Lemon Imagery Exercise

Gratefully taken from training materials developed by Dr. James Gordon and The Center for Mind Body Medicine, Washington, D.C. Contributed by Anna Looney.

To illustrate the effect of imagery on physiological processes, lead the group in a short exercise called the Lemon Imagery. The exercise invites participants to imagine the entire process of eating a lemon. Here is the script (read slowly and calmly, not rushing through this; add or take away details of the kitchen as you wish):

Sit comfortably and breathe slowly for a few minutes. When you are ready, close your eyes or lower and soften your gaze, continuing to breathe deeply and, slowly. I would like you to imagine now that you are standing in your kitchen, or the kitchen of someone you know. Choose a kitchen that you are very familiar with, that is associated with pleasurable memories. (pause) As you see various different kitchens you’ve known flash through your mind’s eye, settle on one.

Imagine you are standing at the doorway to this kitchen and glance around it, noting the walls, cabinets, countertops, the floor. Imagine the appliances that are in this kitchen -– the refrigerator, the stove, oven, dishwasher. Look at the countertops, noticing things that are placed there. Over the kitchen sink, there may be a window. Imagine the window is open, and a soft warm breeze is blowing in, perhaps gently moving the curtains. There are pleasant smells in this kitchen; perhaps cooking or baking smells linger in the air. It is a warm, inviting place.

Now bring your gaze to the counter and notice that there is a beautiful wooden cutting board there. On top of the board sits a bright yellow lemon. You notice its color -– a vibrant yellow -– its size and shape. You reach out and pick up the lemon, noticing how it feels to your touch. The skin is both smooth and slightly bumpy; you may see the end where it was attached to the tree.

Next to the cutting board, you see a sharp kitchen knife. Return the lemon back to the cutting board, and carefully pick up the knife in your dominant hand. Holding the lemon steady with your other hand, cut the lemon in half. As you do this, you’re feeling the knife slicing through the fruit, and it falls open revealing beautiful jewel-like pulp in neat rows. You see the fresh white pulp and perhaps some seeds inside. Drops of juice have spilled onto the cutting board. Now take one half of the lemon and cut it again, making a quarter-size slice. Put the knife down, and bring the lemon quarter up to your nose. You are aware of the sharp, fresh citrus scent filling your nose. Touch the lemon to your lips, noticing the sensations. Now, open your mouth and BITE into the lemon.

Share the experience:

Invite each group member in turn to mention which kitchen came to mind and what sensations she/he felt during the exercise. Give everyone a chance to share in turn without editorial comment. Point out how this exercise shows the power of the mind to effect physical reaction in our bodies, as if it were really happening.

What does this tell you about the mind-body connection?