Is it possible to action your goals by just writing them down and thinking about them?
I turn off the lights in my room and turn on deep meditation music. Then, I light a scented candle and carefully, so as not to burn both myself and my room to the ground, put it at the centre of the grid created by crystals – rose quartz, tiger eye, red jasper, and others – neatly laid out on my bedside shelf. It is the new moon, obviously. I take a piece of paper and write my intentions for this lunar month down, several times, to make sure they are deeply ingrained in my mind, thinking of the 369 method that TikTok recently blessed me with (writing down what you want three times in the morning, six times in the afternoon, and nine times at night). I sit crossed-legged on the floor and, repeating them to myself and breathing deeply, visualise my biggest dreams into reality. Suddenly, my little brother rushes into my room and starts screaming like a banshee, as if I set my room on fire. “Shut up,” I snap at him, “I’m manifesting.”
Although the anecdote is rather a fictional narration of my life in lockdown and I am still to succumb to the all-embracing power of TikTok, such woo-woo wellness practices have been increasingly adopted by western and, ergo, mainstream culture, characterising New Age Spirituality. Originating in the 1970s, the esoteric movement is based on the belief in reincarnation, astrology, psychics, and personal healing. Manifesting, described by Angelina Lombardo, the author of A Spiritual Entrepreneur, as “making everything you want to feel and experience a reality… via your thoughts, actions, beliefs, and emotions,” is one of its key pillars that was appropriated as a self-care quarantine trend and a defining meme of this mess of a year. Our mind is a powerful tool in shaping our reality, and manifesting seems like a reasonable way to get hold of what’s happening in our mind in addition to obtaining some clarity about where we are and where we want to be, right?
Since childhood, I was taught to believe that we attract what we think, that the energy we release is the energy we get back and that we have to attain a higher vibration for our life to take on a positive quality. Some of us are, by all means, privileged enough to co-create our lives. However, when The Secret – a 2006 bestselling book that takes this law of attraction as its premise – says that “You are the Michelangelo of your own life. The David that you are sculpting is you. And you do it with your thoughts”, I’m reluctant to take such a bold statement for granted, despite how tempting it is to see myself as one of the greatest artists of all time. Manifesting a life that one wants solely through positive thinking or, simply put, thinking, and achieving personal prosperity seems like a more serious undertaking; so is marrying Timothée Chalamet or getting a slim waist, smaller hips and toned thighs, as manifested by Youtube users under how-to manifestation videos. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I try to meditate on the idea that I will graduate with a first-class degree, launch a successful career straight away, and find a loving partner, these things won’t come into form unless I also put some action into achieving them. My own renaissance won’t happen if the only step I take is allowing it to do so and surrendering. That would be far too easy, and Chalamet would have far too many wives.
As our capitalist system commodifies everything it stumbles upon, quite often this prosperity that we are so desperately trying to manifest is understood in terms of wealth and material success. The internet is replete with advice, tips, and steps to manifest money, a dream home, or “a fuller, richer life” – its fullness and richness having, in reality, nothing to do with our wallet if we are financially secure already. The universe, then, is yet another commodity to abuse in order to satisfy our consumerist cravings. I hate to break it to you, but the universe doesn’t owe us anything, even if we align our vibration with it. Manifesting material objects and expecting them to fall into your lap can only lead to disappointment and discouragement.
That said, I hold nothing against manifesting. Whatever floats your boat, as the saying goes; and when that boat is sinking, a drowning man will clutch at a straw. I myself have been clutching to it for a while during the pandemic as a means of self-analysis and, essentially, setting my goals. Achieving them, on the other hand, requires more practical strategies than writing them down several times, visualising them into reality, and waiting for them to happen. I guess this is where most confusion around manifesting comes from: even the most powerful tool that is our mind needs assistance. You can’t sculpt a David by simply looking at a slab of marble.