Manifestation Made Easy (For Some)

 
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When you believe it, you will see it.

You are the creator of your own reality.

Change your thoughts, change your world.

What you think about, you bring about.

Your external reality is a reflection of your internal reality.


Over the past few years, buzzwords like manifestation, vibration and the law of attraction seem to have exploded, with influencers and YouTubers explaining how they have manifested their dream life and countless books lining the shelves with instructions on how to attract your desires through the power of positive thinking.

I absolutely agree that having a positive outlook, setting intentions and visualising your goals can be incredibly powerful and life-changing, and indeed shifting your energy often seems to enable different experiences and opportunities to emerge. However, there’s something about the law of attraction that doesn’t sit so well with me.

Not wanting to rustle any feathers or offend any of my friends who wholeheartedly believe in this ideology, I put off going anywhere near this topic, but after finishing Bryan Stevenson’s book, Just Mercy, I have found myself standing in the shower each night (obviously the place where the best thinking happens), piecing together sentences and trying to find the best way to put this into words.

What worries me about the belief system around positive thinking, manifestation and the law of attraction, is that they fail to take into account systemic issues and factors that are completely out of our control, that can be real barriers and causes of social discrimination, no matter how much you “raise your vibration”.

Just Mercy is a true story, an account of Bryan’s experiences as a lawyer in America, trying to get innocent people released from prison or death row when they should never have been there in the first place. A lot of the cases in the book illustrate that we clearly aren’t all on an even playing field here. Social discrimination is real, and if you happen to be born with coloured skin, a disabled body, or lack financial resources or education, the chances of “the universe” being on your side are a lot slimmer.

A lot of the people he writes about have been sentenced to a life behind bars or a ruthless execution, yet I definitely wouldn’t say they are solely responsible for “attracting” these circumstances. So many are loving, positive and totally innocent, yet were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or were convicted wrongly in court because of racist assumptions and social discrimination.

Yes, this is definitely the extreme end of the spectrum, but you can see where I’m going with this.

Manifestation might be real, but it’s also rigged. For example, I have a hard time believing that someone with coloured skin or a disabled body with minimal access to money or education will have the same success at “manifesting” the job of their dreams as someone with beauty, fair skin, wealth and abundant social connections (or even just thousands of Instagram followers).

At university, the acronyms CAGES and CAGED were burned into my brain, standing for Class, Age, Gender, Ethnicity, Sexuality and Disability. The fact these acronyms themselves allude to being trapped speaks volumes. Depending on your life circumstances and the body you were born into, it’s not always as easy to be the creator of your own reality.

I worry that the less these sort of ideologies are questioned, the less empathy we have for others who are suffering or struggling, assuming that they are somehow entirely responsible for the cards they have been dealt, therefore it’s not our problem.

It’s a way of thinking that treats each person like an island, completely disconnected from any social or political webs, or able to overthrow and dismantle all obstacles and adversity on their own, often just by embodying more positive energy. It also perpetuates individualism, rather than community, and suggests that it’s normal for our focus to always be on our own desires, rather than the needs or feelings of others.

As much as I would love to have some answers on this, I don’t. Sometimes I still catch myself internalising these ideas, and when I do, I’m far more likely to dismiss someone who is having a rough time than to offer a hug or my ears.

I believe that love and positive energy have transformational power, but I think it’s also crucial to remember that playing a game well is a lot harder when you’ve been dealt a shit hand, something which isn’t always the fault of the player.

 

Dangerously Healthy

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Recently, the Australian 60 Minutes ran a segment about social media, influencers, clean eating and orthorexia – a condition where the desire to be healthy becomes an unhealthy obsession. One girl featured on the show shared her experiences, recounting how her initial inspiration from social media to live a healthier lifestyle escalated to anorexia and being force fed by her parents.

If you knew me a few years ago, you might remember when I got really into health and fitness. Thankfully my story isn’t as extreme as those shared on 60 Minutes, but it’s been playing on my mind how easily it could have got out of hand, and that other people might be going through similar experiences, controlled by a pursuit of health or fitness that has gone past the point of healthy.

As a teenager, I never really had body image issues. I was active, ate whatever I wanted and exercised for the feeling it gave, rather than a body I was trying to achieve. I knew what foods were healthy and unhealthy, but it wasn’t until I went to a health seminar during university that I got a better understanding of nutrition. Inspired to eat better, I upped my intake of fruit and veges, and cut down on junk. I became vegetarian, and as my research continued, slowly made the transition to veganism.

Around the same time, I also got into fitness, joined the gym and got involved with Nike Training Club. I became well acquainted with battle ropes, sledge hammers, tyres, barbells, punching bags and medicine balls. My Instagram feed was a constant stream of health and fitness inspiration and I too started posting similar content – food I had made, runs completed, workouts with Nike. I felt positive, motivated, energized and healthy.

Over time however, something in my perception shifted. Instead of just trying to nourish my body, healthy foods became attached to emotionally loaded connotations like “clean” and “good”, while unhealthy foods became demonized and associated with words like “cheat” and “bad”. I couldn’t just enjoy a treat without thinking about the exercise I would do to burn it off. Opening Instagram and seeing a stream of toned, fit women had started as inspiration, but gradually became punishing.

When I went to classes, the trainers would demonstrate movements and explain what parts of the body they were targeting. I vividly remember the day a trainer got us doing side planks and said “love doesn’t need handles.” A friend of mine who was a personal trainer also gave me a skin fold test to evaluate my body composition. Never had I felt so aware of my own body fat until the moment it was being pinched and pegged. I started to think that the less fat I had on my body, the better. I had lost about 10 kilos and looked the most athletic I ever had, but when I looked at my body I just saw all the ways it could still be “improved”, and was determined to make more “progress”. The goalposts just kept getting further and further away.

One day, I woke up and did a high intensity workout at home with weights for 30 minutes. Mid-morning, I went for an hour long walk with my mum. In the afternoon I headed into town and ran 5km with Nike Run Club. Afterwards, I went to my dance studio and did 2 hours of classes. Another day included a 45 minute workout with Nike Training Club, a Les Mills Grit class and a workout with a friend who was a personal trainer. Exercising more than once in a day was not an uncommon occurrence, and I didn’t feel satisfied unless I had done something. In hindsight, I can see that it was excessive, but at the time I was really proud of myself. Being around trainers and athletes also normalized the behavior, and positive comments from friends affirmed my belief that I was doing a good thing.

I had been off the pill for about a year, and my period hadn’t come back. At about the 6 month mark I had seen my family doctor about it, but she had said it wasn’t anything to worry about as it can take a while for the body’s natural systems to kick back into gear after being on contraception. When a year had passed, she sent me to a hormonal specialist. This was the wake-up call.

Once we had ruled out that there wasn’t anything abnormal going on internally, the specialist asked me all sorts of questions. She wanted to know about my weight, diet, exercise regime and how they had all changed over time. When she got the full picture, she was very open and honest, and told me about this thing called the female athlete triad. In short, I was exercising too much and not eating enough to compensate for all the energy expenditure. Yes, I looked and felt “fit” on the outside, but the constant energy deficiency, low level of body fat and high levels of physical stress on my body was communicating something else to my reproductive system – that I wasn’t in a healthy and safe state to carry a child. Hence the lack of period.

I also naturally have a more muscular build, so where the low level of body fat might have looked skeletal and unhealthy on someone else, it just looked lean and athletic on me. Besides, since when has lots of exercise and healthy eating been reason for alarm? The specialist however, told me I needed to slow down and gain weight, or else I was putting my fertility at risk. The scary part was, she mentioned how many girls she was seeing in the same boat, girls who were completely oblivious to the damage they were doing, some of who were so deep into it they needed professional psychiatric help. I wasn’t the first case she had seen, and I certainly wasn’t going to be the last.

A couple of years later, I still eat healthy, I’m still vegan and I still love to exercise, but I’m far more relaxed about it and am at a healthier weight. Absolutely, there are days I can feel my mind slipping back into those old patterns, but I now know that thrashing my body is not a healthy remedy. Something that came as a bit of a surprise, was how when I first cut back on exercise, several people admitted they were worried and had wanted to say something, but didn’t know how or thought it wasn’t their place. I also discovered that a girl I knew was going through the same struggle, but had given up. She had seen a specialist years ago and been told the exact same thing I had, but couldn’t overcome it. She had simply come to terms with the fact that she might never be able to have children.

If someone you know is heading down the same road, put on your big adult pants and say something. When the rest of the world is preaching a message of fit, tight and toned, be a cheerleader of slowing down and ditching exercise for other things. If you don’t know how to approach the topic, bring up the segment on 60 Minutes or say you read a blog about it. If it’s you that is struggling, or reading this strikes a nerve, then reach out – to me, to your family, to your friends, anyone. I can tell you from experience that as soon as you start talking openly and vulnerably about it to someone you trust, it loses a lot of its power. People are incredibly supportive and just want you to be healthy. Anyone that isn’t supportive can walk.

This is a huge topic, but for now, I’ll finish up with this. Whether you are male or female, the world will try its very best to convince you that your worth as a person is bound up with how you look; that you would be better if you did more exercise, if you ate healthier, if you had a “better” body. This is just a story. A powerful, compelling, widely believed story, but a story nonetheless. It is not the truth. You are worthy regardless.

Love always,

Erin

If you’re interested in watching the full segment of 60 Minutes, the link is below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uotg530Aa7Q

Go for Growth

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My comfort zone is enticing. It offers warmth and familiarity in a world that can be chaotic and unpredictable. But I have to remind myself to take a closer look, to remember that despite its warmth, my comfort zone is also a barren desert where not a lot grows.

One afternoon at work several weeks ago, when my colleague’s granddaughter was telling me all about her day at school, she suddenly stopped mid-sentence and pointed at my phone. “Aren’t you going to answer that?” Set to silent mode, I was completely oblivious to the incoming call flashing on the screen. I had recently applied for a job, had an interview, and this phone call delivered the news I had been hoping for. I was thrilled, beaming, but what I hadn’t anticipated feeling was fear and resistance. As with starting anything new, there were so many unknowns.

We are creatures of comfort, and by nature like to have an idea of how things will pan out. It gives us a feeling of security and control in a world where a lot of what happens is completely out of our hands. For our primal caveman brains, familiarity means safety and a better chance of survival, and heading into any unknown territory often sets off the alarm bells. The thing is though, trusting inspiration and intuition almost always means taking a step into the realm of uncertainty and unknown outcomes, but that’s where the magic happens, where the growth happens. I could have declined the offer, sticking to the comfort of a bigger paycheck, the familiar routine, familiar work place and a role that I could do in my sleep, but a little voice reminded me to look at my comfort zone a little closer. What is growing here?

There’s this guy I follow on Instagram who I hope to meet one day, his name is Stefan Hunt. He is a filmmaker and director who has worked on some incredible projects. Despite openly sharing on social media that the idea of screwing it up and the crippling fear of making the wrong decision plays on his mind daily, he recently moved to New York with no job and no plan. ‘When you’re trying to calculate the most “fail proof” route I reckon you can miss the magic. Sometimes you just need to jump in the deep and then figure out how to swim rather than standing by the edge of the pool all your life.’ Amen to that.

I quit my job.

Courage over fear. Growth over comfort. Quit standing by the edge and jump on in.

Out of the Box

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It’s been a while since I posted anything. I’m still writing, still filling journals, still leaving scraps of paper with my scrawled notes around our flat, but I just haven't felt like sharing anything and that’s cool. Creativity often comes in weird and unexpected waves, and things seem to work better when I surrender to the flow, rather than paddling my ass off trying to catch a wave that isn’t there.

Something else about creativity is that there are infinite outlets for its expression. Over the past few years, there has been an explosion of all this new age stuff - find yourself, find your purpose, find your passion. While I am a huge advocate for finding and doing what you love, I am an even bigger advocate for trying different things and staying open. Heck yes, I want to fill my days with things that bring me to life, but I don't ever want to be pigeonholed by them. When there is a smorgasbord brimming with options for creative expression, why limit yourself? Look at Einstein. He is known for his work as a physicist, but what brought him the most joy was actually his violin. Go figure.

After my last blog post, I was starting to feel boxed in. I was pressuring myself to write and sidelining other things that make me feel alive. So I took the pressure off writing, and got back to feeling free, feeling amplified. I went to a few morning raves before work. I went to a gig, rocked out on top of people’s shoulders and danced so much my feet hurt the next day. I cried a fair bit whenever I needed to. I danced around the lounge as much as necessary. I rolled around on the floor laughing with friends. I listened to a lot of music with the volume turned up loud. I bought a bright red dress, followed by a yellow one, followed by some cowboy boots. I went running, walking, did burpees, anything to feel breathless. 

If I could give advice to my younger self, here’s something I might say. Do what you love, but always stay open. Say yes to all the things that light you up and make you feel electric. Experiment. Forget about needing anything to make sense or needing to know who you are. If you really feel the need to fit yourself into a box, fine. Just be sure to make it massive, decorate it, brainstorm crazy ways to destroy it, or live so big you feel like you're spilling out over all the sides.

A Hundred Highlight Reels

In theory, I understand that social media is largely a glimmering highlight reel. I understand we selectively share the parts of our lives that we want the world to see and for most of us, this means the best most beautiful moments. I understand that it isn’t helpful to make comparisons between my life and what I see on social media, yet sometimes, I still find myself doing it.

Recently, I had a Saturday night in. No plans, nowhere to be. I made dinner, got cosy, lit candles, watched a movie and was writing – bliss. Or at least it would have been, had I not kept looking at my phone. It was just a casual flick through Instagram, nothing harmless, but then instead of enjoying my own night, I became very aware of the night everyone else was having. Scrolling through a stream of smiling faces and party boomerangs, a night that had felt blissful started to seem boring.

The number of youth battling with anxiety, depression and self-harm makes my heart hurt, and I can’t help but wonder if social media plays a big part. If a person’s Instagram profile is mostly just a highlight reel, and let's say I follow a hundred people, that is a hundred people worth of highlight reels that I am exposed to on a daily basis. You can probably see where I’m going with this. It is so easy to fall into the trap of believing that for everyone else, life is a constant stream of exciting, happy, photo-worthy moments, but the key word here is trap. It’s a false belief that sets us up for feelings of shame, disappointment, inadequacy and loneliness when our own reality doesn’t match up. Life is far messier than the picture that social media paints, but that’s what makes it magic.

The amount of people promoting social media breaks is awesome, but we also need the tools to navigate it when we are logged in. As a small starting point, just try to become more aware of how you feel when using social media. If it isn’t feeling so hot, that’s totally okay. Never feel embarrassed or ashamed about social media having an effect on your headspace, and know that other people feel the same way. Try to do some internal investigation and see where the feeling is coming from. For me, I know that seeing other people doing exciting things can make me think my own life is lacking something. I have no problem being alone, but if I am alone and start scrolling, seeing everyone’s social lives on display can bring up self doubt. Both are destructive thought patterns that can put me in a real funk, but simply becoming aware of the story that’s running in my head makes a world of difference, and allows me to see it as just a story.

Takes breaks if you need to and reach out if you need to, all of us are in this digital boat together. And most importantly, remember that you are enough, even if your newsfeed makes you question it.

Love always,
Erin

Love Doesn't Need a Plane Ticket

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Since returning from a trip to Bali with my partner Russ last week, I have been asked a few times what the best part was. I have said things like the trek up Mount Batur, going to Gili Air, or visiting Monkey Forest. While these were definitely highlights, it got me thinking about what really were the most special moments, the things that left the biggest imprint on my heart.

What came to mind was the night out we had in Seminyak, dancing like complete idiots in Motel Mexicola and laughing until our cheeks hurt. It was going out for burgers with Russell’s cousin Tayla, and spending hours just talking around the table long after our plates had been cleared. Tayla, if you ever read this, I don’t even know you that well and I love you so much already. I hope we get to hang out more one day.

In Ubud, it was Russ riding on the pool exercycle like a maniac, while all the other guests lounged peacefully around the edge. It was the little Indonesian man at the waterfall, who was ecstatic when I accepted his request for a selfie. It was the zookeeper at Monkey Forest, who was constantly cracking jokes and had the cheekiest smile. It was having a baby monkey wrap its fingers over mine.

On the ferry, I was right on the verge of sleep when a big wave splashed through the open window and hit me in the face. It was the moment Russ looked at me, I looked back in a daze with my face dripping wet, and we both cracked up laughing. In Gili, it was floating in the water with my arms wrapped around Russ, kissing his shoulders. It was walking to breakfast by myself one morning, and receiving countless high fives and beaming smiles from the locals.

It was the Canadian boys we shared a taxi ride to Canggu with, who were so friendly and made a long ride feel short. It was the waitress who served me the night I dined solo at a candlelit restaurant, who asked me lots of questions and just oozed warm energy. It was sitting around the dining table talking with our Airbnb host from Venezuela, who was one of the most kind-hearted people I have ever met and made us feel like old friends rather than guests. It was coming home to a voice message from him, saying he hoped we would come back to surf with him, meet his wife and take a picture together.

Bali gave us beautiful landscapes and colours, amazing food, lots of sunshine and a new sprinkle of freckles. It gave us an appreciation for small things we often take for granted, and a curiosity to explore other places and experience different cultures. But the thread that runs through all these vivid memories is people. It’s kindness, laughter and love. Traveling offers a lot of opportunities for learning, growth and connection, but in a social media saturated culture that glorifies travel, I think it’s easy to fixate on the idea that travel is necessary for a life well lived. While I am not sure that having a plane ticket to somewhere exotic is a prerequisite for a meaningful life, I am certain that having an open heart is.

You Are Not Alone

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A few months ago, I had a bit of a breakdown. I felt lost and depressed and spent a large portion of a Sunday afternoon curled up in a ball on the couch crying. There was a lot of weight in my head and in my heart. Writing this knowing I am going to share it online for anybody to read is nerve-wracking to say the least, because currently only one person knows this meltdown even took place. I did not ask for help, I did not share it on social media, I did not text or call anyone to notify them. In fact, I probably grabbed my phone as a distraction, scrolled through Instagram and felt even worse. So here I am, publicly sharing it, with my arms and heart open wide for anyone who has ever been in the same boat.

Although emotional hardship is an unavoidable part of the human experience, it's not something we openly stand up and share proudly. Most of us don't post on social media when we are going through hard times, and as a result it's easy to fall into the trap of scrolling through everyone else's happy moments and feeling like no one else is struggling. Living in a culture that encourages us to be independent and self-sufficient can also generate feelings of shame around asking for support. Rationally, I know that if I am feeling low, simply telling someone and getting it off my chest lightens the load instantly, but knowing this doesn't necessarily mean it's easy to do. Honestly, I'm pretty shit at speaking up when I need a hand, or just a hug. It makes me feel like a failure, or that I am being a bother, a drama queen or dampening the mood. Finding the courage to reach out is often the biggest hurdle.

So this is to anyone out there who might be going through rough stuff, yet keeps it to themselves. To you who wears a brave face, and tries to fight your battles on your own. Please know that you are not alone. You are not alone in what you're facing, and how you're feeling. You are not alone in not wanting people to know, how to talk about it, or who to talk to. To suffer or struggle does not make you weak, nor does it make you a failure. It makes you part of the human family. I know the feeling of wanting to ride it out alone, but from me to you, please also know that sharing the struggle will lighten it. That people will not think less of you, they will support you and have their arms open for you. That there is so much strength and beauty in vulnerability. And above all else, know that you can make it through.

I am right here with you.

Rerouting, Please Wait

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When I talk about love, I am not writing about the love that Nicholas Sparks writes about. I am not writing about romantic love, finding your soulmate love or make out in the pouring rain love. No doubt that is something I will get to in due course, but I am more referring to love as a way of living, seeing and being. It sounds simple and cliche, but put into practice, seeing with love and living each day from a place of love is a pretty radical and challenging notion.

Whether I am driving, watching TV, reading a magazine, on social media or browsing the web, I am met by a stream of advertising and content that encourages me to look not for love, but lack. To see all the things that are missing from my life, and the ways in which I am apparently flawed and inadequate. You need this special cream, this new phone, this body, you need to be this kind of person. Whether it is in terms of my relationships, health, appearance, career, skills, money, material goods or just who I am as a person, the prevailing message is “not good enough." In this kind of culture, love almost becomes an act of rebellion against the system. I imagine it is very hard to make a person feel inadequate and fall for marketing bullshit if they are operating from an unshakable heart of love. 

Living from a place of love is not only a game changer for advertising, but it is also transformative for every other facet of life. It means feeling acceptance and joy for what we already have, rather than wishing for something different, finding something to criticize, or feeling like something is missing. It means looking at the people around us (and perhaps more importantly, ourselves), and rather than seeing their body, clothes, social status, occupation, wealth (or lack thereof), sexuality, gender, ethnicity, skills, interests, opinions, disabilities or what you know of their past, just seeing love. Just feeling love. 

I write this like it’s easy, and in some areas of life it is. When my friends, family or partner are wonderful, it’s easy to be and feel loving. If all the traffic lights are green, work is good, what I need is on sale, the sun is shining, fantastic. The love goggles are on. But let’s be realistic here, life isn’t always like that. There are humps and bumps and the goggles fall off. It’s moments when my family or partner is driving me up the wall, nothing goes to plan, someone is rude, something goes wrong, something breaks down, or I feel unworthy. That’s when cultivating a loving heart is a heck of a lot harder, but probably most important. 

It often requires an entire rerouting of my inner GPS, my default mode of perception. A decision to pause, hit Control Alt Delete, and reboot the whole damn system. I say decision, but this is not one choice on a Monday morning and suddenly we are on the same level as Ghandi. This is a million microscopic decisions day in, day out. I am happy to admit that I am an amateur at love, and given that advertising is hard to avoid, circumstances and people are always changing, and life loves to throw curveballs at us, I probably always will be. But I don't feel disheartened by this. Instead, I see it as a lifetime of opportunities to practice.

Mr Snicket Was Right

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As of late, barely a day passes that I do not write. I remember when I was a kid and first learned the alphabet, I would scribble random combinations of letters on paper, simply because it felt like magic. To this day, that is still why I write. It just feels beautiful. Before my first computer, I would go into tech stores and get this huge buzz from just tapping away nonsense on the keyboards of the display laptops. On an even more embarrassing level, when I recently saw an old friend from primary school, she reminded me of the day I stole an exercise book from the class resource cupboard for writing stories in. I clearly came out of the womb with rebellion surging through my bloodstream.

Unfortunately, for both my creativity and my sanity, I have burnt up a lot of time and energy since graduating in a bit of a funk. I’ve been feeling uneasy about pleasing or disappointing people, and feeling pressure to find a “career” that is aligned with what I love and justifies all the time and money spent earning a degree. Any time I look at job vacancies however, I am left feeling more disheartened and confused than when I started, as if I’m playing with one of those toys trying to jam a circle peg into a square hole.

Sometimes I wish I had been born with a burning passion to work in law or accounting or medicine, something that at least has a clear path, but my heart lies elsewhere. I had actually planned on completing a degree conjoint with commerce as some sort of safety net, an attempt to “keep my options option”. Nobody was remotely surprised that I didn’t even make it to the first lecture before I had said goodbye to commerce. Just flipping through the information booklet made my skin crawl. 

So, here is what I know for sure: 

  1. My kindle and bookshelf are both loaded with books about love, courage and creativity. This is the stuff I am crazy about.
  2. These ideas are all much easier to read, think and talk about than to actually apply and put into practice. 
  3. Despite point 2, I still believe in the power of love and courage with my whole heart. That love is why we are here.  
  4. For a long time I have been thinking about starting a blog, but keep pushing the idea aside for fear I don’t have enough life experience, credibility or wisdom to write about some of the things I would like to. 

However, the longer I sit around waiting until I feel ready or someone gives me the thumbs up, the more I realize that Lemony Snicket was right. If we wait until we are ready, we will be waiting for the rest of our lives. At some point you just have to take the leap. 

I’m Erin. Welcome to Big Crazy Love.