There be Dragons out there: Sailing into the imaginal

Children have a special relationship with the imaginal and learn early on to edit their sharing of it with adults. You see, adults draw a hard distinction between what they think is real and the imaginal world of the child. The child plays with and explores the boundaries of real, keeping it flexible, while most adults have hardened those boundaries thus keeping what is contained within trapped and limited. But reality doesn’t care what you and I think of it and doesn’t conform to the ego boundaries that we set for it. 

Those who have decided what something is one way or the other have essentially killed any possible alternatives (note that the root for decide is “cide” i.e. to kill). This of course limits ones perspective and thus their options and resources. If we place too many conditions upon reality we eventually build a box of sorts around ourselves– a box born of many killings, many deaths.

When I reflect upon my dreams over the years one particular theme keeps showing up, nightmares of being trapped, contained, boxed in, held back, imprisoned and/or trying to escape. I’ve been trapped in ever constricting tunnels, struggled mightily to fly and stay air born, held down, kept from climbing a mountain, cornered, and lost within caves or endless hallways with no way out.

Something within me desperately wants to be expressed and keeps showing up in my dreams. But what is it? I honor the imaginal, some say to the extreme, but I too have a limit on this, artificially created so as to not look too crazy, or too over the top. After all I have a reputation to keep up and want to maintain the freedom to explore (the world tends to reign you in if you get too far out there).

But nothing new can be found if you remain within the safety of the box. To use another metaphor, no new worlds can be discovered if you’re not willing to sail off the “edge” of the world you’re on, just ask Columbus, Magellan, and Steve Jobs.

I’ve been inside many boxes in my life and what usually keeps me there is the fear of what is outside, I mean, there are Dragons out there! Many an ancient mariner wouldn’t stray too far from shore because of the unknown creatures that lurked many an uncharted sea. 

I also don’t like to let go of what I have until I know what’s out there to grab hold of. Using yet another metaphor that resonates for me, it would be like letting go of the trapeze while blindfolded and hoping there’s someone to catch me at the other end of the flight. But risk taking is…well, risky.

Growth and the discovery of new worlds is often like that in that you don’t know what’s out there, you just know that you can no longer stay cooped up in the box any more. Though there may be dragons lurking on the journey, they must be willingly faced for the glory and the wonder of new discoveries. Just think of the fabulous stories that would have been lost if Jason, Odysseus, or Neil Armstrong hadn’t ventured out beyond the safety of land.

For me it’s the imaginal world of my dreams that offers clues that there is something beyond my self and the culturally imposed boundaries and that I need to cast off into its unknowns so as to really see what’s possible.

It is a lonely journey, one because it is very personal and two because there’s little agreement from the rest of the world that the journey is worth it and there’s no guarantee that you’ll survive it. But remaining locked up in this damnable box, or tied to the safe harbored dock, is not what I want my life to be about i.e. there’s no journey if you’re tied to the dock.

“Disturb us, Lord, when we are too pleased with ourselves,

when our dreams have come true

because we dreamed too little,

when we arrived safely

because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when

with the abundance of things we possess

we have lost our thirst

for the waters of life;

Having fallen in love with life,

we have ceased to dream of eternity

and in our efforts to build a new earth,

we have allowed our vision

of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly to venture on wilder seas

where storms will show your mastery;

Where losing sight of land,

we shall find the stars.

We ask you to push backthe horizons of our hopes;And to push back the futureIn strength, courage, hope, and love.”

–Sir Francis Drake

The all knowing knows nothing until he knows he knows nothing and becomes all knowing.

coffee_spilling_out_of_a_cup_ie357-008.jpgWe all act as though we know what is real and what is not real. We act as though we know what is fantasy from what is real but are we right? Many think that to be knowledgeable is to be wise, but is this so? If we acquire enough knowledge will we then gain enlightenment and wisdom?

Fantasy, illusion, myth, intuition, the subjective, imaginal, real, sensory, rational, or objective are always seen as opposites of what is considered reality when in all possibility they are just aspects of the whole. There’s an objective reality that each of us interact with subjectively i.e. the subjective creates the objective that in turn creates the subjective. We project onto everything our image of it. Basically the reality that we see is imaginal even what we call ‘rational’ is imaginal and subjective. Yes, it’s all real, but what real and whose real?

All the so-called opposites i.e. the real and not real things are actually compliments that support each other. They are facets of the whole each contributing to the whole and without them there is no whole and without the whole we do not exist.

Get it? No?

Let me try a few quotes from people who are smarter than I am.

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge”

–Daniel Boorstin (also attributed to Stephen Hawking)

So you think you know? In short,

“It’s hard to fill a cup that is already full”

–Tao Te Ching– Lao Tzu

“Your cup is only useful when it’s empty”

–RJ Cole

Have you emptied your cup today?

“If you want to become full, let yourself be empty”

–Tao Te Ching

They all seem to be saying, ‘Be less so as to be more’. But aren’t these opposites? Try living that for a while and you’ll see the truth in it. Maybe more and less define and complement one another and are not in opposition.

So if being more knowledgeable or ‘all knowing’ doesn’t gain wisdom, how do we gain wisdom? In order to find wisdom we might need to open our hearts and minds. Perhaps knowing a lot or thinking that we know cannot help because they fill us up and close us off, but an innocent and curious mind might open us to see what’s really there. This is what Buddhists call the “Beginners Mind”. It’s the mind of a child that is open until we fill it with all kinds of sense and nonsense.

“Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

–Jesus of Nazereth

So whadda ya think? Is being empty of yourself being full of yourself?