Meditation and Aphantasia

Hi – I’ve only recently arrived at the conclusion that I have aphantasia.  Not only visualisation, I also cannot conjure up taste, smell, sound, touch.  I do not dream.

I am a Meditation Therapist and Spiritual teacher, and in  the course of my Spiritual work I ‘meet’ with people from around the world within meditation.  I seem to have developed a ‘language’ of Energy within meditation that can be surprisingly exact.  For example, If I meditate at the same time as two other people from different parts of the world, and we agree to visualise a round table to sit at, I will know who is sitting at which position – who is on my right and who is on my left.  I “know” my Spiritual teacher as a blue sphere edged in silver and smelling of vanilla cookies – despite that I know she is human and I do not see blue, silver, a sphere or smell cookies of any flavour!

I suspect (after just watching a video on You Tube) that I have Spatial Imagery as I can mentally turn myself to face a specific direction.  For example, I learned right from left as a very small child by facing a specific wall in our apartment and knowing that the door on the right was to the bedroom and the door to the left to the kitchen.  I still orient myself to this remembrance to sort out left from right even though I don’t see anything and that memory is about 65 years ago!

I only discovered that people actually see, smell, taste, feel within their ‘imagination’ when studying for my Diploma in Meditation Therapy and Holistic Counselling, when my tutor mentioned that it was best to not give detailed visualisations when writing a meditation script as not everyone can visualise.  That caused quite a bit of confusion – “What do you mean?  People can actually, truly, see a tree in their heads??”

I’m curious – do other people with aphantasia dream?  I have had just two dreams in my life, both as a child when under general anaesthetic, and

Does anyone else meditate and experience a rich Spiritual experience without visualisation.  Have you developed a ‘language’ of Knowing.

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Hi, thanks for your insights.  I’ve been a meditator for 40-some years, started studying with yoga teachers when I was a teenager and spent several years studying with Buddhist teachers.

I am a total aphantasiac — I have no sensory cognition whatsoever.  My impression after decades of mediation with aphantasia is that there may be a big misunderstanding in the Western world about the object of classical mediation — or maybe it’s just that I can’t do classical mediation because of my neurological condition!  All of my studies have pointed to meditation as a practice of quieting the thinking mind and experiencing oneself in the present moment.  Which is very easy for me because I cannot experience any other moment.  I am a neurological Buddhist!

My thinking mind consists of a dialogue, in words, with myself.  When I meditate, I just tell my thinking mind to stop talking for now.  Then I just exist without monkey mind intruding into my experience.  So it seems odd to me that many people equate meditation with creating experiences in the mind through visualization and imagination, instead of emptying the mind.  Visualization removes you from the present and takes you somewhere else, right?

Maybe this derives from a semantic distortion where meditation teachers started replacing the word “meditation” with “visualization”, in order to give students something to “do” mentally to distract their minds from monkey mind.  If I can’t do that, does that make me a “bad” meditator?  I don’t think so.  I think that maybe I’m a “good” meditator because I can so easily turn off my thinking mind and sit without pop-up ads coming in, and without needing to create visualization experiences in order to quell the monkey mind.