As Halloween approaches and we can’t help observing, and maybe participating in, dress-up and pretend play, I am thinking again about the importance of imagination, and in particular how much children can remind us about expanding our capacities to know in non-linear ways.
Children are impressive in their ability to easily and fluidly abandon so-called rational thought and immerse themselves with freedom and delight into imaginary worlds. In the process of such play they are naturally accessing their intuition and accomplishing important developmental tasks.
My four-year-old granddaughter is expert at this. She has a vast and highly textured inner world that is quite a marvel. It is ever changing, flexible and resilient, and filled with information. And most often I notice that this capacity to integrate the rational with the non-rational serves to develop her sense of herself and her place in the world in very healthy ways. An example: she informed me a few weeks ago “There are seven Princesses in the world, and you are one of them and I am one of them.” While she dressed me up, befitting my Princess status, complete with a glittery tiara, she presented me with a rich and well-developed scenario of our roles, including a duty of service to others, as well as a keen sense of individual, personal value–the foundation of self worth.
By the way, as part of this play, she felt it essential that we contact the other five Princesses to support our efforts of service. I discovered this when I asked her what she was doing with the cell phone, to which she replied: “I am texting Cinderella to help us.” She followed-up the text with a phone call.
Think about the word “imagination” and compare it to the word “imaging.” I often point out to students and clients that these two concepts are very entwined. In accessing intuitive or inner knowledge we pick up information by non-rational means–we get a feeling sense, or a gut feeling, or a vision in prayer or meditation–but we are not directly accessing this content through our mental process. In order to integrate such information we must somehow translate it into words and feelings and sensory perceptions that we can communicate to ourselves (and then to others) through rational means–necessarily using our minds. So how do we do this? We use images to translate content retrieved non-rationally (not through the mental process) so our minds can understand what we are picking up. An active and developed imagination supports our imaging ability. This is not to say that we imagine what we are seeing, rather that our imaging “muscle” is in good shape because we have developed it through imagination, making it easier for us to put images, and then words, to content intuitively perceived. Practice and discernment help us separate imagination from direct images.
Imagination is one of the great gifts and blessings of being human. Explore with it, and have fun on the way!