Digging Deep: Imagining (Stage One)

– Posted in: Miscellaneous

In my last Digging Deep post, we began discussing the process of creativity and the possibility of learning to live a more creative life, in and out of the garden.

The subject of this second workshop is to explore Stage One of the creative process: it is Imagining, what I call the sparks of creativity.

To imagine is to see possibilities, to envision realities that don’t yet exist, and to map out secret paths not yet charted. Our imaginations are our own mental playgrounds, where we release our dreams to romp without risk or fear. It is here, in the inner regions of our psyches, that we are free to explore who we truly are and let our thoughts and wishes run wild. It is here that we cook up all our fantasties, our deepest desires, and very often, all the hopes and longings that we never share with another living soul. It is from this wellspring that we draw the inspiration that serves as the spark for our creative fires.

So how do we tap into our imagination so that we can learn to romp, play and be spontaneous? Observing is the first step: it is simply the act of consciously attending to or making note of something. In the fast paced world we inhabit in the twenty first century, so many of us move through our days as if blindfolded, at an extremely hectic pace. Observing is the polar opposite of that. It means tapping all of our senses to really see, feel, taste, smell and touch the world around us in such a way that we reconnect with our sensuality. We awaken our aesthetic intelligence, our appreciation for beauty, harmony, melody, aroma, and sensation—all of which illuminate our imaginative energies and serve as the palette from which we can draw. Observing the natural world around us is one of the simplest ways to begin to awaken our senses and stimulate our creative fires.

Discovering your wishes , the next step in Imagining, is one of the most basic ways to begin unearthing your authentic roots. In order to create anything that has true resonance for you, you must first know what really calls to you. Otherwise you are just casting about, dabbling with this or that– a process from which you may or may not create a solution. Certainly whatever end you come to might work just fine, but what was truly gained in the process? Did you learn anything about yourself?  Have you grown as a result?

In the garden, there are literally hundreds of options that you can incorporate. It can be quite overwhelming. The assignment for this week can help you discover what calls to you as well as facilitating you in taking ownership of your authentic, unique self.

To Try:

Get your hands on any gardening, home and lifestyle magazines. Then set aside a designated amount of time and begin to browse through and earmark anything that grabs your fancy that relates to the garden. It can be flowers, an actual garden bed, a type of tree, a structure such as a fountain or pergola, or just the overall look and feeling of a garden. Tear out anything that calls to you. Don’t censor yourself—-there are no rules with this activity. Just have fun. Pick and choose and rip out as you feel inclined. Take breaks if you want. You don’t need to cram a whole garden’s worth of inspirations into one afternoon. I also encourage you to pick up a few gardening books that appeal to  you. Go through the pages and put Post-its on the ones that you love, even if you don’t know exactly why.

As you peruse and dream, try not to let the ‘how-to’ element sneak in. That is the censor of your mind trying to impose limits. People censor themselves so much, but this exercise is like brainstorming. Don’t worry about what to do with the material or how you’ll translate it into your garden; just like what you like. We’ll deal with pulling it altogether later. For now, simply take pleasure in finding things that speak to you without having to give them structure or meaning, like the beginning of love.

We go into fear so quickly when we do exercises like this, because we immediately assume we have to have an agenda–a reason or theme behind our likes or dislikes. We become frustrated and think ‘I can’t do this….this is impossible!” The key to unlocking this barrier is to recognize the frustration simply as fear. There is nothing you need to do about it, nothing you need to figure out, no problems to solve right now. Now is truly the fun part–just let go and dream!

This exercise will help you begin to see your likes and dislikes, thus allowing you to become more intimate with the longings within you. Being honest about your likes and dislikes frees you from the tyranny of other peoples’ opinions, which can often cloud your authentic desires. Keep the pictures that you find safely tucked away somewhere because they’ll be used later in another exercise.

Let’s return for a moment to last week’s assignment. You were asked to write down on a daily basis any creative moments or chunks of time that you experienced and the feelings that accompanied them. Please share your week of creative moments with us:  tell us what you experienced and learned about yourself.

***Note:  Although I’ve only talked about 2 elements, Observing and Discovering, there are 4 other elements that embody Imagining. They are: Remembering, Exploring, Opening To Possibility and Playing. You can read more about them in my book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through  Gardening, available in paperback and Kindle format.


Click here to see all posts in the Digging Deep series


Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book."  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, CBS radio news gardening correspondent, and Huffington Post Contributor.

Learn more about Fran and get free resources that will help you improve your life at www.fransorin.com.

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Fran Sorin
6 Comments… add one

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Jayne January 23, 2010, 7:17 am

Thank you for this. I’m happy to say that I already do some of the things you mention — I try to take time out to observe the natural world ( something I get from my dad, I think), and just recently have started ripping pages out of magazines that show gardens that appeal to me. I’m new to this blog, so I’ll have to go back and read last week’s post.

Dear Jayne-
Thanks for checking us out…welcome to Gardening Gone Wild. It’s wonderful that you are observing the natural world regularly. It is always amazing to me how many people are cut off from nature. If they only knew what a real difference it can make in a life…..

It’s great that you’re ripping pages from magazines. I have always loved doing it and have even kept files from 20 years ago. Look forward to hearing more from you on Gardening Gone Wild. Fran

Henrietta January 23, 2010, 4:11 pm

I enjoy watching nature all through the year. Each season has a special beauty. I have been tearing pictures out of magazines for years and believe that some of mine are as old as yours.Over the years, I have taken the ideas shown in the magazines and used them in my garden and when I am tired of design I change it This is one of theings that I like about gardening one can change a plant etc and create a new look.

Dear Henrietta-
Isn’t it amazing when you go back to look at old pictures to see how many of them still resonate? Thanks for your thoughts. Fran

healingmagichands January 24, 2010, 2:02 pm

Ah, this communicates beautifully a truth I have known for a long time. I created several wonderful gardens over the years by first watching the space in front of me through the kitchen window as I washed dishes and dreaming of what I wanted to see out there as scenery in the future.

The process of creating our new stroll garden started out with several years of observing the space and imagining what could thrive there. Giving yourself time and space to imagine nurtures the creative part of you during the process. One of the limits we have put on ourselves in the modern world is time, we never have time to wait for things to come to fruition, we are in a rush, conditioned for “instancy” by microwaves and twitter and cell phones and DSL internet. I think gardens give us an opportunity to tune into the slower pace nature embraces.

So your advice to give yourself lots of time to dream and to pull out as many pages as we want is very valuable.

I am enjoying this series quite a lot.

Dear Healing Magic Hands,

i love your description of looking out your kitchen window while doing dishes and dreaming about what you wanted your landscape to be. the washing of dishes became a spot of ‘awakening senses’ for me as well.

how wonderful that you took the time to observe, for as long as you needed, before beginning to design your stroll garden and that you understand the importance of slowing down….and are actually doing it…not just talking about it. fran

Susan January 25, 2010, 12:57 pm

I just read your book Digging Deep, what you say really speaks to me. And, recently NPR interviewed a psychologist who studies how the attention to detail has a positive effect on depression symptoms. Being in the garden and imagining your garden you can’t help but look at every little detail. This I found flows over to other parts of your life. Learning to look is what helps open our minds and be creative. Look at the negative space too! Thanks so much Fran.

Dear Susan,
what a great point your comment makes. i never heard someone discuss the attention to detail as having a positive effect on depression symptoms…although it makes sense. i do know of studies have shown that having flowers or plants in your space can help alleviate symptoms of depression. ‘learning to look’ is indeed a gateway to our emotions and creativity. fran

Grasshopper January 25, 2010, 11:21 pm

This is such a great piece. I have read a lot of articles and blogs about creativity and appreciation of the garden and connecting it to the appreciation of life. But your sense of practicality puts more sense in the playing with imagination. Keep it going! 🙂

thanks for your kind words. am glad you are enjoying the workshop. fran

PlantingOaks February 1, 2010, 9:48 am

This is a really useful series for me, as after three years, the ‘opportunity’ of my big, blank slate yard is starting to feel more intimidating and less liberating.

I actually just recently started keeping track of photos that match what I like. I’ve found the intellectual pause of ‘do I like this? What part – the garden or just the photography’ is almost more helpful than the collection that results. It was really a shift for me to engage my analytical mind instead of just thinking ‘oooh pretty’ when looking at pictures.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

p.s. your link to ‘stage two’ links to the edit version of the page (which we can’t view) not the regular readable version.

Dear Planting Oaks,

If you can get yourself to let go of the intimidation, you’ll experience alot less stress and get a kick out of the process…

Great that you have observed that you are now analyzing the photos as to what is grabbing you and why. Fran

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