“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” – Thomas Merton
Today, I want to look at creative imagination and independent will. These are two of the four endowments that Stephen Covey identified. The four include creative imagination, independent will, conscience, and self-awareness. As we shall see, creative imagination and independent will pull us in different directions. Creative imagination pulls us toward a faithful dependence – a trust in the goodness of life. Independent will pulls us toward self-assertion and independence, toward the belief that only we can take care of ourselves. The paradox of course is that both sides are correct. We need to embrace both … if we are to enact “choose, respond, and change” as a mindful approach to living in the moment.
Creative imagination is associated with the root image of the containing well. This image is a metaphor for all of our stored beliefs and values that come from our experience and that accumulate within us. Creative imagination holds an unshakable belief in us, individually. It is forever faithful in its pursuit of what is most important to us: personal fulfillment. Even when we feel hopeless and bereft, our creative imagination offers ways to overcome that loss provided we do not turn away from it by putting our attention on fear or doubt. The negative association for the containing well is forgetfulness and confusion. When we fail to trust our creative imagination, then amnesia and pangs of doubt set in. This “in-dwelling” of fear and doubt which keeps us stuck.
Independent will is associated with the root image of the self-stone. This image is a metaphor for directed action, for integrity and for steadfast dedication. Like creative imagination, independent will holds an unshakable belief in us, individually, but it has a faith that favors action over inaction, movement over stillness. The negative association for the self-stone is blind action; the warrior impulse to attack and win at all cost. When possessed by blind action, we lose all access to creative imagination. There is a sense that amnesia and pangs of doubt set in and our imagination shuts down, allowing independent will to take us over completely. Instead of balancing our need for action, creative imagination feeds it by failing to remember how to offer images of hope.
Imagination works on the principle “the Unique becomes the One – or the Whole.” All of our experience is distilled into its most unique parts, and those parts, which are vivid and memorable, “stand in” for the whole experience. Equally, integrity and dedication work using the same principle, but applied to action. Our unique action (what we do when we act) becomes the One or the Whole. We are compelled to take a stand because we need to express what is unique in us. So, where imagination collects a store house of images, the unique and memorable parts of our experience, independent will commits us to the meaning that is alive in us. The more we can balance our dependence on creative imagination, with our independent will to move towards action and commitment, the more we can take advantage of them both.
And we can embrace both – if we adopt a mindful approach to living in the moment. Mindful is another word for manifesting “balance.” If we “choose, respond, and change” with a mindful appreciation for imagination’s positive influence (focused on fulfillment), there can be a rich dialogue – even between enemies. Equally, if we hold a mindful appreciation for the peace-loving side of willfulness and action, there can be equanimity and trust. We can achieve balance even in moments of great turmoil.
Thanks for listening!