As we enter the month of October, it is a marvelous time to reap the bounties of the harvest, in our outer world, and within. As we head off to the pumpkin patch or the apple-pressing party, we can reflect on the approaching winter as an invitation to hibernate, to reflect, to stoke the fires of our inner being.
A tool that can ignite this process is one that I call “Imaginal Meditation”. Paying homage to the meditation tradition of Buddhism and the Active Imagination of Carl Jung, it provides an opportunity to shape an image that meets the unique needs of the individual on any given morning, at any given moment in time.
How to begin?
Attend to the breath. Ideally, this would be a private, silent place, far from the distractions of modern life. Practically, this is not only un- achievable, it is often in the chaotic moments in life that we most need to take a moment to connect with powerful, supportive voices within. These “voices” come from a cast of archetypal energies that can often be more accessible to us if we imagine them as distinct personalities who can provide us with support, strength, or emotional nourishment, permission to retreat and reflect before making a difficult decision: whatever you need at the time.
Say you are standing in line at the grocery store, snarled in traffic, waiting to go into a job interview – take a moment. Attend to your breath. Feel your lungs expand. Feel your rib cage relax as the breath moves out.
Allow a few moments, being aware of your body, breathing in, breathing out..
Become aware of your inner state: tensions, feelings, questions, hopes, apprehensions, fears, doubts...
Ask yourself: What do I need in this moment, and who do I need it from?
Open your imagination. Do you need support and comfort from your inner Wise Mother? Strength to accomplish a difficult task from your inner Body Builder? Inspiration from an inner Mozart? The possibilities are as expansive as your imagination.
Recently I had to deliver a lecture on IMAGINATION AND THE SOUL. It was a new experience for me, and I was nervous as I could be. A perfect time for me to practice what I was about to preach! I took a moment in my car, the parking lot of the lecture hall, noticed my breath, and pictured a closed door. I asked, “Who do I need to come through that door, to get me through this evening?”
I continued to monitor my breath. I imagined the door opening. Out came a tall, slender, strong woman, a long bow in her hand, a quiver of arrows on her back, thick dread-locks that snarled like snakes! But she was no Medusa, though I thought I could see a serpent’s tale! She had a face of ultimate serenity, and a warrior’s readiness to deal with whatever came. The reptilian quality seemed to promote the feeling of a steely confidence, a cold-bloodedness, no room for a little furry mammal’s whining and insecurity.
She “followed” me into the lecture hall, and I felt her energy sinking into my bones, as I prepared to deal with whatever came that night.
I also realized that my new Amazonian companion emerged to help with a challenge much deeper than lecture night jitters. I have a close family member newly diagnosed with cancer. I need to call on an emotional strength to walk with him through the darkest times, while holding hope and energy for joy, I am grateful to the image-maker in my mind for awakening this new archetypal dimension when I need Her the most.
Also, I have learned that when you open your imagination, you never know what form it will take. It can be scary. The imaginal world of our unconscious is far from predictable. If a dark image emerges, it can be like a nightmare that comes in a dream: an invitation to turn and face the fear, to call forth an archetypal warrior to stand down the “monster”, and work through the complexity it presents. Often it is through confronting the darkness in ourselves that we own all the split off, unattractive, weak, flawed parts, and become more whole, more alive, more deeply human.
I invite you to engage in Imaginal Meditation, as we celebrate the harvest, and look forward to the warm hearth of a creative winter.