Embodied Imagination by Dia Calhoun

Embodied Imagination is a term I recently heard while listening to an interview with Robert Bosnak, a Jungian Analyst. I went to his website and found this description:

Embodied Imagination® is a therapeutic and creative way of working with dreams, memories, physical symptoms of illness and creative ideas. Pioneered in the late 1970’s by Robert Bosnak (1948 - ), a Dutch Jungian analyst, Embodied Imagination® has developed over thirty years of practice, writing and teaching. It is practiced individually and in groups, in 7 countries of the world. In 2006 the International Society for Embodied Imagination® was formed.

I’m waiting for Bosnak’s book, Embodiment, to arrive via interlibrary loan, so I can learn more. But I’ve already begun turning over this idea of embodied imagination in my own free form way.

While I’ve always thought of the mind as the source of imagination, the idea that the body itself can be a holder of imagination, even a creator of imagination, is one I can grasp. That’s because I have recently come to understand that consciousness itself isn't simply located in the mind, but all throughout the body. Emotions certainly are embodied. I recently participated in a wonderful workshop at the Olympia Jung Society by Darcie Richardson, Ph. D., on Soma, Jung, and Nature: An Essential Exploration. Dr. Richardson showed images of nature and then had the participants work with “embodying” those images in their bodies through meditation, movement, and art.

If consciousness and emotions exist throughout the entire body, why not imagination?

As an artist, both an author and more recently a sculptor, how can embodying imagination help me do better work? I remember reading that Charles Dickens acted out his characters’ actions and dialogue as part of his writing process. Actors do physical embodiment of imaginative characters. Writers are often encouraged to read their stories aloud—one step toward bringing the story out of the realms of the mind and into the body. Speaking it, hearing it, is a form of embodiment, a concrete bringing of the story into the world.

Having an extensive dance background, I've begun using movement to explore ideas, characters, emotions. This has been fascinating. When my body begins moving, my mind stops over-thinking. There's a more direct conduit between my unconscious (the gold mine) and my body. It’s like getting rid of the CEO (consciousness) who watches, evaluates, and criticizes every move before it comes into being. This movement process has helped me gain insights into my work I didn’t have before.

It can also help with giving your characters more physical reality in a piece of writing. For example, try something like this: If my character Perry Witherspoon was embodied in my hand, how would my hand move? Then move your hand. Perhaps you can give that same gesture to your character.

I’ve only begun to explore the possibilities of embodied imagination. I’ll keep you posted. So far, I like it.

Dia Calhoun explores the topic of imagination on the 23rd of each month.


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