Rehearse Your Future

Creative imagination, or creative visualization, is an extremely effective tool for training the mind. The power of imagination is nothing new to us. In Western culture, the most influential author on this subject was James Allen. His best-known work, As a Man Thinketh (1903), has inspired generations of positive, self-help books using visualization techniques. Other notable pioneers in this area include Prentice Mulford, Graham Wallas, A. K. Mozumdar, Ernest Holmes, and William W. Atkinson, to mention but a few.

God has bestowed upon man the faculty of creative imagination by which man may become conscious of anything he chooses …Whatever he recognizes and accepts becomes a reality to him.

– A. K. Mozumdar

In Buddhist practice, creative imagination is equivalent to the mental technique of bhavana, which means becoming. It uses imagination and visualization to bring something into existence—to develop or cultivate a trait through its contemplation. The word is often used in conjunction with another word to form a compound phrase. For example, panna-bhavana is the cultivation of wisdom.

According to the Yogapedia website, bhavana is “used to shape or influence the self to acquire positive characteristics or create positive change.” It is a form of meditation that uses visualization as a tool for bringing something into existence—similar to the process of self-realization (see Self-Realization).

What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.

– Buddha

New Age Forces

Many popular New Age notions are derived from Prentice Mulford’s 1903 publication, Your Forces and How to Use Them. Following closely was W.W. Atkinson’s 1906 publication, Law of Attraction, which is similar in principle. Both are New Thought publications promoting the powers of creative imagination, drawing heavily on concepts provided by Eastern religious texts. Atkinson’s basic premise is that thought vibrations and certain energies are drawn together by some cosmic magnetism or mental positivity that attracts those things you imagine, primarily spiritual qualities.

Both publications contain useful information but require critical assessment. While visualization may be useful for rehearsing the mind and improving self-realization, Atkinson’s (and others) theories about attracting material things by means of cosmic magnetism are not entirely convincing.

Your thoughts do not create reality, but they do create your experience.

– Alan Cohen

But to their credit, most of these authors take a spiritual perspective while emphasizing a freewill means to escape the mechanistic, materialistic, and secular thinking so prevalent in the early 20th century. However, with a touch of irony, the mental techniques offered in these works were so effective for changing behavior that it did not take long for others to apply them to the advancement of their careers and the pursuit of wealth.

One of the first authors to see the value of these techniques for such purposes was Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich (1937). Other writers followed, such as Norman Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking (1952), David J. Schwartz, The Magic of Thinking Big (1959), and Joseph Murphy, The Power of Your Subconscious Mind (1963). And one of the best-known inspirational speakers in the latter half of the 20th century was Tony Robbins, Awaken the Giant Within (1991).

Despite the materialistic overtones of these self-help gurus, it is heartening to discover the strong spiritual undercurrent sweeping through most of their publications. To achieve success, they all make appeal to a helpful and limitless Power within. Tony Robbins is quite clear about this; he consistently attributes his amazing success to “our Creator” and “God-given power.” This power is the living Spirit within you.

Another influential book in this regard is Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain, first published in 1978. Gawain’s premise is that the imagination has the power to create and attract (as in Atkinson’s Law of Attraction) for the purpose of individual achievement and happiness. She claims that it is not necessary to believe in any metaphysical or spiritual ideas to use the technique. Nonetheless, she gives credit to her “inner guide,” even claiming that her guide is responsible for writing her book. And she also suggests this technique is most beneficial when used for a “higher purpose.”

In creative visualization, you use your imagination to create a clear image, idea, or feeling of something you wish to manifest.

– Shakti Gawain

Creative imagination can be a powerful tool in our spiritual quest. Human genius, as well as spiritual insights, are rooted in the creativity of the imagination. Scientific theories, eureka moments, philosophical explanations, and spiritual revelations all spring from vivid imaginations. Even the progressive evolution of civilization is predicated on creative imaginations stimulated by knowledge, wisdom, and ambition.

But the technique of creative imagination is not limited to metaphysics or invention. Sports psychology has used positive visualization techniques for some time. Long ago, a Sumo wrestler by the name of Onami became one of the greatest wrestlers in the world by meditating, by imagining himself as a great wave sweeping everything before him, swallowing all in his path.

Since Onami’s time, sport coaches have used similar mental techniques to great effect, producing Olympic champions along the way. Imagining yourself as a winner is the first step to winning. Racers imagine the course, the turns, the speeds, and their physical performance. These techniques go so far as to imagine what they will hear, feel, and even smell. In essence, these athletes are constructing a virtual reality in which they live the experience before the actual doing of that experience.

Creative imagination and visualization are positive and powerful techniques used in all avenues of life. By imagining yourself doing something you would not usually dare to do, you prepare yourself for new possibilities.

Positive Imagination

Like all tools at our disposal, creative imagination can be either a negative or positive force in our lives. If you insist on harboring negative views about the world around you, about your life, capabilities, and fortunes, you will forever express negative views and live a negative life. If you imagine that you cannot do something, then you will not be able to do it. If you imagine yourself failing, you will fail.

By considering a thing as impossible, you immediately draw to yourself all the elements that contribute to failure.

– W.W. Atkinson

Always imagine yourself succeeding. God, along with the entire spiritual universe, is positive. Positivity is a spiritual reality, whereas negativity thrives only in the errant human mind and manifests itself in the world through misguided or malicious intents. Negativity is the result of not following, or not living, the spirit way.

It is always a good thing to recognize thoughts and emotions that hamper your spiritual growth, but it is also important not to dwell on this negativity. You begin a positive approach by imagining and contemplating the love and goodness of God. By venerating divine values and spiritual meanings, you push aside your negative thoughts, you crowd them out. Instead of fighting negative forces, let your inner Spirit consume them with love.

Much, very much, of spiritual progress is a matter of harmonizing your thoughts and actions with spiritual reality. And your creative imagination is an effective tool for doing just that. It can realign your thinking so that it becomes compatible with the truth of spiritual realities.

The positive power of creative imagination is not an illusion; it is not self-deceptive optimism. For all of us, consciousness and reality exist only in the mind and, therefore, the imagination is a powerful mental technique for raising our thoughts and experiences above the mundane level of existence in order to reach a spiritual state of mind.

The dramas that are enacted within, make you what you are without.

– A. K. Mozumdar

Take time during the day to imagine high spiritual ideals. Imagine living the perfect life in a perfect state of mind. Imagine living every moment as the Spirit wants you to live. Imagine contacting the very source of all divinity. Imagine yourself in a humble and receptive state of mind, one that trusts completely in the unconditional love, infinite wisdom, and divine goodness of God. Imagine yourself in the presence of God.