04 Imagine - Articles

Meditation and Imagination, the Big Difference

When I’m making a presentation about Imagination, many people automatically think I’m talking about some form of Meditation. While Meditation is an invaluable approach to inner change and stability, it is very different from practicing Imagination.

Imagination and Meditation manage the contents of our inner life, the thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations we have every day and any day, in very distinct ways to achieve very different goals.

Meditation, especially Mindfulness Meditation, seeks to greatly simplify the content of our thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. It does this by moving our awareness to the senses. The senses provide us with simple impressions. This is far from the typical complexity of how we think and emote. In addition, simply sensing does not require analysis. What we sense: is as it is.  Accepting what is allows us to tune down striving.

Our senses also pull us to the present. We spend an enormous amount of our day mentally time traveling to our past or the potential future. This calls up very complex cognition.  If we can be in the now, we are freed from ruminating and fearing.

In Meditation, our analytical and striving mind is quieted. We experience a release from striving, and our minds calm and reach an increase of stability and clarity.

Boiling this down to an analogy we get:  Meditation seeks to empty the cup of content in our minds.

Imagination seeks to add mental and emotional content. Not only is it open to the thoughts and feelings of the moment, but it wants to add a lot more content by opening to the unconscious.  Our unconscious holds a wild and poetic well of impressions, intuitions, forgotten information, memories, and some say, even knowledge passed to us from humanity’s ancestors (see the work of Carl Jung, especially his work on archetypes).

Armchair Dreamers relax into a more or less dreamy place to let this content come into the mind to observe it and to interact with it.  In this process, the Armchair Dreamer finds what they are experiencing is more poetic, poignant, deeper, and insightful than everyday thinking and feeling.

Boiling this down to an analogy we get:  Imagination seeks to fill the cup.