Do you intentionally use your imagination? Most people don’t. The imagination is one of the muscles of the mind. Like all muscles, it gets stronger the more often you use it. It also has muscle memory. This means that it’s not just about consciously using the imagination. How you use the imagination is the most important part for productive imaginative thinking.
Most people let their imagination run wild. This is a very literal statement. The imagination is one of three main muscles of the mind that relate to time. These are memory, attention and imagination. The memory relates to the past. The attention relates to the present. The imagination relates to the future. Each of these has the potential to run wild if they are not consciously focused by the self.
The ability to focus is a function of the attention. If your attention is not focused with conscious intent, then it will become easily distracted. You may know this experience for yourself. It has become rampant within today’s culture. ADD and ADHD are manifestations of a lack of focus with the attention. In today’s world, where there is so much competition for your attention, the ability to focus is even more critical than ever before.
So, what does this have to do with the imagination? When the attention is allowed to run free without focus, then it bounces around from memory to imagination to whatever is in the environment. A mind without a disciplined focus of attention can drive a person crazy with habitual patterns of misuse. Remember, the mind has muscle memory.
Worry is an example of the misuse of imagination. Guilt is an example of the misuse of memory. Both are focused on the experiences that a person doesn’t like or doesn’t want. One is re-living negative experiences in the past and the other is creating negative experiences for the future. In both cases, the feelings of the perceived negative experience is felt in the moment although there may be no outer circumstance to justify such feelings.
If we can have feelings related to something that is not actually even present, then why would we want to focus on that which makes us feel bad? Because most of us are not actually consciously controlling where we are focusing our attention. It is operating out of muscle memory. We have trained ourselves to think a certain way without the awareness that we were doing it. If we have developed a habit of worrying about potential negative situations, then the mind will naturally continue to do that until it is trained to do something different.
The more you charge a thought with emotion, the greater chance that it will become your experience. This is why fear and worry are such a destructive use of the imagination. It’s true that most things we worry about don’t actually happen. It’s also true that it doesn’t feel good to worry about something. So why do we do it? It’s habitual. And as with any habit, it will continue until there is a new habit developed that can replace it.
What’s the new habit? How about imagining the positive things that you desire to have happen in your life? There’s just as much possibility available in that as there is in imagining the things that you don’t want to have happen. All it takes is a re-training of the mind. It takes developing the ability to consciously direct and focus the attention toward where you want it to go.
Here’s an exercise. Think about a really happy time where you experienced a great sense of joy and bliss. As you think about and focus on it, really feel deeply into what that experience was like. Can you reproduce those joyful feelings within yourself by thinking about that memory? Of course you can. The same thing can happen when you think about a negative memory and you start to generate negative feelings associated with that experience.
The same thing rings true with using the imagination. Thinking about a potential negative outcome generates certain emotions and thinking about a potential positive outcome generates a different quality of emotions.
Not only does how you think about a potential outcome affect your feelings, it also affects your future actions and choices. Most people are aware of visualization. You can imagine yourself doing a certain action in a certain way. When it comes time to perform that action, you will feel more confident and familiar with it, even if you have not ever physically done it before. You have been practicing, even if it was only in your mind. Think about that in terms of your life situations. What are you practicing with your imagination? Your response in a future moment will be different depending on how you’ve been imagining it and how you believe it will go.
Intentionally practice imagining happy and joyful outcomes for your life experiences. This may not be easy to do at first. The muscle may be weak and not used to being used in this way. The more often you practice this exercise, the easier it will become. You are training your mind to look at the world from a different perspective. A perspective that is more aligned with love than fear, more aligned with excitement and joy than with worry and anxiety.
Become very aware of how you are focusing your attention and what you are investing your imagination in. Where your attention goes, your energy flows and that thing grows. We are creator beings. You cannot become a creator any more than you can become a human. It simply is what is. The problem becomes when we are not aware that we create by what we focus upon. Then something shows up in our life and we think that we are a victim to it.
This doesn’t explain all of life’s experiences. However, it does address the majority of them.
You will always get more of whatever it is that you’re looking for. If you’re looking for what’s negative and wrong with things, then that will show up all over the place for you. If you’re looking for what’s right and positive with things, that will also show up all over the place. As a wise man once said, “What’s right is the starting point, what’s wrong is beside the point.”
Focus on what’s right. Be grateful for it, and then imagine what could be even better. This is how we can create a world that we want to experience and an important aspect of being the change you want to see in the world.
Gary Goodhue is a student and teacher of consciousness and creation. He has a degree in metaphysics, understandings in Universal Law and actively practices Raja, Gnani and Bhakti Yoga. Self-identified as a servant of Love and a messenger of Truth, Gary is passionate about assisting the spiritual awakening of humanity. He is a reality coach, a public speaker, a writer, an actor and a poet. He lives and works at Sunrise Ranch, one of the oldest intentional spiritual communities in the country, and serves as a faculty teacher for Emissaries of Divine Light.