BEGGING, CHOOSING AND THE MYTH OF MANIFESTATION 

It is almost impossible to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it what it feels like to dance with the kind of vulnerability of being one small shift away from total devastation - it’s not something that’s entirely real, but it’s also not something that’s entirely false. No matter how OK you are in any one moment, when things are that vulnerable, any one small tremor could cause the whole thing to fall - and small tremors happen all the time.

 

That's what my life was like in the first half of 2022.

I had an insight about a year ago while listening to a young Black man from Chicago tell his story. His story started with an enlightenment experience that changed his life, and then grief after grief after grief. His tremors just kept coming, and the tower kept falling. Meanwhile he refused to let that define him. Listening to him talk, I remembered that the basement can always lower. The silver lining of limitlessness is that there is no ceiling to contend with, but the painful truth is that there is no lower bound, either. Wounds can always heal, but there is no shortage of things that will wound us. Listening to him talk forced me to come face to face with some truths I hadn’t understood before. It forced me to break my own heart in order for it to be able to hold more. Just him sharing his story taught me a lesson that helped me shift my expectation of the process of expansion. That understanding was foundational in helping me keep what was happening in my outer environment from sticking to my inner environment during this latest crisis. Oh, right. The basement can always lower, and if I cling to that as part of my identity, this will never get better. I have to let this be what it is so I can figure everything else out. 

I used to pride myself on Escape. That was the skill I used to hone without fail. I was so good at finding a way to slip out of something I didn’t like because at the time, I understood that to be a primary form of self-love. That’s only because I hadn’t ever really been acquainted with actual self love. What I was doing by engaging my Houdini side was bulking up my ego. The only way I knew how to love myself was to protect myself. I understood myself to be in a kind of cat-and-mouse relationship with almost everything. I just had to be one trick ahead of disaster. And that’s how I understood self-love for most of my life. The world was trying to bring me down, and I knew I was ok if I could escape its clutches. Of course, this kept me unconsciously playing out a pattern of winding up in a lot of situations where I felt trapped, so that I could prove to myself that I was still okay by escaping. It was exhausting and exhilarating and confusing as hell. 

Though I don’t think I fully believed it at the time, this crisis I was practicing something completely different. All of the work I had done previously prepared me for that in a way I wouldn’t be able to articulate until about now.

We use a lot of water metaphors when we talk about what’s happening in our minds. When we are overwhelmed, we say we are underwater. When we are really struggling, we often say we are drowning. Several wisdom teachers talk about the difference between being the ocean and the waves. Water is my wilderness, in almost any form, and I also gravitate to these metaphors. 

In previous crises, when I thought I was drowning, I would have considered it a “win” to have scrambled into any passing boat, regardless of who was on it, or where they were going. Because at that point, the only goal would have been escape. But the truth is, that’s not a great goal. At the time I didn’t know how to separate natural forces from systemic ones. Natural forces are neutral. They are chemistry, and physics, but what they are not is human. The Universe is a natural force. It doesn’t have desires, and it definitely doesn’t have clutches. It doesn’t want to punish or reward us because it doesn’t have wants. It is neutral, which has allowed me to understand that there is no grand plan to capture me (or anyone), and thus no reward to escape, and that the game I’ve been playing really only exists in my own mind. Being able to get clear that though there are systemic and institutional forces at work inside the Universe that definitely are meant to dehumanize and break us, the Universe itself was not out to get me, or anyone. More than that, it just doesn’t work that way. 

Even though I have a much easier time bringing myself back to the expansive place where I understand that the Universe is neutral, the practice of bringing myself back still remains a practice. And the more scared my unconscious becomes about shedding these old what-used-to-be-self-love kinds of models, the scarier the pictures in my mind become. I’m saying this to illustrate that this practice isn’t really ever “done”. There are times when the imagination is quiet, and so there isn’t much to practice. It is also true that the stronger the fear we have the courage to question, the easier it becomes to question fear in general, and so the process itself gets easier. But as mentioned above, the basement always can always lower, and when it does, it will be even harder to practice at this new level because it’s a new challenge, we will be beginners there. 

This last crisis was that new level of challenge for me. I lost my housing, and due to the instability that caused, I thought I would lose my business. The nightmare mind-movies were still playing, but I had set myself up with such a strong foundational practice that I was able to withstand those living nightmares, though barely. It took a lot of attention and focus not to succumb to those fears. But I knew enough to understand that if I started to believe I was actually drowning, I was at risk of making a bad choice coming from a manic place of survival… which would have a good chance of landing me right back in the same pattern from which I desperately wanted out. 

So I waited. I did not move toward escape so that I could make a straight-on, centered choice about what was going to happen next. 

At some point I met a couple from France who were heading back there for 2 years, to care for aging family, and was seeking someone to care for their historic home and elderly dog while they would be away. The rent was halved, because of the dog-care, the house was unbelievably spacious, beautiful, and kind of perfect for me. This was the centered choice I was hoping for: beauty, space, a place to host clients, rent that isn't astronomical, and enough time to settle. In three days, my life, and future, had totally rearranged itself, because I was able to challenge the story of being a beggar, instead of a chooser. That has nothing to do with me; that is just how it works. 

The day I sent the deposit, I was staying with a friend’s parents, because she was in town staying with them, and I was staying with her. That night we were all at the dinner table together talking. I was sharing my story, and my friend’s step-mom said, “Wow. You totally manifested that!” 

I stopped short, because when I’m in casual conversation, I can’t always gauge how much wisdom to bring into it, but I said, “No, I didn’t manifest that. I stretched my capacity to stay in an uncomfortable situation, because I was training myself in validation. This happened to come along, but I didn’t make that happen. I was just able to hold out long enough that the probability of finding the right thing grew bigger.” 

It’s taking me a long time to get there, but that’s the point I want to make here. Manifestation is a confusing concept. We don’t actually manifest anything. That’s not the right verb. We don’t make things happen. There is a skill here, but that’s not it, and the idea that we can “manifest” something is harmful and confusing. What we can do is we get really clear on what feels right, and then value our wisdom over our fear. We can practice validating ourselves enough to let that be the guiding force, for as long as possible. This is not a guarantee that the right thing will cross our paths, just that if it does, we will be ready for it. And working from our intuition is clean fuel, rather than working from fear, which is dirty fuel. Working from our intuition strengthens us.  

When we really believe we are drowning - when we believe the images that the fear conjures - we can make the mistake of feeling like beggars. In this situation, I said no to offers of housing that came my way when something inside me either didn’t know whether or not to move forward, or when I felt a strong “No”. I also felt a lot of fear about that. At the time, I didn’t know what would happen, and that is always the case. Working from our intuition isn’t a textbook test. We can’t “ace” it. As stated above, the Universe is neutral. It’s not going to reward you with a gold star, or a trophy, or the love of your life, or your dream job or house. That’s not the goal of the practice. This practice is distinctly to separate from outer circumstances, and that’s the point. No matter what’s happening outside, the inside is steady. The goal of the practice is being as clear as possible in the present moment, for as many moments as we can string together at a time. Repeat. What we do get from that is that we can sustain inner calm in situations that would otherwise knock other folks off balance. Inner calm means we aren’t reacting out of habit. It gives us access to conscious choice. Conscious choice gives us more options, more possibilities, and a stronger connection with our wisdom. Options, and choice change the limiting factors of how we see and interact with life. If I saw myself as a beggar, I would have been happy for any scrap that came my way. And there are tons of confused people out there just waiting for us to happily accept scraps. It doesn’t have to be this way. 

And, sometimes it does. Sometimes we do have to accept scraps. If that is a necessary component of life for some part of our timeline, then doing that without attaching it to our identity, knowing that it is temporary and will change, is itself a form of love. But when we incorporate that as part of our identity, and we wind up conceptualizing ourselves as beggars, we can’t see that we deserve something more, and we keep ourselves there because we believe that’s all we can get. And that, is fucking heartbreaking. 

We don’t ever have to be beggars. We can be choosers, even when things are scary. When the external circumstances force us into situations that we wouldn’t otherwise desire, we can still choose to roll with that. Sometimes the waves go down. When that happens, the smartest choice is to float down with them so we don’t drown. The waves will always come back up, and sometimes the smartest things we can do is just go with them until they do. Floating with them is self love. Resistance to the present, or the past, is strictly a losing game. And only when we truly understand that can we wholeheartedly affect the future well.

The work of “manifesting” is actually the work of self-validation. During my challenges, being a Chooser was coming from a place of Self Love, though even that is something I wasn’t totally sure of while it was happening.  In the middle of it, I had several rounds of having to move through the deep fear of not knowing if what I was doing was the right choice. This felt like being yanked into a fear state by my self-doubt nearly constantly, and using every ounce of strength I had to be willing to let that fear go, and get back to the place of Wisdom. That happened thousands of times over the course of that crisis, in bigger ways and in smaller ways. 

This is actually how we manifest. Manifesting is not something we do with the Universe, it’s something we do inside of ourselves. It’s committing and recommitting to our deepest, truest, wisest voice. This is what gives us more opportunity, more choice, more access to vision, and the courage enough to stay with the process of turning that vision into reality.

I’m coming out of this valley now, with an even better sense of self, faith and understanding. Because I spent so long validating myself against a few deep, old, as-yet-unquestioned fears that at the time seemed very, very real, now there is some kind of anxiety that has left me. I’m stronger, more self-assured in the good way, and I feel even more committed to the loves of my life. I feel even more in love with life. Because that was so hard, the things that used to feel hard now feel easier, which means life in general feels easier. Not easy, and not always, but certainly a noticeable amount. 

And the practice is not done. There was a period of time, after I found housing, which allowed me to stay in the Bay and which would be a huge boon to growing my business, that this prodigious wave of relief passed over me. It was so powerful that for a few weeks, everything just felt ok, and good and right with the world. I was practically floating around. And then one day, I woke up, and I wasn’t anymore. And so the practice starts over. It is easier now, and I understand it more, but it is in no way absent. What used to take me days to work through now takes me hours, but I still have to do the practice. And if I thought that it was all just supposed to poof away and be better because I did a hard thing, or that I would stay on that float-y high forever, I would be caught right back in the mind because I would be pissed that it didn’t happen like that, and I would petulantly resist practice. Please don’t make this mistake. It doesn’t work that way, and it has nothing to do with you being someone who doesn’t deserve happiness. That mindset is a function of confused expectations, because that’s literally just not how it works. And the trouble is, we need you, and what you can bring to the world. We need you to validate your own wisdom so that you, we and our future can benefit. Practice always makes us stronger, and better, no matter what. If you want to “manifest”, be a chooser. Choose you. Choose us. Choose practice. Choose wisdom. These choices make a difference whether you can see it in the moment or not. One of Steve Jobs’ famous quotes is that you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect the dots looking backward, and you just have to trust that it will make sense when you do. This is what it’s like to validate our wisdom. In the beginning it resembles the feeling of flinging ourselves off of a ledge, not really knowing if we’ll fly or fall. But the thing is, if you continue practicing with wisdom, you can’t actually fall. Even if things “don’t work out” the way you hoped, you understand this as part of the landscape of the universe, which means you still float. 

I’ll end with my favorite quote on this subject, by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche: “The bad news is that you are falling through the air, nothing to hang onto and no parachute. The good news is there’s no ground.” Practicing validating your wisdom means that you come to have an embodied, unshakeable trust that there is no ground. When you know you can’t fall, you can make leap after leap after leap. This practice in validation is the work of manifesting. This practice is what allows us access to our greatest hopes. And what we need right now, in the world, is a lot more people bringing their greatest hopes from imagination to reality. We need you - please don’t forget that.