- TWIL (This Week I Learned)
This week I contemplated imagination.
I was walking in the woods, listening (still!) to The Master and His Emissary, realizing that I am going to have to listen several times and buy the book — it is that good — when Iain McGilchrist began to talk about imagination.
And I was transfixed. I want to share a bit of what he said, and I am going to do this by sharing Jenny Mackness’ paraphrase (wow - she is lovely - new discovery)
“Coleridge distinguished between fantasy and imagination. Fantasy is about escaping reality. It recombines things that are already known to us. But imagination is bound up with reality. It looks at what is and sees it for the first time. Imagination is a process where we never quite arrive, a process where we go to meet things, where the progress towards reality is one of ascending a spiral and seeing the whole.” — Jenny Mackness
I had quite a challenging week and what got me through was imagination — “looking at what is and seeing it for the first time” — not fantasy.
I’m not entirely sure but I feel that perhaps we need more imagination in our lives and less fantasy. What I noticed this week, having stumbled on this thought mid-week, was a change: a steadfast determination to stay in the compost, keep feeding it nutrients, and sit, bound in reality, ascending a spiral, seeing the whole.
It was not easy. But the end result was one of accomplishment — again, as I said in my podcast a few weeks ago, no riches or fashion sense or beauty or hipness — but a sense of calm, that Velveteen rabbit “realness” I spoke of a couple weeks ago in the “Effortless” podcast episode.
“But Iain suggested that to be creative we need to open ourselves up to unconscious influences. This critical phase must be out of our control. We have to avoid interruptions and stress for creativity. Play and being relaxed are important. Consciousness is a stage with a spotlight. We need to get out of the glare of consciousness, out of the spotlight for creativity to flourish.” — Jenny Mackness paraphrasing Iain McGilchrist
So — an ask.
Take whatever form you enjoy the most: writing, sketching, knitting, dancing, singing, _______.
Do the exercise that Natalie Goldberg
is famous for. I will describe it for writing but I know it can be translated into any form.
I will suggest the prompt “I want _” but in this case, I don’t think it matters what the prompt is. The idea is that you start and you do not stop for 5 minutes. You do not stop.
That’s it. Here is a quote from her book, Wild Mind: “If an atom bomb drops at your feet eight minutes after you have begun and you were going to write for ten minutes, don’t budge. You’ll go out writing.”
(or dancing, or singing, or painting, or sketching)
The not stopping gets the editor out of the way, the “left brain” the part of you that wants things neat and tidy.
That part of you is important but should serve your creative self, not the other way around.
I wonder if you can notice your “editor” this week and gently try to remind that part of yourself that you’re in control now, thank you very much.
5. Level-UP / Go Deeper
What occurred to me as I wrote “you’re in control now, thank you very much” is how central not being in control is to 12 Step programs.
And how central a “Higher Power” is to them.
And how central the sacred is to Iain McGilchrist — he describes himself as a Panentheist.
It occurred to me that perhaps the way back to a life of imagination (as opposed to fantasy, numbing) is through the sacred.
6. Video — Because of my age (I think) I find this video a little naive but still wholly accurate and compelling.