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Active Imagination as a Playground for the Soul

Some people have easy access to their imagination. They are able to spontaneously enter a place of their own creation. Songs are written in imaginal places, stories created, scenes explored, concepts knit together, and all levels of daily strain released. An active imagination is a spiritual opportunity, a tool to explore our deep inner world. The creative aspect of a human being is said to reside in our spiritual dimension, in our soul. So creative activities of all kinds are portals to individual spiritual development. (Childhood daydreaming is a spiritual gift!)

In the movie “The Queen’s Gambit”, a young woman becomes a chess champion by entering the imaginal world of a chess board. Interacting with life-sized pieces, she imagines moves and outcomes. Her imaginal world is a bridge between her current life experiences and what she longs for.

Aside from chess strategizing, virtual exploration, active imagination, can be anything your soul seeks. It is a form of meditation. There are different ways to practice active imagination, and really no rules except an invitation to set aside judgement and release control as much as possible.

For me, afternoon seems to be the best time to engage my active imagination for meditation. It is a time when I am alone and not too tired or preoccupied. I prefer to sit relaxed in my overstuffed rose rocker. With closed eyes, I let images arise spontaneously, without a set expectation. I try to remain curious and follow images as they develop into a fuller scene. Sometimes an animal or shadow of an animal will appear. Sometimes a spot in nature will take shape. Sometimes flashes of floating color simply sail across the canvas of my closed eyes. For me, 10-20 minute sessions allow time to explore while also retaining memories of the images. I do not always set a timer, but when I do I choose a soft bell sound to gently ease me back into the moment.

Active imagination is a spiritual practice that links our conscious world to our unconscious one, allowing thoughts and longings to bubble to the surface and play. By relaxing into what unfolds, we give our unconscious an outlet to speak to us. A follow up practice of dialoguing with the images through journaling conversations or sketching images for further consideration gives continued life to images. Like dream work, the images can gain meaning over time.

Rather than simply starting with a blank visual canvas, you might prefer to find a painting or an image as a focal point, transferring it into your imagination for play. Let the figure speak to you, move around, tell you its story. Wander around in a landscape that you find compelling or maybe even one that seems especially foreign. Have fun with repeated active imagination sessions over time. You will naturally settle into an approach that matches your needs for a time.

Guided visualization is another form of active imagination that can be a useful meditative aide. With this type of active imagination, audiotaped prompts guide you in a meditation, offering suggestions that invite your unconscious to interact and to add elements in the imaginal realm.

In practicing your active imagination skills, four steps sum up the process:

·Choose an image, or let an image choose you. Follow it, “see” it

·Be curious about it as it develops and comes to life

·Get up on your imaginal stage and be a part of what is unfolding

·Write down or somehow record what you experienced.

I invite you to try some form of active imagination, give yourself time to explore in different settings or at different times. I have taped a guided visualization for you to try if you like:

I welcome your comments and would enjoy hearing more about your own experience with active imagination as a form of meditation and unconscious exploration! Comment here or email me at

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