A few days ago in the subway, tired from a long day and yet revved up by all the things still to do, I switched on my new little constant companion, my iPod, and flicked through my options: playing a game, re-scheduling my week, listening to music or a lecture, budgeting for the month, reading a short story. It occurred to me for a moment that I could just sit there without doing anything — but that moment passed quickly.
I hadn’t had time to read for a while so I decided on a short story. The story that jumped out at me was “A Child’s Christmas In Wales” and since, growing up in Germany, I had never read this classic tale of Christmas splendours past I decided it was just the right thing to get me into the spirit of the season.
After the first couple of lines I had to stop and readjust my brain. I didn’t understand the imagery! Now, this is a rather serious thing for me since I am living life largely based on usage of imagery: I use it to explain things to myself and others; I look for it to carry me forward in my daily life when things get too crazy; I use it to receive information in meditation and in my dreams; and it helps me understand the people I work with and those I live with. If I can make myself see it, I can understand it. And now here I was, not able to see those whimsical, beautiful images conjured up by Dylan Thomas!
Fortunately, it took only the first shock of acknowledgment and a serious shift in inner attitude to switch back into my “normal”, but the experience left me wondering: how much does the daily hassle and bustle of life limit or even seriously harm my – our – ability to imagine? And how much does this decrease in imaginative powers influence our ability to truly see?
I believe that the ability to imagine things is essential for actually seeing them. If I can’t imagine an elephant, what would I see when I stood in front of one? How often have I been looking for an object, say a book, that I imagined in a certain way, say with an orange back, only to be walking by it three times before finally seeing it – because it had a yellow back and thus didn’t fit my imagination? I know that the same is true for many people. We imagine something and thus invite it into our reality. Hence, without imagination our reality would shrink quite dramatically.
And yet, we don’t put much stock into imagination anymore, it seems to me. We are too busy to take the time – and imagination does take time. It needs quiet of mind or at least a certain mind-set to flourish. It needs a bit of a warm-up if it hasn’t been used for a while. And it does need a little bit of more or less uninterrupted time to create something out of, well, the ethers. So, all our running and being busy is counter-productive as far as imagining is concerned; and thus it may be counter-productive to life itself. For, isn’t it the idea of all this busy-ness to expand our world, to be more affluent, have more opportunity and more freedom? But what if we can’t imagine ourselves being there because we are too busy working towards it?
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t know too many people who can’t see themselves at a beach with a book, away from all their daily chores. However, I am quite certain that for many of us that means longing to be there, worrying about how long it will be until we are, and hoping that it’ll be all we wish for. So basically we are imagining ourselves longing, worrying, and hoping! Imagining ourselves being there means actually being there in every way other than physically: feeling it, hearing it, tasting it, sensing it, seeing it. Just like reading a short story and being able to feel the chilly winds when facing the “two-tongued sea” and its “ice-edged fish freezing waves”, wanting to find a stick and break free those poor fish.
Imagining means tapping into a larger pool of reality. Doing that may take a bit of time and practice. Understanding what we pull up (or out) may take some more of the same. But how and where to even start? I happen to believe that this is actually the perfect time of year to start such new practice of an age-old skill. Winter is naturally conducive to dreaming and imagining. As children, young children, we may have imagined Santa flying across the moon or miracles shining down on us from distant star. The twinkling lights of living room windows reflected in the snow outside became cold little elves trying to hurry up with their business in order to get back inside, into the warm. Sounds in the dark in front of the window were menacing or magical depending on the sound and the night. And there were shapes in the darkness that we hardly ever saw in the bright evenings of summer. So, what would it take for us to re-capture some of that imagination?
Well, for one we could allow for some of those outside experiences to become noticeable again. An evening spent with candle light or the electric lights turned low, reading or telling stories versus watching TV may help; maybe even spending a half-hour without any much noise, just sitting, looking, listening, and maybe sipping on a hot cup of something nice. Going for an evening walk and actually looking at those light reflections and twinkling stars may be helpful, too. Telling and reading stories that are well written and engage the imagination instead of doing all the imagining for us also is a very good tool to re-kindle those old childhood skills. Any kind of art exercise can be helpful: word games with the children, drawing or painting, modelling work with clay or play-dough, movement, rhyming, sing-alongs, and creating music together – all of those are activities that engage the imagination and allow it to flow and flourish.
You may have notice that many of the above activities also invite connections with others: that, too, is good for the imagination. It fertilizes our own imagination with new impulses and energies. It adds colours and sounds we didn’t include before. It expands our imagination – and thus our world – beyond the reachable realms of our own ethers.
Our dreams are also a stronghold for our imagination and I have often seen people who claim to have “no imagination” have the most amazing dreams. They don’t often mention them or use them for anything since they believe that they aren’t really relevant – but they have them and I believe that is their souls attempt at getting them to experience their imagination. Working with our dreams can be a good way to revive imagination, too. Just writing them down means we have to listen to those images and experiences that don’t always make “daytime sense”. If we then start to work with those images, learn to decipher their meaning and messages for us, we are stepping fully into the language and experience of our imagination. For those of you who are interested in this approach, take a look at the dream course I mention at the end of this essay.
The winter months are often seen as the “dark time” of the year: mornings and evenings stretch into our daytime hours, nights are long and cold, and even inside the lights don’t always seem to be able to reach into every corner. But what if this year we chose to accept these things as part of our own “enlightenment”? What if we started to look at those dark corners and dark nights and allowed ourselves to see the hidden stories, beings, and worlds in them? What if we aimed for the light of spirit and soul that is only waiting to be discovered right beyond the visible? I believe we’d find a world larger, lighter, happier, and kinder than the one we see when we only look at the visible. We’d find magic, knowledge, wisdom, support, information, care, and love we didn’t expect and didn’t know existed. And that, I think, would be a truly enriching gift to ourselves and the world at large.
In this spirit I wish you all happy holidays, whatever it may be that you are celebrating this winter. May your hearts be warm and filled with the magic of a winter’s night; and may 2010 come in with beautiful energy and carry on to be joyous, healthy, and happy for you.
By the way, if you are looking for a different kind of Christmas gift this year, use your imagination: a donation to support a child in need, to help protect endangered animals, or to give shelter to homeless people here; an energetic gift of stones or essences to support your friends and family on another level; a class or course to support their or your own imagination. Below is a very short and very personal list of offerings through Soul-Spirit Integration and other individuals and organizations I find worth mentioning. It’s a very incomplete list but maybe it inspires you to find your own perfect match! Happy Holidays!
Soul Spirit Integration
Dream Workshop: 5 week course
Greeting Cards: Photo cards and art cards for all occasions
Word Wildlife Fund
protection of endangered animals for as little as $40
Foster Parents Plan
supportive and life giving gifts from $12 up
Shelter and support for homeless youth in Toronto and Canada
Compassionate care to people living with / affected by HIV/AIDS
Other Kinds of Gifts
Visioning Boarding Course
Green Moon Monday
Handcrafted jewellery with semi-precious stones and much energy – phone: (416) 224-1891
Art of Photography – cards, prints, and more
Judy Onorato — Positive Energy
Feng Shui, Psychic Readings, and Flower Essences – firstname.lastname@example.org