Is Manifestation Just Another Form of Grasping? How To Pursue Your Dreams While Practicing Non-Attachment

Dear Ones, I’m thrilled to announce that I have finally dived off the high dive and enrolled in a life coaching certification program! This was my number one goal when making the decision to move to New Mexico six months ago, and even though I’ve already accomplished several secondary goals (find work at a brewery, study for my Cicerone certifications, and kick home brewing into high gear), this one has eluded me… until now. I also just started a second part-time job as an admin for a bunch of engineers, and that has really taken a lot of the financial pressure off my creative spirit and, in a sense, given me the felt permission to go for it!

I will be pursuing my Wellness Coach certification through Coach Training EDU, and I am also undergoing an intensive Business Accelerator program led by a coach for coaches! I fretted and fretted over the investment decision for months until finally last night I just pulled dat trigger. Speaking of triggers… it’s incredibly revealing to put your money where your mouth is and take big risks in the name of your passion! The fear of success can lead to confusing concoctions of guilt and excitement. As I begin my life coaching journey and prepare to launch my second business, I have been reflecting on the subtle differences between attachment and manifestation.

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Ever since I can remember, I’ve experienced an aching, a longing for something outside of myself. Whether it was a God I had to please as a child, a soul mate that could love me as a young woman, or a job that would fulfill me as an adult – there has always been an attitude of, if I could only attain something external, I would be truly happy. Now I am exploring and practicing Buddhism, which includes a philosophy of non-attachment as a path to alleviate suffering. I used to think this meant, in order to be Buddhist, you had to forsake all possessions and all human relationships and go meditate in a quiet mountain hermitage for the rest of your days. Luckily, I’ve learned that the practice of non-attachment is so much simpler than that.


[Photo by Helena Cook on Unsplash]

For example, this morning I spilled my coffee all over my gorgeous rug in my yoga/meditation space. I only had a fixed window of time to practice self-care before leaving for work, and now I would have to sacrifice part of it to cleaning up my mess. I had done the same thing the day after I first purchased the rug, and had beat myself up emotionally for it. Some of the stains hadn’t fully come out. This morning’s experience automatically triggered those same feelings, and as I trudged toward the paper towels, I could feel the same self-judgments welling up within me. But, this time, I was able to pause, reflect, and stop my suffering habit in motion. Rather than attaching my identity to this idea of “The One Who Spills The Coffee and Ruins Everything Beautiful,” I was able to detach who I am from the accident and remain instead, “Nonjudgmental Self-Compassionate Observer of Her Own Mental Conditioning.”

This practice of non-identification is my favorite way to connect with the philosophy of non-attachment. It is our ego’s delight to see itself in EVERYTHING around it. Whether it’s liking a product, connecting with a song, or seeing yourself in every story you hear. Or, in many cases, attaching our identity to a mistake or accident, likely thinking that this punishment will ensure the same doesn’t happen again. Imagine a time when you hurt yourself and then blamed yourself for the accident. What needless suffering this “second arrow,” as it’s called, can cause! “I stubbed my toe. Ouch, it really hurts! How did I let that happen? I’m a terrible person.” Our ego pretty much has two modes – I am good, or I am bad. It isn’t very complex, which is good, because it means we can more easily dissect, explore, and eventually dissolve it.

Talking about the ego can be off-putting, as many of us raised in the West have such an aversion to it and relate it to selfishness, arrogance, and egotism. After all, these are all ways to “fail” at being a likable, contributing member of society. But the ego is really something we all come into this world with, and I think it’s time we learn to connect to it in a friendly, loving, compassionate, curious way. Think about it: we evolved to the top of the food chain by ensuring our survival, and the survival of our species. It is only natural, then, for us to still relate everything back to our own needs. By acknowledging this natural self-protectionism, we also acknowledge the forces beyond our control that have shaped us.


[Photo by JOHN TOWNER on Unsplash]

Happily, these forces outside our control are not where our story ends. It is up to each of us to ultimately attempt to suffer less. When we are aware of our tendency to identify with every emotion, thought, conversation, or thing outside of ourselves, we can stop the cycle. We can see ourselves through the Witness Perspective – a higher state of consciousness that can observe our patterns and tendencies from a place of non-judgement and compassion. If we observe a near-constant identification pattern with every thought, then we have an opportunity to acknowledge it and practice loving kindness toward it. This attitude of non-judgement, and even care and compassion is often all it takes to dissolve the ego, the grasping, and the identifying, therefore alleviate the suffering!

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During my morning meditations, I like to mix it up and switch between a self-guided meditation, a guided meditation on the Insight Timer app, or a EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique/Tapping) practice on the Tapping Solution app! Some mornings I am just in the mood for some manifestation. If you’ve never done a manifestation meditation, it can be a powerful exercise in picturing the reality you want to bring into your life. It’s almost like a road map for the Universe to attract specific blessings. I didn’t know it at the time, but I swear I used this method to attract my husband one afternoon while daydreaming in college (my pre-meditation days).

I selected a manifestation guided meditation the other morning, and, as I was led by the guide, I began to picture myself as a successful life coach, calling my clients on Skype from my lovely backyard on a beautiful blue sky Albuquerque day. I could see the client, her struggles, her fears, the stories she tells herself. I could see us co-creating a plan that worked for her that could help her bring her own dreams into her reality. Then I imagined getting paid what I’m worth and what kind of reality that could create for me and my family.

And then… you know what happened? I actually felt guilty for imagining my own success. Effectively, I energetically apologized for the manifestation, sending the Universe cross-signals! As soon as I got to the part about what the manifestation could do for me, how it could benefit me financially, I freaked out and basically changed the mental “channel.” And, because I was in the witness perspective mode, I saw it happen, and I asked myself, “Do I feel guilty because I was grasping for the dream – which would conflict with my practice of non-attachment? Or do I feel guilty because I am afraid of success?”


[Photo by Aleksandr Ledogorov on Unsplash]

You see, I think women especially have this tendency. We daydream and daydream about making our passion our reality. And then, when we start to actually get close to that finish line, we start questioning EVERYTHING. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be successful? Wealthy? Confident? Why should I get everything I’ve ever wanted?” And/or we start drawing comparisons and criticisms between our work and the work of all the other creatives out there, and tell ourselves, “I’m not as good as them,” or “I don’t want to seem like a copycat.” Basically, we realize that, with success comes criticism, and we begin to suffer from a fear of perceived future judgment.

And, in my case, I experienced a twisted form of suffering – one that uses my spiritual practice as a weapon against my desire for success. From a non-judgemental state, I can say I know this is not my fault. I know that I’ve been conditioned by society, my upbringing and my spiritual background to be wary of, and even squash out, the “dangerous” desires within me. And as I try to reconcile this patterning with my newfound understanding of non-attachment and suffering, I can’t help but be curious – will my desire for this image of myself in this imagined future end up causing me suffering? Especially if I don’t get there?

Dear Ones, it’s a question I don’t think we get to know the answer to. I guess we don’t ever really know without a doubt that our dreams will come true. We can slay our buns off to get there, but we also have to open to what is outside of the realms of control in order to achieve that non-grasping, lesser suffering state. It doesn’t mean we prepare to fail constantly – no, just the opposite. We also have to be all in to truly attract these realities. We have to stay open to the possibility that the manifestation goal we have in our minds could change. We have to follow where we are led if we truly want it to be for the benefit of all beings everywhere. And we have to be humble enough – and non-judgmental enough – to admit when our dreams aren’t in alignment for the Universe’s absolute best for us. I think the best we can do is ground down into the Earth, tune into the Divine, practice self-care, and regularly reflect on our own intuition. The rest is all just par for the course – more Universal lessons to learn from.

As always, I’m rooting for you, Dear Ones. Let me know in the comments below – have you ever felt guilty for chasing your dreams or investing in your passions? How did you overcome it, or maybe you haven’t yet? I’d love to hear!

Until next time, be well & take gentle self care.

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I started Luminous Leanings to share my passions of meditation & self-care. As a self-care coach, I'm really just a holder! I hold space for busy people on their self-care journey. Then I hold them accountable as they integrate self-care into their lives. If you want to develop more self-compassion, but aren't sure where to start, you've come to the right place. Be sure to check out my guided meditations & journal freebies, & sign up for the Letter to keep in touch. You don't have to self-care alone - I'm in your corner!

2 thoughts on “Is Manifestation Just Another Form of Grasping? How To Pursue Your Dreams While Practicing Non-Attachment

  1. I love this post, Ellen! You really explain the Buddhist principles clearly, and then you explain how you apply them to your own life. As for guilt for investing in my dreams, I used to be afraid to spend money on my musical hobbies, but now I realize how much music gives me, and I spend the money gladly. I will never be an overspender, anyway– it’s just not in my nature. But now I am taking voice lessons, and I bought a keyboard for my basement so I can practice into the night. These investments have made a big difference already! They add to my quality of life. They are worth it, and so am I.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, Claire! I am so proud of you for investing in your musical passions. These are the things that light you up & connect you in to the beauty of life! Thank you for inspiring me. And thank you for your comment on this post, I’m glad it spoke to you!

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