“We have more possibilities available in each moment than we realize.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.” ~Pema Chödrön
“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.”
“Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.”
I remember back when I was in junior high. It was in seventh grade when I saw a ninth-grade boy in his Converse high-top sneakers and army jacket, maybe he even had razor stubble and I thought to myself, how will I ever be that old? And then I had the thought that maybe one day I’d drive a car, but no, that was inconceivable. Perhaps that’s why I waited until I was in college before I tried it.
There’s an element of imagination and visualization in all change and transformation. We can’t imagine ourselves as babies, dependent and helpless, but we all came through that stage of life. In Buddhism, we spend time thinking about change and especially about transformation. This is essential for all human beings who want to live and die with grace and peace. If we don’t recognize and accept our ceaselessly changing bodies and life situations, we create suffering for ourselves and others. We see this is our elders who are taken by surprise, or angered by the effects of aging and react with fear and disbelief when they realize the experience of death also applies to them individually. Whatever you call it, resistance, unwillingness, or just inability to perceive these shifts, that lack of imagination can get us stuck.
The Buddha told Venerable Ananda in the Uppaddha Sutta, that good spiritual friends are the whole of the path. These are the people in our lives who show us what the qualities of kindness, generosity, and compassion look like so we can imagine and enact them. Acknowledging an example of wisdom, restraint, or generosity is a way to shift these qualities from lofty aspirations to everyday events. This is demonstrated by the Dhammapada verse, “Mind is the forerunner of (all good) states. Mind is chief; mind-made are they. If one speaks or acts with a pure mind, because of that, happiness follows one, even as one’s shadow that never leaves” (Narada Thera, trans., 1993, p. 5). This means that what I think and believe about myself, the quality of character I inhabit does make a difference to my own happiness and to the happiness of others. The willingness to see ourselves as capable and deeply connected to the strength of our ancestral stream can give us solidity and inspire us to become what we value.
Imagining ourselves living in accordance with our highest principles does not mean we will become narcissists, believing we are perfect faultless beings. Wondering if we are becoming vain and full of spiritual pride is a great indicator that we have some self-reference and aren’t floating in the superiority conceit. Believing and visualizing our goodness can offer us connection and release us from the egoic desire to be better than and actually save us from the no-win struggle of less than, greater than, or equal to. If I believe I possess goodness, I don’t need to convince the world and be combative. I will be able to see how to live beautifully, with courage, humility, and compassion for all beings. I invite you to imagine what your life would look like if you arrived at your own goodness, no need to strive. It’s already in you.
What would your day look like today if you saw yourself as complete? How would your life be different if you were free from judgment and worry? Can you imagine your pure mind where happiness follows you like a faithful shadow? This week I invite you to spend some time getting to know the body/mind/heart of your highest self. See what happens when you wake up and recognize your true nature, your own capacity for holiness.
May we all trust our light,