Some simple practices for connecting on a deeper level
Shared imaginal practice is a relational practice that arose from the experiences in my awakening. It opens a doorway into a new way of relating and being that puts relational and embodied imagination front and centre.
The transmission of shared imaginal practice can unlock a brand new part of experience for people, that is impossible to imagine before but was right under their nose the whole time.
The soulful realm of experience opens up, as if before people were always looking at the surface of the water and suddenly they are given the capacity to be able to dive underwater and explore from a safe, rational and connected place.
Through the practice you are allowing concepts to come to life through your imaginal and felt sense of it. Rather than taking the words conceptually and assuming you already know what they mean, you are opening an explorative investigation into the world of images, associations, energies and embodied feelings that they bring up in you.
The questions that are being asked open present moment experience out into an embodied landscape than can explored. It can be deeply revealing, insightful, transformative and fun.
One of the important parts is that you are also making space for things that can be uncomfortable to emerge. By consciously bringing them up in a safe and connected space, it can change your relationship with them.
There is an example of the practice in action at the bottom of the page.
It’s important for the practice that people feel safe, welcome and empowered to speak their own truth in a way that feels open.
The group will be split into small groups of 3, but it can be nice to connect as a whole group before you do this.
As a whole group, each person will introduce themselves. Then the leader will invite people to close their eyes and guide a short introductory meditation to help people relax into their bodies and transition into the imaginal realm together.
They can guide their own or read this one:
“We share this practice together for the benefit of ourselves and each other.
As we enter the shared imaginal space, we can imagine arriving at a bonfire and gathering around it together.
We are entering a different realm, where we have more space to show up with the whole of ourselves. In this world there is no such thing as sin or getting it wrong. You are invited to step into experience, take up your space and embrace every aspect of yourself.
We commit to holding the space together, to create a strong and welcoming container that can handle the full force of our joy, sadness, strength and vulnerability.
When it is your turn to share in the practice you can imagine that you are bringing a piece of wood to add to the fire. Take time to consider what feels safe for you to share and what feels meaningful for you to share.
There is no pressure. It can go as fast or as slow as it needs.
May we be present to the process of our inner worlds emerging. May we connect more deeply with ourselves and each other. May we enjoy gathering around this fire. For the benefit of us and all beings.”
Split the group into smaller groups; it can be done in pairs or threes. There are three roles:
- Witness (optional)
In groups of three, rotate around the roles so that you each have a chance to try each role. There are instructions below for the explorer and guide roles.
Most people are a bit nervous both guiding and being guided – the invitation is to lean in to a sense of courage and trust that you can navigate the situation with your intuition.
Being in the witness role is an opportunity to relax into the meditative space and allow yourself to be taken on a journey. You don’t have to do anything while in this role so you can focus on being in touch with your own experience. It can be deeply insightful to notice how other people’s experiences can be both deeply resonant and wildly different to your own at different moments.
Your presence will also help support the container; creating a sense of safety and supporting the non-hierarchical nature of the practice. Rather than the guide needing to adopt an authoritative position, the small group format maintains the sense of a shared exploration.
Steps of the Exercise
Each round of the exercise will last 15 minutes.
- Assign roles – one person as explorer, one as guide, one as witness.
- The explorer chooses a concept from the list below that they would like to open up
- The practice is started by everyone closing their eyes. The guide invites people to take some deep breaths and arrive in experience.
- The guide asks the explorer questions about their experience in relation to the concept. They can use questions from the list below and augment this by following their curiosity, if they would like.
- Remember that the explorer can’t get it wrong. The purpose is for them to share whatever is present in their experience. They can also go at whatever pace feels comfortable to them.
- At the end of the 15 minutes, the guide lets everyone know and gives people a bit of time to come back to the room.
- Thank each other.
- Swap roles and start the exercise again.
- At the end you can share any reflections you have.
List of Concepts
The explorer chooses one concept that they would like to open up. They can come up with their own concept or pick one from this list:
- Practice for the benefit of all beings
- Pressure to succeed
- Coming home
- The spiritual path
- The centre of being
- Objective reality
- Subjective experience
- An ocean of uncertainty
- The present moment
- Letting go
- Flowing with life
- Feeling supported/ seen
- Being brave
- Being a force of nature
- Being a heartful demon
- Taking it to the limit
List of Questions
The guide asks questions that helps the explorer open up their concept and experience. They don’t need to intervene or do anything active, the objective is to put different lenses on experience than you would normally use, to invite in the imaginal as a core part of your experience.
The questions are designed to facilitate a conversation between the body and metaphor. They are making it possible for the present moment to be embodied and for conceptual experience to open up into a living artwork that can be explored.
You can ask questions from the list below. You can also rephrase the questions or follow your curiosity.
- We can start by closing our eyes, arriving in the moment and taking a couple of slow breaths.
- Can you repeat the concept you have chosen out loud?
- Where do you feel it resonating in the body?
- What emotions does it bring up?
- Does it have a colour? Or a shape?
- Can you see an image of it? What is in the image?
- Is it moving or is it still?
- Which bit of what you are experiencing feels the most important part to explore further?
- Would you like anything to happen? Or does it feel like seeing it is enough?
- What does it mean to you personally?
- How would you describe the background of this image? Or the landscape that this is happening in?
- Can you repeat the concept again? Does it feel different now?
- Is there anything you need?
- Have the emotions changed?
- Is there anything you’d like to share with yourself from this place?
- What is the overall mood and feeling of your experience when you connect to this?
- What metaphor would you use to describe this?
- Is there anything else that feels important or that you would like to recognise?
- Would you like to repeat the concept once more before we finish?
Some key things to remember:
- The explorer can’t get it wrong. Their purpose is to connect to their present moment experience, whatever that is
- There is no rush or pressure for either the guide or the explorer to respond
- Hold a space of compassionate presence, openness and curiosity for the explorer
- If something feels emotionally loaded or charged in some way, feel free to take some time to sit in silence, breathe into it and come back to a sense of safety
- Trust that the process of things emerging and being seen is enough – nothing needs to be fixed or changed
You can read some descriptions of the practice from people who have tried it here.
Below is a demonstration that Joost and I recorded. He chose the concept of ‘practice for the benefit of all beings’.
Before listening, take a couple of minutes to feel into the concept of what ‘practice for the benefit of all beings’ means to you personally.
Then enjoy being taken on the journey through Joost’s experience of this, noticing how an entire Universe can live within just 7 words.