Jungian Active Imagination & Hypnagogia

"the royal road to the unconscious"
-C.G. Jung

Getting Started with Active Imagination

"When it is dark enough, you can see the stars."-Emerson

As defined on this site, Active Imagination is possible when one moves his/her everyday consciousness towards the dream world. "Dream world" is used here to mean nothing more nor less than that realm that we all experience when sleeping, falling into sleep, or coming out of sleep. Since we all know this experience it is used here as short-hand to describe the major tone of Active Imagination practice.The first step towards getting started in Active Imagination requires spending time observing the "dream world" state.
  • Try to observe yourself awakening in the morning (or if you prefer, falling asleep at night). Allow enough time to carefully see how you emerge out of sleep and how it is possible to remain half alert and half asleep. Do this several times over a week. If you have problems with this, try the same process during a nap.
From these observations, we learn that our dreaming involves a state of mind where anything is possible. Dreams are free to follow all sorts of paths and free to generate all sorts of images, feelings, and thoughts. Also notable, is the frequency in which images, feelings, and thoughts are mingled closely together.Our daily way of being typically requires us to be quite focused, goal oriented. Our thoughts and feelings are prescribed around a relatively few major themes. We tend to exclude a great deal in this process and freedom is not a word that can be used to describe this state of mind.
  • Find the means that allows you to move into profound relaxation but with mental clarity remaining. Try body relaxation methods. Try music. Use whatever method most slows down the everyday mind and opens it to whatever happens.
  • Find your own answers to these important questions:What do you need to do to move away from being overly focused on your day's events towards the dream world? What does it feel like to relax deeply? What does it feel like when you blend of the dream world with your quiet, watchful, alertness?
  • Also, try to increase your ability to recall your dreams. Record your dreams and study them not so much to interpret their meaning but to recover the moods that they convey, the images they use, the feelings they bring to the surface. Try to get a fix on the feeling of the dream experience.
  • Later, after you have mastered capturing the tone of the dream world, set aside time to move from your everyday type of consciousness to the dream world. Watch out, you might fall asleep, losing the awareness you need to do Active Imagination. Relax into it, keep alert, pull up your memories of what the dream world feels like. Watch for the emergence of detailed images, feelings, and insights. Work at making these images, feelings, and insights more vivid. This is where the "Active" of Active Imagination comes from. You are required to become engaged in your inner world, bringing yourself to this process in terms of alertness and willingness to learn. Remain alert. You must remember what you see/experience or you will not be doing "Active" Imagination. By necessity, this will keep your sessions short, maybe lasting only ten minutes or fifteen minutes. Make notes afterwards, especially on what you have learned on what the experience feels like.
A Note: These are only the basics to give you some idea of the type of work involved. Use the resources below to further your practice. Also, read carefully the views of Jung, Progoff, Hillman, and von Franz.

A CAUTION: If you have any psychiatric condition or suspect that you might have some difficulties handling your dreams, work with the imagination, or maintaining a comfortable grasp on the requirements of everyday living, please do not work with Active Imagination alone. Work with mental health professionals who can advise you on how best to approach this sort of work.For those who have no such problems, Active Imagination should make for a helpful and exciting way of learning how to live a meaningful life.
Instructions For More Advanced Work


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