01 Visualize - Articles, 04 Imagine - Articles

A Three Pipe Imagination

The toughest mysteries for the great fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, required three pipe sessions.  This didn’t mean that three pipes were employed. No, only one pipe was held by Holmes, but it did have to be filled three times with his favorite brand of tobacco. Puffing away allowed Holmes to drift into his thoughts.

It would be easy to assume that Holmes was using analytical reasoning of the sort we would use for scientific experiments or math or accounting. He has been so often portrayed that way. But if he limited himself to the analytical state of mind only, he never would have invoked brilliant insights. He had to puff his way into his imagination where he could see in his mind’s eye all manner of possibilities.

Pipe #1 – Ease into the dreamy interior and take the first look
Packing the pipe’s bowl carefully, Holmes’ unconscious would know that he would soon be entering the imaginal world. With years of practice, his unconscious would then down regulate his nervous system which in turn would quiet his body. The rest would be up to his conscious mind: letting go of  the exterior and investing his attention upon his inner landscape. Holmes would need to slow down his typical busy day-mind to move into a twilight state, that slowly builds towards favoring a dreamy landscape. He could increase his immersion of this landscape by bring up something familiar such as the location of the crime under investigation. Using the power of visualization, he could take what is served up by his memory as fact, as being the actual facts and figures of that location. Exploring each detail, he would find himself switching from awareness of the outer world into the inner world of his crime scene visualization.

Pipe #2 – Poke and Prod Visualizations
Imagination is the perfect blank stage upon which to lay out actions, props, players, and plots.  All can be combined, recombined, and combined again. Freeze the action if you want to, eliminate a prop while adding something new to the inner stage. Slow the action down, speed up the action. Zoom in on something or step way back and see the big picture. Add characters, subtract characters. Test how one part of the visualization might be related to another (i.e. the victim’s scuffed shoe and the butler’s knife). Here lies the freedom to do countless “thought experiments” in the laboratory of the imagination.

Pipe #3 – Step Out of the Way and Let the Unconscious Show What It Knows
Fill another bowl and then slowly run through one of the combinations that appeared promising during Pipe #2. This time, “Don’t think”, Holmes would tell himself. No, thinking is not what is needed here. Instead, the focus should be upon the body for the body will speak if only we have the imaginal ears to hear. Some great inner knowing will speak with a tension in the body, or a gut feel, or a change of breathing, or an unexpected movement. Watching and following the body’s lead we ask questions of it and listen for its answers that can come in: more body tension/movement/changes, words, phrases, sounds, intuitive knowing, or images.

……”ah, Watson, I’ve got it. It is so clear now.  Come, we must be going. A game is a foot.”

01 Visualize - Articles, 04 Imagine - Articles

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.