The Magic of Active Imagination

Nature is an incomparable guide if you know how to follow her. She is like the needle of the compass pointing to the North, which is most useful . . . when you know how to navigate. – Carl Jung

water and iceI recently read an article that cited CarlJung explaining the power of using our active imagination to gain insights from dream images especially animals that show up in our dreams. Rather than trying to understand, with our rational mind, the meaning of being chased by a bear or swimming with a sea turtle means, Jung recommends actively using our imagination to ask the animal what message it holds for you. We can actually have a conversation with the bear or turtle that can lead to valuable insights and revelations for our life.

As a writing and creativity coach, I’ve worked for years with a variation of this idea where I have a client ask advice of their muse or an imaginary mentor – someone they admire who they feel would give good advice. I offer it as a writing exercise where we imagine that we have sent a letter to this person asking a particular question about our writing or creativity then using a technique known as free writing, where we write quickly without thinking, we write our own response. This allows us to tap our subconscious mind and deeper knowing. My clients and students always get the most amazing and valuable advice this way.

More recently I’ve been using active imagination to communication with Nature and wild animals and plants, especially when I have what feels like a significant encounter with an animal that I sense has a message for me. I will ask silently in my mind, “what do you want me to know or what are you trying to tell me?” Then I suspend judgment and allow thoughts and ideas to come to me trusting that it’s real and true even if it feels like I am “making it up.”

We have been so schooled out of the use of our imagination that we often have a hard time trusting what we get when we do play with accessing this expanded way of knowing. That’s why doing it as a writing exercise can really help us sidestep the judge, the critic, the doubter within us that limits our access to wisdom and guidance that can really enhance and enrich our lives.

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