829th Week: The Imaginal Realm
Weekly Practice in Conscious Living

829th Week: The Imaginal Realm

I’m sure I’ve written about this many times, but here I go again. Where we focus our attention, what we think about, how we engage our imagination has a powerful impact on the quality of our inner life and on how we behave and act in our world. What we attend to matters. What we imagine matters.

This week I want to share some thoughts about engaging what’s called the “imaginal realm”. When we enter the imaginal realm, we aren’t engaging something “imaginary”. Instead, we touch into a kind of language or communication that uses visual and other sensory impressions rather than strings of words. Our culture tends not to privilege awareness that operates in the imaginal realm and yet it’s one of the most powerful creative forces we have available to us.

For example, spend a moment right now bringing into awareness either an image of some beautiful place you’ve been—a place that touched you deeply, or recall a sound, fragrance, or sensation that moves you in a way that is meaningful to you. Since images are my main language in this realm, I often “see” trees that have touched me, such as the giant Sequoia I’m imagining right now. This image generates a powerful felt-sense of awe and heart-filling expansion, with my whole body-mind responding to the memory of the presence of this magnificent tree. Or, I might bring into awareness an image of one of the cats who live with me doing something amusing, something that fills me with delight and touches my heart, as well as generating a smile and a chuckle.

We know from science that our brains register imaginal experience in much the same way as actual lived experience, creating a full experience in the body (sensations) and psyche (emotional and mental states). The only difference is that these experiences and awareness arise and unfold in the imaginal realm.

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828th Week: Gratitude, Gratitude, Gratitude
Weekly Practice in Conscious Living

828th Week: Gratitude, Gratitude, Gratitude

Early this morning, before the world was really up and going, I awakened to hear fire engine sirens going down Second Avenue here in New York City. As I listened, I found myself filled with gratitude for all the people who have worked to take care of the rest of us during this time of the pandemic. I thought about the firefighters on the trucks I heard outside my window. I thought of the people who collect garbage, all the workers in my apartment building who have traveled back and forth from home to work throughout the pandemic. I thought of police officers (those who serve with care), grocery workers, street cleaners, the amazing health-care workers who have given their all during this time, those people working to offer vaccines to the rest of us—the list goes on and on and on. 

Without all these people, life in the city—pretty much life anywhere—would not be possible and I am filled with gratitude overflowing for their service to the rest of us. I have been safe in my apartment, working on zoom throughout the past year, and because of countless people, most of whom I will never meet, I’ve been able to have food, electricity, water, medical care if needed.

For this week’s practice, I invite you to pay even more attention to expressions of gratitude than you may already be doing. These expressions needn’t be out loud. The important thing is that the contributions of so many people can live in your heart and generate the internal experience of gratitude. That said, I have a tendency to thank people as I see them, which includes those I mentioned above, as well as the people who take care of Central Park so the rest of us can enjoy some time there.

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827th Week: Cultivating Empathy, Along with Kindness
Weekly Practice in Conscious Living

827th Week: Cultivating Empathy, Along with Kindness

I often write about the importance of kindness. An essential companion to that practice is cultivating empathy. A definition of empathy found on google says: “Emotion researchers generally define empathy as the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. … “ I would add to this definition, “…and the ability to imagine what any other living being might be thinking or feeling…”

Because I have focused on cultivating a deepened awareness of heart perception in recent years, on the quality of intelligence that naturally arises when orienting to the heart brain, I find that it hurts my heart when I notice the increasing lack of expressions of empathy in public and social spheres of my American culture. And, this lack of empathy is not only focused on a wide array of our human kin. It also applies to many, if not most, of our other earth-kin. What often saddens me is how a lack of empathy leads to a lack of kindness, as well.

For this week’s practice, I invite you to pay more attention to your relationship with empathy. One way to do this is to ask your heart brain, rather than your head brain, what someone else might be feeling or experiencing. I find that heart intelligence has a different take on, or brings different qualities to, most experiences. In this week’s practice, notice what happens if you take the time to ask your heart what it has to say about someone else’s experience.

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826th Week: Being, Doing, and Self-Talk
Weekly Practice in Conscious Living

826th Week: Being, Doing, and Self-Talk

As I write this practice, it is vigorously snowing outside and I am deeply grateful to be tucked in and warm. As I watch the snow fall, I find myself pondering something that came up recently and that is the relationship between, and differences around, being and doing. 

This got me to thinking about the importance of how we be and that our being is so much more important than our doing. That doesn’t mean doing doesn’t play a significant role in how we engage and impact the world, but it seems to me that the bottom line really focuses on the quality and tone of our being.

I’ve said before that our internal self-talk is a form of self-hypnosis and that the quality of our self-talk plays a major role in determining the quality of our internal life, of our felt-sense of who and how we are in the world. There are many practices that invite us to track our self-talk, along with suggestions as to how we might shift from self-critical internal conversations to those that reflect acceptance, support, and gratitude for who and how we are. Some are from cognitive therapy approaches and some are from the ever-expanding influence of mindfulness practices.

For this week’s practice, first, I invite you to become even more aware of the internal conversations you have with yourself and to notice how these moments of self-talk affect you. Do they lift you up and make you feel more able to engage the world, to dive into activities and projects that nourish you, to help you settle into a deeper sense of comfort with yourself? Or, do these moments of self-talk drag you down, generate shame, or make you feel that you want to avoid connecting with your world?

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