Imagination Examined

Play It Backwards – Look at a memory with new (imaginal) eyes

All sorts of details pop out at you when you: go into the imaginal mind-state, call up a memory, and let it re-run in your mind’s eye. Suddenly, up comes all sorts of important details, and then there is an “aha” about something unseen and unrealized at the time of the real event.  What we thought we knew about what happened, previously all tucked away in our memory, now looks brand new: “Yikes, why didn’t I see all of this when it was happening? I thought I was seeing everything but compared to this view, it was like I was wearing foggy glasses and half out of it.”

Why Do We See More on Replay? The Power of Normal Replay and the Power of Dream Theater

Of course there are the normal factors of taking a few more looks. We are bound to discover a few fresh details just through repetition. Next, we might be viewing the event with a different perspective. Perhaps the event was charged with a lot of emotion, such as frustration or anger. After the fact we can watch it from greater distance and see other details.

We can use a bit of free-editing with imagination to reshuffle the memory event. Instead of taking things in order we can move the ending to the beginning and the beginning to the middle, etc. We can play it in slow motion or high speed. Or we can step into the shoes of the other people, animals, things, etc. and see things from their perspective. Objects and locations can be swapped out and replaced with others.

But if we go deeper, that is, move into the imaginal mind-set which is more closely related to dreaming than being our normal wakeful selves, something else comes about.  If we spend enough time in imaginal space (and have practiced these techniques), the target memory will become more vivid. We will know this at the attentional level because we will loose more and more awareness of things happening outside of our minds. As we focus more and more inward, the more we are drawn inward.  We really start to feel, at least to some degree, that we are in the memory and not just standing outside of it looking at it. If we are in the memory, then our regular senses are there too. We find ourselves engaging our bodies as we engage them to navigate our everyday external world. We can feel the effects of weight and texture as well as hear sounds unique to the memory location. We start to pick up on the details of light, color, and shade.

On top of these mind-state changes, when working in the imagination, we usually move to a greater wholeness of awareness than is normally available to us.  C.G. Jung gives us a good inventory of the major functions of awareness that could be available to us if we were whole. His functions are: thinking, feeling, intuition, and sensation. As noted above, our sensation function (our senses) become engaged when we step out of looking at a memory and step into the memory. Our thinking, feeling, and intuition functions can operate in two ways: as part of how we look at the memory during the replaying and as a participant in the memory itself. When that happens, we have all four functions operating, generating information about the memory. This is far different from when we were in the real event; then we probably only had one or two of our functions that we tend to rely upon operative. The other one or two functions got shuffled to the background. Not the case here, as we replay it in our dream theater.

Our dream theater is our maximal way of memory replay, but it also is highly important to exploring philosophy, mythology, literature, symbols, our dreams, and our lives as they play across the stage of life. Turning inward and bringing so many resources online to look again or to look at what we have never carefully examined before, will, without fail, show us much that is new and surprising.

Imagery Techniques

Where to Get Started? Travel to your Memory Place

I spent a lot of my time making imagination work hard to get to the point where I discovered it is simple.  Keep things simple. Realize that we are surrounded by imagination at work, 24/7.  When a friend tells you a story, when you go to the movies, or when you come up with an analogy to explain something, you are letting your imagination powers run more free than usual. Doing imagination work captures your inherent abilities to go within and imagine and makes them available for inner explorations.

In all of my workshops, during individual training, and in groups, I start with asking people call up some place in their mind’s eye that they know very, very well. It doesn’t have to be some place special. The exercise is to make the inner experience of the space increasingly vivid to the point it feels roughly like being there. To accomplish this, our imagination senses are engaged; when we walk about the space the space feels like reality. When we touch or pick up something, that too gives has the sensation of  weight and space.

Getting to Your Memory  Place – Steps:

1. Pick a place you know well in the real world.

2. Close your eyes and settle in. Relax downward until you start to get dreamy-like.

3. Bring to mind the memory of your selected space.

4. Be in the space by really paying attention to details such as the lighting and sounds.

5. When you are ready, walk over to some object and pick it up or at least touch it.

6. Take your time and explore your memory place. If there is something about this experience you want to remember in detail, reinforce your memory by noticing a few more times what you want to remember while holding the intention in mind: “This is important to me and I want to remember it well.”

7. When you are ready to wrap up your inner explorations, reverse the process: start to become aware of your body, then the room, where you are, and the day of the week. Come on back fully.

Of course, repeat many times to: master the above steps, the experience, and what you need to do to go deeper next time. Happy travelling.