Many of us do yoga or some other form of stretching every day. We do it because we realize that our bodies benefit from stretching in a number of ways, including flexibility, mobility, vitality, and balance.
What if we were as diligent in stretching our imagination? How would we do it? And what benefits would that have?
Of all human capabilities, imagination may be one of the most powerful. Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination encircles the whole world.”
For Einstein, imagination held the key to progress and scientific advancement. And he knew how to stretch his own imagination, envisioning himself chasing a beam of light or standing on a moving train during a lightning storm. Einstein’s imaginary “thought experiments” led to some of his most important discoveries and breakthroughs.
Your own discoveries and breakthroughs may be awaiting a similar act of imagination.
The direction of your life can turn on a dime, and sometimes all it takes is the ability to envision something new and different. Einstein considered imagination to be a “preview of life’s coming attractions.” So, what might be the coming attractions in your life?
Take a moment to imagine the life you would like to be leading. You may want to find a comfortable place to do this. Close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Then just allow your imagination to move freely and effortlessly.
Perhaps you may want to envision a specific point in the future, projecting forward six months, a year, five years, or even longer. The changes you imagine may be personal or societal. They could be related to where you live, the way you spend your time, how your body feels, or the people closest to you. Maybe you are dreaming of global changes that affect how all of us move in the world, earn a living, or make the most of the resources at our disposal. You might imagine more effective alternatives to existing institutions and policies.
Rather than just accepting things the way they are, you can redesign them. Every aspect of your life, from the way you wake up to the foods you eat and the clothes you wear, can be reinvented to suit you better. As Steve Jobs pointed out, “Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that are no smarter than you. And you can change it. You can influence it. You can build your own things that other people can use.”
The design process always begins with imagination. But what you imagine, and how you imagine it, can make all the difference. Your imagination is so powerful that simply envisioning a particular outcome may give you the same level of satisfaction as if you had actually attained it. That is why an Olympic athlete should not just envision herself on the medal stand after winning her event. That could be counterproductive if it causes her to feel too content with her imagined achievement. Instead, she may also want to envision every aspect of her training process, including each nuance and detailed step that brings her closer to earning that gold medal.
So, make sure to imagine the journey at least as much as you do the destination. If you are imagining yourself in a new career, for example, make sure to also imagine yourself doing the things it takes to get there, which may include: cultivating your passion, honing your skills, expanding your knowledge base, establishing your network of colleagues and mentors, and building your confidence.
Taking a few minutes every day to stretch your imagination may be one of the most valuable gifts you can give yourself. Let your imagine roam freely, even if it takes you into realms that seem outlandish or even ridiculous. In truth, nothing that can be imagined is beyond the scope of possibility. As the 19th Century American author William Arthur Ward once said, “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.”
I recently came across a list of 33 inspiring TED talks on the Week Hack website. Upon reading through it, I was struck by the fact that my list would look very different. I invited my social media friends and followers to share their most inspiring TED talks, promising that I would do the same. Here are six of my favorites, presented in no particular order:
“Why Our IQ Levels are Higher than our Grandparents.” During his lengthy research career, intelligence researcher James Flynn examined IQ test scores from different eras and parts of the world. In doing so, he uncovered a remarkable finding, now known as the Flynn Effect: Test scores have increased steadily over time. These increases are fairly linear and consistent across settings and types of tests used.
Here, Flynn offers a possible explanation for the increase. Although his delivery is a bit dry, I find this talk inspiring because it serves as an important reminder not to underestimate ourselves. Whatever we think we are capable of doing, thinking, or being, there is always more. Each generation makes new strides with respect to abstract and moral reasoning. The Flynn Effect is one of many reasons to have hope for the future of humanity.
“Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.” Since giving this groundbreaking talk, Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy has been harassed by academic colleagues who seem obsessed with dismissing her research findings on what she calls “power poses.” In no way does this criticism detract from the power or veracity of Cuddy’s message in my view. Her basic message that our body posture affects our mental state is perfectly consistent with my own research into the effects of Repose. In this fascinating talk, Cuddy explains how assuming a position or stance that makes you seem bigger also makes you feel more confident, relaxed, and powerful—qualities that others observe in you during social interactions. She shows us how our bodies can change our minds in as little as two minutes. The power poses that Cuddy has designed and tested are effective. I know this from my own experience and from my observation of hundreds of others that I have introduced to these poses. There is no doubt in my mind about the validity or usefulness of Cuddy’s work, regardless of what the doubters might say.
“What if We are Wrong about Diabetes?” I love it when someone challenges basic assumptions, as surgeon Peter Appia does in this beautiful, touching talk on the underlying causes of diabetes. Appia describes his judgmental attitudes regarding his obese patients with Type 2 diabetes until he himself was diagnosed with metabolic syndrome—an important precursor of diabetes—in spite of his careful diet and rigorous workout regimen. Here, Appia suggests that insulin resistance causes obesity and not the other way around, as the medical establishment has assumed. He ends his talk with a moving, heartfelt apology to an obese patient he had judged in the past. The reason I find this talk so inspiring is that it combines intellect and heart in ways that lead the audience to challenge their own assumptions.
“Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” This classic “last lecture” by Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch, who was dying of pancreatic cancer at the time, is one of the first Ted talks I ever watched, and it is certainly one of the more inspiring. I do not consider most of Paush’s observations or conclusions about following one’s dreams to be particularly fresh or earth-shattering, but there is no denying the passion or conviction with which he delivers this talk. At the end of the talk, he reveals that the lecture is intended for his three children as his parting gift to them. Through his words, Pausch left a precious legacy not just for his family but for millions of viewers who have benefited from his compassionate message.
"Carrot Clarinet." In a powerful five-minute demonstration of creativity, Linsey Pollack builds a clarinet out of a carrot and then proceeds to play it, producing a wonderful, jazzy melody. What’s not inspiring about that?
Sometimes, music speaks louder than words. Hearing ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro play Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” on the uke will blow you away!
So, that's my take. Now, feel free to share yours! What are your favorite TED talks? You can post your choices in the Comments section below or contact me on Twitter or Facebook.
August 1, 2018 marked the official premiere of a new type of chanting experience, the Five-Minute Chant. You can watch the video of that first live event here. The idea of Five-Minute Chant is to offer all of the benefits of a normal chant circle in a streamlined format lasting only a few minutes.
The benefits of chant circles are numerous. Here are just a few that I have found in the 22 years I have been leading Global Chant:
In spite of all of these benefits, most people will never take part in a chant circle. Lack of time is one of the most common reasons cited by those who are drawn by the idea of a chant circle but simply have not gotten around to participating in one. So, we designed Five-Minute Chant to make the chanting experience more accessible and convenient. Five-Minute Chant has all the elements of a full-fledged chant circle: intention-setting, invocation, chanting, and closing.
Try it for yourself. Click on the sample video shown above and let me guide you through your first Five-Minute Chant. If you want to have a true sense of community, invite others to join you. The real benefit comes from participating fully, as opposed to just watching or listening to someone else chant.
You can access these Five-Minute Chant videos on the Global Chant Facebook page. If you are not already following this page, you may want to do so. I will announce upcoming Five-Minute Chant live events so that you can join us on Facebook Live as these chant circles get broadcast around the world. If you are unable to take part in our live events, you will be able to access the archived videos at your convenience on our Facebook page.
Every Five-Minute Chant event is done with healing intention. In the days to come, I will let you know how you can request that a special Five-Minute Chant be dedicated to someone you know that may be undergoing a health challenge or simply in need of positive thoughts and vibrations. Please feel free to share the following link to our Facebook page with those you know who would be drawn to this type of virtual chant circle: http://www.facebook.com/FiveMinuteChant
To learn more about the structure and healing power of our chant circles, please read The Chanter’s Guide: Sacred Chanting as a Shamanic Practice or visit the Global Chant home page.
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