1. Sometimes imagination comes only a step at a time. When I began to decorate the guest room (see previous post) I started with a glass bottle I picked up while at Mt Gretna with a friend. (It's hanging off the window above the bed in one of the photos.) I didn't really have any place to put it in the house, but I loved its whimsical feel. The bottle became the inspiration for the color choice in the room and begged me to hang on to a quilt that had had also caught my eye. As I moved from choice to choice, the room started coming together. I'm starting to get the hang of this: I make a decision, let settle and then see what springs up next.
2. A good metaphor can help. While talking with a friend about the job hunt, she mentioned a technique she'd picked up from a book she'd recently read. Pretend that there's a large mirror in the room. In the mirror is an image of yourself doing what you'd like to be doing in 10 years. What do you see? This was actually a fun exercise. For some reason, putting a "frame" around myself made it easier for me to imagine a different me: in this case collaborating with a group of people on a seminar. Once I could imagine this reality, it opened up the discussion to some specific places this might happen, and possible steps forward.
3. Good books and movies usher us into a world where we can actually put ourselves in other people's shoes; they help us imagine in a fuller way what we could only interact with as facts before. In "The Help," by Kathryn Stockett, we are drawn into the world of Jackson, Mississippi in the midst of the Civil Rights era. As I read from the perspective of two black maids (house help) and the aspiring white journalist who chronicles their experiences, I was able to feel a moral outrage that I hadn't experienced before. The plight of those living in "separate but equal" communities, and the persecution and deaths of those fighting for equal rights moved me in a way that even the tapes of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech hadn't succeeded in doing. Likewise, in the movie "The King's Speech," the abdication of King Edward to marry Wallis Simpson shocked me as it must have shocked many of the English at the time. I could never imagine what the big deal was, but experiencing the event through the eyes of Edward's brother, the future King George VI, gave me a truly different and deeper perspective.
I wonder what other practices there are that stir up our imagination, that keep us nimble and allow for creativity, action or empathy. Suggestions?