The Re-Enchantment of Childhood
by Fran Greenfield
something even elaborate technologies
or expensive playthings cannot provide.
When her mother began using imagery as part of her healing from ovarian cancer, six-year-old Emily had been suffering with asthma for three years. Pretty soon Emily tried imagery, too. During one of her asthma attacks, she imagined entering her body to find out what got in the way of her breathing. Once inside, she saw that the sun and the moon were having a fight, so she joined with the sun to overcome the moon. Soon the battle was won and she felt relief. For the next seven days, Emily repeated the exercise and, "magically" the asthmatic symptoms vanished. Since then, she has not used conventional medication. She reports that both the sun and the moon are now her allies, and for added healing power, she uses the stars as well.
of healing is dramatic but not uncommon. I've seen many children overcome
asthma using imagery techniques, and the benefits extend well beyond
relief of symptoms. The imagery process opens a new way of relating — it
provides parent and child with a heartfelt bond that transcends material
life. By allowing children to make important choices, and thus to grow as
independent people, imagery gives them the balance they so badly need.
I've also come to understand that dealing with illness is only one way to
reap the benefits of this technique. Beyond all else, using imagination
helps children become whole and responsible human beings — something
even elaborate technologies or expensive playthings cannot provide.
Creating a life of vision, value, and meaning requires patience and the
time to just be. This involves doing and having less, not more, and
dealing with discomfort or pain by turning toward it, instead of away. To
connect with something greater than their own self-interest, to relate to
their hearts as well as their heads, our children must find a way to
innocence of childhood through imagination is both real and important. It
gives us the chance to be with our children unencumbered by the stress of
the material world. Taking this journey together, we become light, joyful,
free. What an extraordinary and heartening possibility!
Imagination as an Antidote to the Virtual
inspired to try imagery work because she saw how helpful it was to her
mother. If we adults are to engage children's hearts and minds with the
world of imagination, and thus to restore them to living naturally and
creatively, we had best begin with ourselves.
this requires a sacrifice — one that involves creating a space of
silence, even for just a few moments a day. By doing this we banish the
noise of information and acquisition, thus allowing the flow of
imagination to begin. This shift need not be overwhelming — small and
simple choices are fine. Giving up the use of your cell phone while
walking the dog, riding the bus, shopping, or pushing the stroller;
exchanging some of the time you surf the Internet for a pleasurable
stroll; or meditating briefly, are possible ways to start. So might be
writing your dreams in a journal and setting aside a special time to enjoy
music, poetry, or art. Once we model this turn ourselves, our children
quite naturally pick up on it.
Many forms of
imagination can help. Art, music, dance, writing, storytelling, lead
children into the experience. Yet mental imagery (also known as guided
imagery or visualization) is the most direct, and requires no particular
gifts or tools. It offers all those willing to close their eyes and turn
inward for even a minute or two a possibility to transform themselves and
their lives. Age, skill, and experience make little difference.
become adept, and the benefits are enormous. Though imagery may be used
for any purpose, the intention here is to use it as an antidote to the
hypnotic virtual life — to generate a mode of being and becoming that
begets kindness, patience, creativity, balance, wonder — even good
manners and civility.
difficulty a child is facing provides the perfect place to begin. Issues
with school, friendship, family life, health, and self-image may all be
addressed. Imagery is a universal language that mirrors one's emotions and
beliefs in picture form. When you change the image, you change the belief
and emotion. When the belief and emotion shift, it affects physiology and
body chemistry. For example, by changing a dark, stormy sky to a clear
one, you can feel emotionally and physically lighter in an instant.
Providing children with this nonaddictive mind technology gratifies their
desire for action, experience, and magic. Imagery encourages them to face
their discomfort rather than avoid it — it returns them to their senses
and reconnects them with the joy of boundless possibility. This connection
is genuine. It unites them with others and creates a bridge to spirit that
material life fails to provide.
Three-Minute Lessons for Becoming a Wizard
success of Harry Potter may have more to do with J. K. Rowling's shrewd
insight regarding children's hunger for imagination and magic in their
lives than with literary artistry. To take advantage of this phenomenon,
children might use their fascination as a jumping-off point for delighting
in their own personal wizardry and exploring their own imaginary worlds.
following exercises with your child. Each should last about one to three
returns children to their senses and enables them to experience a sense of
peace, centeredness, and quiet necessary for living a healthy life.
Sit quietly and
close your eyes. Imagine yourself in a beautiful garden or meadow. Smell
the flowers. Hear the birds, and feel the gentle breeze on your face. Now,
see before you a strong, tall tree. Go to the tree and see that inside it
is an opening large enough for you to enter. Go into the opening and be
there inside the tree. Imagine your toes curling down into the earth and
becoming like the roots of the tree. Then feel and see your body becoming
the tree trunk. Now see your arms, as they become the branches covered
with leaves and reaching high up toward the sky. Feel how it is now to be
the tree, connected with the sky above and the earth below. Notice what
happens. Then open your eyes. (Other nature images might include becoming
a flower, river, ocean, animal, or even the sky.)
also benefit from imagery by using it to correct bothersome, even
traumatic, situations. For example, some children have a hard time taking
tests. They may be frightened and confused. To correct this they can do
the following exercise (which can be used for other difficult situations
with simple changes in the wording).
eyes. See yourself now in the testing situation, feeling nervous and
scared. Then breathe out. See your fear coming out of your mouth as a
stream of dark gray smoke, and your brain becoming light and clear. See
yourself now, taking the test in a new way — looking confident and calm
— answering the questions with ease. If you sense the need to hurry,
imagine a clock on the wall with the hands moving in slow motion, so you
have all the time you need. See yourself completing the test and leaving
the room smiling, knowing you have done well. Then slowly open your eyes.
The Magic Place
This last exercise is about having fun and
creating magic. Close your eyes
and imagine you are standing in front of a beautiful painting. The
painting can be of a place in nature or of anything you wish. It might be
something you have seen in a museum or a book, or in a favorite movie. Now
breathe out one time. See yourself going right into this painting and
becoming a part of it. See yourself exploring this special world, doing
whatever you like and knowing that while you are there, anything can
happen. Have fun. Notice how you feel. Then return and open your eyes.
Greenfield is an integrative psychotherapist
New York City and a former teacher. She is the
of : Asthma Free in 21 Days:
Breakthrough Mindbody Healing Program
with permission from:
& Health Magazine
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