Hi Bookman and welcome to Dhammawheel
Bookman wrote:Now, is my use of visualization here unskilful? My 'inner temple' is quite a bit nicer than my real surroundings, but it isn't real, so it could be viewed as an escapist fantasy.
It depends on the intention of why one imagines a place different from the here and now.
So basically no use of imagination is considered skillful in Theravada? I had assumed that since meditations on the body parts (which includes internal organs) necessarily use the imaginative faculty, there might have been some merit to it. I'll hit the books and consider myself corrected
The Buddha made frequent use of quite vivid imagery
but they were used to demonstrate an aspect of the teaching, prevent careless living and to establish mindfulness in the present moment instead of possibly escaping into thoughts and perceptions.
The meditation on body parts and contemplations of death (maranassati), like contemplating the appearence of an executioner or the destruction of property don't have this possible "pleasant" aspect compared to a nice, comfy temple imagination. The body parts, seeing the body as subject to many dangers or death contemplations are tools to get a clear understanding of the first noble truth and the three marks of existence.
So I hope you can see that there is some difference between contemplations of the body or death and conjuring up images of a "safe" place.
Ben wrote:I would also encourage you to look at standard (tried and tested) meditative practices within the Theravda to help you with your unruly mind.
That's what I would recommend, too.