Back in the fall, I was walking to the park with my three-year old grandson, Baker. A bird flew passed us and Baker said to me, “Grammy, birds are my friends.”
I looked at the delight on his face, watching the bird headed to a nearby branch of a crepe myrtle tree.
“How do you know they’re your friends, Baker?” I asked, wanting to get his perspective.
“They talk to me,” he responded.
“And what do they say?” I asked.
“They say, “Hey Baker, what cha doing?” and then he went on, chatting and laughing, so excited that I couldn’t understand all that he said. But what I did get was that they have conversations with him like his friends. How wonderful that he had a relationship with those tiny creatures. We continued on to the park and I told him I agreed that birds are his friends.
That moment was a gift; seeing the world from a child’s perspective.
Baker exhibits a wonderful mix of the real and the imagined more and more these days as we approach Christmas. He goes between telling me the real things that happened at daycare like “Sabrina played with me” to the imagined things that give him pause–“the Big Bad Wolf was at my window with Two Little Pigs.” (I didn’t ask what happened to the third!)
Both the Real and the Imagined shape his world equally; neither is more real than the other.
I ponder this now as we’re in the midst of the holiday season with magical scenes of snowy villages, and mystical fairytale places where anything’s possible. As adults who’ve developed layer upon layer of responsibleness, we watch the wonder of children and dread the day they’ll lose that dreamy-eyed perspective. We’re quick to label that imaginative view as child’s play and see ourselves as mature people who have “put away childish things.”
Maybe it’s a good time to step back and rethink our view of the imaginary. I recall when I took my Life Coaching Course, we had one instructor, Susan Ezra who was expert in the use of guided imagery. She and Terry Reed wrote the book, Guided Imagery and Beyond: Stories of Healing and Transformation. Rereading the introduction, I remember the way we used imaging in our sessions and how it stimulated the ability to see things in new ways.
“Awakening the power of the imagination within us may be the most important discovery any of us ever make. Within each of us lies a wealth of wisdom and reservoir of resources, waiting to assist us as individuals and as a collective. Imagery is alive and well inside all of us. If that were not so, we would have no Peter Pan or Harry Potter or Yoda! The world of the imagination is home for the beginnings of all forms of creativity, ideas, inventions, arts and discovery. Its very nature is healing to both spirit and soul.” (Ezra and Reed p3)
In our sessions as coaches with adult clients, we worked on specific goals toward better health, realizing a dream, making a big life change–to name a few. We allowed the client the space to explore the images that came to mind, floating up from the storehouse of their subconscious.
As explained in the book:
“The subconscious speaks to us in symbols and metaphors that our bodies instinctively know how to convert into physical building blocks of healing. Imagery is a natural part of our thought process. it is simply how the right brain “thinks.” While the other half of the brain conceptualizes in linear, logical thoughts, the right brain grasps and processes information in pictures, images, senses and feelings. The information from this source is noetic knowledge that is from a deeper, intuitive place than our intellectual knowledge. Imagery is the universal language of the mind/body/spirit/soul. It can provide us with insights and information from our deeper self, and connect us with divine guidance.” (Ezra and Reed p4)
To fully embrace our best life, we need both the Real of the left side of the brain and the Imaginary of the right side of the brain.
Years ago when I worked as a psychiatric nurse on an adolescent unit, we had an art therapist who worked with our patients. She did a workshop with the staff to show how she used visual art to help the patients get at issues they were dealing with–but were unable to verbalize. I don’t remember her instructions, I just know I drew a picture of a suitcase– a large brown suitcase. Later when she asked some explorative questions, I realized my life was filled with stress and responsibility as a working mother; I wanted to temporarily be relieved of that weight. That drawing of the suitcase was a symbol of travel, of leaving responsibilities behind and came floating up from my subconscious, from my bank of images.
Last week, I showed my grandson the musical snow globe that has two small cottages surrounded by evergreen trees. I found myself drawn to the magical encased environment, the houses with windows filled with warm light. I told him we could pretend we lived in those houses– or maybe we just planned to go there for a winter holiday. Either way, it seemed to transport me to something that felt more magical than what is my reality.
For the minutes while I’m in my imagination, I’m provided with a new world of possibility. When I return to the present, to the real, I can feel an increase of energy from having gotten away. It seems that’s the beauty of using all of our brain. My grandson goes between the the real and imagined seamlessly– and doesn’t yet have the awareness, or complicated adult life, that needs to look at symbols.
I hope that some of this meandering has value for you as you approach the holiday– the most magical time of year, some would say. May you find a way to allow the imaginary to invigorate your real life and the two work together to bring you to more of the life you desire.
I leave you with pictures from my Christmas outing with Baker. After a sleepover at Grammy’s, I took him for his first trip to Barnes and Noble. He wanted to read to me at the story hour center of the children’s section. Afterwards, he ate a very large chocolate chip cookie along with hot chocolate. What a special, magical time.
Blessings to you all for a wonderful holiday!