“Yeah, then my husband and I plan to move out east and manifest a little wealth…”
The woman continued her conversation, but I was stuck at the “manifest a little wealth” part. We were at a yoga retreat in Mexico, and I was eavesdropping as I dug into my fish taco.
Never had I heard someone so casually, so offhandedly, speak about prosperity. She spoke as if wealth was something you could stick on your manifestation shopping list and pick up at your earliest convenience.
“We’ll just manifest a little wealth.”
Just like that, I thought? It’s that easy?
Don’t get me wrong: I’m a firm believer in the power of manifestation. Every few years I write a life plan; my own manifestation shopping lists have included items like build a house, meet a nice guy, and pursue work I enjoy. It feels great, years later, to reflect on those hopeful requests scribbled in my journal and realize I’ve checked every one.
But, like a child plunked on Santa’s lap and given an opportunity to ask for the universe, it never occurred to me to ask for money.
Well, not exactly. The means to be comfortable, yes. The ability to live a lifestyle I enjoy, sure. The disposable income to live more gently on this earth, maybe give a little back, absolutely.
But I never asked for wealth…Why not?
“Somehow, somewhere along the way, many of us got the memo that having money is bad, especially if you’re a moral, spiritual, service-oriented person.” ~ Kate Northrup
As Kate Northrup points out in her book, Money: A Love Story, Westerners often associate wealth with evil. Many of us grew up in homes where money caused perpetual stress. We worshipped heroes whose modus operandi was to take down the rich evil-doer. Sinister antagonists in childhood storybooks tend to be wealthy, like Scrooge, Cruella De Vil and The Lorax’s Once-ler.
A few days later, just as our Mexico retreat was wrapping up, I again overheard the woman describing a visit to Pilar, a local woman who sold handmade jewelry from a thatched-roof, plaster-and-stick-sided shack near the yoga center. The woman was showing off a necklace that Pilar had gifted her.
“She just told me to take it!” she enthused as she said her goodbyes and boarded a bus to the airport.
I was also leaving the next day, and the exchange reminded me that I needed to pick up a necklace I had commissioned for a friend—a pebble from the beach that Pilar had expertly entwined in wire and strung on a chain. When I stopped by later that day, Pilar was agitated and gestured apologetically; she didn’t have the necklace. Someone else had taken it. Someone tall, whom she had mistaken for me.
I realized the other woman, who was, by now, back home in Canada, had mistaken Pilar’s gesturing and broken English for her offering as a gift the necklace I had intended to buy.
I bought a few other things, but continued to chew on the misunderstanding. Though well-meaning and blissfully unaware, the woman believed that she, a person of means, had been given a necklace worth $30 USD by a woman who lived in a rusted-out shipping container. Did she believe she had manifested the exchange as some divine souvenir from this idyllic vacation?
Is the manifestation of wealth really just veiled entitlement?
For months I continued to contemplate the notion of wealth generation. Could I, too, simply conjure some disposable income? Had I been approaching this whole saving-for-retirement thing all wrong? Maybe the ability to move beyond just paying the bills every month was as simple as shifting my thinking. I decided it was worth a shot and began investing mental energy toward my finances.
Here’s what happened: over the course of a week, I learned that I did not qualify for a paid maternity leave, I got some unsettling news about an investment fund, and I was notified that a substantial tax refund owed to me was being denied. Something had gone terribly wrong; I shifted my thinking, but I was not wealthy. I was just getting by.
I mentally scratched manifest wealth from my to-do list, tearing up the pieces and sending them skyward, and what rained down was a disproportionate degree of gratitude. As the dollar signs faded from my eyes, I began to more clearly see the things in my life that hold more value than numbers on a bank statement: my husband’s kindness, the beauty of where we live, the baby girl growing in my belly.
Life had, as it turned out, already been generous. I didn’t have to shift my focus to manifestation; I had only to shift my focus to seeing the substantial gifts I already enjoyed.
“Happiness is not having what you want. It is wanting what you have.” ~ Rabbi Hyman Schachtel
In midlife, a painful step in my development, I was busy and felt like we would never get ahead. I recognized just hanging on is enough. When we similarly shift our perspective on wealth, we begin to recognize abundance. We look around and see the good that already exists rather than what we believe is missing and could make us complete.
I still put energy into my finances by doing a monthly budget and keeping track of what comes in versus what goes out. But I’ve realized it’s equally important to invest energy into appreciating what I already have—most of which can’t be bought anyway.