Essential Principles, Practices and Panaceas, A – Z: Imagination

imagination haiku

I believe in intuition and inspiration. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. Albert Einstein

In 2012 I entered the Reader’s Digest/Chambers: Britain’s Best Loved Word Competition, winning a runner-up prize for my piece on the word ‘imagine’; this is an edited version of my entry:

‘Imagine’. Is there a richer, more creative word in the English language? Look inside it and discover an infinite realm, where any and all possibilities exist in every dimension; limitless potential that enables humans to exercise their capacity to conceive awe-inspiring works of art, or make astounding scientific breakthroughs. Imagination encompasses both reality and fantasy; it has facilitated the achievement of incredible feats. Einstein was inspired, and gained insights, not from logical thinking, but from his intuition and imagination.

‘Imagine’, however, has its downside; its misapplication has caused certain individuals to perform unspeakable acts of cruelty.

 Imagination is a power available to everyone on earth; nourished appropriately, it is a force for good.

We all use our imagination, not always to best effect. I’ve known people who summoned pictures of their worst-case scenario when, for example, a loved one has been late home.

On other occasions, I have had individuals say to me ‘I’m hopeless at imagining’. My response is along the lines of ‘Think of a busy High Street on a Saturday morning. What do you see?’ Anyone can conjure up an idea or a mental picture; that’s imagination in action.

Try this: sit in a comfortable position and get quiet. Breathe gently for a few moments and let your mind settle. Imagine you’re a place – what do you picture in your mind’s eye? When I first tried this exercise I imagined a vibrant, landscaped garden full of amazing plants and trees. Then it occurred to me that I’d rather be somewhere a little wilder – a remote, unspoilt, windswept beach of golden sand, backed by cliffs and mysterious caves, washed over by sparkling, effervescent waves.

In imagination, we have an incredible power at our disposal. Image streaming is a technique that helps to develop creative thinking; it can be used to access the unconscious, where there are answers to questions we didn’t even know we had.

When we image-stream, we bring myriad sensory projections into our consciousness; we can reflect on these projections, which are often symbolic, to decipher their meaning for us. Don’t discount any sensations or images that come to mind during the process; the smallest detail could be significant in providing a solution to a problem.

Maria Montessori said that: Imagination does not become great until human beings, given the courage and the strength, use it to create. Those who use their vision to hurt, to destroy, then, can’t be said to possess a great imagination. It’s fair to assume that anyone using their imaginative faculty for malignant purposes is under the influence of a neurotic/wounded/fragile ego, that is, they’re motivated by fear.

At its best, imagination allows your essence full expression.

Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions. Einstein, here, could be describing the process of creative visualisation. I’m not going to tell you that you can simply imagine material things into being. But you can take the time to picture your ideal life, in as much detail as you can envisage, and write down your vision.

What can you see in your picture? Who is with you? What are you doing, and where are you doing it? Make sure you include how you feel, what you can taste and smell. Contemplate this image of your desired life, really imagine inhabiting it; sense how that feels. Bring this evocation frequently into your awareness.

After you complete this exercise, pay particular attention to any hunches you get, or actions you’re prompted to take – not just immediately but in the days following. Can you put them into practice? Small, consistent actions over time create momentum and results; in this way you are working towards creating your ideal life. For as J.K. Rowling suggests:

We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

Imagine that!