Albert Einstein once said – “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
Can you imagine that? He was a scientist! I was raised by scientists and I cannot imagine my mom or dad saying something like this. For them knowledge was the king and imagination was the thief…of time. The root cause of terrible crimes such as daydreaming and doodling. Which I was guilty of. It took me a while to rediscover the gift of my imagination and learn to treasure it and marvel at its power. It all started with a very unusual class I took in 2010.
If you were with me on July, 2010, you would see me standing in a big room with mirrored walls, surrounded by a group of slightly bewildered people, looking most uncomfortable. It was one of those moments where you take a second look at your bold decision and have a second thought, “What am I doing there? Maybe it’s not to late? Look, the door is right there.”
Well, it was too late. We did a few warm-up exercises and our teacher Arne Zaslove gave an introductory talk. I kept looking at our teacher thinking, “Wow, he looks so much like Albert Einstein.” Which he did. The image you see there is not Albert Einstein – it is Arne.
There was a long table that had an impressive collection of beautifully crafted professional masks. Not the kind you may find in costume stores. Those masks looked alive. Actually, Arne warned us, “Never put a mask on its face. It is not respectful.”
“Pick up a mask. Any mask. The one that calls to you,” said Arne. “Then stand in front of a class and just be this character. Don’t do anything. Don’t say anything. Just be. Express yourself through the mask.”
If you are a speaker, you can understand how confused I felt by this request. “How you can express yourself without speaking or moving?”
Do you know how strange it is to look through the mask? Your whole face is covered and you have those openings for the eyes. You look through the mask. As I learned later, the word persona literally means “through the mask” in Latin.
I picked up a mask of a beautiful lady. Well, at least she apparently believed she was beautiful and worthy of attention. I wasn’t like this at all… at least back then. Ok, now was probably a good time to run.
Then I remembered how when I was a little girl I loved to pretend. I would wrap myself in a tablecloth and stand in front of a mirror imagining myself with long golden locks and a crown…. Or I would wear my dad’s hat and pretend to be musketeer… with magnificent mustache.
And something moved inside me. Something long forgotten. I forgot how to play. I forgot how it felt to let my imagination run away with me and lose myself…to find myself. As I learned later, one of the favorite sayings of Arne Zaslove was: “You must rid yourself of yourself to find yourself… Under the mask your present self is revealed…but it isn’t your true self–the one that is open and honest and imaginative as when you were free of fear…and still lived with wonder and innocence…”
Today, after taking a dozen of classes with Arne Zaslove as well as exploring other creative uses of imagination such as Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Hypnosis, I know that we all have his force inside us that is flowing and playful and incredibly powerful. We just rarely have an opportunity to develop it, to learn how to use it. Imagine how impoverished your life would be if you never learned to read or write or do math. Yet, so many people walk around oblivious to unexplored, undeveloped powers of their imagination.
Here are 5 great benefits of imagination:
1. Changing inside out.
So how it is possible to express anything without speaking or moving? Easily. Actually we do it all the time. When we are unhappy or angry – this energy and these emotions seep through our skin and become expressed in our face and our bodies. When I really imagined myself being this beautiful girl that my mask presented, my body changed, my energy changed and as my classmates later told me, my mask truly came to life. Imagine animating your “mask” with positive energy and radiant energy. Imagine shining inside out.
2. Making your dreams work
One reason people don’t act on their dreams is that they really cannot see them clear in their minds. Using your imagination you can start building big, bright and attractive dreams – dreams that will pull you forward and make all obstacles seem less important.
3. Stepping beyond knowledge
As Einstein observed, knowledge is limited. If people only used what they already know, we all would still probably live in caves. It takes imagination to see something that does not yet exist. Einstein at the age of 16 imagined chasing after the beam of light. This dream eventually lead to is development of relativity theory. Russian chemist Dmitry Mendeleev had a dream that all chemical elements were arranged into a table – this became the Periodic table. Martin Luther King had a dream that changed the world, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'” Everything we see around us – every advance in technology- started as someone’s dream. Even you appeared on this Earth as a result of one person looking at another person and imagining their lips touching ad their hearts beating as one. When you daydream, doodle, play and explore, you have a chance to stumble upon something that may change not only your life but lives of others.
4. Feeling alive
My biggest discovery was that when I re-discovered my playful, child-like side and started actively support, develop and nurture my imagination, I started feeling more alive. I felt as if before I lived using only a fraction of my life energy and it was such a joy to let it flow full force.
5. Imagination is the gateway to your unconscious
Your unconscious mind is the home of creativity, intuition, and insight. They are all nonverbal, nonthinking, spontaneous processes. It doesn’t matter how hard you try; you cannot force creativity, just as you can’t cause yourself to be intuitive or reason your way into insight. Poets describe inspiration as a flash or wave—something that comes to them. As practice of hypnosis show, imagination is the gateway into our unconscious. Using verbal images, metaphors and visualizations we can elicit powerful changes in our body, behavior and emotional reactions.
If you are interested in exploring your right-brain thinking through the power of masks, I invite you to join us in May for a life changing workshop “Imagine Yourself – Masks, Movement, Magic” with Arne Zaslove.