Last year I began a "Spiritual Practices from A to Z" in which I explored for two weeks a different spiritual practice. I made it from A to H (January through April) and then stopped. I began working with Olivia on the Washington County Barn Quilt Trail along with having more projects with 4-H and homeschooling Sophia and Olivia. Then my mother died in August; and my sister, brother, and I had to go through the home and possessions that belonged to she and my father (who died in January 2012). Between dividing them among ourselves, donating a lot, and inevitably having to throw a lot away - that has been my focus since mid-August 2015 to now.
So, I'm picking up where I left off: with the spiritual practice of Imagination. The ideas come from the website Spirituality and Practice. I've noted what I've done and what I've liked to do below.
Spiritual Practice: Imagination
Balances/Counters: Rationalism and Imagination
The Basic Practice
According to the Spirituality and Practice website, "In the spiritual life, imagination has two meanings. First, it is a human faculty — the part of us that traffics in images, symbols, myths, and stories. It is the capacity we all have for innovative thinking and creative expression. Second, the imagination is an inner reality, a boundless realm not defined by our senses or reason that we know from our dreams and can enter via certain exercises while awake. The practice of imagination encourages us to use this faculty and enables us to explore the realm.
"Begin by learning the language of imagination. Keep track of the images that come to you spontaneously in association with your feelings and thoughts. Draw pictures of what you encounter in your dreams. Contemplate art and see yourself as part of the picture. Read myths and tell stories. Remember, through the ages spiritual pilgrims have found that it is possible to step into the inner realm of imagination. There you can find fuel for your journey and gifts of wisdom."
Why This Practice May Be For You
The Spirituality and Practice website said, "Unfortunately, many people associate imagination with 'imaginary' and its connotation of 'unreal.' This is a difficult spiritual practice for those who think that everything has to be verified by sensory perception and empirical evidence. Reason also gets in the way of imagination, especially when it is codified into rationalism which regards only logic and analytical thought as valid routes to truth.
"When we discount the imagination, we cut ourselves off from the riches that can fuel our creativity. We limit the ways we can view the world and our own experience. There is much more to life than can be contained in a rational philosophy."
Your imagination is your preview of life's coming attractions.
— Albert Einstein quoted in Zen and the Art of Making a Living by Laurence G. Boldt
We tend to consider imagination too lightly,
forgetting that the life we make,
for ourselves individually and for the world as a whole,
is shaped and limited only by the perimeters of our imagination.
Things are as we imagine them to be,
as we imagine them into existence.
Imagination is creativity, and
the way we make our world depends on
the vitality of our imagination.
— Thomas Moore in The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life
Last year, when I was more consistent with doing these spiritual practices, I was working on the Washington County Barn Quilt Trail with Olivia which was very time consuming, I chose two books that were more "flip through" than "reading" books, but nonetheless focused on using one's imagination. Below are the links to my reviews of them:
- Where Women Create
- Cool Spaces for Kids
There were several books recommended on the Spirituality and Practice website that fall under "Imagination" as a spiritual practice including:
- A trilogy of books by Thomas Moore who maps out how the soul is manifested through the imagination. Care of the Soul is a primer on spirituality in everyday life; Soul Mates explores the different cycles and transitions in relationships; and The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life pinpoints magic, play, mystery, and imagination as wands that can renew both our public and private lives.
- The Vein of Gold- A Journey to Your Creative Heart by Julia Cameron. This is a follow-up book to The Artist's Way. The author challenges her readers to sift through their lives in order to get in touch with their creativity. The journey to our creative hearts will take us through seven kingdoms including story, relationship, attitude, and possibility. She presents tools of inner play (secret selves, creative clusters, expansion music) which she hopes will lead to personal growth, renewal. and healing.
I ordered both of these books from the library, but they've been on my nightstand now for many months. It seems like there never is enough time to sit down and read a book cover-to-cover. Perhaps it is more of an issue of not making the time. That latter reason is more likely and something I need to address.
Finding Neverland, the story of how James Barre came to write Peter Pan. It is a convincing and tender depiction of the ties between imagination, play, and creativity.
Again, I ordered the movie from the library but never ended up watching it. It needed to go back, so I returned it. At some point I do want to watch this movie.
"Imagine" is one of the most popular ballads John Lennon ever wrote. He asks us to see a world where people live in peace and share what they have with one another. The song connects us to all others who share this dream. Imagination, it asserts, is where our work for a better world begins.
This song I do remember listening to often when I was a college student. I still enjoy listening to this song periodically.
Illustrated card decks are used by many people as a way of getting feedback from their inner world. These systems are also great ways to exercise the imagination.
The Spirituality and Practice website recommends that to use the cards, you lay out all the cards in order and try telling the story they depict in your own words. Or choose just a few cards and allow their symbols to speak to you.
After working with the images, it's suggested that you refer to books, usually packaged with the cards, that give their traditional meanings. Especially recommended card systems are:
- The Shining Woman Tarot by Rachel Pollack
- The Haindl Tarot by Hermann Haindl
- Motherpeace Round Tarot by Karen Vogel
- The Celtic Book of the Dead by Caitlin Matthews
- Soul Cards by Deborah Koff-Chapin.
Daily Cue, Reminder, Vow, Blessing
• Noticing patterns in the clouds above me or in the sand at my feet is my cue to practice imagination.
It's funny...I was just talking with some of the girls in the 4-H group I lead yesterday about watching the clouds. I was recalling about how - when I was growing up - I would lay in the backyard and look up at the clouds with my sister. We would say what we saw in the clouds as they passed by. We could do this for the longest time. There was no rushing...we had all the time in the world to watch the clouds.
The picture above is when I took Sophia and Olivia up to Itasca State Park to see the start of the Mississippi River. On the way home, we passed by the south shore of Red Lake in the Red Lake Nation (Indian Reservation). There were expanses of beautiful land - untouched - just there to enjoy. Above us, the hundreds of puffy cloud shapes as far as our eyes could see.
• Appreciating the creativity of others, I vow to express my own imagination as best I can.
The trip to the Textile Center was a reminder of how much I miss doing something creative on a regular basis. Even in the year following my dad's death, I made the time to be creative almost every single day.
When he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, I remember turning to crafting - doing some familiar things as well as doing new projects, such as learning how to do sashiko (a type of Japanese embroidery).
I have bins of fabric ready to be transformed into something new. Likewise, I have a bin of colored wool in vibrant colors - just like the 4-Hers were using during yesterday's field trip.
There are patterns in my office/crafting room ready to be used. It's just a matter of making the time. I looked at the clothing at the Textile Center and thought, "It would be fun to have an artist design clothing for me.,,unique clothes that no one else wears."
Even seeing outlines of hands of people embellished in different ways was inspiring for me to see.
Now it is just carving out time each week...hopefully again - at some point - time each day to be creative and use my imagination.
Practice of the Day
How to be an artist:
Learn to watch snails.
Plant impossible gardens.
Make little signs that say ""yes"" and post them all over your house.
Make friends with uncertainty.
— Henry Miller quoted in Sacred Journeys in a Modern World by Roger Housden
Devote an hour or two this week to gazing at clouds. Look for images in the formations — faces, animals, trails, buildings. Let your imagination roam! Also try cloud gazing with a companion. This exercise demonstrates the breath of the imagination, as two people rarely see the same thing.
Keep a dream journal. People all over the world and in many religious traditions have looked to dreams for spiritual insight and guidance. Spiritual Dreaming: A Cross-Cultural and Historical Journey by Kelly Buckley has more than 200 dreams from Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Native American traditions.
A dream journal could be devoted specifically to this purpose or dreams could be written in a regular journal. Before going to bed, date the page and write down a question or express a concern.
Record night dreams as soon as possible after waking. On the left side of the page, write a narrative of what happens during the dream. On the right side, draw any images from the dream that are significant. Over time, watch for recurring themes and images. Try to read what they are revealing about life and the possibilities that are becoming available.
Household, Group, and Community Projects
• Go to an art or photography gallery. Pick out a beautiful scene and imagine what it would be like to live there.
We visited the Textile Center this week with our 4-H club and enjoyed seeing the work there.
There were many pieces of art that had a reference to nature.
Trees seemed to be a popular theme.
It was amazing to look at what could be created with fabric, felt, and other textile mediums.
Sometimes the art work even incorporated an element from nature - like a branch.
There were so many types of inspiring art there - from clothing to wallhangings to rugs.
It was definitely a wake-up call that I need to be spending more time creating like I used to do.
• The lives of artists revealed on video or in biographies, memoirs, and autobiographies show us the kind of determination and support needed to sustain our inner artist. Sponsor a film festival or a book reading about the creative life; invite artists in your community to serve on a panel afterwards to answer questions from the audience.
I like this idea - or some variation of it. Sometimes I think that the only way some of these types of activities will happen will be if I incorporate them into some type of 4-H activity. In that way, I am actively planning and learning...although not always doing the project (that's something I need to work on) along with the kids.
• Volunteer to be a storyteller or reader at the local library, bookstore, hospital, senior center, church, synagogue, or other community center.
I've done this in the past at the nursing home by reading books to the seniors. I did this in conjunction with St. Nicholas Day as well as when we went on a tour of the Barn Quilt Trail. It was something that was enjoyable - both for the seniors and me.