Awareness is the conscious acknowledgement of what is. Imagination is imaging something that is not. Awareness is a faculty, available to all, that can be cultivated when there is interest in discovering what really is.
Imagination is something that is done to avoid or ignore what is.
While imagery and imagination have been promoted and used as a substitute for awareness, it does not work. By definition, we cannot imagine reality, we can only become aware of what really is.
Imagining ourselves as peaceful comes from the same mental function that gives rise to the experience of anxiety. Anxiety is a state of agitation and mental grind about something that is being imagined.
As we begin to awaken to what is real, we first become aware of the content of our consciousness. That content is filled with the thoughts and imaginings we’ve been conditioned to have as well as an underlying awareness of what is real. Discerning the difference, while disturbing at first, is also a huge relief from the suffering that comes from believing that what we are thinking, feeling and imagining is real.