Reflections on Active Imagination

As I do some base-lining of skills and get some practice on active imagination in anticipation of a course on Journeying, it’s been interesting to note how that imaginal world has always already been there. I did a series of guided meditation exercises that included a past life regression and spirit guide contacts. Now, the spirit guide contact wound up being surprising-ish: I hadn’t expected it, but once we met up, it was pretty anti-climatic but (positively) emotional. The past life regression didn’t quite work right, but I think my experience derailed to point me at something more immediately pertinent, and, well, I did plenty of past-life related stuff back in the ‘90s and Naughties—hell, 2014-2015.

These exercises had me pondering—half-consciously—other stuff. I had planned to begin the active imagination exercises, and in the lead up to doing so, I noted that I could kind of glimpse what was coming. Bright light and open sky, gigantic trees. Things like that. More impressions and the sense of a bright sky. It’s as if it’s been waiting for me to shine that forth, or to dive in. I felt more surprised by how easily active imagination has gone thus far. The last several times I’ve tried “journeying” of some kind, I found it difficult because my body kept spasming or trying to move, and while I want to distinguish active imagination from journeying right now, I found I could relax into the experience—as exciting as the experience was—very well, even if I did have to reassert the relaxation a bit at points.

And the experience was authentic enough to have me (lightly) punching myself afterwards for asking a question that I probably didn’t really want the answer to.[1] And at points, I’d get that sense of otherness from my guide for some questions I’d ask as we went about on excursions.

Hell, I feel kinda guilty about how this has gone so far. I’m suspicious of how it’s gone so far. But, as I thought about it, I’ve been doing something like this for ages.

I used to write a ton of poetry, most of it probably pretty ecstatic and weird, but I was essentially doing active imagination. There’re elements of my practice and cosmology that emerged and developed out of those poetries. I played enough table-top role-playing games that imagining other worlds wasn’t that weird. I’ve done enough magical self-reflection not that long ago, during far more difficult times, that involved me exploring and identifying and trying to reform my own demons in ways that have helped me. I’ve had enough mystical experiences—finding my own world tree and other huge trees and world mountains and more—that their appearance in my active imagination makes a lot of after-the-fact sense.

In a way, I realized, I’ve been walking around and carrying all that with me all the time, but I’ve pushed most of it off and out of sight except in periodic ventings, or during that point in Headspace meditations when it’s time to just let your mind do whatever after focusing on the breath for a long while. The Creativity pack wound up becoming cycles of de facto active imagination for me.

As it is, I catch myself having imaginary conversations with myself all the time—under my breath, by myself, walking about, etc. I’ve always done this. I believe in a very theatrical, dramatic view of life and reality, and I’m neurotic and anxious enough to rehearse scenes and encounters, playing them out and so on. I like to over-determine lots of things, and sometimes I’m also just exploring possibilities in my head. In many cases, I’ve come to realize, I’m kind of half-consciously enchanting myself along shitty pathways: that is, there’re tons of less-than-ideal or other imagined scenes that reflect realities I don’t want. I spend too little time imagining better lives and realities for myself. I do that sometimes, but far less often. That said, I’ll also use this practice in practicing how to talk about all sorts of concepts, and doing so has probably helped me with those concepts.

Otherwise, the current thread with active imagination has seemed to circle around the various ways I’ve been hiding myself from myself, my conscious mind telling me that those kinds of ideas are silly, frilly, pretentious, arrogant, unrealistic, implausible, etc. etc. On the one hand, I’ve been peeling back layers of myself for myself for a while, and I’ve noted how some things wound up masking other problems even as the mask itself had been masked previously. At this point, I don’t even see the process as digging down to find some central core—Aha! There it is! There’s Crowess solved!—but all of these layers and aspects are weaving together.

Featured Image: DasVortgewand | Pixabay

[1] It’s like this scene from The X-Files, except I wasn’t asking about dying.

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