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There are some rules and caveats for thinking your way into a life lived with purpose and precision, where you have everything you ever wanted and the world is a paradise because you created it.
You have to get your brain buzzing right.
It's not enough to vaguely hope for things. And it takes wisdom to even know what you want. Once you know, you have to get into the correct vibrational frequency to reach out and grab it. If you want a pony, you'd better get a stable first. If you want the angels to talk to you, you need to clear a space in your brain for them. Remember to say "please" and "thank you." If you want the universe to be kind to you, you have to start by being kind to the universe.
Remember, too, that built into this philosophy is a convenient, self-preserving paradox: if you don't believe in magic, it can't work. If it's not working for you, it could be that you just didn't believe enough.
I've gone looking for God on a spiritual retreat, where we took a vow of silence and did nothing but eat, sleep and meditate for 10 days, and I didn't see Him once. Didn't even catch a glimpse. I expected something extraordinary to happen but it turned out to be the opposite. Your heart slows down and the chatter in your mind becomes a low hum. If anything, it's more ordinary.
The retreat taught me that we orient ourselves in the world entirely via sensations in the body. I saw clearly for the first time that there's no real there out there. We imagine the world to be a certain way, we react, and it generates sensations of pleasure, pain and the murky spaces between. For a few days afterward, I was able to hold onto the knowledge that my thoughts were directly generating my experience. But the matrix is distracting. I stopped meditating regularly. One day, I woke up cranky about the way the world had wronged me and eager to blame it on anyone but myself, and I knew that I'd lost it. Two years later, I'm only just getting it back.
Meditation is the single best way I know to temper the dragons in my head without drugs. I recommend that everybody do it all day, every day. Or, you know, whenever you can find the time.
It's all your fault.
If you're going to sign on to the idea that your thoughts create your reality, you'll have to take the good with the bad.
I still haven't fully learned how to reconcile this one. Do you want to be the girl in the flowing skirt telling the mother of an 18-month-old who is dying of leukemia that her son brought the illness on himself with his bad attitude? Me either!
There was a classic moment with the Dalai Lama on "Larry King Live" shortly after Hurricane Katrina when he tried to explain to the audience, in broken English, that the hurricane was society's fault, because of built-up karmic energy. It was not well received.
Just remember that your thoughts are powerful and learn to use them responsibly, I guess.
Frame your requests in the positive.
You're probably already a brilliant manifester without even realizing it. When you focus on lack, you'll find your life lacking. I know, it's a favorite refrain of self-help books—but have you ever been a jealous girlfriend? Your boyfriend is going to leave you for a prettier girl; you just know it. You see these prettier girls everywhere. He's a flirt. One day, he leaves you for a prettier girl, and—aha!—you were right all along. It's because you're so powerful. You threw your entire life-force energy into it and you made her out of clay.
The lesson here is that you have to work hard to accentuate the positive. In other words, whatever you do, don't think about an elephant.
I tried telling Jack that his cynicism created a maelstrom that forced me to betray him, by the way. I don't know if he bought it.
Really, you're doing all the work.
Take the hotplate I wished for: Did I think the countertop was going to give birth to a hotplate if I meditated on it long enough?
Oh, I got the hotplate all right. First, I wrote down that I needed a hotplate. A week or two later, I went to a thrift store and bought one using dollar bills out of my wallet.
There's something therapeutic about the simple act of taking a moment to think about what you really want and need. Just writing it down gives it weight. You don't need to light candles or throw pennies at the moon. Instead of magic, you can call it goal-setting.
If the angels don't want you to have it, then you can't.
Sometimes our short-term wants don't mesh up with our long-term needs. That's because the universe knows more than we do. Remember the boyfriend who left us for the clay woman we created? Remember how much our heart burned with certainty that he was our one-and-only and that our lives were nothing without him? Remember how wrong that turned out to be?
You have to take the long view and trust that things are going to work out. As horrifying as it was to see my face all over town when I published my pot story, weeks later it hardly mattered. Those same pages were used to line a rabbit's cage. A hundred years after that, the paper will have turned to dust and we'll all be dead.
When it came to the stuff on my list, most of what I didn't get were material things. Meanwhile, I clocked 26 days of sobriety that I never asked for and barely even knew I wanted.
Most disappointing was not getting the free ukulele. I thought I did everything right. I dreamed of Hawaiian instruments. I thought about how a ukulele would feel in my hands and I promised to learn how to play well when one came to me. I even tried to help the spell along by posting a Craigslist ad with the heading "Wanted: Free Magical Ukulele."
On a long enough timeline, maybe I'll understand why the angels decided to be such dillweeds about it. Right now, I'm still bitter. I mean, seriously, guys: They're not that expensive.
Where's my fucking ukulele?