How to Access your Creative Imagination

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Creativity is one of the most valuable assets we have as human beings. In a world of problems, the person with the best solution wins.

The archetype of the ‘creative genius’ has reached an almost mythical status, but paradoxically, our everyday imaginative faculties are barely cultivated. People are encouraged to seek entertainment from movies and books, while dreams and fantasies are seen as self-indulgent, fruitless wastes of time.

When children become preoccupied with some frightening scenario, adults often try soothing them with the words ‘it’s just your imagination’, the unspoken implication being that the imagination is both unreal and unreliable.

Dissociated from our imagination and immersed in popular culture, we lose touch with our innate creative potential and enter a fallen state of creative poverty. Fortunately, unlike material wealth, our imagination can never truly be taken away.

Passive Imagination: You’re Probably Doing it Right Now

“Womp womp womp womp womp” — Charlie Brown’s teacher

We all experience an internal voice, usually in the form of mental chatter.

What will that person think if I do such-and-such? I’m bored. When will I be free of this task so that I can do such-and-such other thing?

A huge amount of mental energy is absorbed into these internal monologues. If we engage our imagination actively, if only for five minutes at a time, we enter into a dialogue and discover something unusual… that we are not alone within our mind.

How to Cultivate an Active Imagination

“An isolated man is cast into silhouette on the clifftop at Old Harry Rocks during sunset golden hour.” by Will van Wingerden on Unsplash

“New ideas are not generated by deduction, but by an artistically creative imagination” — Max Planck, founding father of quantum physics

A creative genius is someone who arrives at solutions quickly and with little effort, as if accessing some secret reservoir of knowledge. To access our own genius, we have to move from passive to active imagination, engaging our intuition (inner-teacher) with a series of questions, as if it were a separate entity living within our own mind.

The Exercise: Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Gaze at the back of your eyelids and take your mind out of your immediate surrounding. When you are relaxed enough to continue, ask yourself “Where am I?” with the intention to evoke an environment. Allow your inner voice to respond. Try it now and when you get an answer, come back to continue reading.

Now that you have an environment in mind, the next step in this process will be to assert some kind of action within the environment. If you don’t have any ideas, you can always ask the question “What should I do?”. The answer may take a moment to arrive and the content may surprise you. There could be visual and auditory cues, accompanied by other sensations like smell or texture. Try to feel your body’s experience of the space.

As you take this first action, notice how the environment responds. If you don’t experience any changes, be patient and try another action. As you explore this inner space, an infinite variety of situations and outcomes may surface.

Stop reading this article and return to the active imagination exercise. Give yourself some time to explore the inner space and wrap it up when you feel that you’ve reached a good stopping point.

There is a call-and-response dynamic available within our minds, whereby our conscious sense of self interacts with something that responds to us. Once you get the hang of this technique, you will be amazed by the rich, complex diversity of symbols available within your own mind.

The Final, Crucial Step in Gaining Real-World Benefits from your Active Imagination Practice

In addition to the entertainment value that comes from engaging our imagination, we can acquire even greater value from researching and thinking about the imagery that surfaced.

Oftentimes, the emergent symbols function as a mirror of subconscious processes operating in our psyche, revealing the nature of our current situation, and if we’re lucky, providing a fresh perspective on life.

By applying imaginative solutions to real-world problems, we fulfill the initial purpose of fantasy. Our minds grow stronger as we invoke and act upon ideas that create positive change in the world.

Photo by Daniel Burka on Unsplash