Manifesting 202

november-2016I don’t often yammer about “manifesting” because I think the whole topic is a bit cheesy. On the other hand (she said, blushing) I know it works. Call it the Law of Attraction, call it selective attention, call it karma, call it long distance and tell it to jump off a bridge if you want—the plain truth is that we basically experience the world we think into being.

I’ve been mulling this over for years. I wrote my most recent book—Diana, Herself— as “fantasy fiction” so I could describe the magic I experience without being institutionalized. But after all this time, I’ve only just noticed a detail about manifestational technique that (she said, blushing harder) has made a huge difference for me. I want to pass it on to you.

We all know (she said, trying to make everyone blush) that focusing intensely on something, then letting go of all attachment to it, seems to manifest what we think. Intention, attention, no tension. Those are the basic ingredients.

I was recently surprised to realize that in addition to the things I want, I’ve also been using those ingredients to create logjams and stalemates in my life. I realized that my unhealed traumas—or, to be precise, the erroneous beliefs that come from them—are sending out strong manifesting signals that contradict what I want to experience.

For example, say I want to bring more love into my life. I can intend the hell out of this desire. I can spend hours picturing myself embraced by a wonderful community, including hundreds of puppies and kittens linked together in some Lady-Gaga-costume-like configuration. That intention goes out into the universe. So far, so good. BUT…

If a childhood trauma once made me feel alone, and I haven’t healed and integrated that traumatized part of myself, my child-self is still insistently projecting “I’M ALONE!” I may not even know my traumatized self is there, but her fears and mistaken beliefs will “manifest” exactly what she’s saying. She may cancel out my positive statements, such as, “I am surrounded by countless friends who love me so much they carve my bust in cheese for their annual Thanksgiving festival.” The net result for me is…not much. I’ll just repeatedly manifest the same blend of hope, itty-bitty improvements and setbacks I’ve had all along.

IMPORTANT: THE FIX FOR THIS IS NOT MORE POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS.

Positive statements mean nothing to a lonely (or frightened, or impoverished, or powerless) child. That child needs you to put down the vision-board glue and turn your attention to her (or him) the way you would to any traumatized person who stumbled, lost and broken, into your proximity.

This is where manifestation meets self-help, coaching, and therapy. Stopping everything to turn inward and clear out false beliefs created by trauma is the way to empower your “magical” self. Go to a shrink, a coach, an AA group. Find any pain you haven’t yet addressed. Notice how you’ve attached beliefs to the trauma, like “I’m alone” (or “I’m not good enough,” “I don’t have enough money,” etc., etc.). Dissolve those beliefs with sharing, compassion, connection, and/or The Work of Byron Katie. As the trauma-beliefs dissolve, they’ll stop shouting their pain into the void—and manifesting what they shout.

At this point, you’ll find that desires you’ve had for years will begin to manifest like mushrooms after a heavy rain. Everything you want now has a clear, unblocked channel through which it can reach you. You will not believe the stuff that shows up (write me a Facebook post and tell me)!

Today, try setting the intention to track and identify the hurt aspects of yourself, the ones that are shouting the opposite of your desires. Then, instead of trying to suppress them, give them positive attention. Love them. Teach them. Get help for them. Don’t give up until their story about the world begins to warm and soften. Then the state of no tension will emerge by itself, more powerfully than you’ve ever felt it. Lie back and relax. Everything you’ve ordered is on its way. Before you know it, they’ll be carving your likeness in cheese.

The Magic Created Just for You

Every year, before I go to Londolozi, South Africa, for our annual Self Transformation Adventure Retreats (STARs), I expect magical things to happen. When I get there I always panic—Holy crap, I’ve promised something I can’t possibly create. Will the magical things arrive?

And every year, they do.

This year—whew!—was no exception. I watched our STARlings create magic for themselves, and I watched Africa embrace them, and it was awesome. But right now I’ll just tell you something that happened to me, me, ME, because as Nisargadatta Maharaj once half-joked, “God is doing all of this for me.”

Before leaving for Africa, I went to my favorite bird-watching store in San Luis Obispo and bought a fabulous hat. It was made in Canada, with straps both in front and behind (I challenge any of you to wear anything half so dorky).

Three weeks into my Africa stay, I was sitting with the Vartys, who run Londolozi, when master coach Michael Trotta said, “Do you know there’s a secret compartment in your hat?”

Sure enough, the crown of the hat has a false bottom, sealed with Velcro. Inside was a little plastic bag for storing things like money, or methamphetamines, or whatever (those bird watchers are CRAZY!). And inside the plastic bag was a small card. And on the card was a tiny photo of a man with an elephant. I read the card aloud to the Vartys, “Elephant trainer Michael Hackenberger of the Ontario Zoo had his Tilley hat snatched and eaten by an elephant. Three times.”

“Oh,” said the Vartys. “Michael Hackenberger. Yes, we know him well. He sold us some tigers. His elephant came from this area.”

Are you getting this? I bought a hat in California that was made in Canada, and unknowingly carried a tiny photo of an elephant back to the precise location in Africa where that elephant was born. Then I discovered the photo at exactly the time and place I’d read it to the people who could tell me about this…coincidence?

Are you KIDDING?

This proves nothing, of course. It’s just one hell of a coincidence. To me, it’s the vast intelligence of the cosmos winking at the point of itself that is me, saying, “This world is far more magical than you realize—oh, and by the way, God is doing all of this for you.” If there’s one thing I re-learn every year at Londolozi, it’s that every one of us can say that, and we’ll always be right.

Conjuring Good Magic: Setting Powerful Goals

Photo by Sheeshoo

Photo by Sheeshoo

“Life would be so great,” said Ilsa, a fledgling entrepreneur, “if I could just start a business to pay all my bills.” Another client, Sue, wanted to have a baby. “Being a mom would make me happier than anything in the world,” she told me. Like any codependent life coach, I wanted everything for Ilsa and Sue that they wanted for themselves. I longed for a magic wand that would let me bippity-boppity-boo their dreams into reality, fairy godmother–style. Instead, I did the next best thing: I worked with them as they made to-do lists and financial plans and stocked up on computer software and folic acid.

Although it seemed like a good idea at the time, my boosterism had some significant blowback. You see, Ilsa’s business did succeed, but its rapid growth required her to work like a pack mule. Sue eventually had a baby, who filled her heart with love—and her ears with colicky shrieking that nearly unhinged her. Both women were in more distress after achieving their goals than they’d ever been before.

I blame myself. In my fairy godmother role, I should’ve paid less attention to logistics and probed deeper into the reasons Ilsa and Sue had focused on those particular ambitions, because stated goals are quite magical. They dictate our attitudes and behavior and where we put our energy. But using magic inexpertly, as most fables (and almost every Harry Potter movie) can attest, is a bad idea. After years of helping clients like Sue and Ilsa, I learned how to help people set goals to get what they want without unintended consequences.

Words of Power

The difference between a dangerous spell—um, I mean goal—and a safe, effective one has everything to do with parts of speech. Most goal setters use mainly nouns and verbs (“I want my business to succeed,” “I want to have a baby”). This frequently leads to either outright failure or the kind of success that doesn’t make people nearly as happy as they expect. But there’s another class of words that work much better—adjectives.

I’ve come to depend on adjectives because goals made of nouns and verbs are risky: They bring to mind “imagined situations,” as opposed to “imagined experiences.” The two are subtly but crucially different, and experiences, not situations, are always what we really want. Ilsa expected business success to produce feelings of contentment; Sue thought a baby would make her feel loved. Neither fully anticipated what would happen after they achieved their goals.

By using adjectives, you can avoid this trap by focusing all your efforts on the quality of the experience you want to create. This process is harder than “normal” goal setting—it requires some serious soul-searching and perhaps a good thesaurus—but it does pay off.

Step One: Pick a goal, any goal.

Think of a typical noun-verb goal, something for which you frequently hanker. Be honest rather than politically correct. Some people may have deep desires to establish world peace, stop global warming, and end poverty, but maybe you actually think more about, I dunno, reaching your target weight. And that’s okay. This is not a beauty pageant (those contestants can afford to wish for world peace; they’ve all reached their target weight). What I want you to do is fess up to your real desires. Now pick the biggest, most ambitious one.

Step Two: Gaze into the future.

You don’t need a crystal ball to see what’s up ahead; the three pounds of gray matter between your ears will do fine. Use your brainpower right now to imagine what your life would be like if you realized the goal you just identified. Create a detailed fantasy about it. Loiter there awhile, observing your dream-come-true with your mind’s eyes, ears, nose, skin. Then, clear your mind and your throat: It’s time for the magic words.

Step Three: Generate adjectives.

This is the heart of a really effective goal-spell. Begin listing adjectives that describe how you feel in your dream-come-true scenario. This is a simple task, but not an easy one. It requires that you translate holistic, right-brain sensations into specific, left-brain words. Author Craig Childs compares this to “trying to build the sky out of sticks.” Spend enough time in your imagined situation to let your brain leaf through its vocabulary, scouting out accurate adjectives. In goal setting as in fairy tales, the minimum magic number is three. Don’t stop until you have at least that many ways to describe those lovely feelings.

My clients frequently try to squirm out of the process by muttering, “It’s hard to explain,” or “Oh, I don’t know,” or “I can’t describe it.” Well, of course it’s hard to explain; yes, you do know; and if you keep trying, you can too describe it. Your adjectives don’t have to be eloquent; use simple words like energetic, focused, delighted, and fine. But you owe it to yourself to persevere until you’ve found some reasonably descriptive words. Three of ’em. Write them down and then share them below in the comments:

1.____________________

2.____________________

3.____________________

Step Four: Focus on anything that can be described with your adjectives.

Drop the fantasy situation you imagined in step two and concentrate on those adjectives. You might notice that these three words bring your stated goal into sharper focus. For instance, if your New Year’s resolution is to lose ten pounds—a noun-verb goal—but your adjectives are strong, confident, and healthy, you might realize that your actual aim is to get fit. You would see that the strategy you came up with to diet (i.e., eating your weight in hydroponic cabbage) might leave you thinner but also recumbent on a couch without the energy to leave the house—which isn’t what you really want. Thanks to adjectives, you can fine-tune your strategy: Swap a fad diet for a meeting with a nutritionist, and sign up for weight training classes at the gym.

Sometimes tweaking isn’t enough. Your adjective goal might utterly contradict your stated goal. Time to rethink that original target. For example, if you think you want to win an Academy Award, you may imagine your Oscar acceptance speech, and feel “valued, satisfied, and unstoppable.” If you think that only a night at the Kodak Theatre will lead to those feelings, you might spend years obsessively pursuing movie stardom, ignoring everyone and everything except your ambition. Odds are you still wouldn’t win an Oscar, but you’d probably get a rapacious ego that could inhale all manner of rewards without even noticing them. On the other hand, if you immediately begin focusing on aspects of your present life that make you feel valued, satisfied, or unstoppable, you’ll feel an instant lift. All sorts of things may happen. Sure, you might win an Oscar. But if you don’t find yourself onstage, blurting out that the statue sure is heavy, you’ll be left with…a pretty good life. You might even find that as you follow the things that make you feel appreciated, you’ve tripped into an entirely different career. So starting now, survey your life for anything (I mean anything) that can be described with any of those three words. Putting all your attention on those aspects of your life will make you happier right now and help you create future situations that fulfill your true desires.

The Science of Good Magic

I realize that all this sounds a little woo-woo, but psychological research on happiness backs up my strategy. Over and over, researchers studying happiness have found that the situational elements people crave—money, social status, possessions—don’t reliably lead to an experience of well-being. By contrast, learning to find joy in the present moment (a.k.a. focusing on experiences you truly want in your life) increases life satisfaction, improves health, and allows us to live longer, more fulfilling lives.

My clients form my own database of sorts, convincing me that good goal-setting magic is (to use the social science terms) robust and valid. For example, when I asked Ilsa to go back in time and imagine what she once thought she’d get from a successful business, she described herself with the adjectives relaxed, joyful, and secure (ironically, the demands of her wildfire success made her feel tense, joyless, and insecure). When she scanned her life for activities and relationships that made her feel aligned with those adjectives, she found them everywhere: in gardening, reading novels, playing with her niece. “Damn!” she told me. “I’d already succeeded before I succeeded!” Indeed.

In Sue’s case, remembering how she’d expected motherhood to make her feel yielded the adjectives loved, rejuvenated, and emotionally replenished. She realized that her noun-verb goal (having a baby who’s beautiful and also colicky) actually created the opposite of her adjective goal—she felt unappreciated, haggard, and drained. It turned out that her magical adjectives described the way she felt when connecting with old friends. Both Ilsa and Sue managed to give more attention and time to the things that evoked the feelings they really wanted. (That’s the beauty of adjective-based goals: They can work even when you’re already suffering the consequences of unwise noun-verb spells.) Ilsa carved out time for reading and gardening; Sue put the baby in the bouncy seat and caught up with friends on Facebook.

These efforts helped Ilsa and Sue work and parent better, and handle the difficulties conjured by their original goals, all of which eased my fairy godmother guilt.

In other words, we lived happily ever after. So if you find yourself longing for some idealized goal, take a moment to go fishing for adjectives. Then use them to identify the aspects of your life that are already drawing you toward your heart’s desires. Focusing on these people and activities will lead you gently toward even more fulfilling experiences. One day you may find yourself in a situation more interesting and delightful than anything you ever imagined. Listen closely and you’ll hear my annoying little voice in your head, whispering, Bippity-boppity-boo.

When in Drought…

when in droughtLast year was the first I spent in California. Having come from the desert, I was all excited about the winter greenness, the rains that always come in October…okay, November…well, FOR SURE in December…or absolutely in…January?

Or not.

This is the first time in recorded history that the rain has not come at all. The forest I love is gray and stark. I swear I can feel things dying.

I was getting rather testy with God about this when a thing happened.

Jeanette Trompeter, a journalist and pal of Master Coach Jill Farmer, asked to interview me for the local news. We did the interview, then I forgot all about it. Several weeks later, I happened to flip on the TV exactly in time to catch the segment about me. Jeanette then told the weatherman how worried I was about the drought. The man in the magic box faced me and said, “Martha, stop worrying about the drought.”

I know! Right?

It still hasn’t rained. That’s how these things work. When I was deep in debt, I got winks that said “Stop worrying about money.” It arrived…eventually. When I was “incurably” ill, I got winks that said “You’ll get well.” I did…eventually. The good stuff didn’t happen when I wanted it to, but it happened. And in the meantime, these loving messages from the universe helped me drop useless anxiety.

Try this: Think of a current “drought” in your life. For 10 minutes, just trust that it will all be okay. Trust that you’re being guided. Trust, against all odds and evidence, that you are safe.

When I use this exercise on my drought fears, the strangest thing happens: I feel it raining inside myself. I become a microcosm of the life-giving rain that, someday, will bring California back to life. Or so I trust.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A week after Martha wrote this, it started raining in California.

Foul Play

Gould_Wild_turkeyIn 1666 a Dutch physicist noticed that two pendulums mounted on the same board always ended up swinging at the same rate. He called this “entrainment.” It affects any oscillation, including breathing, heartbeats, brain waves, and turkeys.

Yep. Turkeys.

Yesterday I decided to meditate on my front porch.  As I settled in, a large delegation of wild turkeys scurried up the road that leads to my bird feeder. They do this every morning, like commuters, so I barely noticed them. I was using the mantra, “I am infinite stillness.” As I repeated this, feeling all spaced out and blissed, I opened my eyes to see that the turkeys had stopped in front of me.

They stood absolutely, unnaturally still. Not a feather moved, not a toe, not a head. I’ve never seen turkeys behave this way. I kept meditating, and not one turkey moved AT ALL for over five minutes (I clocked it). Then I counted them (there were 21). As I counted, they all suddenly began moving again. Counting had taken me out of stillness. So I went back into meditation. All 21 turkeys lay down, limp as opium smokers, until I finished meditating. Then they resumed their usual speed-walk to the bird feeder.

It’s great, quirky, subversive fun to experiment with entrainment. When you get reeeeeaallly calm, it reeeeeeaally calms everything around you. And what most everyone wants is to feel reeeeeaally calm.

At peace. 
At one. 

You are the master of the energy you radiate. You always have a choice. Don’t fall into resonance with some random person who’s feeling lost and scared (as most humans do, most of the time). Be the peace you wish to see in the world, and watch the turkeys in your life—both literal and metaphoric—join the stillness. (Insert Thanksgiving joke of your choice here.)

Magic: The New Normal

Disclaimer: You will either like this post, or comment to yourself that I have truly climbed off the crazy station and onto the crazy train. So if crazy doesn’t work for you, just stop now.

So I just got back from yet another delicious and astonishing experience, this one at a ranch in Montana owned by a dear friend. This is the same place where I experienced the original Pronghorn event. This year, because I now know that Pronghorns frequent the area, I decided to up the ante: “Wolves!” I thought to myself. It’s WAY harder to attract a wolf than a Pronghorn. Then I realized this was a ridiculous thought, since calling a wild wolf requires exactly the same amount of effort as calling a Pronghorn—in other words, practically nothing.

When I got to the ranch, I asked if there were any wolves living in the area. My friend said she thought a few had been seen 18 months prior. I invited everyone in the group to call in some wolves…and at 9 o’clock that night, guess who started howling outside the cabin? Oh yes they did! Some people heard them all night long. I, like an idiot, got too attached and did not hear them myself. Damn you, tenacious ego! Still, it was one hell of a “coincidence.”

Oh, and by the way, the day the whales came, it was covered INTERNATIONALLY. My friends in Africa saw it and called to tell me they figured I was on that beach.

This is all so normal.

But enough with my obsessive animal stories! The point is that I am experiencing what many of you are, too: an increasingly powerful conviction that what we once thought of as the world “out there” is in fact as intimately connected to each of us as our own heart. On one hand, my own physical body feels more and more like an animal that happily lives its life without obeying any of my conscious intentions; on the other hand, my consciousness feels capable of creating physical events that seem distant and impossible.

In Expecting Adam, I wrote about a moment when, exhausted, sick, and heartbroken, I sent out the thought “I just can’t do this. Maybe you should drive.” I didn’t know what I was talking to, and I still don’t. But whatever it was, it surrounded me with an inexplicable sweetness. It picked up my heart and held it like a baby. Ever since, there have been moments when I have climbed out of the driver’s seat, only to grab for control again when my inner lizard raised its fearful, scaly head.

These days, I simply don’t feel like driving. The passenger seat is much more fun. I watch my own body and mind playing ecstatically with the illusion of form.

Have I lost you yet? If so, I respectfully and lovingly do not care.

Recently, several clients have told me that they have an odd sense of being disconnected from their bodies. They still feel sensations, but find themselves acting strangely in their own eyes. They have stopped driving. The journey has been taken over by what we, in our coaching system, call their essential self. Some people seem to be able to stop this from happening deliberately, others invite and enjoy it, and others, weirdly, are observing it as it happens to them without any conscious decisions on their part. I’m sure this has always been possible, but I’m just warning you: these days, our essential selves are growing more and more powerful. The blissful game of consciousness clothed in matter is getting faster and more delicious. So if this is happening to you, and it’s freaking you out, relax. Let the wolves drive.

Getting Rid of Stuff

Ok, so here is the deal: All this cheesy law of attraction stuff actually works—at least when you do it in a non-cheesy way, which I’ve been trying to learn and teach my whole life.

The big thing I’ve been trying to create for the past little while is to purchase a property that borders a national forest where I can live closer to nature and do the kind of coaching I love best. As recently as a year ago, this looked utterly impossible to me and to everyone who knew me well. But I just kept slapping together vision boards and otherwise assuming it would happen, and now it’s happening. Part of me is completely unsurprised, and another part of me keeps gasping, “WTF just happened?”

As part of creating a simpler way of living, I have found myself feeling a massive urge to de-clutter, to get rid of all this stuff that seems to arrive in my house of its own free will. I’ve noticed that many of my Team mates are feeling the same urge. So I recently began using an awesome coaching tool for de-cluttering. I encourage you to use it.

As I teach my coaches, our living spaces are basically three-dimensional portraits of our inner lives. You can’t de-clutter your living space without de-cluttering your inner life and vice versa. This is why it can be easy to throw away the clutter in a friend’s house, but feel overwhelminging to do the same in your home.

So we will start this exercise with something called a Pray Rain Journal. I got the idea from Master Coach Jeannette Maw. A Pray Rain Journal is basically a written vision board in the form of a small journal. Get yourself a very small empty notebook. Each day, write a page as if you were living your ideal life and are journaling about it. Use present tense and write about all the wonderful things that are happening and the ramifications of every event.

When I began doing this, I found myself encountering resistance—resistance I hadn’t even known was there. I had mental knee-jerk reactions like, “That can’t happen!” or “And then something bad will happen.” As you reread your Pray Rain Journal, make a mental note of any negative blurbs that pop into your mind. This is the clutter you must clear away. I attacked my negative clutter by focusing on a single thought at a time—for example, “That can’t happen.” Then I forced myself to think of 50 reasons why the things I want actually can happen. I knew my resistance was softening when I could read my Pray Rain Journal without any inner constriction or resistance. That’s when I suddenly began de-cluttering my physical space. My house wasn’t a mess to begin with, but clutter had begun creeping into shelves and drawers.

Don’t try to de-clutter everything at once. Choose ONE drawer or ONE shelf or ONE flat surface in your home. Clear everything out or off of it. If you are a natural-born de-clutterer, you’ll find yourself throwing away or donating items you don’t use. If, on the other hand, you are more a natural-born hoarder type, you might feel clutching anxiety when you try to let go of an outmoded object. This reflects an unwillingness to let go of outmoded beliefs as well. As you do the thought work, your anxiety and resistance will ease up.

In the meantime, create what I call a Limbo Carton. Limbo, as you may know, is where some religions believe God puts souls before deciding if they will go to heaven or to hell. Give your Limbo Carton to a loved one who is not afraid to de-clutter. Together, choose a date six months in the future. If you have not asked for anything in the carton during those six months, your loved one will then take everything to the donation center without even mentioning it to you. Nobody ever said you had to do this alone!

All this lightening of stuff feels to me like part of the miracle that brought me my new place to live. An old survival saying is, “The more you know, the less you need.” As your own dreams materialize, I suspect you will come to know that you don’t need much. Just your tribe, your inner guidance, and the evidence that tells you that you really can create a magnificent life.