Our imagination is vast and unlimited. Learning how to use it well makes life more interesting and inspires us with innovative ideas. Expand your imagination with these six simple and fun steps. (Estimated reading time: 6-7 minutes)
“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.”— Carl Sagan
When you look up at a starry, night sky, what do you see?
Do you see distant stars twinkling in a dark abyss connected by constellations? Or do you see a vivid array of Gods, warriors and mythical creatures floating majestically in a vast cosmic ocean?
For centuries humans have wondered what could be taking place in the mysterious skies that lie above them. As a species we are instinctively drawn to the heavens when searching for the purpose of our existence.
Not only did ancient people use the stars to plan the planting and harvesting of their crops, but they also used it as a stage for their mythology and heroes.
According to them, the Universe was alive, intelligent and revered as a seer that provided guidance on how to preserve order, instill moral values and even predict the future.
Centuries later, when science took precedence, it gave us a sense of the unfathomably large expanse of the Universe and our humble place in it.
Whenever we’ve had to decipher the unknown, the incomprehensible and the mysterious, we humans have turned to our imaginations. Within our minds lies a magical realm where anything is possible. This limitless place is a fertile ground where we can unapologetically play, dream and dare.
Our imagination is a sacred portal through which streams of consciousness flow from the divine ethers of creation, and instantly transforms our world from black and white to Technicolor.
Imagination is a byproduct of the biological synthesis of billions of neural synapses in our brains that rapidly make connections between various thoughts and memories stored in our subconscious. This mechanism blends ideas ways that enable us see things not as they are, but as they could be.
Aristotle described the imagination as a faculty that produces, stores and recalls the images we use in a variety of mental activities. Immanuel Kant saw the imagination as a synthesizer of senses and understanding.
Imagination is not only intrinsic to our nature, but it’s an indispensable asset when it comes to creativity and progress. The greatest innovators had to dig deep into the creative domain when trying to overcome the challenges and limitations of reality. They solved problems by tapping into their imagination to come up with solutions that hadn’t yet been conceived of.
Great ideas such as the light bulb created by Thomas Edison or the recognition of evolutionary patterns in biological species by Charles Darwin was stirred by imaginative impulses. Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is everything. It is the preview for life’s coming attractions.” You can find inspiration to expand your imagination by studying the stories of these luminaries.
We’re all gifted with a buoyant imagination. It functioned in its full glory when we were children.
We could turn the most simple setting into a magical experience. A cardboard cereal box could be turned into a spaceship, a swimming pool could be seen as the vast blue ocean, actions figures could be used to choreograph epic battles and a simple eye patch and wooden stick could instantly transport us to the Black Pearl to assist Captain Jack Sparrow.
As a kid, I thrived on entering the fantasy worlds of video games and cartoons where I could go on adventures to strange lands. From a young age I knew the importance of having access to an alternative universe that I could retreat to whenever I want to escape reality. As a child, you too may have found your own unique ways to expand your imagination.
Unfortunately, as most people grow up, they become increasingly disconnected from their imagination, because today’s schooling system and professional career roles encourage us to develop and rely on the logical and rational. We lose motivation to nurture and expand our imagination.
Technology has also watered down our urge to dream and engage in original thinking, and the rapid pace of modern day life doesn’t give us the time and space to explore the immense and untapped potential that lies within us. Imaginative breakthroughs have become fleeting and rare.
Yet, there is still hope. In her groundbreaking book on creative living, Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert emphatically reminds us that we all have extraordinary treasures hidden within us. She writes:
“Bringing forth those treasures takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion. We simply do not have time anymore to think so small. It’s your birthright as a human being, so do it with a cheerful heart. Let inspiration lead you wherever it wants to lead you. Your very body and your very being are perfectly designed to live in collaboration with inspiration, and inspiration is still trying to find you—the same way it hunted down your ancestors.”
Once we’re able to acknowledge these treasures that are hidden within us, all we need to do is nurture our abilities to weave out new webs of possibilities. Imagination is like a muscle that we flex every time we enhance our abilities, and we use it to overcome limitations in our mind.
Here are six ways we can expand our imagination and become more creative in the process:
1. Make time for reflection: Accessing our imagination requires us to steep ourselves in different forms of consciousness. We can access higher levels of consciousness by incorporating various contemplative practices into our lives such as meditation, journaling, yoga, visualization, prayer, nature walks and quiet seclusion. We need to eliminate passive activities such as watching TV, and shut out forms of external stimulation and impulses. Turn off the noise, sit for a while, and see what comes to mind.
2. Storytelling: Humans have always had a natural penchant for storytelling. We love to recognize patterns and connect the dots of our lives in a way that makes sense to us. You can jump-start your imagination by using creative thinking to fabricate interesting narratives that you can share with others. Visualizing and writing about these narratives in a journal will enable you to construct a coherent storyline with all the objects and people that you’d like to include.
3. Engage in physical activities: Physical activity pumps up the oxygen levels in your body and increases the blood flow to your mind. So, whenever you feel stuck or you’re facing a dry spell in your creativity, wrap up and get moving. Whether you choose to run, lift weights, play sports or do Pilates, it should leave you feel energized and stronger. Before you know it, your creative flow will be unblocked, and you’ll be able to generate ideas.
4. Expose yourself to art: We’re all drawn to certain forms of art such as movies, theatre, music, paintings, sculptures or dancing. Exposing yourself to the creative works of others is not only enjoyable, but you’ll get a different perspective. Art is nothing but a representation of another person’s unique form of expression. If you come across an art form that particularly moves you, I suggest that you grab your journal and make notes about your experience and document your feelings.
5. Travel: Our imagination can stagnate if we feel stuck in the same environment for too long. In such cases, we need to get out and change our surroundings. You can hop in your car and drive to a nearby city or neighborhood to see and witness new things, and meet new people. If you have the time and finances, visit countries where you can immerse yourself in a new culture. By exposing yourself to new worlds, you’ll be able to break out of the norm and think in unconventional ways.
6. Interact with different kinds of people: Develop connections with a variety of people with whom you can synergize your energies. Get out of your comfort zone and attend events where you’ll have the opportunity to network with people who can stimulate your thinking and broaden your horizons. The simple act of brainstorming, planning and even talking with people who are on the same wavelength can inject inspiration, and open your mind to new understandings.
Don’t be afraid to step into the wonderous realm of your imagination. The whole Universe lies within you and you have easy access to it if you get on board the spaceship of your creative thoughts. As you voyage into the orbit of your imagination, you’ll discover exciting worlds, waiting to be explored.
All my best on your journey,
Question: What are your favorite techniques and tools to expand your imagination?
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