Artwork by Annelinde Tempelman
“Everything you can imagine is real” - Picasso
We all secretly (or not so secretly) long for the same thing: to share more of who we are, and the talents we have, with the world, and be appreciated in return. But to do that, we need to be willing to become something we have never become before, to live in a way that we have not lived before and express what we have not expressed before. “To become who we are here to become, do what we are here to do and be who we are here to be for others as well as for ourselves” as the intuitive Lee Harris puts it.
The problem is we don’t know what ‘that’ is nor what ‘that’ looks like, so how can we step into a territory that is so unfamiliar? The key lies in imagining it. If we can imagine it, we can eventually become it. Our imagination is our most powerful and creative tool for life transformation.
But few of us can manifest our wishes simply by imagining them into existence. No amount of wanting or imagining will get us our ideal job or dream house or heal our headache if we don’t take practical steps to make those things happen. Yet at the same time, imagination always precedes transformation. Every important change we have made in our life, inner or outer, started with an act of imagination.
So what is imagination really?
Imagination is not a place in itself, it is a competence we all have, even if we doubt we have it. According to ancient tantric teachings, imagination is not just powerful; it is power itself. It is the way we access the realm beyond ordinary consciousness, as traditional shamans have always done. Imagination is our ability to take ourselves to the ‘spiritual playground’, where our souls hang out with other divine beings and they make things happen together. So it follows then, that our ability to create images not available in the physical world, to our sensory system, is our greatest faculty for evolving human consciousness. In order to transform ourselves and our planet, we need to be able to leap out of the common, the familiar, and project a new idea into the unknown, and then let it take its course.
For instance, we can begin to imagine a future different from the past, or a sense of self different from the one we have known until now. Yes we are shaped by our karma, our memories, and the impulses conditioned into our cells. And yes we are also undeniably influenced by the collective, the culture and the physical circumstances that we partake in. But no matter how difficult it may be to take distance from these factors, our imagination can still help us begin to replace our internal patterns; in a way not too dissimilar to gardening really: we choose to sow seeds of a different quality from our current harvest. Ultimately, we aim to re-imagine our sense of who we are and how we relate to this world, and consequently, change our experience of life.
On the way to that final destination, acts of imagination can connect us to that place called ‘flow’ where inspiration strikes - as the first line of a song, or a colour combination, or the composition of a painting, or a realisation about our relationships, or a direct recognition of who we truly are. Mozart, for example, is known to have heard music playing so succinctly
that he simply took dictation. Imagination links us to infinite possibilities.
Elizabeth Gilbert mentions this in her book: Big Magic: Creative Living beyond Fear:
“I believe that our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses, but also by ideas. Ideas are disembodied, energetic life-form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us - albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. it is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.”
So how do we do access this state?
1. Mindfulness - practising regularly will lead us more and more to this being the default of how we approach each day: an open-minded head space beyond ordinary thought, beyond memory, beyond judgement.
2. Creativity - having a regular creative habit strengthens our imagination and vice versa.
3. Nourishment - we need to nourish our minds just as we nourish our bodies. This means filtering out ‘junk food for the mind’ such as noise and sensory pollution, and consciously choosing to expose ourselves to what we find beautiful and inspiring.
4. Stillness - a regular necessity for all creatives: uncluttered minds means that we have carved out the space needed for quiet time; for pondering and pottering, for stillness and for no particular goal.
It is worth mentioning two great thinkers, psychologist Carl Jung and Alejandro Jodorowsky both used “active imagination” in their own way, to integrate conscious and unconscious elements in their patients’ psyche. They achieved this by allowing their inner characters to play out their secret conversations and fantasies. By consciously acting these out, the hidden aspects of themselves would find their voice, heal and grow.
Imagination, thus, can influence outcomes in the “real” world; each one of us can en-vision genuine and effective acts for our personal lives as well as for the collective, reassured that these are not simply indulging in plain fantasy or rambling thought constructs. By harnessing the power of our imagination, we can use it for creating beauty and truth. It can change our inner state, for sure, but it can also change the world.
Need help navigating all of the above and re-creating yourself or an area of your life? You can explore your creativity in a playful way, in a stunning setting in the French Alps, with an encouraging circle of people. Join Natalia on her “Picturesque Alpine Creative Journey”, travel sketching as a metaphor for life, with art tutor Catherine Moullé, 7th to15th September 2019.
Details under ‘Travel’ on www.saffronrose.com.
To read this article in the New York Spirit magazine, click here.