By K. Ogden
I was driving my three-year-old the other day and as usual, she sat in her car seat jabbering about all sorts of things like friends and SpongeBob and as usual, I mumbled the occasional, “Uh hua, yeah”. I was half-listening as I always do while driving and thinking of the 45 things on my to-do list when all of the sudden, something she said piqued my interest. She said, “Mom, remember the person who is just like Heavenly Father but she’s a girl? She’s the one who takes care of the plants and flowers and all the children.” I said, “What are you talking about Ava?” She asked me again if I remembered the ‘girl Heavenly Father’ who lives with Heavenly Father and who takes care of the children. Feeling stunned and incredibly peaceful I said, “I think I do.”
I’ve always loved John Lennon’s song Imagine and each time I hear it I wonder about the world he’s describing and what exactly he envisioned. Today I have a new appreciation for the song and for the power of imagination. I was impressed with the recent Mormon Stories podcast with Kate Kelly of www.ordainwomen.org. She used the word imagine to invite us all to simply think about a community where women were ordained to the Priesthood. Now this post is not an opinion on women and the priesthood but about the power of imagination to create change.
There’s no harm in calling on our imagination to wonder about all sorts of possibilities, but for many of us it seems as though the practice of imagining has been reserved for children. We encourage our kids to imagine and we praise them for their creativity and innovation. Yet when we dare to imagine what may seem unorthodox we fear and judge ourselves for simply letting our minds go. I used to fear wondering about things I was told were taboo or selfish but I’ve come to realize that when imagination has no boundaries it expands to become a powerful tool for change.
A few years ago the book The Secret gained popularity as it called its readers to imagine the type of life, love and career they want. Also known as the law of attraction, we know there is great manifesting power in simply creating pictures in our minds of the types of scenarios we want to experience. In the mental health field, I watched as many therapy groups were created around the concepts of The Secret (therapists’ careers flourished as a result) and participants praised the power of creating mental pictures of the things they wished for. Love was drawn into their lives. Ideal careers were achieved and emotions felt simply by imagining what it would look and feel like to be, have or experience whatever it was they desired.
After my daughter’s statement about Heavenly Mother I tried to imagine the type of woman and scenario she described. I imagined a woman, graceful and powerful standing in a field of green grass tending to flowers and children…just as Ava had envisioned. I also felt what it would be like to be in Her presence. It was similar to how I imagine feeling in the presence of a Heavenly Father but with matriarchal familiarity. In my imagination, I identified with Her because I too am a mother and I too feel immense love as I tend to my ‘garden’. As I imagined my Heavenly Mother I had no fear, no shame, no worry that I was unworthy or not good enough. She embraced me as a friend, as a woman and as a fellow mother in the kingdom. I cannot describe the calming effect this experience had on me and I now use it when I feel myself out of spiritual alignment. After a stressful day with the kids, or dealing with a difficult person, or even at night as I try to calm my mind to sleep, I call upon that scene of my Heavenly Mother. I imagine Her so clearly that it’s as if I know Her more intimately each time I invite Her into my consciousness.
I laugh with my friends about how I think motherhood should come with a prescription for Xanax but now I believe I’ve found an even more powerful way to calm my anxiety. When something rubs me the wrong way at church or in social circles (usually messages of patriarchy, oppression or ignorance) instead of letting myself get offended I try to take time to imagine how I would like my experience to be. I’m not asserting that the power of my mind can change other’s beliefs but I am suggesting that it can change my feelings and my behavior, which ultimately has to change the system…even if it’s in small ways. Like a baby’s crib mobile, when one piece moves the entire thing moves. Its power to calm a fussy baby is in its ability to move and sway. If when we are uncomfortable or offended we remove ourselves we miss an opportunity to use our imagination and to ultimately effect positive change on our system.
So as Kate Kelly encourages us to imagine, I ask you to not only frequently and clearly imagine the change you want to have happen, but to stay put and let your imagination have an impact on the systems to which you belong.