There are numerous metaphors for the interior life of the individual, but most of them allude to it as being some kind of inner space, often with its own landscape, features and buildings. Older traditions speak of heaven being a kingdom within, and of that place having many mansions, whilst modern approaches speak about inner temples and inner sanctuaries. Even non-spiritual psychological systems often encourage people to create a ‘safe space’ inside themselves, and to make it a ‘happy place’ for therapeutic purposes.
‘I thought of the soul as resembling a castle, formed of a single diamond or a very transparent crystal, and containing many rooms, just as in heaven there are many mansions,’ wrote St. Teresa of Ávila in her 16th century spiritual guide, The Interior Castle.
A few paragraphs later, she explicitly exhorted her readers to imagine such a place. ‘Let us imagine, as I said, that there are many rooms in this castle, of which some are above, some below, others at the side; in the centre, in the very midst of them all, is the principal chamber in which God and the soul hold their most secret intercourse.’
Whether this space within ourselves is described as an interior castle, an entire kingdom as anything else, it is always experienced through the faculty of the imagination, and that is not really surprising. Whilst mainstream society tends to think of imagination as being little more than something we can use for the purposes of escapism, such as watching a movie, playing video games and reading novels, it is actually one of the things which makes us such creative beings, and sets us apart from other species.
It is the imagination which makes it possible for modern spiritual practitioners to meet and interact with the ‘Higher Self’ or ‘Spirit Guide’. It is the imagination which allows those in the Shamanic tradition to experience their inner journeys and take on the qualities of their ‘Power Animal’. It is also the imagination which makes it possible for individuals to receive information via their dreams or waking visions.
To discount the imagination as being little more than a childish toy would be a grave mistake. On the contrary, the imagination is potentially the most powerful tool of transformation that the Seeker has, and it is therefore wise to explore, develop and make the best possible use of it.
The only way to do this is to actually start working with the imagination on a regular basis, and in this series I will provide guidelines which are designed to help you to do that. The best way to proceed is slowly and methodically, so to begin with, you shouldn’t set out to explore the entirety of your inner kingdom in one go. Instead, it would be wiser to start by establishing a small ‘meditation space’ and getting used to that before thinking about venturing any further.
How to Create an Inner Meditation Space
Creating an inner meditation space is much like creating a sacred space in the outside world, but here the space will be created through the imagination. The advantages of having an inner meditation space are multiple, but the most notable ones are:
– Being able to create an inner meditation space which is as simple, or as sumptuously idyllic, as you would like it to be.
– Being able to access your inner meditation space at any time, no matter where you are, or who you are with, in order to instantly feel calm and tranquil.
To create your inner meditation space, sit quietly and close your eyes, and then imagine that you are actually sitting in the most ideal environment that you can think of for meditation purposes.
The ideal environment will vary from person to person. It might be a small room in a simple Buddhist temple, a secluded mountainside cave, or a comfortable clearing in a forest. At the opposite end of the spectrum, it might be an ornate temple of white marble, with large green plants, indoor fountains and wind chimes sounding gently in the background.
You should feel free to imagine your ideal environment in any way you wish, but you should do so as vividly as you can. See the colours and textures of your surroundings, feel the seat or meditation cushion beneath you, hear and smell the sounds and fragrances that are present and slowly build the scene in your mind.
Your ‘inner vision’ of this environment will improve over time, so don’t expect to experience it vividly straight away. Those of you who can’t visualise at all should focus on what you can imagine, such as the general feeling of being in your ideal meditation environment, and you will find that visual imagery will begin to arise quite naturally of its own accord, just as it does in the dreaming state.
Having created your inner meditation space in this way, spend a further five minutes simply sitting there, as if meditating in that environment. Focus on your breathing and allow the environment to be present in the background for the duration of your meditation.
When you have completed your meditation, open your eyes and focus on the external world for a minute or two until you are fully reacquainted with the here-and-now.
You should practice this exercise once or twice a day, and you can also ‘drop in’ on your inner meditation space at any other time, simply by imagining yourself sitting there. With regular practice, your inner meditation space will become more and more realistic, because what you are doing is developing your imaginative ability by repeatedly creating a small part of your inner landscape.
Note: Some people like to make their space even more vivid by sketching or painting it. Others like to describe it vividly in writing, or to make a model of it. If any of those activities appeals to you then you should feel free to participate in them.
This inner meditation space will serve as your ‘inner centre’ for as long as you want it to, and it is from this location that you will proceed to explore the many spiritual treasures which lay dormant within you.