Over the past few years, I have heard more and more people talk about “manifesting.” From what I can tell, the going definition of manifestation is “learning how to use spiritual principles to get what you want out of life.” Of course, it is usually stated in more palatable language like “how to realize your dreams” or “how to create the life you want.” Often, when I hear people describe this view of manifestation, I find myself feeling irritated. So, I decided it was time to write my own “Manifestation Manifesto.” (As you can see, I’m using this Publisher’s Blog as a chance to constructively express – at least I hope I’m being constructive – many of the pent-up frustrations I have been feeling as a publisher in the field of personal and spiritual transformation for the past 24 years.)
So in response to all of the manifestation talk I‘ve heard over the past few years, here is my “Manifestation Manifesto”:
Step 1. Listen to your inner voice.
Step 2. Do what your inner voice says.
Step 3. Repeat Steps 1 and 2.
That’s my manifesto (very short!). And although it sounds quite simple – and it is from a conceptual viewpoint – that doesn’t mean it is easy.
Step 1: Listen to your inner voice.
I believe we all have a trustworthy inner voice. You might experience it in the form of words spoken internally or as a gut feeling, an intuitive vision, a flash of insight, or a spontaneous sense of knowing. In traditional religious language, this inner voice might be called “the voice of our conscience,” which may not be too far off the mark. I do believe we each have an internal guidance system that is always available, if we are willing to stop and listen.
You might ask, “Where does this inner voice come from?” That’s a good question – and I don’t have a good answer. What I do know is that for me this inner voice is a compass. It feels to me like a reliable, benevolent, evolutionary messenger service, something that is guiding me to express more, to love more, and to extend more for the benefit of others.
It’s my experience that there is no shortage of available inner guidance. What is in short supply, however, is our willingness to tune in and listen. Most of us are too busy, busy, busy (ironically, trying to manifest our dreams, right?). Imagine how much power and impact we could have if we paused and listened to make sure we were actually scurrying in the right direction.
If we are interested in manifesting more in our lives – more abundance, more happiness, more contribution to others – one interesting question to ask ourselves is why we don’t spend more time listening to our inner guidance. Caroline Myss, the medical intuitive and author of Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can, has investigated this question in some detail. She posits that the reason many people don’t listen to their inner guidance is that they don’t actually want to change – certainly not in dramatic ways. We may say we want change in our lives (we want to “manifest” something that doesn’t currently exist, right?), but we usually want it on our terms, not on unconditional terms, not if it costs us something like our current sense of security, our current network of relationships, or our current identity structure.
And this brings me to why I often feel irritated when I hear people talk about “manifesting their dreams.” It is as if this all-powerful ego-based person wants to orchestrate a new world order according to their likes and dislikes, as if this whole universe exists to line up around our personal wishes. I really see things in quite the opposite way. The way I see it, we are servants, not masters. What are we serving? That is for each person to answer in their own being. In my case, I am serving a higher field or finer dimension of vibration that has qualities to it like truth, beauty and justice. I am also serving and partnering with all of the beings, seen and unseen, who have worked and are working to bring these qualities into form. To put it another way, for me the central question around manifesting is not “What do I want?” but instead “What is wanted from me?”
Step 2: Do What Your Inner Voice Says
Once we hear our inner guidance, we need courage – or to use Caroline Myss’ language, “a backbone, not a wishbone” – if we are to manifest in the world. This is complex territory, because there are all kinds of unconscious reasons we don’t want to act on the messages we hear. I will give you an example from my personal and professional life:
For about 5 years, I knew I needed to hire a President at Sounds True. The company needed day-to-day operational leadership, and I needed the time to explore other avenues of self-expression and contribution. I was, however, terrified about making this change. What if I hired someone who ruined the 20 years of work I’d put into the company, eroding the value of the business? What if I hired someone who was better than me at running the company, and I ended up feeling like a horse put out to pasture? What if and if and if?
Finally, my inner voice stopped talking to me in clear sentences and started creating difficult circumstances in my life – including a schedule that was totally unmanageable and a love partner who could not tolerate how little time and attention I had for our relationship. It was as if my guidance system could no longer get my attention by whispering so it started shouting through the circumstances of my life.
A year and a half ago, the shouting got so loud I couldn’t help but listen. So I finally made the decision to hire a President. (Happily, April 1st 2009 will be the one year anniversary of a fellow spiritual traveler and business professional named Grant Couch filling this role.) Why did it take me 5 years to take this step? Because, as Caroline Myss says, I was afraid of how much and how quickly my life would change. In a certain sense, I was “hiding” behind all of the tasks that I had to do. I knew this just below the surface of my consciousness, but I didn’t really want to acknowledge this knowing because I was hiding for some very good unconscious reasons. Suffice it to say I was protecting my heart; it can be quite scary to change in ways that radically – and publicly – increase our level of vulnerability.
So for me, when it comes to manifesting, a useful line of inquiry is “Why am I not doing what I know I need to do right now”? That is a totally different approach than “visualizing what I want” or expecting hoped-for external events to happen. It’s about deeply inquiring into our own resistance and what lies underneath it. My experience is that when I can archaeologically dig up that unconscious material, feel it and release it, it’s like untying a knot. Once that knot is untied, the energy to manifest flows swiftly and generally, unimpeded. Doors fly open. Surprising allies arrive. Magic happens.
Repeat steps 1 and 2
There is no end to manifesting and expressing who we are. I recently spent some time with Eckhart Tolle. We were filming a trailer for Eckhart Tolle TV, a new online television service that Sounds True is launching in partnership with Eckhart Teachings. I asked Eckhart why he was bothering to create this new service at all. I wanted to understand his motivations. Obviously, Eckhart can be spending his time in whatever way he wishes; why get involved in a multi-year commitment requiring so much energy and creativity? When I asked Eckhart the question “Why are you bothering to create Eckhart Tolle TV?” he paused for about a minute. Then he looked directly at me and said, “I am responding to the evolutionary impulse.”
I love that answer. When we are responding to an evolutionary impulse, we manifest in a way that is pure and selfless. We tune in. We are given instructions. We respond boldly, wildly and unconditionally. And as a result, we manifest in ways that serve evolution itself.