Saturday, August 23, 2008

Imagination And Visualisation

I would like to highlight some things concerning the use of our minds particularly in the area of imagination and visualization. Let me start by looking at some aspects of our minds.

The human brain is the most powerful creation of God. It is more powerful than the most sophisticated computers man has made. God has condensed his most powerful creation and placed it between our two ears. One philosopher (Emerson) has concluded when studying the brain: “What lies behind you and what lies before you pales into insignificance when compared with what lies within you.”

Every thing which man has created is the product of his mind. God created man, plants, trees, the heavens and the stars etc. But He did not create houses, clothes, trucks and airplanes, radios, televisions etc. He set the principles in place. Man has discovered those principles and laws, and went out to create things to meet his needs.

When God breathed into the nostrils of Adam (Genesis 2:7), He breathed some measure of His creative power and ability into man. God commanded Adam to “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish, birds and all living things (Genesis 1:28). Then in Genesis 2:19, we see a very interesting thing happening: God brings everything He has created to man and asks man to give it a name, and whatever man calls it, God accepts, says ‘Amen’. In short, God created, Adam named, and God agreed. In the Bible, every name has a meaning. It describes or summarises the nature of a person, place or thing. In this context, we can see how intelligent Adam was in order to name all the fish, birds and animals.

Scientists say that the human brain is made up of 14 billion cells. They also say that the brain has the capability to contain and process all the information there is from the time of creation to the end of the world. Man’s problem is not one of gaining and retaining information, but of retrieval.

Scientists also say that the average man uses only 10% of his brain in his lifetime. 90% goes to the grave without having been used. The average man therefore lives below his potential. We do less than we are capable of. We achieve less than we are capable of. We live below our full potential most of our lives.

William James, an American psychologist has said: “Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. We are making use of only a small part of our physical and mental resources. Stating the thing broadly, the human individual, thus, lives far within his limits. He possesses powers of various sorts which he habitually fails to use.”

The mind is the greatest asset we all have. If you have a sound mind, you have the potential to become somebody great in your generation. You just need to harness the power of the mind.

Imaginations can be defined as pictures we draw and carry around in our minds. These can be pictures of the kind of people we are, our strengths and weaknesses, what we can be and do, and what we cannot be and do. Imaginations are what we visualize, or what we see with our mind’s eyes. We can say it is “mental sight”.

We can travel places in our minds. We can be here physically but be somewhere else mentally. We can see people in our minds. We can do things in our minds. Imaginations can enable man to expand his possibilities, go beyond his physical limitations into the limitless – or from the shores into the deep. Our imaginations are more powerful than our casual thoughts.

The brain cannot tell the difference between what we see with our eyes, and what we see with our minds. When we imagine something very intensely, the brain sends the signals which it would send based on what we see with our physical eyes. For example, when we see good food, our mouths water. Likewise, when we imagine good food, our mouths start to water. When we see a dead person, we become afraid. We become even more fearful when we imagine the faces of dead people. We become fearful upon hearing scary stories, or watching scary movies. Do you know why worry kills? Because people who worry are experiencing the emotions associated with the negative things they are imagining. Our imaginations can make us laugh, cry, become angry, become suspicious, become jealous, become self-pitiful, etc.

One time, I came down with malaria. While on the way to the aid post, I was crossing the road when I thought I saw some roasted fern full of pig’s grease melting in the sun. When I saw that, I just stood in the middle of the road and started vomiting. On my way back, I came to the spot where I had seen the ferns, and they were not there. They existed in my mind.

Through our imaginations we can travel far and do the impossible. Physical limitations disappear when we enter the world of our imaginations. But a big problem is that we mostly carry negative images in our minds. And because we carry those negative images, our brains react according to those pictures.

Do you know why God destroyed the people in Noah’s time? It is because of their wickedness. But the real reason is given in Genesis 6:5 – “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” The Amplified Version says, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination and intention of human thinking was only evil continually.” In other words, the wickedness which existed at that time was an outward manifestation of evil thoughts and imaginations. People of those times deliberately thought about how more wicked they could become. They thought about the worse crimes they could commit, and the vilest things they could do.

God equates our imaginations to actual action. In Matthew 5:8, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said by them of old time, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh upon a woman (or man) to lust after her (or him) hath committed adultery with her (or him) already in his (her) heart.”.

What we imagine usually happens. Do you know why Job went through all the hardships we read about in the book of Job? We normally think about Satan being the instigator of all the woes. But there is a small verse which sheds light as to why it really happened: “What I always feared has happened to me. What I dreaded has come to be.” (Job 3:25). We see that Job carried around some negative imaginations in his mind. He imagined losing everything – his businesses, his family and his health. When Job imagined losing his businesses and family, he gave an opening to Satan.

Satan just took advantage of Job’s mental state and brought about what he imagined. He cannot read our minds, but he can guess what we are thinking by the way we act and talk. And God allowed it to happen, because that was the mental picture Job created for himself. When we look at it this way, it is frightening what can happen when we carry negative and destructive pictures in our minds. Job’s is a story of how negative imaginations nearly destroyed his life.

For a positive story, let us turn to Genesis 30:25-43. Let us read Genesis 31: 10 “During the mating season, I had a dream and saw that the male goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled, and spotted.”

Can you see what Jacob was doing? He was visualizing the results he wanted, which was to see the animals bearing streaked, speckled and spotted animals. And to help him to clarify his imagination further, he took fresh shoots from poplar, almond, and plane trees and peeled off strips of the bark to make white streaks on them. Then he set up these peeled branches beside the watering troughs so Laban's flocks would see them as they came to drink, and mate. When the flocks mated in front of the white-streaked branches, all of their offspring were streaked, speckled, and spotted. Also at mating time, Jacob turned the flocks toward the streaked and dark-colored rams in Laban's flock. Whenever the stronger females were ready to mate, Jacob set up the peeled branches in front of them. But he didn't do this with the weaker ones, so the weaker lambs belonged to Laban, and the stronger ones were Jacob's.

What we imagine intensely happens. I read the story of a man who was found dead in a freezer. What happened was that his workmates did not know he was inside, so they switched the power off, locked the freezer and went home. The man pounded on the door but nobody heard him. The next morning when they opened the door and went inside, they found their dead colleague. The post mortem showed that he had frozen to death. This was so, even though the power had been switched off and the freezer was not working. The doctors concluded that the man thought the power was on, and he imagined himself freezing to death; the more he imagined it, the more he believed it, until he actually froze to death.

Many successful sports people use their imaginations more than anything else to win. It is said that Tiger Woods sees the golf ball going into the hole before he hits it off. In the 1980s the Iranians stormed the American embassy in Tehran and took the entire diplomatic staff hostage. While negotiations went on, the staff spent nearly a year in the prisons. To keep themselves busy, they developed ways of communicating with each other via a set of knocks on the prison walls. But the interesting thing is that after they were released, the men went on to become champion golfers. When asked where they had learnt to play golf, they said they played golf in their minds in the dungeons of Tehran! They imagined the golf courses in America and played golf in their imaginations. They practiced so much so that when they actually stood on the golf courses, it was like they had trained on those very courses. So winning was very easy.

I have recently been watching rugby games on TV, not because I support any particular team (although for every game I do seem to support one of the teams, usually the weaker one). I watch the games to learn about the game plans, the team work, and the mental toughness which goes with such highly physical games. One of the moments I watch closely is the goal kick, when the kicker places the ball on the sand, and looks at the goal posts, then stands just for a moment, and kicks off without even looking up. If you have watched kickers like Hazem El Masri (my favourite kicker), Luke Burt, Darren Lockyer, Andrew Johns, Jonathan Thurston, and especially Josh Hannay, you know what I am talking about. These guys’ success rate is above 70%. They use their imaginations a lot.

Ask any successful athlete and they will tell you that they win in their minds before they do on the track. Musicians have reported that they can hear music in their minds without anybody playing at all. When they asked Mozart, a well-know composer, how he could compose so many songs, he replied, “I hear it.” Musicians would know what he meant.

Other people who use their imaginations are artists, doctors, architects and investigators. These people can imagine in detail what does not exist. If you have been to the site of a major construction site, you would have seen an “artist’s impression” of the place. He looks at the various plans and puts colour to it. And usually the actual building and surrounding areas look similar to the picture he has drawn just from plans on paper. Some doctors carrying out very delicate operations use their imaginations to fill in blanks in their knowledge, so do crime investigators.

I can recall three occasions when I have used my imagination to succeed at certain things. The first is in playing the guitar. When I was in Grade 12, somebody told me that I could not play any instrument because I was too old. He told me white people play various instruments when they are small. That comment put me off completely, and I believed I just could not play the guitar. At Uni., I gave my life to God and went to fellowship. My interest to play the guitar rose, but I did not know how to play. The comment by my friend was firmly lodged in my mind, so much so that I believed I could not play.

But one night I just lay on my bed, dreaming about playing the guitar. I bought a chord book and looked at the pictures, and I imagined placing my fingers on the strings as I saw in the chord book. I even took a ruler and held it as a guitar and imagined I was strumming a guitar. It was not long before I got hold of a new guitar belonging to a friend. I wanted so much to learn to play, that I kept the guitar for a long time. And by the end of the year, I was already playing in the fellowships, together with Pastor Tom Watinga. There were other boys but we were the main guitar players in the student fellowships.

The second story is how I passed my driving test. At Uni. the police ran a Driving School. The Traffic Police told us that after a few weeks of theory, there would be practical driving lessons, following which a test would be carried out to issue licenses to successful people. I went through the theory during the day and at night I lay on the bed imagining myself driving a car. I imagined myself starting a car, shifting the gears, and driving to intersections, turning left or right, up and down mountains, etc. I also imagined myself taking the parallel-parking test. When the actual test came, I was one of the few to pass all the tests and received a driving licence, but with no car to drive.

Apart from driving a car, I also wanted to ride a bicycle. Again I used my imagination. I would imagine riding around the university roads. I saw how other people rode around, and imagined doing the same. I can remember the first time I ever rode a bicycle. It was a night, around 7:00 pm. One of our mates had a bicycle and I got close to him. That night I greased him into allowing me to ride his bike. He was scared that I would get hurt, and destroy his bike, but I pressed him into agreeing. I also told him I knew how to ride. It was a half truth, because I actually did not know how, but I was convinced in my mind I could ride. So I got on the bike, rode up a track, along the main road and back. I just could not believe it! I remember smiling to myself at the fact that I was actually doing what had been doing in my mind. That boy became one of my best friends. It is said that you will always get hurt in learning to ride a bike, but it did not happen with me.

I am relating these stories so that you can recall the times you have used your imaginations to succeed. But more than that, to help us all realize that the same power we have used at various times in the past resides in us, to imagine the successful lives we hear so much about in church.

If we are to be healed of sicknesses, we must believe the Word of God and imagine ourselves healed and healthy; if we are to be successful, we are to see ourselves succeed in our minds; if we are to win over situations, we must imagine winning in our minds, for the Bible says we are more than conquerors.

We have the habit of imagining the worst most of the time. When we hear that a loved one is very sick, we quickly imagine that person being dead. We rarely imagine them being well. We imagine them dying. We need to develop the habit of imagining the best all the time. If our imaginations are powerful, why waste our brain power imagining what we do not want, when the only thing we can imagine is what we do want.

Watch what you think. And watch what you are imagining. If we want to see change in our lives, we must imagine and visualize those changes taking place. Then our physical bodies and circumstances will come into line to produce those changes. God wants us to be prosperous and live in health. But if we think and imagine the opposite, we will miss His best for us.


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