Yesterday, The New York Times published an article entitled, Manifesting, for the Rest of Us A new generation has turned to an eons-old practice of envisioning positive outcomes. Of course, I was interested! I have been using manifestation my whole adult life, however, my millennial children often poo poo my ability to “manifest” despite the fact that I had a big role manifesting them. If you have read some of my other posts, you will notice principles of New Thought throughout (New Thought is basically a Christian philosophical movement which has has strains of Epictetus, 12 step recovery, cognitive psychology, Christianity and Buddhism at its core) … but I need to keep it on the “downlow”. I know that not everyone buys into the ideas of the laws of attraction or even that we may control more of our reality than we think. Manifestation is certainly not just for millennials or lazy, selfish dreamers. What I found particularly offensive in the article was this citation:
Gabriele Oettingen, a scholar and professor of psychology at New York University, underscores the point. “Dreamers are not often doers,” she writes in “Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation,” a study of the sources and perils, of unexamined optimism. “The pleasurable act of dreaming saps our energy to perform the hard work of meeting the challenges in real life.” NYT Jan 20, 2021)
Perhaps I was offended because there is a kernel of truth in this. I certainly would rather dream/visualize a clean home than actually get out of my recliner and wash dishes or vacuum. I would certainly rather visualize my skinny toned body than diet and go to the gym. In most cases, my imagination is almost always better than the reality. I have learned that manifesting is a balance between dreaming and doing.
Just to digress a little, I would like to point out that the world of woo woo management consulting wasn’t always so big on “doing”. My poor husband was branded as a “doer” over fifteen years ago in a week-long management seminar. His billable hours were top in the company, he is fast and efficient but he just wasn’t a “Dreamer” and as a consequence he was treated as a work horse not a visionary. Over those fifteen years, managers, rainmakers and dreamers have come and gone and yet he remains at the company -which is pretty amazing in the field of advertising and the gig economy. My husband refers to me as the “one who pulls us forward” because I am a dreamer but he has also helped us to materialize these dreams.
Let’s face it, how can anyone move forward if they don’t have a picture or map of what the goal is? The value of creative visualization (the name given to manifestation when I started practicing in the 80s.), is that you can refine a vague ambition- a thought- into a material reality. Every thing starts with a thought. Let’s take some very concrete examples of how this has worked for me.
After I graduated from College in the 80s, I had a job as a corporate paralegal in a large New York Law firm that had a reputation as a sweat shop. It didn’t take long for me to realize that Mergers and Acquisitions law was not for me. I understood and liked the clients: corporate management and investment bankers far more than the attorneys that worked for them. I was miserable soothing temper tantrums and collating large documents. When I did a little “career imagining”, I was led to one of the best tools for career manifesting. I enrolled in a workshop based on Richard Nelson Bolles’ work, “What Color is your parachute?”. The key to this work, is taking an inventory of your skills, what you love and imagining an ideal future job. From that work, I was able to become a headhunter for investment banks.
As my skills and passions changed, my goals for manifestation changed and I have experienced all of the careers that I ever dreamed of. In many cases, I went to job interviews for one job and then I would describe my dream job only to get hired for the new vision. You might even call it sales- which is the overall trajectory of my working life.
Twenty-two years ago my house was acquired by manifestation. Molly, a friend who was starting a new career, offered to help me . We worked on the phone to manifest the perfect house for my family; a home that was close to a train to Manhattan, walking distance to shops and schools. Now that I had a vision for what I wanted, I still had to do the legwork of looking at actual homes but I had a much better blueprint of what my priorities were.
Once I found the perfect home, I remember stressing about the move so much that a large heavy doll house kit in a box fell down on my head in now bankrupt craft store when I was taking my pre schooler in to get supplies for a project. It was very scary and I was quite injured. I joked to Molly, that the “weight” of buying the new house was manifesting on my head.
The Times article continues with fleeting quotes of a need for control during a Pandemic (which might be fueling this manifestation trend) and this particular observation:
Yet the practice of manifesting remains suspect and associated with youthful self-absorption. “It’s all about me,” said Dr. Fournier, whose treats a number of 15, 16 and 17-year-olds in her practice. She points to “a culture of specialness”: the use of spirituality to create this idea of being exceptional, supremely gifted. The thought is: ‘How can I use my spirituality to serve my own person?’” she said…NYT Jan 20, 2021
There are rules for manifesting that I have learned over the last few years. Manifesting is not just a self-obsessed exercise; it is training for controlling the mind and accepting what cannot be changed with graciousness and non-attachment.
Manifesting is not just about what I want. It is about what is for my highest good and the highest good of those around me. I daily manifest inner peace and acceptance when I get rattled by the year long construction next door. My biggest challenge now is circumventing my inner complaining to accept the reality as it happens. Let’s face it, what use is it to complain about the cold? Because the need to control is a very difficult thing in a world that is shifting paradigms daily, I am working to control my reaction to all of outside events. That said, I have also been manifesting a picture of myself in a temperate aging hippie community with good healthcare, no wild fires, earthquakes, and tsunamis for my next phase.