The physical, external world is how we survive… but it is the subjective realm — the wild inside — where we find real meaning
When I was a little girl, I had a wild imagination. I didn’t live where bears wandered the streets, but in my mind, they were everywhere. My parents were puzzled by my fantasies, so at the age of three, they tried to set me straight after I had awoken from a nightmare of a bear coming into our house. “It’s not real,” they told me. “It’s just your imagination.” But I was a stubborn little girl; I insisted that something very real had happened when that bear visited my dream.
Mother Nature spoke to me as a child. I didn’t have words to put on my experiences in nature, but I felt held in the arms of something so much bigger than myself.
Surprisingly, I sensed that it was even bigger than my parents, as it held them too. It was as if being out in wild places awakened a deep truth inside of me, something so real that it felt like coming home. That is when I learned that my truth rested in my body. It was an experience, not a thought. It was something I could trust, and it became my guide.
I believe now that my dream and my response to it, were an early indication of my ‘calling’. I didn’t know then that I would one day dedicate my life to looking inward to discover that deep-down, untrammeled place in each of us. I have come to call this place our ‘wild inside’ — that place where we are deeply in touch with our own inner truths, each other, and our belonging to the wild universe of which we are a part.
I feel certain that the bears in my childhood mind came from hearing the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. As parents, we read imaginary tales to our children, expecting our kids to sort out what is real from what is not.
Still, when we use those dismissive words — “It’s just your imagination” — we pit two important parts of ourselves against one another and set ourselves on a path of suppressing a vital part of what makes us human.
Imagine what it might be like if in our early years we were told that we have two parts of ourselves: one that sees the world much like everyone else does and another that can think up something entirely different, something fantastical that is not real in the ordinary way, but valuable nonetheless. Imagine being taught that that other part is unique to us and speaks in mysterious ways through images, symbols, dreams, fantasies and intuitions. What if we were taught to honor our imagination as a gift, to understand that we possess something that can guide us towards our own unique contribution in the world?
I wish we were encouraged to keep our imagination vibrantly alive, especially in a world where it can easily slip away…
Knowing the immensity of the treasure inside of us, we could nurture it and guard it as if our very lives depended on it… because I believe they do.
Life lived without the enchantment of the imaginal realms becomes a faded portrait of the vitality we were meant to experience. When we close our eyes to our imagination, our lives become monotonous as we run from this to that, doggedly working our way through our to-do lists. Lost in our outer worlds, without inner guidance, we lose our sense of belonging to each other and the larger context in which our lives are held. This leaves us vulnerable to letting others guide us with their agendas.
Advertisers are more than happy to replace our images with their own. They understand the power of image and use it to entice us to buy their products unconsciously suggesting that this will give us back some of the juiciness in our lives that we are sorely missing. We are also vulnerable to the manipulations of politicians, governments, and religious zealots who use symbols to divide us into ‘we’ and ‘they’, promoting comparison and competition between us.
But allowing our moral truths to be given to us is dangerous. Instead, we need to find our own and hold on to tight.
In our society, we tend to leave the arts to the gifted few, but the truth is that we are all creative and we are all imaginative. It comes with being human. The arts, when used as a process of self-expression, provide a truth beneath the stories we tell about our lives. In the playground of our imaginations, a language beneath our words arises. The images and symbols from this less rational part of ourselves put us in touch with our creative center — a wilder place inside — where we are free to consider many new possibilities for our lives beyond what is real or practical. When our imaginations are honored and set free, curiosity bubbles up like a spring breaking through solid rock. When this happens, the small, limiting stories we have told about ourselves begin to wash away. That’s when a whole new world of possibility opens to us.
They say that everything in the universe was created 13.7 billion years ago with the big bang. But it wasn’t just created once because the earth is in a constant process of creating itself. The old passes away and the new is born. We are like that too, a tiny piece of a much larger story of creation. Surrendering to this wild process gives us a place where we can meet one another beneath the surface of our ideas and beliefs, a place where our shared humanity is the ground on which we stand. It’s important for us to meet each other there, because from that place, who knows what we might create for ourselves, each other, and our world?
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