red bougainvillaea.
The fragrance of flowers in the air mingles with the coolness of water from a fountain.
Although the exterior of the house is painted cobalt blue, the inner walls are natural grey lava rock into which someone has embedded conch shells and pottery pots into the walls where birds have made their nests.
Butterflies, hummingbirds, and other colourful birds flutter around in the thick foliage.
Hanging from one of the tree limbs is a rusty open cage.
A black cat strolls lazily down the narrow rocky path in front of you, then stretches out in a patch of sunlight.
As you walk around the cat, you pass by a room with a line of greenhouse windows.
Inside an open window, you see a desk lined up with an assortment of paintbrushes and bright paint in perfume bottles, and more pottery pots.
Next to it is a wooden easel with a still life painting of a watermelon, some oranges and a green parrot.
Turning away, you follow the path back into the garden. Under a mango tree, you see two deck chairs and a small table.
The table is set for tea. Hibiscus tea.
You sit down in one of the chairs and quietly wait for Frida to appear.
〰️ Clara 〰️
I am bringing my favourite outside experiences and imaginings to create visualizations that encourage peace and relaxation.