In the 6th grade one of my teachers decided to exercise our imaginations through guided imagery. With eyes closed and heads bowed on our desks, she asked us to imagine ourselves on a lightly scripted adventure that she read aloud to the class. Sadly, I no longer remember all of the images with which she asked us to pretend we were interacting. There was a door, a being or guide of some sort, a message and a waterfall (or maybe that aspect was left up to our imaginations and I can only remember choosing the waterfall?)
One of the benefits of being a preacher’s kid, I thought, was that I knew how to avoid the the pitfalls of guided imagery. Earlier that year I had read a Christian adventure novel about demonic possession. One of the characters in the book, a young child, was asked to meet a special friend in his (or her?) imagination at school. Because this was a Christian novel, of course, the special friend turned out to be a demon and while I was fairly certain that my teacher wasn’t trying to incite a mass possession one could never be too careful. 😉
I decided, then, to only pretend as though the images flickering in my mind were being guided into any particular thought. Her voice carried us into a story; I followed as far as I dared, pulling back and peeking around the room every so often to see what, if anything, might be staring back at me. When the exercise ended I dutifully wrote and handed in a piece of dreck, careful not to believe a word of it or even to think about what I was writing any more than necessary.
For the rest of that school year I kept this incident in the back of my mind, watching and waiting for the teacher to bring up this exercise once again or to ask us to consult with our imaginary guide on other issues. She never did and I moved on to junior high the next year, quietly relieved, never to see or speak to her again.
After a time I realized that there weren’t any demons to worry about that damp, cold afternoon, that she was honestly just trying to stimulate our imaginations and that by making up a story I had actually fulfilled the criteria in her lesson plan beautifully.
As as adult I am grateful for this early infusion of skepticism, for getting into the habit of not automatically doing or thinking what everyone else is doing or thinking simply because an authority figures says it is a good thing to do. Sometimes, yes, there’s a good reason why everyone else is doing something a certain way. Not everything in life needs to be re-invented but that doesn’t mean I will stop considering the whats, whys, hows, and what ifs along the way!