I paint in a sea of Spanish. For the past two years, every Wednesday morning I enter the inspiring atelier of my teacher Luz Jiménez Díaz. She is from Colombia and has lived in The Netherlands for the past 20 years. Most of my fellow students are also Spanish speaking, coming from Mexico, Columbia, and Argentina. They easily slide from Spanish to Dutch to English, sometimes laughing and chatting as they paint.
The large room is full of light. Outside a flower garden, tended by Luz’s Dutch husband Johan surrounds us. You enter the garden by way of a large mosaic terrace Luz designed based on Egyptian images and gods. In late autumn, the garden is still vibrant. White and purple cornflowers flourish while the sunflowers hang forlorn and creamy dahlias struggle against the cold.
A small group of us attempt to bring our imagination to life under Luz’s patient and encouraging eye. When I first started, Luz would often appear before my atrocious splashes of color and say, “Your work is full of feeling.” She would then take a brush and tenderly demonstrate a technique that she wanted me to learn. “Why don’t you try this?” she would ask, and I was completely swept away. Only later did I realize that when she said, “Your work is full of feeling,” it probably needed a lot more technique!
Last week I decided to bring German cakes to share with my fellow aspiring artists. We usually stop mid-way for rich Colombian coffee or herbal tea, accompanied this time with slices of tart, both thickly-layered, one of apple and another of raspberry cream.
“What are we celebrating?” everyone asked.
“I don’t know yet,” I answered. “It hasn’t happened yet.”
Everyone laughed. “We’ll have to wait and see,” I said. “Something is bound to happen now that we are celebrating it!”
There have been hundreds of scientific articles documenting the success of those who use their imagination to realize their goal. From Olympic athletes to students taking exams, they have all shown the power of the imagination to create a desired reality. But this idea is not new. During ancient times, Greek women who were pregnant were encouraged to gaze upon works of art. The idea was that looking upon beautiful items would help them create beautiful children.
There is the story of a little girl who always wanted a bicycle, but her parents could not afford to buy her one. She never stopped wanting a bicycle and finally, one day, her parents were able to afford one. The little girl was naturally delighted, and to their amazement, she immediately got on the bike and rode around the neighborhood. When she came back, quite pleased with her new bike, they asked her, “You ride so well! Where did you learn to ride a bike like that?” The little girl looked at them surprised. “Why in my head!”
Assagioli writes about seven psychological laws that have a practical bearing on the use of one’s will. Over time, I hope to touch on all seven laws, but these stories of the little girl on the bicycle, Greek pregnant women, and me enjoying pre-celebratory cake illustrates Law I:
Images or mental pictures and ideas tend to produce the physical conditions and the external acts that correspond to them.
Assagioli writes that this law is what accounts for “mass suggestion [that is] so cleverly and successfully exploited by advertisers and political leaders” (p. 52). We must understand that our thoughts are energy and energy always seeks matter. By mobilizing the energies of imagination and thought, you then use this energy to carry out your desires.
Like the little girl, we must learn to purposefully and consciously choose, evoke, and concentrate on the images and ideas that will help us to produce the actions we desire. The higher qualities of trust and surrender also come into play here, as they are vital for us to wholeheartedly engage with our imagination in this way. These qualities as well as the power of your imagination are also the fundamental elements of prayer. As Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24).
So why not galvanize this Law and use it consciously and positively in our lives (skillful will) to create what we want to happen? Like something to celebrate! This week, start small. With a light heart, celebrate what is to come. Trust that it will. Imagine what it might be. Stay open, look carefully, and joyfully accept its beautiful appearance.
Assagioli, Roberto (2002), The Act of Will, The Psychosynthesis & Education Trust, London