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Imagine Your World

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Imagination… is more important than knowledge. 

Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.— Albert Einstein


Abolition requires imagination. -RJIOK


Imagine for a moment a chicken riding a bicycle, a potato shaped like a cube, or an elephant windsurfing. Our imagination at its most basic level is, in essence, imaging (our capacity to make mental images). An active imagination helps us theorize possibilities, enhance processes, and solve problems. Our imagination gives memory a purpose: helping us make decisions based on what we’ve learned. “From an evolutionary perspective, we are reasonably sure that the purpose of memories is actually in the future,” Loren Frank, a systems neuroscientist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the University of California, San Francisco says. “Memories allow you to take experiences that you have and retrieve them to make predictions about what will happen next.”


This chain of imagination and memory are neural events that loop back on themselves and can be shaped and supported to free us from our stuckness.  So, our imagination helps us create our futures, boosts creativity, increases dopamine production, and helps us live a happier and more productive life. The interesting thing is that our imagination is like a muscle. When that muscle is not regularly worked it can atrophy. When we can’t use our own imagination we have a tendency to latch on to experiencing the products of other people’s imaginations. If we give away our power of imagination and do not practice our own we begin to lose the skill.


The capacity to imagine new concepts from the memory bank of what we have seen before requires our prefrontal cortex. When our prefrontal cortex is online we can choose how we respond instead of merely reacting to stimuli. The prefrontal cortex aligns and orchestrates thoughts and actions with internal goals. (Some studies have even shown that the prefrontal cortex is responsible for personality and linked to a person’s will to live.) We need our imagination to practice accessing our prefrontal cortex at will.  We need our imagination and our prefrontal cortex to have the most choice.


There is nothing inherently wrong with watching a movie, reading a book, or scrolling on social media. But when our primary source of imagination is outsourced to witnessing the imagination of others, we become less likely to have the capacity to do it ourselves. With less capacity to do it ourselves, we need more and more of other people’s imaginative products to give us the dopamine doses we inherently crave for a rewarding life.


If we want to have access to the fullness of our creativity to solve problems in the workplace, in our homes, or in the world, we must first be able to imagine ourselves as more than any single event that has ever happened to us or a single event that we have done. We must be able to break the chains of monomind thinking so that we can imagine the complexity of our identity.  This means we begin to see ourselves as a core self with multiple parts. We cannot understand ourselves or others by a single label or part of ourselves. I am not just an American citizen, a wife, a teacher, a mother, a singer, an advocate, a sexual abuse survivor, a minister, etc. I have to imagine myself as all of these things and be in a relationship with all of these categories of people and experiences that I have been a part of.


At RJIOK, we know that if we are going to build an equitable and restorative Oklahoma, we are going to need to bring together those full of possibilities to create something new with others who want to do the same. We believe we must do the internal work before and while we are trying to change our external world. If you want to work on building your imagination muscle, sign up for a 1-1 session with (Tamara) Celeste tamara@rjiok.org , or reach out to Kenitra kenitra@rjiok.org to set up an organizational or team experience with RJIOK. The most valuable resource we have is our imagination. Use it consciously.

author avatar
Rev. Dr. Celeste Lebak

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