"Empowered Patient" is a regular feature from CNN Medical News
correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.
In this piece, Ms. Cohen reports that five alternative therapy treatments really work. These include acupuncture; some herbs like St. John’s Wort; calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B6 for PMS; glucosamine for joint pain; and guided imagery for pain and anxiety (italics mine). She also includes a link to a University of Minnesota site where you can find a demonstration of a guided imagery session. You can also find an excellent article by Marian Sandmaier on my professional web site, The Inward Eye. "Imagine That", first published in Oprah Magazine in January of 2006 under another title, describes guided imagery, interviews some experts about it, and describes a session with yours truly as guide.

Wild Divine Sale

October 9, 2007

Wild Divine, the company that produces and sells the computer game, Journey to the Wild Divine, and other Mac and PC software and its accompanying hardware is having a sale. I’ve had a link to this company on this blog for some time because I think their products are high quality and of great usefulness.

The game, Journey to the Wild Divine, comes with a small biofeedback device that connects to your computer by USB. When you put the sensors on your fingers you can control aspects of the Myst-like game with your mind! In order to progress through the game you must learn to use your mind to relax or excite. There are additional modules for those who want more variety or challenges and a module that is simply the biofeedback program, bypassing the game aspect altogether. There are even tips from mind/body experts like Andrew Weill, Dean Ornish, and Deepak Chopra. I have enjoyed and benefited from use of this game myself and have recommended it to clients for relaxation, enhancing concentration, self-awareness, and focusing attention.

Use this link or the graphic links above or at the bottom of the right column to go to the Wild Divine web site for more information or to purchase. There are discounts now available of 10-20%. To get the discount, which is available now through October 31, 2007, use the code BIGSAVE.


Guided Imagery for Anxiety

October 8, 2007

There are many uses for guided imagery to address a variety of problems that we suffer from. I plan to address some of these in future posts and today the focus is on using guided imagery to help with anxiety. Anxiety is an all too common problem in our society that can be experienced as fear of performance, avoidance of social interaction, can limit the perceived choices available to a person, and can manifest in mild or intensive forms. Anxiety can be treated with psychotherapy and/or medication.

In an earlier post (Imagination in Counseling and Psychotherapy,11/13/06), I mentioned how using interaction with imagery in therapy, in the form of guided imagery, supports the learning and continued use of self-reflection and insight. Using imagery in this context also helps a person to access the unconscious in a safe and structured way so that information that can lead to healing and growing can be accessible.


Learning to do guided imagery is not difficult- it can be learned quickly and easily from a book, from personal or group instruction, or from recordings. I have recently listened to a CD, “Anxiety Relief” by Martin L. Rossman MD, that offers instruction on the use of Interactive Guided Imagery[SM] (IGI[SM]), with a specific focus on anxiety.

I am a certified practitioner of IGI(SM) and trained at the Academy for Guided Imagery, a school that Dr. Rossman founded and directs, so I have a thorough understanding of this process. I am going to give you some links during the course of this post to help you to purchase this CD, or others, from Dr. Rossman’s web site, The Healing Mind. I intend to give you some information that I think you will find useful to decide if this is a product from which you will benefit- and I will benefit as well since I will make a small profit from each sale made from links on this blog to The Healing Mind.

The disk consist of a short introduction; an explanation of how the power of your mind can relieve anxiety; and three exercises, each a bit over twenty minutes in length. The first exercise is Deep Mind/Body Relaxation. Here you will hear Dr. Rossman’s soothing voice and calming demeanor guiding you into deeper and deeper relaxation, scanning your whole body and easing your mind. The second exercise is Dialogue with Your Inner (Wisdom) Advisor. This is one of the fundamentals of IGI(SM). The Inner Advisor is described as the embodiment of love, wisdom, and caring, and knows you very well since it is a manifestation of your unconscious. This Inner Advisor can be a guide to know how to grow and heal in ways that no one outside of yourself could possibly know. The Inner Advisor can be a guide to address your anxiety- where to find it in yourself, how to transform it when you find it, and how to bring this into the world of your daily life. The third exercise is Evocative Imagery. This is a form of imagery that can help you to address anxiety through asking for help with building strengths that you may feel you lack.

Learning how to relax is essential for reducing anxiety and Dr. Rossman is quite skilled in helping you to do so with a variety of suggestions as he guides you to become increasingly aware of your body, to shift your attention from the outer world to the inner world, and to relax more and more deeply. He will guide you to experience a peaceful, safe place in your imagination to further deepen the sense of relaxation and peace. He will help you find your inner guides to help you view issues and solve problems that may be causing your anxiety. You will feel in good, capable, even masterful hands as you journey along with Rossman’s guiding as he takes you from deep relaxation, to a safe and comfortable place in your imagination, to meet your inner advisor, and to learn what there is to learn about your anxiety as a way of addressing and reducing its effect, and to develop skills to identify and strengthen qualities to deal with stress and anxiety.

Click here to go to Dr. Rossman’s web site, The Healing Mind, to learn more about this disk or purchase one for yourself. I’ll be reviewing more of Dr. Rossman’s guided imagery disks before too long- so check back soon.

Dream Interpretation Options

September 19, 2007

Everyone dreams, it is said. Some of us remember our dreams and some do not, but it seems that they are happening whether or not they are recalled. For those of us who do remember them the question often arises, “What does this mean”? This is a follow up to the earlier post, “The Logic of Dreams”. I hope to go a little deeper into the subject here and probably will return again at a later time to expand and deepen even more.

There are a variety of ways to understand the content of dreams including the contributions of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung who both understood dreaming as an interaction of the conscious and unconscious. Each developed a way of interpreting the objects that arise in dreams as personal symbols- Jung added to this the concept of collective symbols as well. Although Jung theorized that persons that arose in the dream represented some aspect of the dreamer, this was taken further by Fritz Perls who suggested every object in the dream can be seen in this way. Wikipedia has a good article on this if you want to pursue it further.

The distinction I want to emphasize here is that there are various ways to address the content of dreams and that, while all will be beneficial in their own way, those differences can greatly affect the meaning one derives from the dream. The most common method of dream interpretation is to use some system of symbol interpretation. In this method one might have a dream, remember some objects from the dream and their actions, look up the meaning of those objects in a book or other source, and apply those symbolic meanings to their experience in the dream. The meaning is derived from applying the meaning system to the dream object. This will have some validity in so far as the objects have universal significance, and this may be useful for the dreamer. This method can be used within the Freudian, Jungian, Perlsian, and other frameworks.

Another method of dream interpretation is to treat each object in the dream as a living, knowing being that can interact and communicate in the context of the dream and afterward. For this to take place one must suspend the inclination to label the dream object or its actions with a meaning and allow the dream object to interact with you as though they were another person in ordinary life. This is a process that uses the imagination- imagery- as a predominant way of knowing. The rational processing we would ordinarily use- thinking, rational logic- and our usual expectations must be suspended to allow this process to unfold. The rational can be used afterward as an additional, often supporting, form of knowing. Use of the rational before the use of the imagination is usually too dominating to allow the use of imagery as a later action. This process is described in more detail here.

Related to this is lucid dreaming– the process in which one is aware being in the dream state while the dream is happening. In this state it is possible to not just interact with the dream objects, but also to control the flow and outcome of the dream. This is described in the Dream Yoga of Tibetan Buddhist and Bon traditions and is an integral part of those traditions. The book, “The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep”, by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche is a good source for this- recordings are also available here.

Anyone care to comment on your experience with understanding dreams?

Imaginative Entrepreneuring

August 23, 2007

The video below is of Jeff Skoll, the first president of eBay, talking on TED.com about making positive change in the world. Skoll discusses how he is doing it and shows some others who have done so. He is an example of a number of individuals, often founders and owners of very successful businesses like, of course, Bill Gates, who have used their resources to encourage and support change.

Imagine an economy where the common good is as important as is making a profit.


Music into Writing

July 10, 2007

Haruki Murakami is a novelist with a series of well-written imaginative and surreal books including two favorites of mine, The Wind Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel and Kafka on the Shore. His newest book is After Dark.

In an essay published in the New York Times Book Review on July 8, 2007, Murakami describes the role that music played- and plays- in his writing. From the essay:

Whether in music or in fiction, the most basic thing is rhythm. Your style needs to have good, natural, steady rhythm, or people won’t keep reading your work. I learned the importance of rhythm from music — and mainly from jazz. Next comes melody — which, in literature, means the appropriate arrangement of the words to match the rhythm. If the way the words fit the rhythm is smooth and beautiful, you can’t ask for anything more. Next is harmony — the internal mental sounds that support the words. Then comes the part I like best: free improvisation. Through some special channel, the story comes welling out freely from inside. All I have to do is get into the flow. Finally comes what may be the most important thing: that high you experience upon completing a work — upon ending your “performance” and feeling you have succeeded in reaching a place that is new and meaningful. And if all goes well, you get to share that sense of elevation with your readers (your audience). That is a marvelous culmination that can be achieved in no other way.

This short (half page) essay is worth reading and so are his books. What do you think?

Here’s good idea well presented by the folks at Getty. Change Me is a worldwide project that brings together people to share ideas. The idea of the site is to ask participants to choose an image from GettyImages creative or editorial collections and comment on why you find it to be affecting or impactful.

From the site:

You may want to use an image to change my opinion about what’s beautiful or important. You may want to change my mood. If your ambitious, you might change my ideals, or even change my life. Or maybe you’d just like to raise a laugh, or a quiet smile.

Each image submitted supports Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria and Getty will donate $10 for each entry up to their goal of $250,000.

The site is not only a good idea but very well designed- you may find it to be fun to navigate.

Imagination as computer controller! In an experiment performed by a fourteen year-old boy and a team of neurosurgeons, neurologists, and engineers at Washington University in St. Louis, the teenager was able to control a cursor to play the game Space Aliens- with just his imagination! I guess we’ve all played games in our imagination but in this case, after the installation of sensors on top of his brain, the boy actually played the game on the computer by imagining the movement of the cursor. The story on the web site, dated October 9, 2006, has a short video that clearly shows this and you can see that he is playing it pretty well, too. He had the sensors installed for medical reasons, not for game playing, but the researchers and the boy decided to take the opportunity to try this out.

I have often thought that the control of computers could well move in this direction. In another example, a computer game named Journey to the Wild Devine uses a biofeedback device connected to the computer by USB and senses changes in physiology to enable control various events in the game. One must learn to relax in one instance or become excited in other to progress through the game. This provides a fun way to learn to control one’s self. I like this game so much that I own it, use it, and recommend it to my friends and clients. (I also affiliate with the sellers and have a link to purchase it on this blog at the lower right column.)

Is it a stretch to think that as both computer and neurological technology continue to develop it will become more likely that at least some functions of a computer, if not most, will be controllable through biofeedback, including thoughts and imagination. What would games of the future be like with this capability? How might the interface with a personal computer be affected? What about computer assisted machines like the automobile, planes, trains, televisions and DVRs?

Could there be a relationship between the quality of a person’s imagination and their need for social interaction? If one has an active and rich imagination would that reduce their need for social interaction and encourage them to stay alone to engage their imagination? Or might having a rich and active imagination require more time alone in order not to be distracted? Do those less fortunate types who have less imagination need more social interaction for stimulation? Thus does Scott Adams at dilbertblog speculate- and generate a good number of responses.

I think that external stimulation, social or tv for example, can be a great distractor and reduce the quality and amount of imagination for me. However, it may depend on how you engage with those activities. External experiences like social interaction and even tv can also serve as a stimulant or a catalyst, helping me to give rise to new ideas or syntheses. It may depend on what one brings to the experience in terms of expectations or habits.

What do you think?  Give us a response or take a look at dilbertblog and respond there and then come back and let us know what you think.

I so enjoy a new good idea, well presented. An imaginative
idea will stimulate my own imagination with possible ramifications,
applications, extrapolations, and maybe even a fresh idea of my own.
Finding new, innovative, original thinkers can be frustrating or
confusing as sometimes I’m not sure where to look or to invest my time
and energy. I recently found the following web site that shows a great
deal of potential.

You'll find this video near the end of this post but I want to also make you aware of TED,
a really interesting web site that offers "Ideas Worth Spreading”. (TED
stands for Technology, Education, Design.) This is a really interesting
site with many presenters covering a wealth of ideas and an opportunity
to network in this rich environment. I found the TED site to be very
stimulation and am excited with expectation that there will be much
more to be found.

The video is of Sir Ken Robinson, who is described at the site as a
visionary cultural leader and creativity expert. “Sir Ken led the
British government's 1998 advisory committee on creative and cultural
education, a massive inquiry into the significance of creativity in the
educational system and the economy, and was knighted in 2003 for his

Be aware, the video will require about 20 minutes to see in its
entirety, perhaps a long time for the attention of many web users. But,
I assure you, it is well worth watching and not the least bit tedious.
Sir Ken has a very entertaining style along with his valuable message
of the importance of creativity and the necessity to encourage it. View this video below or click here to go to the TED web site to see it.

Enjoy- and don’t forget to come back here to comment.


I am happy to say that I have recently affiliated with Dr. Martin L. Rossman and his web site, The Healing Mind, where he has made available much solid and practical advice on the use of guided imagery in support of healing. Available there are suggestions for specific uses for guided imagery to address a variety of maladies and a number of products which I feel my readers will find useful.

From The Healing Mind web site: Forty years of modern medical research shows that mind/body medicine can help people with back and neck pain, headaches, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure and a host of other common chronic conditions. Relaxation and guided imagery (RGI) can also reduce complications from surgery or other medical treatments and is used in leading hospitals and clinics around the world.

As a trained practitioner of Interactive Guided Imagery (SM), I can testify unequivocally that this method works with many conditions. I am gratified to have helped people with physical, emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual problems to improve and even eliminate their symptoms through the use of guided imagery so I am pleased to have now affiliated with him to make this method more widely available.

Dr. Rossman has available a number of products that can aid the new or experienced user of guided imagery with problems such as stress and anxiety, pain relief, cancer and coping with cancer treatment, addictions, and women’s health issues. There are disks available with guided imagery sessions to address a variety of issues and books to delve more deeply into what is guided imagery how it works. In later posts, I’ll review some of these products one by one to help you understand what you’ll find.

Click here to go to The Healing Mind web site where you can find a free “stress buster” audio download and a free video of Dr. Rossman explaining guided imagery.

Ever wonder what to put on your business card? Some folks have taken that question a great deal farther in to the form and design of the card itself.

I my persistent search for the imagination in both explanation and product I happened upon the kottke.org blog which in this edition calls our attention to some very imaginative business cards. First is Creative Bits where you can witness the imagination at work in what is so often so mundane. You’ll find those Creative Bits business cards at Flickr.

Imagination can take us anywhere and its results may have no bounds.

As an art therapist, it seems about time that I bring art therapy into the discussion of the imagination as the term has been used on this blog. The following paragraph is an adaptation that I edited from the longer, more comprehensive, description found on the web site of the American Art Therapy Association (AATA). To find out more about Art Therapy and AATA, take a look at the AATA web site.

Art therapists use art media, images, the creative art process and patient/client responses to the created products as reflections of an individual’s development, abilities, personality, interests, concerns and conflicts. Art Therapy practice is based on knowledge of human developmental and psychological theories which are implemented in the full spectrum of models of assessment and treatment including educational, psychodynamic, cognitive, transpersonal and other therapeutic means of reconciling emotional conflicts, fostering self-awareness, developing social skills, managing behavior, solving problems, reducing anxiety, aiding reality orientation and increasing self-esteem. Art Therapy is an effective treatment for the developmentally, medically, educationally, socially, or psychologically impaired; and is practiced in mental health, rehabilitation, medical, educational, and forensic institutions.

Since art therapists use art they therefore also use imagery in their work. The use of art imagery can be a direct interaction with the imagination or it can be a vehicle for illustrating an experience in the imagination. Using guided imagery, in art therapy or without, does not require the use of art, but can be a way to interact directly in the domain of the imagination. The imagination is engaged in either process but in different ways. You can find out more about guided imagery at my web site, The Inward Eye; at the Academy for Guided Imagery; at Dr. Marty Rossman’s web site, The Healing Mind; or read the article, “Imagine That”, by Marian Sandmaier (originally published as “Ask the Bunny” in Oprah Magazine in January of 2006).

Here’s an interesting interview with Jeff Mangum of the band Neutral Milk Hotel done by Marci Fierman on the Pitchfork web site on 02-01-02. In the interview he discusses a vision that he had that he describes as “active imagination”, a concept discussed in this blog some time ago. One album from this group that seems to have garnered high acclaim is “In the Aeroplane over the Sea”. I’m not yet familiar with the band or their music- – but I now will be interested to hear them. Interesting, yes? Tell me what you think. Enjoy.

Pitchfork: I know you’re interested in visions and dreams, and that you sometimes record other people’s visions and dreams for your montage pieces. Do you remember many of your own?

Jeff: I did have a vision about a year ago that had an impact on me.

Pitchfork: What was it?

Jeff: Well, I was lying in bed slowly coming out of sleeping, and this voice in my head told me to go back in; to not quite wake up yet, but just to stay in that in-between place. So I did. I slipped back down and stayed in the halfway point. Then I was standing on the ocean. I saw a blur come around, from my right side to my left. It was a hand putting something next to me. When I looked closer I saw that what the hand had put there was a little sea turtle. I looked up to see who had put it there, and there was this mulatto boy looking at me, smiling. I picked up the sea turtle and put in my hand and it turned into a butterfly. And then it turned into a black spider. It kept turning into a butterfly, a spider, a butterfly, a spider. It would pulsate between the two. I put my hands around it to grasp it and blood ran out of my hands and fell into the sand. Then as I let go of it, the blood rose up from the sand and turned again into the butterfly/spider. It hovered about a foot above my hand, and turned into a little ball of light. So that whole sequence repeated two or three times: it would land back in my hand, turn into a creature, and when I tried to hold it, it would crush again into blood, and when I would let go the blood would rise back up and turn into a ball of light.

Pitchfork: Do you know what it means?

Jeff: Yes, I pretty much understood it right away. I didn’t have to analyze it afterwards. The butterfly and the spider represented two opposing sides: all the things that I love and consider to be beautiful and gentle and wonderful, and all the things that threaten me… the things about life that I can’t come to terms with because they don’t fit into my nice, happy picture of the way I want the world to be. It kept morphing back and forth to show me that they’re both one and the same; they’re dependent on one another to exist. When I tried to grasp at either what I love or what I hate, I destroyed the very ability of being able to really penetrate the essence of either. By trying to understand it, I would just crush it. But when I let go and let it be what it was, it would turn into light to show me that both sides come from the same source. I think the vision was trying to tell me to just live and be joyful and stop creating these internal wars over all the pain that is within myself and that I see all around me. That’s how I interpret it.

Jeff: Yes. I spend a lot of time practicing active imagination before I go to sleep. What I’m feeling will manifest as images through active imagination. And then I go to sleep and those play out even more in my dreams.

Pitchfork: What is "active imagination"?

Jeff: It’s a Carl Jung term. It’s sort of staying in that place between sleeping and waking. Just allowing your mind to completely begin to flow with images. Allowing it to become whatever it becomes. You know, you go to bed filled with worries and thoughts, caught up in that everyday kind of thing. With this, you try to concentrate on what you think is really important, or some type of interesting or mysterious image, and then allow your imagination to become like a stream. You can let the stream go, and just observe it to see what happens.

I’ve always been interested in recording other people’s dreams. A lot of people are. You heard the montage piece. I’m trying to create a dream world with the montage. It’s like when you look at a Dada or surrealist montage– I just love taking fragments from everyday reality and recombining them. Everything in the natural world is so amazing, but because we’re used to seeing it in one way we take it for granted. We can see an anthill or a roach or a flower or anything, but we have this frame where our mind recognizes an anthill and then moves on, without taking the opportunity to have the sense of awe that we could have if we really looked at it. The montage is about taking pieces of reality and rearranging them– creating new frames to make you have to stop and look at things in a fresh way. It’s basically taking pieces of everyday reality and rearranging them to show people the magic that is inherent in all of these things already.

Pitchfork: Is this reframing process something you use in your songwriting in general? Do the songs come out of fragments?

Jeff: Yeah, usually I create tunes that are fragmented. I think the biggest obstacle for people with their creativity is that they feel they have to sit down and create this finished, polished product. Especially nowadays, it’s so easy to have a library of two thousand CDs, books and records. So many things. We’re used to having all of these finished works of art in our life that seem to arise out of nothing. I think that so much of the creative process is a fragmentary one, and then it’s about just allowing your intuition to put it together for you. It’s funny how you create something and you think you’re going in a million different directions, and then the thing you end up with is the thing that you wanted to create your whole life, but you’re just as surprised by it as anybody else.

Hearing a Painting

March 29, 2007

I recently visited a retrospective art show at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, of the work of the French surrealist artist, Henri Rousseau. I have been attracted to his painting since I became aware of it, sometime in the 60’s, probably, as an art student. His work has a primitive feel and commonly uses themes of jungle, animals, and native peoples. For me, it conveyed a feeling of innocence, potential violence, and mystery.
This seemed to be a very comprehensive show, showing early work, magazine and other artifacts of the culture of the time that were related to the images he painted, and later work including his last painting, and masterpiece, The Dream.
As I approached this large painting I was enveloped by the sensuality of it- the large size, the rich color, the repeating patterns of the foliage, the rhythm of the composition, and the mystique and mystery. As I allowed myself to be absorbed in this sensuality, I realized that I was experiencing it like music and, as I opened up to that experience, I began to “hear” the painting as music, a phenomenon known as synaesthesia. As I stood in front of this wonderful painting I heard the rhythm of the leaves and dark dots placed throughout the work; I experienced the objects such as the figures and animals as musical counterpoints, different instruments in an orchestra of sound. As long as I stood there, the music persisted and only waned as I reluctantly left the piece to move on.
This was a one-of a-kind experience for me, so far, that, even if I never experience again, I will treasure. When I get some time between my other projects I hope to try to re-create that music I heard- we’ll “see” about that.
From Wikipedia:
Henri Julien Félix Rousseau (May 21, 1844 – September 2, 1910) was a French Post-Impressionist painter in the Naive or Primitive manner. He is also known as Le Douanier (the customs officer) after his place of employment. Ridiculed during his life, he came to be recognized as a self-taught genius whose works are of high artistic quality.

Addendum: May 21, 2008

On this day in 1844, Rousseau was born in Laval, France. Read the Encyclopedia Britannica article here.

I was telling someone recently about a way I have used my imagination to help me cope with a stressful situation and I thought it would be a good idea to share it here. Many years ago, I was to give one of my first presentations about using imagery as a way of knowing, learning, growing, and healing to a large group of professionals. I was aware of a great sense of fear and anticipation leading up to the event. I was very well prepared and knew my subject well but I was a still very nervous about the talk and I realized that I was expecting to be judged and criticized. I recognized this as having little to do with the external reality and more to do with my own issues so I decided to take a dose of my own medicine and address it using my imagery methods.
Entering into a state of active imagery, I spontaneously imagined a gremlin that was a representation for the inner state of fear and self-doubt that was causing me to distort the situation. I tried to greet the gremlin and have a dialogue with him to try to reason with him to change his behavior as I would usually do in the imagery process, but he would have no part of that- he only wanted to take me over and gain control to make me afraid. I also realized that if the gremlin were allowed to get close enough to me to take over, I had little resistance.
So I re-imagined the gremlin at a distance, headed towards me, with the intention of reaching me and taking me over to cause me to feel fear and self-doubt. I saw the gremlin off on the horizon on a path, slowly walking in my direction. Using the perception of distance perspective, I gave myself the ability to reach out and take the small version of the gremlin in my hand before he was so near that he was too big for me to handle. I then imagined that once the gremlin was in my hand it changed to a ceramic figurine that I could place on a shelf where it would have no effect on me. If I were to ignore it until it was too big for me to imagine holding in my hand, it could take over, so it was important to develop awareness of this as early as possible.
This method worked for me at the time of that presentation and has worked ever since- for me and for others to whom I have taught it. You could call this an adaptive strategy because it helped me cope but does not, in any immediate sense, eliminate the condition. Only in the long term of using this method does it begin to have a transformational effect to change me in ways deep enough to significantly modify or eliminate the problem. As I gained confidence in the exercise to be effective, so can I gain in the belief that it can be overcome. The exercise itself is adaptive and the long-term use can be transformative in regard to the problems it addresses.
For an even better example of the guided imagery in use for learning, growing, and healing see the article reprint from the January, 2006, issue of Oprah Magazine, Imagine That, by Marian Sandmaier, at my professional web site, http://www.theinwardeye.com.

One reader of this blog has alerted me to a web site, The Blind Spot Test, that has a demonstration that shows the viewer how to “see” their blind spot. The blind spot is a result of the spot on the retina in each eye where the optic nerve attaches the eye to the brain. At that spot there are no rods or cones to process light on the retina so there can be no perception in that particular spot.
The reason we do not aware of the blind spot at every moment is simply because the brain is constantly computing to fill the missing information with extrapolations from the surrounding retinal information. It is remarkable and amazing that our brains can perform this function with the consistency and accuracy that it does- well enough to not come to our awareness unless specifically pointed out.
This is interesting in terms of the imagination because it could be argued that it is the imagination that is responsible for the construction of the reality that fills the blank spots. Although this phenomenon has been used as a demonstration and proof by cyberneticists and philosophical constructivists like Heinz Von Foerster, Humberto Maturana, and Fransisco Varela, they discussed it as neurological processes that are part of a closed system.
Maybe the imagination is also part of a closed system. Certainly the imagination must have a neurological component because all mental activities do in human beings. Try the demonstrations at The Blind Spot Test and “see” for yourself the power of the imagination. The come back here and let us know what you think.

Visionary Art

February 13, 2007

One of the best examples of the use of the imagination is visionary art. According to Wikipedia: Visionary art is art that purports to transcend the physical world and portray a wider vision of awareness including spiritual or mystical themes, or is based in such experiences. Some famous artists of the past that fit this description are Hieronymous Bosch, William Blake, Gustave Moreau, and Ernst Fuchs.
One contemporary artist who is considered to be visionary, and a favorite of mine, is Alex Grey, whose work is truly mind-expanding and illustrative of experiences and conditions difficult to otherwise describe. In his book The Mission of Art (1998) he states that artistic creation can and should contribute to the enlightenment of the artist and the viewer of the art production.
Some of the many additional additional resources are The Society for Art of the Imagination; American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, MDVisionary Review; and Raw Vision Magazine.

New Web Store

January 31, 2007

Check out my new web store– The Inward Eye Store. Trying to use my imagination, folks. Let me know what you think.

Creativity and Imagination

January 31, 2007

Does anyone doubt the connection between creativity and imagination? Pretty clear, I think, in most people’s minds. Does creativity exist without imagination? Does imagination exist without creativity? I guess it depends what you mean by those terms.
You could say that all imagination is creative because it represents something construction by your mind. Is all creativity imaginative? Not necessarily, I think. You could create something again and again, re-making it over and over. That would be creating but not very imaginative- unless maybe it was used in imaginative ways after the creating.
The imagination, allowed its fullness of expression, can create fresh and surprising images and ideas. Those can then be used to make creations. Maybe it depends on whether the source of the creation is one’s imagination or someone else’s idea.
Creating can be just building or making something or it can be an act of imagination put into the making- language, art, music, craft, science, business or any other form of expression. I guess its all imagination and creativity with varying degrees of each.
What do you think?

Want an inside view of a guided imagery session? Want to read what some of the main practitioners and researchers have to say about it? There is a good description of one person’s experience with guided imagery posted at my professional web site, theinwardeye.com.
This is a reprint of an article written by Marian Sandmaier that was published in January, 2006, in O, The Oprah Magazine, now renamed, "Imagine That". The person who guides her on this imagery journey is yours truly. The article is very well written and has a very good and reasonably comprehensive survey of several prominent people in the field. Along with finding out about a variety of ways and settings that guided imagery is currently being used, you can read a detailed account of the authors imagery session.

Interpreting Imagination?

January 11, 2007

Must we interpret our imagery? In a comment posted about last week’s post one person asked why we must interpret our imagery. It’s not only a good question, but it is an important one. To understand our images best we must know them through the process of the imagination, itself. To try to understand the imagination through means other than the image is to filter it, leaving out some of the most unique aspects of this way of knowing. The intellect, which is the main filter we use to analyze and interpret, employs a form of logic quite different from the imagination. So, while interpreting and analyzing are fine ways of knowing, it must be understood that what can be known through these methods will always produce results from a logical system that doesn’t necessarily fit other ways of knowing, like imagery. If you want to understand your imagination, your imagery, you must first do so through the use of imagery, itself. Only then can you employ interpretation to further understand without destroying the logic of the image.
Having said all this, in agreement with the commenter, I must also say that this should not prevent me from being able to analyze imagery, images, or the process of creating them. I must take care to do so without compromising this precious, delicate, and “wonderful gift”.

Imagination and Reality

December 30, 2006

Could imagination be considered another form of reality?  I’ve often had the feeling that imagination was something that to be valued needed to be brought into reality by making use of it, perhaps by using it to stimulate creative work. But another view might be that the experiences of the imagination could be considered just as real as those of our ordinary reality.
Carlos Casteneda in his exploration about the sorcerers of the Yaqui Indians in Mexico, described the imaginal domain in which his teacher, Don Juan, was adept at traveling. Black Elk in “Black Elk Speaks” described his experience of a vision quest in which the visions were a powerful connection to a domain beyond ordinary reality. Carl Jung in his many writings described the power and meaning of images that can be accessed through the use of active imagination, dreams, art, and meditation. Tibetan Tantra practices evoke images of beings who inhabit domains beyond ordinary reality and who can protect and transform practitioners. In the many religions images are used as powerful ways to support devotion and practice. Some even say that the imaginal domain is actually more real than ordinary reality- that ordinary reality itself is illusion.

An interesting thing often happens when we do imagery as a group. After engaging in an imagery session done in silence in the group setting, it is not uncommon for the individuals in the group to discover during the following sharing that other members of the group have had imagery that is similar to each other in some way. This has happened in groups that are meeting for the first time and groups that have met together before. It seems to happen more frequently for people who have experience in the process, not so much for first time practitioners. For groups that have met over a long period of time with experienced practitioners the frequency and depth of the similarity increases.
I am not sure why this is so, but it is clear that it happens, to the delight and amazement of those involved. My guess is that since the domain of the imagination is not limited to the limitations of space and time that we are accustomed to, the supportive and safe environment of the group practice allows the practitioner to both relax their boundaries and to be aware of subtle connections between people that may be present all the time but are not ordinarily perceived. It is always exciting to be come aware of those kind of connections.
Does anyone have any other ideas how or why this might happen? Any similar experiences with the imagination to share?

Want to try doing some imagery yourself? This is really not very difficult. In Dr. Martin L. Rossman’s book, Healing through Imagery (available through the Amazon links on the left of this post) there are described some imagery exercises anyone can do.  Here is another one using art that you can try on your own:

Make a scribble on an approximately 8.5 x 11 piece of paper using whatever is handy or some drawing medium that you prefer; pencil, pen, crayons, chalk, etc. Don’t overdo the scribble, just enough to be suggestive by the lines, spaces, and shapes that are formed. Put down your drawing material and hold up the page on which you have just drawn. Turn the page around, looking at the scribble from all angles, looking for a shape that emerges that was unintended but can be readily seen now that you have found it. If you like, shade in or outline this shape to make it easier to see. This object that has emerged from the drawing is a product of the interaction between your conscious, your unconscious and the art medium.

To engage in the imagery process from this point act as though the image that has emerged can communicate with you if you initiate the interaction. Greet the image and thank it for coming. Ask it what it has come to tell you or show you that you might need to know. Be open to the possibility that the image may communicate with you through language, through action, or through just knowing. The tricky part is merely to let the image be your guide, rather than you telling it what to do, or having expectations for it to do something. The way anything new can happen here is by letting the image guide you to whatever knowing is possible. Ask questions about you want of this image and about anything that seems unusual or draws your attention. Remember to thank the image before you end the process.

You may need some practice to sustain your interaction. You may need to suspend disbelief, even if just for a little while in order to engage the imagery. You may be surprised at the depth and clarity of the interaction.

Post your comments here and let the readers and me know how it went.

I was recently planning a project and realized that I had been visualizing various steps that needed to be taken and how I would do this. I had a specific image in my mind of the project and how each choice I made would move the project farther along.

I realized today that this might have been what Geoff was referring to in his comment (Role of Imagination, 11/14/06 ) when he questioned if it were possible have a rational imaginative process. I think what I was doing fits this description. Each stage followed the previous in proper developmental sequence, based on prior knowledge of similar tasks. Each step was visualized as a test to see, and therefore anticipate, what problem might arise. And choices were made to move the task along to the next step and to solve problems. This process, though using the imagination, is almost entirely a rational one.

For this to move beyond a rational process one approach could have been that I might have asked for a guide to arise in my imagination with whom I could interact in dialogue and who could show me what I need to know about the issue at hand or allowed the images I was visualizing to take on a life of their own to guide me. This would have moved the process to the mythic domain where all objects can be experienced as alive, aware, and often interactive. This is what I refer to when I discuss the use of the imagination in learning, growing, and healing.

Using visualization to remember the route to a destination, to remind yourself where you left your keys, or to work through multiple or complex steps of a task versus dynamic interaction with objects that arise from your unconscious are two different sorts of the use of imagery. 

The Logic of Dreams

November 30, 2006

Much of the content of the posts and comments here so far has referred to the use of the imagination for personal growth and healing. So as to encourage a broader discussion, it should be mentioned that becoming aware of the role of imagination should not only not limited to an application in psychotherapy but it has an important role in knowing. As mentioned in a previous post (Role of Imagination, November 9, 2006), Carl Jung posited four functions of consciousness: thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuiting. Knowing through all these functions are a given. However, it is clear that we emphasize some functions over others creating an imbalance in the way we know ourselves and the world around us. Over-reliance on one over another of the ways of knowing will skew a view of the observed toward the method used to observe. This leads to a self-reinforcing loop that can have a profound effect on what we know about ourselves and the world and what kind of choices we make. For example, to use thinking as a predominant way of knowing will tend to filter information that does not fit into the logical system of thinking/rationality. This would tend to leave out feelings, emotions, and intuitions and useful information and would influence a formulation of what is observed.
Knowing ourselves is really the most important issue here. Most people know that dreams have some information that can serve as a way to know one’s self more deeply, shed light on an issue or problem one is facing, help to connect us to parts of ourselves that are usually out the range of our awareness. Dreams are a form of imagination. One way to try to understand dreams is to seek out standard interpretations to be applied to objects that appear. This method may have some validity if the interpretations are based on what analysis of many, many, dreams had by many, many people. But even then the interpretation cannot take into account the personal experiences and images of any single dreamer.
More to the point, the interpretation of dreams should take place through the same logical system in which the dream exists. Dreams can be best understood by using the imagination as a way of knowing. For example, we can dialogue with images that arise in dreams, even after we awaken from the dream, in order to better understand something about the dream. The use of intellectual analysis of a dream as an initial intervention will distort the information available toward the logical system of the intellect, thinking, unless it is used after further knowledge is gained through the use of the imagination.

The use of the imagination in the form of guided imagery or creative work, especially art and poetry, has the effect of deepening and accelerating the process of counseling and psychotherapy. By deepening the process I mean that using interaction with imagery in therapy supports the learning and continued use of self-reflection and insight. Using imagery in this context also helps a person to access the unconscious and minimize the limiting effect of the ego defenses to conserve the status quo.
By acceleration of the process I mean that the learning, growing, and/or healing that may need to take place seem to happen more quickly than with a conventional talking therapy. I feel that part of the reason for this is that the content, pace, and style all can largely be determined by the requirements and style of the clients. In this way, the course of the sessions goes along in high accordance with the needs of the client to address, understand, and resolve conflicts and other obstacles to personal growth and healing.
Another important effect of using interaction with imagery in the counseling/therapy process is that the effect of the personality and expectations of the counselor/therapist are minimized as a result of the emphasis on the structure of the imagery process. After the initial period of teaching of the clients in how to use the process, the counselor/therapist acts more as a support to guide the process rather than to direct it and, afterwards, to help contextualize and ground the session, if necessary, into the clients more general experience of their lives.
So in counseling and psychotherapy the imagination can serve to open up the process for some people and help make the experience more closely match their learning/knowing style and, as a result, increase the effectiveness of the procedure.
What reactions do you have to these writings? Please post in the form of comments or questions on any aspect of the content in order to begin a continuing conversation.

Role of Imagination

November 9, 2006

Imagination plays such a large role in our lives. The idea that the knowledge we access through the imagination might be important is often overlooked in favor of more rational ways of knowing. In most cases, we are encouraged throughout our childhood schooling to emphasize the development of rational processing and that is as it should be, for such processing is surely important in how we make sense of the world and share that knowledge. However, the emphasis on the rational may be overemphasized at the expense of subtler, intuitive knowing such as mental imagery, sensing, and feeling. I do not mean this to be an anti-rational polemic. I do hope to be able to express ideas that support the balance of knowing through the various ways of which we are capable.
The great Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, wrote that there are four functions of consciousness- thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuiting. While the definitions of the first three are pretty straightforward and mean pretty much what you might think, the fourth, intuiting, seems to be based mostly, if not entirely, in the domain of the imaginal, according to my reading of his description. This suggests that, ideally, knowing can be understood as a balance of the four. My interest is in finding ways to develop and increase our access to knowing using the imagination and to understand applications for that process.
Through the use of guided imagery, active imagination, dream work, meditation, creative activity of various kinds, and dialoguing with inner parts and guides we can develop the ability to use the information from the domain of the imagination in together with the information and organizing ability of the domain of thinking, the intellect. The use of these two domains together, in dynamic balance, can provide a context for a synthesis of the two into a more comprehensive kind of knowing.
I hope these thoughts will begin to generate some comments by you, the readers so that we can begin a conversation that will gather momentum and influence later entries to these posts.


November 3, 2006

Hello everyone and welcome to the start of Knowing Imagination, a blog intended to provide a forum for discussion about the role of imagery and the imagination in knowing. I have lots of ideas about this and have developed methods to use these ideas to help people in their personal development; support growing and healing; and expanding notions of the self.
I am a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Registered, Board Certified Art Therapist who has been practicing for over 35 years and in private practice for over 25 years. My approach to helping people who come to me is primarily based in the use of the imagination as a way of knowing. My development has come through psychology, philosophy, second-order cybernetics, spirituality and religion, shamanism, psychotherapy, meditation, and Tibetan Buddhism and Bon Buddhism. All of these and more have had an impact on me and my view of people and reality in general. You can find out more about me and what I do at www.theinwardeye.com or email me at imaginal@theinwardeye.com. I intend this blog to be less about me and more about ideas.
The premise on which I am writing is that, in some large part,  the way we know what we know happens outside of our rational minds, including sensing, feeling and the imagination. I have become increasingly interested lately in the depth and breadth of the knowing that is available through attention to the imagination.
So this discussion will start here and expand to who knows where. Hopefully, there are a number of you reading this who will be interested in keeping track of what is written here and will also contribute to the conversation. I’ll try to post often, at least once a week, so check back in soon.