My journey deep into the Waray jungle of the Philippines started some 40 years earlier at exactly 11 minutes and 8 seconds into Mike Oldfield’s Ommadawn album, the sequel to his incredible, iconic Tubular Bells masterpiece. I was laid on the floor in my parents’ living room with headphones on, listening and absolutely entranced by this mysterious music as it led eerily into strange, haunting vocals and a mesmerising, rhythmic, drum beat. Just then, I looked up and saw images on TV of a very old black and white film of tribal people canoeing up a jungle river. It set my imagination on fire.
I play Ommadawn at 12 minutes and 28 seconds now and those same pictures and feelings come flooding back evocatively – moving, exciting and captivating me, just as they did back then. Music has a way of doing that, as can e.g. image, colour, place, touch, object, word, taste or smell. We may find ourselves suddenly and unexpectedly transported back in an instant, in memory and in experience, as if no time at all has passed in-between. This can be very powerful in leadership, coaching, training and OD. Who or what holds positive resonance to build on? Who or what triggers negatively, to avoid?
Take an issue (e.g. a painful memory, a foreboding experience) and hold it in your imagination for a moment. Now freeze the movie in your mind into a still shot. Tune down the colour until it’s black and white. Shrink the picture until it’s the size of a postage stamp. Cast the image away from you, as if into a distant bin. Now return to the present moment, the here-and-now. Notice the difference in how you are feeling. Allow the feeling to dissipate. Breathe.
Now, by contrast, imagine a positive experience, a great outcome, an exciting future. Hold the image in your mind. Tune up the colour until it’s vivid, radiant and bright. Turn up the sound until you can hear everything in crystal clarity. Really feel the positive energy and hope. Now turn the image into your favourite colour – a colour you associate with feeling happy, excited, relaxed. Hold the image, see the colour, feel the feeling. Now return to the here-and-now. Breathe.
We hold memory and imagination as sensory experiences in the mind, body and emotions. Constructing, deconstructing and reconstructing experiences in this way through coaching or therapy can create profound shifts in what we notice, how we feel, how we behave and what we evoke. It can reduce pain from the past, present new solutions, engender fresh hope and enhance results. What’s your experience of using the imagination to influence change?
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