Dear Dream Tending and Deep Imagination Community,
That’s so silly! You have such an over-active imagination! Stop daydreaming and pay attention! You are too old for imaginary friends, that’s so childish. That was just a dream…forget it.
At some point in our lives, many of us were taught, or shamed into believing, that engaging imaginal figures, daydreaming, or talking about dreams are unacceptable or unproductive behavior. How many of us were told to stop these activities because they are childish? Or maybe, we were told that engaging in imaginative activities is not possible if we want to function normally in ordinary reality? If you experienced this, how was your relationship with imagination damaged or broken?
I remember vividly. It was in second grade, during afternoon story time. I loved listening to our teacher read stories as we all sat on this super-soft, shaggy, red carpet. As she begins reading, characters and landscapes emerge and take shape. The story unfolds and interesting characters begin moving about. They speak with their own voices, experience emotion, and engage in action. A magical landscape emerges…right here in the classroom…here and now, with all of us!
One afternoon, in typical fashion, I hustled over to that super-soft, shaggy, red carpet. I plopped my bottom down, securing my spot for story time. Then, I did something different. I placed my right hand on the rug next to me. I called out loudly, with authority, “Seat saved!”
“It’s against the rules to save seats!” some classmates exclaimed.
“This space is for Wonder Woman.” I explained. “She likes hearing stories.”
Other classmates invited their imaginary friends to join us for story time. Our teacher, confused by the extra ruckus, wondered why there were gaps between us.
“Gather round and scoot together.” she said.
We tried to explain that we couldn’t scoot closer together because our imaginal companions would be squeezed out of the circle.
“No, there is no room for Wonder Woman or imaginary friends here. Don’t be silly, scoot over.” replied our seemingly frustrated teacher.
Ugh. I was embarrassed, and not just a little bit embarrassed, excruciatingly embarrassed.
Wonder Woman graciously stepped back and pulled up a little chair behind our circle. From that point on though, I decided that I probably shouldn’t mention her being at school with me. I definitely would not be sharing anything about our adventures together on the playground. A group of us, along with our invisible companions, all played together during recess. I informed them I would no longer be playing superheroes.
I decided it would be best to leave Wonder Woman at home from now on. And, maybe, it was time to leave Wonder Woman behind for good. I decided that imaginary friends would not be received well by most others,
especially adults. For many years after that, I kept my imaginal experiences guarded, private. I felt embarrassed and afraid to talk about imaginal activities and companions anymore.
Yet, some part of Wonder Woman stayed with me over the years. A few times, on Halloween, I dressed up as Wonder Woman. In this embodied act of dress-up, of high play and make-believe, I touched into something vital. I recalled her strength, resourcefulness, mystery, resiliency, and well…her wonder!
I have learned that we do a great disservice to ourselves, our kids, our community, the collective, the world, to nature, to dreams, and to the imaginal realm itself when we do not regularly engage in some form of active imagination. We miss out on experiencing the exchange of wisdom, creativity, and healing capacities offered by imagination.
Expanded possibilities emerge when we attune to the imaginal realm. There are many ways to engage and explore imagination. Some examples are: listening to music, playing an instrument, inspired movement and dance, art, singing, reading and writing poetry, creative writing, story-telling, and walking about in nature. Engaging in high play is another. For example, as you go about your daily life, tune in to the things and creatures in your surroundings. Become curious. Spend a few moments witnessing imaginal figures as they come forward. Offer a gesture of greeting such as a smile, a wave, a hello. Notice how they respond to you. Spend a few minutes talking with each other. Other ideas: Try story-telling with a trusted friend or small group. Share a story you make up yourself! Or, share a dream as a story. Begin with “Once upon a time…” or “In a world far away…” telling the dream story from a character’s perspective.
In Dream Tending, I became reacquainted with imagination. I re-connected with old friends, and met many new ones – imaginal and ordinary! I put my ego and judgment aside. With a curious attitude and a bit of courage, I gave myself permission to re-engage imagination. I relished in sharing dreams as stories, in learning the art of Dream Tending. I allowed myself to daydream and engage in high play. Rediscovering a renewed sense of child-like freedom and joy, I embraced imagination. My comfort level with openly engaging the imaginal expanded, and deepened. Resourced with new skills and revitalized with enthusiasm, I embarked on incredibly creative, generative journeys into imagination. I discovered that imagination is not merely an activity or ability of the mind; it is an experience of the body and soul. And, meeting the imagination in the ways of imagination is vital to the experience. Engaging imagination brings vitality and resilience to my entire being.
I experience the imaginal realm as inhabited by wise, compassionate beings, ancestors and guides. These luminescent imaginal others love me and yearn to be in companionship with me – as I do with them. Those imaginal invisibles are dear soul companions, members of my Dream Counsel. They visit in dream time and we interact during my daily dream-tending praxis. They embody an innate intelligence and vital presence as they share stories of their own knowing and yearning. In counsel, we creatively problem-solve, exchange stories, and share love, wisdom, and healing. They guide and support me in everyday, ordinary life. I walk beside some interesting characters. They offer unique insights, perspectives, and resources.
Embrace the love and genius of imagination.
I offer that you spend a few moments checking in with yourself. Do you relate to the experience I shared? Do you recall a time when someone squashed the imaginative spark within you? If so, find a quiet place to sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Take a few deep breaths: inhale fully, exhale completely. Experience the easy flow of your natural breath. Notice the rhythm of your heartbeat. Become aware of your body’s soft tissues and bones.
- Here now, fully present. Recall a time when you were told to stop daydreaming or to stop engaging in imaginal activities.
- As you recall this experience, what moves through you?
- Imagine now, that you are not told to stop engaging in the imaginal activity. Instead, your creativity is supported and imagination is encouraged. Imagine. Witness this change in your storyline occur.
- What changes or shifts? Do you notice a change or shift in your body, breath, emotion, and/or awareness? How so?
- For 10 to 15 minutes each day: draw, write, dance, listen to music, engage in high play, or take a walk with nature. Meet imaginal soul companions along the way. Observe their unique qualities. Notice their ways of moving, and communicating. Each figure or landscape has its own story to share. Spend time together engaging in reciprocal dialogue, song, or movement. Sense the exchange of love and vitality while in companionship with imaginals. With all your senses, intuition, and instinct explore and experience the imaginal. Relish in any experiences of renewed and/or expanded love of imagination. Reclaim the child-like enjoyment of engaging in playful, authentic imagination.
- Share your experience with a trusted friend or group.
Something to consider: How can we operate in the imaginal and ordinary reality in a healthy way?
Frank MacEowen, in his book the Mist-Filled Path, offers us a suggestion. It involves entering into a way of being that speaks to a natural fluidity and adaptability when moving between and within imaginal and ordinary reality. He calls this ability, or attitude, “Mist Consciousness”. He defines Mist Consciousness as: “The ability to flow and pass back and forth at will, moving from the complexity of modernity to the profoundness of a sacred world still dripping with the dew and mist of a continually renewing, alive, ensouled earth.” When we open ourselves to learning, become curious, adopt a sense of playfulness, and quiet our mind, we surrender ourselves to presences that occupy the borderlands of consciousness. When we enter those deep and expanded mist-filled “Other” spaces, something sacred and vital draws close to us.
In Moonbeams and Dreams,
Monica Tweet, PT, CST-D
Mentor of the Academy of Imaginal Arts and Sciences
Inside The Curious Mind
Stephen Aizenstat, Ph.D., is the founder of Dream Tending, Pacifica Graduate Institute, and the Academy of Imaginal Arts and Sciences. He is a world-renowned professor of depth psychology, an imagination specialist, and an innovator. He has served as an organizational consultant to major companies and institutions, and as a depth psychological content advisor to Hollywood film makers. He has lectured extensively in the U.S., Asia, and Europe. He is affiliated with the Earth Charter International project through the United Nations, where he has spoken. Professor Aizenstat is the Chancellor Emeritus and Founding President of Pacifica Graduate Institute. He has collaborated with many notable masters in the field including Joseph Campbell, James Hillman, Marion Woodman, and Robert Johnson.