IMAGINE THAT: PLAYING WITH THE POWER OF IMAGINATION by Tamara Dorris, Self-Help/Spiritual, 190 pp., $12.88 (Paperback)
Title: IMAGINE THAT: PLAYING WITH THE POWER OF IMAGINATION
Author: Tamara Dorris
From rock-solid science to centuries-old scripture, we’ve been told our thoughts and emotions matter, and may even be indicators of our future. In this book, Tamara Dorris shows you that the real key to navigating your way to a new reality rests in your almost-dormant imagination. She points out that we’re all using our imaginations anyway, but most of us are using them to conjure up the worst instead of designing the best.
With wit, humor, and sass Tamara shares how anyone can learn to use their imagination in a more productive, profitable, and effective way.
The second half of the book is a 33-Day Challenge, including daily lessons and journaling exercises to help solidify and apply the age-old, as well as scientifically new ideas presented in the first section of the book. Be prepared to have your mind a little bit blown, your “mean monkey” a little bit riled up, and start intentionally creating your life with excitement and intention!
“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.”
Let’s imagine a house. There it is, sitting on the street just being a house. Got it? Okay, now imagine you took the roof off. Is it still a house? What about if you took the walls down? I’m not asking you if it has “house potential,” I’m asking you if it’s still a house. Now what about if you took all the sticks and stucco down, and bulldozed the whole mess away. No house, right?
Then let’s go back to square one since that’s the whole idea here. A person had an idea of a house. Next, he hired an architect to draw out the house (with me so far?), and then after all the permits and politics, the ground is finally broken. Then with time and red tape, the foundation is poured, then the sticks and stucco and eventually, the “For Sale” sign goes in the yard (my favorite part). The question really is this: when did it become a house? Wasn’t the idea/image in the builder’s mind already a house? Didn’t he simply convey that image to the guy who drew it? And weren’t the tractor operators and construction workers just carrying out that original image?
You see, in “reality” our reality is but a reflection of what has already been “real” in another realm; or our imagination. Now if that’s too farfetched for you, don’t worry; I do not and will not rattle on about bending reality in weird ways, but it may interest you to know that quantum physics is the basis for that statement. And not coincidentally, even spiritual teachings like the Bible have my back. But let’s be clear. I can’t just imagine a house in my head and then have it pop up out of nowhere and appear on my street tomorrow (but what a fun way to freak out the neighbors, right?). We have to do things to make things happen. My point is merely to make you aware that anything and everything you are seeing in the material world right now first started as a thought. The thought alone starts the wheels of creation even though we may see no sign of it in the “real” world.
It’s no secret or surprise that most (winning) athletes and Olympians mentally rehearse their victory before it really happens. They imagine the jump, the bell, the whatever-their-sport is until it’s so real they can actually hear the roar of the crowd and the sound of the popping champagne bottle (I’m not positive about that last part, but if I ever get a gold medal you can bet there’ll be some bubbly).
Likewise surgeons, musicians, and other performers mentally rehearse their successes. Many military programs now use virtual reality to help soldiers imagine with their five senses what a specific experience would be like. Same with astronauts and pilots that use simulation experiences. The people in the make-shift shuttle are actually being spun around ridiculously fast. The Navy divers are really being dropped into below freezing-your-ass-off water and deprived of oxygen. While none of the latter sounds like a day in the park to me, the point to glean from these painful parties is that some situations require such attentive imagination, that we’ve got to throw in some physical components to make it even more real so when it is real, fewer people will freak out and not know what to do when shit hits the fan.
Fortunately, most of us aren’t heading off to Mars or deep sea diving for missiles anytime soon. We are going to use our beautiful brains in ways that bring us what we want—but honestly, if you have to use your imagination to solve a not-so-fun circumstance, the practice I teach you in this book will come in handy too. So let’s first ask ourselves what imagination is.
The occipital lobe is located in the back of your brain (visual cortex) and your parietal lobe lies above that. Obviously the visual cortex is what allows you to “see” inside your mind (as well as outside in your world) and the parietal lobe is responsible for the sensory parts of your experiences. In a recent study it was suggested that when you are looking at something, the image of it goes to your occipital lobe, up to your parietal lobe. But the study indicated that when people visualize, the image starts in the partial lobe and flows down to the occipital. While the researchers aren’t certain what that means, I suspect it’s the brain’s simple way of telling itself whether something has hit our physical reality yet, or if it’s still in the planning stages of our mental rehearsal, but interestingly, it’s all happening in the same region of the brain.
In other words, your memory recall and future imaginings use the exact same parts of the brain. Think about that for a minute. When you’re remembering the birthday cake your Aunt Betsy made you when you were five, you’re activating the same mechanism in your head as when you are imagining yourself getting new hardwood floors. This has powerful implications that we’ll continue to touch on, but for now just recognize that your brain treats an imagined event very much as if it were a real memory.
An important point to remember is the difference between visualization and imagination. Note that we all possess a tiny gland in our brain called the pineal. Ancient teachings have always called it the third eye. When you simply visualize an image in your brain, you’re likely just seeing a quick picture without emotion. However, when you close your eyes and really feel a moving picture, in your imagination, you may be activating this little guy in ways that science still doesn’t fully understand…but when used properly, it’s in a good way.
The pineal gland is shaped like a baby pinecone and lets us know when it’s time to wake up or go night-night. It does this by releasing serotonin (the daytime neurotransmitter) when it detects daylight, and by releasing melatonin (the nighttime chemical) when it’s dark. Some scientists—and virtually all spiritual teachers and sages—say that this little pinecone in our heads is our “God gland.” In other words, it’s how we connect to infinite intelligence. The trouble is that most of us have our third-eye closed (wake-up, little guy!). The more relaxed we can become when we’re envisioning our future self, the more our imaginations kicks quantum ass.
So just how powerful is your imagination? Ever hear of the Placebo effect? While we can attribute a safe moon landing or an Olympic gold medal to persistence, practice, and training, when it comes to indisputable placebo studies, we got no excuses. What I mean by that is you can’t have cancer one day that every single “fact” proves is incurable and then heal it with a sugar pill, right? If this was a now and then kind of thing, I may be skeptical too, but the number of documented cases, in spite of modern medicine not being a big fan of it, far outweigh any hocus pocus or wishful thinking. So let’s look at how this works. A patient with a problem—and it could be anything—is given a pill that contains no healing properties whatsoever. The good doctor in the study who usually doesn’t know which pill is the real deal and which is nothing—so he can’t taint the results (more on that later)—tells the patient this new miracle cure (or whatever) has been having phenomenal success. The patient takes the pill and quite often heals (to at least some extent).
Those who heal didn’t do anything differently than the one who didn’t heal, with one small exception: the self-healers believed the doctor was telling the truth so their subconscious minds “imagined” they would be well, and they were. So what happened to the others? Let’s face it, sometimes people feel like they have nothing to live for or maybe they didn’t like or trust the doctor, or importantly, they genuinely didn’t believe healing was possible. I will add that when people are in immense pain, it can be exceedingly difficult to even begin to imagine themselves well, and in some sad cases, I’m sure the poor patients have already been using their imagination in the reverse way—mentally planning their failure to heal, often with the powerful emotion of fear. Emotions are the octane that fuels our imaginations.
In other placebo studies, patients who “needed” knee replacement surgery were taken to the operating room, sedated, and sliced and stitched at the knee cap. Clearly in these cases the doctors knew who was who. I don’t know about you, but I’d be pissed if someone performed pretend surgery on me. Anyway, in most of those cases, the non-knee replacement folks were up playing shuffle board with all the real knee replacement people in no time. Okay, I really don’t know if there was any shuffle board involved in these studies, but you get the point: the placebo effect works because our brains are (usually always) perfectly capable of curing our bodies when given the proper direction and permission, backed by belief.
So if most people can cure or heal themselves, why don’t they? Well, remember that the placebo effect includes a doctor (authority) telling you that you will heal. So like a good trooper, you follow orders—or I should say, your subconscious mind does—and you get busy getting better. This is not to say a person cannot do this without a doctor, as I know firsthand.
When I was very ill with a debilitating disease, it was hard to imagine being healthy. In and out of ICU a few times over the years, and once in a hospital bed for six weeks, the doctors had no faith in my recovery. They told me I couldn’t heal unless I left some pretty important body parts behind; parts that people can’t really do without. Clearly it was not within my capacity to focus on anything but pain, weakness, and fear. But I knew that’s exactly what I had to do. Against medical warning (and some family member’s wishes) I left the hospital to heal at home. Now I’m not going to lie. It was very tough to fully embrace my imagination when my emaciated body was practically down to skin and bones and I could barely get out of bed without help. Yet every day I would lay there and see myself being healthy and happy...running around with the kids, laughing, and having fun. When you are that sick, even something as simple as driving a car seems impossible, but I would see myself driving the kids through Taco Bell (I know, but I was literally starving so work with me here).
It was a long healing process, but my body didn’t get in that condition overnight, so it took a little while to fix it. Of course I supplemented my imagining health with other holistic measures, but only through my mental fortitude did I even discover those. The point is, there was no sugar pill outside of my own determined, persistent imagination. I convinced my brain that I was happy and healthy until it believed me and started whatever miraculous process it did to have me sitting here today, telling you how freaking amazing your own imagination is.
The issue for many of us is that we often feel like we’re at the mercy of the medical industry and we’ve long but given up self-healing efforts. Plus, people get scared when they are very ill, not to mention how hard it is to imagine yourself happy and healthy with tubes sticking out of your arms and pain wracking your body. And while the premise of this book is not focused on healing anything beyond hangovers(drink water), I will enthusiastically point you to the book by Dr. Joe Dispenza called, You Are the Placebo. This will help your skeptical brain understand way more of the science behind all this so you can start to heal yourself...and then apply all of the information in this book to get busy getting better too. But let’s get back to the positive aspects of your brain and how you can use it to imagine whatever your heart desires.
Neuroscience tells us (and this has to do with our occipital lobe and visual cortex) that what we see in our external world is but an interpretation (reflection) based on our very own belief patterns that are firmly fixed in our cute little cortex. In other words, your outer world is mirroring your internal one. This is why the once kind of hokey statement “You create your own reality,” is not a hippie dippy new age adage, but rather, a pretty valid fact. Just sit with this a minute: your imagination is the cause and your condition, the effect. The reticular activator system of the brain “shows us” evidence of our most frequent thoughts—even the unconscious ones that we don’t know we’re thinking because its main job in life is to filter our external environment so that it matches our expectation of it. Pretty scary, right?
What’s ironically sad is that we all spend so much time and sweat equity trying to change things in our external world, feeling like we’re banging our head against a brick wall...and guess what? We are! Now I’m certainly not saying you don’t have to take actions and precautions in life, so don’t go down that rabbit hole. What I am saying though, is that it’s like looking at your reflection in the mirror, not liking how long your bangs are and trying to trim the mirror (careful, you’ll cut yourself!).
Let me give you another analogy. Consider you’re at the theater to see a good love story, but when the lights go down and those dreaded phone carrier commercials are over, the film is actually a scary clown one (because all the clown ones are scary). Do you shoot the screen? No? Why not? Could it be because the scary clown is not coming from the screen but merely being projected from the little tiny window in the back of the theater you always wonder about? You’d either change out the reel or go to another theater, but you wouldn’t blame it on the screen. It isn’t the screen’s fault. That screen is your life and your own imagination is the film.
Our eyes are projectors showing us what our brains have been programmed to focus on, and yet, we fail to recognize that we’ve got to change the movie (your brain’s projections), not shoot holes in the screen (your external experiences). The proverbial plot thickens when we realize that the majority of our thoughts aren’t even in our conscious control, until we intentionally utilize our imaginations to take the reins.
The goal of this book is to help you put on a different reel—one that you fall in love with over and over again. And the really great part is that YOU get to write it, produce it, and play in it. Move over Quentin, there’s a new kid in town.
Are you ready?
Tamara Lee Dorris, MA, is the author of 19 books, a long-time coach, consultant, and adjunct college professor. She’s spent the past few decades studying and sharing ways that people can live more fulfilling, fun, and effective lives. She’s also an avid yogi, podcaster, and wine-lover, committed to inspiring as many people as she can. Tamara holds degrees in psychology and communications, is a certified hypnotherapist and EFT practitioner, too.
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