In today’s blog, we continue the exploration of spiritual practices from the Western Mystical/contemplative tradition. Today, we examine the spiritual practice called, “Imagination Contemplation” or what I like to call “Daydreaming as Prayer.”
One of the things we are invited to embrace in the contemplative spiritual path is that God communicates truth to us each and every day and that The Divine communicates this truth in a limitless number of ways. Visual sight, spiritual sight, intuition, learning, life experiences, insight area all ways in which the Divine communicates truth to us. The one vehicle for communication of truth that often gets forgotten or discounted is our imagination. Our creative imagination is a fantastic and fun vehicle through which the Divine reveals our path, answers to our quandaries, insight into ourselves and into God and opportunities for learning. Our imagination provides a colorful landscape on which God paints the direction of our lives.
St. Ignatius of Loyola
St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) was the first contemplative in the Christian tradition to systematically reclaim the imagination as a powerful, effective and authentic vehicle for prayer, meditation, contemplation and discernment. Ignatius was a man with a vivid imagination and spent a great amount of his life in daydream, fantasizing about a life of status, power, riches and fame. That was until he was seriously wounded in battle and had to spend several months in bed healing from his wounds. It was during this time of convulesence that he found a book on the life of Christ. Reading this book, he found a new vocation and decided to give his life to God. He then took the gift of creative imagination and applied this to his daily meditation and prayer with remarkable results. He found that when he placed himself in the stories from scripture and allowed his imagination to run wild, he found new insights, direction and guidance. He called this particular approach to scripture Creative Imagination.
How it works
Employing the technique of Creative Imagination as a form of meditation, contemplation and prayer is really quite fun. Here is how you do it:
1) Choose a narrative story from scripture (or from fairytales, myth, children’s stories, etc. any narrative story will do).
2) Read through the story slowly and meditatively.
3) Look for a character in the story (named or unnamed) that seems to speak to you in a special way.
4) Imagine that you are that character.
5) Re-read the story from the perspective of that character
6) NOW DAYDREAM!!!!!!! Place yourself into the story, imagining every detail – the scenery, the weather, what you are wearing, take note of what you see, smell, hear, sense, etc. Imagine every detail of the story and allow it to unfold UNFETTERED in your mind. Let your imagination run wild with the story and see where it takes you.
7) As the story unfolds in your mind, pay particular attention to any thoughts or emotions that may arise as the story plays out. Give yourself ample time to let the story reveal itself in its fullness.
8) When you feel the story is complete, write it down. Write down all you remember, thoughts, reflections, emotions, etc. and be attentive to any additional details that present themselves in your writing.
9) After you have written it all down, go back and read what you wrote.
10) Now answer two questions: a) How is what was revealed to you in your imagination reflective of where you are currently at in your personal and spiritual journey? b) What is God revealing to you through what came forth in your story?
Why I love it
Personally, I have found the practice of Creative Imagination a wonderful addition to my existing spiritual practices. It allows me to receive guidance, comfort, insight and direction in a creative and unexpected way. I am always surprised at what shows up both for me and for my clients when this form of meditation and prayer is engaged. This is a meditation practice that is especially useful for those of us who struggle to tame the monkey mind. With Creative Imagination, the monkey gets to play. How cool and fun is that!? And here’s a little ditty to invite your own imaginative play: WHAT A DAY FOR A DAYDREAM!
How might you begin to incorporate daydreaming into your existing spiritual practice?
Where have you previously discounted your daydreaming as frivolous or a waste of time (or where have others told you to stop daydreaming?)
How might this meditation practice give you new insight into your day to day daydreamings?
Authentic Freedom Ministries