As I'm sure none of you noticed, I haven't written on Psych Today in awhile. The reason? I went from writing about my life to living it. I've been having adventures of the sort I could never have imagined even a year ago. I've been developing new friendships, exploring new interests, learning new skills, and probably camping more in two months than I have in the past few years combined. I've just been too busy. And even though being busy to be busy is not healthy, I've been busy with things that really intrigue me and light me up. How did I get so lucky?
But wait, let me back up. Before that, there was an anxiety—filled, brief love affair followed by a devastating breakup. And before that, a longer relationship with an abuser, and a devastating breakup. So how did I go from a crushing several years to being so full and fulfilled right now that I can barely contain my joy?
I have a tendency towards magical thinking, so some of the time I've been convinced that I've tuned in to some energy of the universe that loves me, or that for some reason I've just gotten really good at manifesting. But my science mind has always been looking for a more reasonable answer, and then it finally occured to me: What I've sometimes thought of as a new ability to manifest what I want is actually the effect of years of growth, learning, and putting myself in the path of the sorts of opportunities I've always wanted. I'm harvesting the fruits of years of my labor.
So what if that magical something that we call manifesting, what was written of in books like The Secret, is really just a by—product of putting ourselves in the path of what we want? it's not magical at all. It's what happens after we fall down and get up again, time and time again, and learn and re—learn our lessons, and adjust our choices to point ourselves more towards the lives we want. It's what happens when we know ourselves so well that, sometimes even subconsciously, we pay attention to the small signs telling us when we're off of our path and shift our trajectory slightly. It's what happens when we spend time with the people who fill us up, in the places that give us energy, and doing the activities that give us juice, and spending less time with people who drain us, in places that depress us, doing things that destroy us.
When you feel like you're riding a wave of positive energy, that the things you want fall all around you like ripe fruit for the picking and that the people you meet are continually handing you just the gifts you need in that moment, perhaps it's just that you have done the prep work, that you were doing that work for all those years that were hard and sad and soul—destroying.
To me, this is a hopeful thought. Much more hopeful than just praying that magic is out there and if we just know 'The Secret' well enough we might be able to control the powers of the universe. Much more hopeful than giving various gurus and hucksters a lot of money to tell us that we should be getting what we want, and if we're not, it's because we're not trying hard enough.
Here's what I've learned about how to manifest the life you want:
1) Listen to what your soul is drawn to. I listened to that hole in my heart that yearned for a particular kind of community. Each time I found a smidgen of that community, I followed it, spent time in it, cultivated it. Even when it scared me, and it scared me a lot at first.
2) When difficult things happens, learn from them. Each time I fell, I thought, talked, and wrote about it. I found a great therapist. I read books by the ton. I meditated. I made each mistake talk to me until I learned everything about it, and then moved on from it as best I could.
3) Come back to your self. After years of searching for someone else to give me what I yearned for — comfort, love, care — and inevitably being disappointed and hurt, I finally had nobody to turn to but myself. And only then did those comforters, lovers, and carers find me (or maybe only then did I see them for who they were).
4) Put yourself in the path of what you want, and learn to cultivate the gifts you receive. I wanted a vibrant community of creative freaks. I wanted a diverse and amazing group of friends and lovers. So I put myself in places where I was likely to meet those people, and learned to build on the events, relationships, and opportunities that came to me. It wasn't my natural tendency, but I'm slowly getting better at it.
5) When you get what you DON'T want, consider the lessons. Remember that story about the Chinese family whose son breaks a leg but then isn't conscripted into the army as a result? These days, every time something that I want to happen doesn't happen, something even better or more right for me has been right around the corner. Rather than dwelling on the disappointment, coinsider dwelling on the possibilities.
6) Be present to what is happening, even if it isn't what you would have wanted. You can't hide from the hard things and be present only for the good ones. After years of sitting with pain, depression, and anxiety, I got very good at not reacting to it. I'm not perfect by any means, but I'm much better than I ever was at not letting those emotions run my life.
7) Be kind, be generous, be loving and be yourself. It may not always be true that you reap what you sow, but people are drawn to those who are true to themselves and are good to others. After trying hard to be who others — particularly men — wanted me to be, I finally just gave up and came back to the person I always was. Not only was life far easier, but people — the kind of people I had always wanted to befriend — started to be drawn to me.
Manifesting isn't magic; it's just what happens when you follow your own soul home.