On Manifesting (or Making Things Happen with My Mind)

Today I want to write about manifesting (or what I later define as “Making Things Happen with My Mind”), but I’m nervous. I wish to write about it because I’ve had recent success I think others can learn from, but I’m scared because I fear readers will either mentally check out or try to physically check me in at the first mention of this subject.

Maybe I need to find a different word because manifesting sounds too “out there”, “new age”, and, well, whacky. Perhaps an alternate word will make the topic more feasible?

Since I’ve been in Mexico for the better part of a month, I see no better place to start the search for this new word than with Spanish.

There’s a common word in Spanish, the verb “hacer”. This is the first word that comes to mind as a potential substitute for Manifesting. I’ll be honest, to my non-fluent ears hacer seems to be used in so many varied situations that I’m unable to describe its job properly. When I look the word up, however, the most common English translations are “to do” or “to make”.

That’s a good start.

Wordsmithing this a bit, I take the second translation “to make” and then add the word “happen” to the end. That feels a bit better.

The thing is, in my western culture when we talk about making things happen, we usually think of putting physical hard work and exertion in place. Manifesting is different.

Instead of exerting and pushing externally, much of manifesting happens internally. It’s about setting a goal, aligning energy, thoughts, and feeling with that goal, then letting go. Knowing this, dare I say that Manifesting equals making things happen with my mind?

But Wait! There’s Research (Kinda)

Ok, I’m not sure if this sounds any better BUT, maybe pointing out that there IS actual scientific research highlighting my ability to make things happen with my mind might help. In fact, this is the fancy quote from said research which gives me hope that I’m not insane when discussing this topic:

“It is able to represent more adequately than classic concepts the neuroplastic mechanisms relevant to the growing number of empirical studies of the capacity of directed attention and mental effort to systematically alter brain function.”

Directed attention and mental effort to systematically alter brain function doesn’t PROVE that making things happen with my mind is real, BUT it does suggest that directed attention alters how my brain works. From this I can hypothesize that maybe altering how my brain works changes how I act or don’t act when it comes to meeting my goals. And maybe this change in response is what manifesting is all about?

Maybe.

Either way, I’m counting the research as a first piece of evidence. The recent events which happened to me are what I count as a solid second.

Recent Event #1

The first event is a smaller one. A few weeks ago I was looking over my annual finances, and even though I’ve been doing pretty well this year, I noted how having one more small, non-intensive project to give me an extra influx of cash for the holiday season would be perfect.

Realizing I didn’t have the energy to push forward with additional business development or marketing to land said project, I took another approach. I set the goal of said project, imagined what having it would feel like, then let go.

That’s right, instead of churning and putting all my energy towards finding a gig, I simply detached myself from the outcome. I didn’t think about it, nor did I wish for it. I just let it be.

Several days later I received an email from a client I hadn’t heard from in years. They had a desire for a two week project that paid pretty well, and required little effort.

Reading this email I felt the exact same feelings I had envisioned. We were able to set the project up quickly, and in no time we were on our way towards extra cash (and making our client happy).

Yeah, success.

Recent Event #2

When I booked my travel to Mexico, I knew I’d be in the country for one of their biggest holidays, Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). I greatly desired to learn more about the holiday while I was in Xalapa, and I longed to be part of the celebrations. My greatest wish was to talk to local people about how they celebrated and what the holiday meant to them.

Unfortunately, I knew zero people in Xalapa with whom I could celebrate. Instead of researching Day of the Dead meetups or expat groups or some other option, I chose to go inward. I visualized what I wanted, aligned with why I wanted it, and then let go.

A few days later, on the Tuesday before, I was in the kitchen of my AirBnb host. He, a Dutch man, was helping two of his long time Mexican friends to practice English. As a native speaker, I was invited to join.

Several minutes into our chatting, the wife of the pair said to me, “You must celebrate Muertos with us. Thursday we will take you to the center of the city. Then Saturday, you will come to our house to see our alter and eat with us. Sunday, we will take you to Naolinco, a very famous town for Muertos celebrations.”

I was floored. Right before me was an entire itinerary that met my original intentions, and all of it was created without one bit of grind and hustle on my part. To say I felt a little bit like I had superpowers would be an understatement.

Lis manifests herself in front of Xalapa letter sign.
While celebrating in the city center we stopped to grab evidence that I, indeed, was in Xalapa.
Lis in Xalapa in front of carpet alter on Muertos. Another manifestation!
Behind me you see a carpet. It is made of SAND! These are the traditional pre-Columbian alters seen during Muertos.
Alter in Naolinco. Manifested on my day with new friends.
An alter in Naolinco. This is the more modern form you see with offerings to the dead.
Lis in front of a giant Catrina in Naolinco. No better example of Manifestation.
I’m pretty excited to see this huge catrina (dressed up skeleton) in the middle of Naolinco.
Cortez catrina display. Made this happen with my mind... maybe?
This exhibition is put on every year with a different theme. This year’s theme marked the 500 year anniversary of Cortez’s arrival.
Catrina with a black veil and purple dress. Definitely made this happen with my mind.
This was by FAR my favorite catrina of the day. She was in a local pastry shop.
Lis on bicycle with Catrina in a tuxedo. Look, I manifested a groom!
It was a wild ride!
Naolinco letter sign. My mind brought Naolinco into being... kind of.
I love these signs.

Great examples, BUT how can I be so sure?

I’m the first to admit that the idea that I somehow made these things happen with my mind can seem out there. But, being that I actually LIVED these examples it’s hard for me to deny the premise completely. This conflict made it clear to me that further investigation was needed.

My first step was to look further at the idea that I had made these things happen with my mind. Sure, I thought that’s what I had done, but since I know that thinking something doesn’t make it true, I had to dig deeper.

To do so, I examined if and how others talk about the concept of making things happen with the mind. What research had been done? What results surfaced?

In my investigation, I found several resources which discussed the concept. These, coupled with the research I cited earlier AND with my own experiences further solidified my theory. (NOTE: I will, of course, continue to investigate.)

Another interesting finding was that many of these resources echoed my own experiences. For example, in each, having a clear vision of the goal and aligning with the feeling surrounding that vision was paramount to success. In addition, most of the resources also noted the importance of letting go.

Bringing Together My Investigations

I reflected on both of my alleged manifestations. In both, I set clear goals. In the case of the project my goal was to “have some extra cash”. In the case of celebrating Day of the Dead it was “to learn more about the holiday”.

In both I visualized what each of those outcomes would feel and look like.

In example 1, I saw myself landing a client quickly, felt the project being non-labor intensive and the client being highly satisfied, imagined myself having extra cash, and felt the relief that came as a result.

In example 2, I felt the joy of being seated at a table with friends and festive foods. I imagined myself in the midst of skeletons and colors, and felt the wonder of learning more.

Sure I didn’t know the details of these imaginings, but I could envision what they might feel like. I walked through these events as best I could. Then, when I got to the question of “How do I make this happen?” I did something REALLY IMPORTANT.

I answered, “I don’t know”.

Then, I detached myself from any results, and did absolutely NOTHING else.

I was STILL making something happen though.

The beauty of it all is that during this process I described: setting a goal, having clarity on how the outcome of the goal would feel, aligning with the feelings and letting them sink in, and then, most important, letting go of the result, I was in effect doing or making something happen.

The key was, I wasn’t pushing in order to bring my desires into being. In fact, I didn’t care about the outcome at all! Instead I was accepting my current state with or without the result, while knowing that IF my goals came to pass they would make me more whole.

“I’ve tried this before…”

Before these recent events, each time I saw an article on making things happen with the mind or “manifesting” I scoffed thinking, “I’ve tried this ‘manifesting’ before, and it doesn’t work”! Now, I see my error.

I tried.

In the past I put external effort to the forefront. I had checklists and action plans, and I clung to my end result. I found articles and instead of reading between the lines and finding my truth, I pushed until I checked off each and every step; never seeing the result I told myself I had envisioned.

During these times I blinded my clarity with desperation. Instead of letting go, I focused on grasping and needing things to happen.

I did this because letting go felt like being lazy or giving up, and lazy people aren’t worthy people. More, I desperately wanted to feel worthy of the outcome I desired..

I know now that letting go isn’t giving up. Instead it is giving the subconscious brain time and space to “direct attention and mental effort to systematically alter brain function.” It’s trusting instead of grasping.

And of course, Buddhism holds the key

When making things happen with my mind, there is action and effort, but as the Buddhist texts teach this effort needs to be “right effort”. Better defined here as:

“The most basic, traditional definition of Right Effort is to exert oneself to develop wholesome qualities and release unwholesome qualities.”

I need to set my goals (and make sure they align with making me more wholesome), align with how attaining them will feel, and let go (i.e. let go of the unwholesome qualities of pushing and grasping).

To me this is taking the right effort to bring wholesome actions from my internal thinking into my external world. This is making things happen with the mind, and I’m further convinced that it is 100% possible.

Making things happen in this way is much harder than following a plan or checklist. The latter includes social proof that others have succeeded. The former involves walking where there is no path, and this means little validation and even less knowing.

Walking my own path forces me to trust my beliefs, have faith in myself, and not concern myself with outcomes to prove myself to others.

It’s hard to walk such a path, but from what I’ve learned creating that path is not only possible, it’s half the fun.


Becoming a Wild Woman

This post was originally published in Sam Osbiston’s online publication Catching Life back in the Spring of 2017. It’s one I worked hard on and really enjoyed creating! I’m reposting here so that you too can enjoy it (hopefully).


As a young girl, somewhere between the ages of 5 and 7, I made a bold statement.

I remember my two older brothers and I were arguing, and one of them made a comment condescendingly saying,

“When you grow up you’re going to be lazy and no good”.

I remember feeling weighed down by hurt and confusion. I didn’t understand why anyone who was supposed to love me would say such things. It is only as an adult I realize this is what others tend to do to the brave and wild. They go to great lengths to extinguish our fire before our flames can grow so large they get consumed by them.

Shockingly, my mother stuck up for me. In what felt like a rare moment I heard her say to me,

“No you’re not. You’re going to grow up to be a nice, smart young lady.”

At her words, I remember feeling a tightening around my soul. One that I knew wouldn’t do.

Confronting my mother’s statement, my small frame straightened and I announced,

“No I’m not, I’m going to be a wild woman!”

Wild? Did I even know what I was saying? Did I really want to be wild?

At such a young age, did I know that a song played across my spirit; one that would not be quieted by the everyday expectations of life? Did I know in order to feel a part of this world, to find an inner peace and calm, and to make a mark for myself and for all my kindred spirits, I would need to dance in full force to the rhythm of my inner song?

Was I aware of what dancing the dance would mean, and did I realize living a wild life would require me to stand alone in my truth?

In the time before I allowed my heart and soul to be tightly closed by mediocrity’s vice, yes, I think I did want to be wild. In fact, I think it was knowing these things deep inside the core of my being which made my child-self affirm my future so confidently.

Somehow, I still ended up falling into the grasp of the uninspired life. My dreams clouded and eventually merged with those of others. I found myself operating from a restrained, sensible, and disciplined place, one that had been made for me, instead of by me. While living this carefully constructed life, my persona eventually morphed into that image my mother described.

I most certainly did become a “nice, smart young lady”.

The song, however, still played.

It hummed along in the background throughout the empty successes, the ghost failures, and the misguided loves and heartaches. Eventually, I saw I had given up so much of myself to the conventional, I was left feeling void and drained, like a ghost roaming eternity in search of a redemption it would never find.

I needed to find my way back to Wild. I needed to dance.

I don’t think it was one moment or decision that prompted the dilation of my soul. Rather, I think my untamed heart freed itself slowly, jaggedly, and painfully, like ice expanding and breaking apart the rocky enclosure. One painstaking decision after the other led to the undoing of my sensible persona and the uplifting, and releasing, of my natural spirit.

Slowly, the traditions I held onto so loyally and so dearly began to break away. I started to see through them, past the place where their false core resided, through the thin, filmy residue of the intentions that held them together, and into the heart of the lies they were built upon.

I began to confront my own false narratives which held together the fragments of the model citizen I had become. I stood face to face with my demons, and I broke my own heart several times along the way.

With each broken heart I realized how much I had stifled my own free spirit for the acceptance of others. I waded in the pool of the heavy pain and regret of these realizations. I berated myself for not being my true self, and basked in the guilt of wanting to let go of everything I had built to get away from my natural self.

I allowed life to tell me wild was ugly and outcast, but the more I worked to let the thick, sludgy venom of conformity drain from my soul, the more I began to see the pure, inspired beauty of a spirit so naturally expressing itself in the world. I saw a dormant flower of winter bud into a vibrant Spring blossom.

Truth be told, the further I went down the path less travelled, the further those I had relied upon proceeded down the well traversed path. As I stepped further along my road to authenticity, I saw the inauthentic friendships melt away. And, being honest, watching the happiness of the many while walking among the few caused so much doubt within me, the brilliant light center I had begun to operate from flickered and darkness began to move back in.

But, the song played on, and each time it came down to choosing between sitting this one out, or dancing the time away… more and more often I chose to dance. For I believe, in the end, the feeling of living my truth outweighs that of living the false ideal of others. And, in the end, I have fallen madly, passionately, and deeply in love with a life that is lived purely from the heart.

I have fallen for me, one hell of a wild woman.


How Owning My Mindset Creates My Reality

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” – William Shakespeare, Hamlet

On my recent flight from Budapest to Warsaw, I witnessed a tender moment that almost brought me to tears. I was seated on the aisle of a three person row. To my left, a young boy sat by the window, and his father occupied the middle place. About an hour into the flight, just before we started our descent into Warsaw, I observed the father signal for the flight attendant to come over.

They exchanged a few words, of which I knew zero because they were either in Hungarian or Polish, then the flight attendant withdrew to the front of the plane. He returned several moments later with a small package, a toy replica of the airplane we were on. I noted how I’d never seen anyone actually purchase this type of good on a flight before. Doing so always seemed faux paux, but at that moment I couldn’t understand why,.

The man lovingly handed the item to the young boy who gratefully accepted it. I smiled to myself; warmed, and deeply moved by the sweetness of interaction.

I noticed my response, and then took a moment to investigate and break it down. I realized my reaction was based on me viewing the father, who was about my age, through adult eyes. I sympathized with his “being a parent” imposter syndrome that I hear from most of my friends with children, and took joy in assuming his self-doubt dissipated ever so slightly due to his son’s happy face.

I also empathized with the young boy’s point of view. I recognized the immense joy he must have felt after, what to an adult, would be such a simple act, and I let myself sink into the belonging and support he must have held in his young heart.

It was a great moment.

But… here’s the next thought I had:

I have no idea if this story is true.

Yeah, I know what I saw; a man about my age handed a toy plane to a young boy. But, I had no proof that they were even father and son! Did they really feel all the sweetness and joy I described to myself? No clue! The man could be a criminal kidnapping the boy and giving him a toy to keep him quiet, OR he could be a step-father trying to win the love of a spoiled-rotten young child.

I determined that in the end it didn’t matter. What I TOLD myself was my reality, and the story, true or not, brought me joy. This is when the realization happened.

I saw how a simple thought (whether it was true or not) had both changed my mood entirely and crafted my reality. Then it hit me! “What I think has the power to change my outlook on life. If I don’t take ownership of my mindset and what I think, I’ll never be able to architect my best life because someone else will always have power over me.”

Whew… it was a moment, and the resulting thoughts are worthy of some dissecting.

Let’s start with the term “owning my mindset”? To me, this means being in control of how I think about and react to the situations, good and bad, that life throws at me. It also involves being responsible for how I see the world, and the stories I tell myself about what I see.

If I tell myself bad stories about something that happened, my world will probably seem pretty negative. However, if I tell myself good stories, the world will not only seem more positive, but I will also feel empowered to feed the courage I need to make the big changes that make me my best self.

Front of a bookstore and cafe in Budapest
I could look at this as a simple bookshop, or I can be open to the magic of the working space and secret garden within.
Line of beer bottles on a counter
I could tell myself being 37 years old and drinking beers all day in Budapest is irresponsible… or I could look at it as a gift.
Burgers, blues, and beers festival grounds
If I get hung up on telling myself I should be DOING something productive, I might miss out on some great live music at the Budapest Burgers, Blues and Beer Fest.
Outdoor Beer Garden in the Park
Some may look at a Tuesday beer garden visit as unproductive, I chose to look at it as awesome.

One example of “owning my mindset” was last August when I found myself in Bakersfield, California. Shortly after my time there, I wrote a piece depicting my experience of the city.

The short synopsis: Lis arrives in Bakersfield with the perception that it’s a rough, and therefore undesirable, place to be. Hoping to make the most of it, she decides to open her mind and heart, and after a few days of owning her mind, she has experiences which exemplify the beautiful side of the roughness. End scene.

I went to Bakersfield with preconceived notions, and I could have held onto the viewpoints that it was a harsh, mean, and dirty place to be. I could have let those define my time in the city. However, when I took ownership of my thoughts, decided I wanted a positive experience, and then let life happen, I was able to see beyond the reputation to the good that surrounded the town. Instead of having a negative experience, I had quite a positive one, and even hope to go back one day.

Reflecting on this, I asked myself, “Sure owning your mindset works in these smaller moments, but if all that’s needed to change your reality is a change in your mindset, how can disease, despair, injustice, and poverty still be so prevalent in the world we live in? How can so many bad and unfair events still be happening to so many undeserving and innocent people? Can people really change their realities by taking ownership of and changing their minds?

I thought long and hard about this one, as it’s a line I don’t tow lightly, but after sitting with the discomfort of these thoughts, I saw the answer clearly. Yes, changing your mind IS all that’s needed to change YOUR reality, but changing your reality can’t change what happens to you. Let me explain.

It’s obvious, but I’ll say it anyway. Many events take place outside of our heads. People come into our lives and treat us poorly. We lose our jobs due to poor company management. We face injustice due to ignorance and hate. A storm hits our city and takes away our home and all we’ve worked for. These events are out of our control. No matter what happens in our heads, these events transpire.

The good news is it’s not what happens outside of you that defines your reality. Yeah, I said it! So what DOES define YOUR reality? How you think about and react to the external. That choice is 100% up to you!

A great example of taking ownership of one’s mind to shape one’s reality comes from Trevor Noah’s book, Born a Crime. The book is his story about growing up a mixed race boy in South Africa both during, and after, apartheid. (NOTE: it’s a great read! I highly recommend it!)

Throughout the book, Trevor’s mother is owning her mind, and thus defining her reality. A highly religious woman, she is someone who knows herself, acts from her inner being, and, when good or bad events come her way, accepts and views them through the lens of “God has his reasons”. She knows who she is, and her reality is never swayed. Of course, that doesn’t mean only good things happen to her.

After a harrowing near-death experience, Trevor sits over her hospital bed and says to her, “You’re lucky to be alive. I still can’t believe you didn’t have any health insurance.” “Oh but I do have insurance,” she said. “You do?” he replied. “Yes. Jesus.”

The woman didn’t dwell on the fact that she almost died, she owned her reaction and reframed it based on her deep seated beliefs and inner knowing. Because of this, she didn’t lead with fear, and she didn’t retreat from living to her fullest. She kept on going through life her way, no matter what happened outside of her. I’d wager that she lived the best life she could because of this outlook.

Violinist in Budapest
A violinist owns his reality by playing his finest despite very hot conditions.

Once I had this definition of “owning my mindset”, I started to ask myself, “How do I DO it?”

If you’ve been reading this blog, the first step should come as no surprise. Like Trevor’s mom in the above example, you have to first:

Know yourself

To know yourself, you must go into some sort of stillness.

This could be a formal meditation practice, or sitting still on the train or bus each day without pulling up something to distract you. It might mean taking 5 – 10 minutes before bed to reflect on your day and ask yourself what brought you joy, what took joy from you, where you showed courage, and where you chose compassion. Any of these options going into stillness in my book.

Saint Stephen's Cathedral in Budapest
I found stillness starring at this beauty.
Saint Matthias Church Square in Budapest
I found even more stillness on the walking tour through Budapest. Seeing these sights around me it was impossible not to stop and take them in.

In a video you’ve seen me mention before, The Art of Stillness, the speaker talks about moving to Kyoto, Japan from Manhattan. He notes how living in a place with limited distractions is “clearly not ideal for career advancement nor exciting for social diversion. But I realized that it gives me what I prize most which is days and hours.” He continues saying, “I’ve found that the best way that I could develop more attentive and more appreciative eyes was, oddly, by going nowhere, just by sitting still.”

However you can make the time and space for it, be still each day and you will no doubt be on the path to self knowing.

It’s important to note that being still isn’t the only method necessary for acquiring self knowledge, nor is owning your mindset and telling yourself good stories the only way to craft the reality you want.

Once you’ve got a stillness practice on lock and you’ve begun observing and owning your mind, you must begin to ask yourself an all important question. This question is imperative to creating an authentic reality:

Where am I lying to myself?

I lie to myself a lot. I believe I do this to protect my status quo way of thinking. As an example, when I was in Budapest earlier this Summer I was getting frustrated at not knowing the language. My lack of knowledge caused me to feel powerless in many of my experiences.

I then observed myself (through stillness) starting to blame this powerlessness on the world around me. I was faulting everything else for my lack. When I started to feel these frustrations I knew it was time to ask myself, “Where am I lying to myself?”

Hungarian street sign
What’s in 15 meters? I have no idea!
Budapest Building Facade
A facade is only that. We need to dig deeper.

I answered, “You’re the one giving your power away. No one here cares whether you know the language or not. Take back your power.” And that’s just what I did.

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” ~Alice Walker

The situations I encountered which I previously found frustrating didn’t decrease in number, but they DID decrease in frustration because I was now owning my reaction to them. Instead of being embarrassed or feeling vulnerable, I embraced my otherness and love of self. It was a simple mind switch, but it made a world of difference.

So yes, it really is as simple as changing what we think. How can I be so sure? Yeah, these examples are nice anecdotes, but how do I know this can happen out there in the “real world”? Because I’m living it!

Besides the examples I’ve provided so far, there’s the overarching narrative of my life. Oh yeah, I’m going there. Hold on to your hat!

As a woman raised in the rural United States, my entire reality/mindset growing up, what I was told my life needed to be in order for me to live my best self, was one of 1. find a husband, 2. have kids, and 3. be a dutiful wife, mother, and local citizen, and you will find happiness.. I had no other understanding of what life should be.

When I got to my early 30s and was nowhere close to this narrative I TOLD MYSELF I wanted to live, a dear friend said to me, “You know. Maybe you’re lying to yourself. You’re a person who will work to achieve anything you want. If you really wanted this life you say you want, you would have worked harder for it. Maybe it’s not what you want.”

Mind blown!

He was right, of course. Once I saw this narrative was not a reality I wanted, but rather a reality taught to me over the course of decades, I realized I needed to get my mind right and align it with my heart. Instead of beating myself up for being bad at finding a husband, a place to settle, or just bad at being a woman in general, I owned my perspective. I took ownership of my mind.

Now, here I am several years later, no longer faking that I want on that traditional path (though the ghosts of it linger, I won’t deny it).

This doesn’t mean only good things happen to me now that I own my mindset. Bad events do still happen, but now instead of letting them own my reality I take my power back and react to them in a much more centered, powerful, confident way. By no longer reacting from fear, I am directing my life, my way.

You can now see how owning my mind, and thus my reality, is the second structure needed to architect my best life. It’s a structure that, much like the first, any of us can work on no matter our environments.

By owning my mind I am in control of how I view and react to what happens outside of me. I’m no longer at the whim of others, or feel under the control of the powers surrounding me. I am my own master, which leaves me feeling afraid, alone, and powerless no more!.

On the contrary, I feel confident, assured, and empowered to act on my own instincts and desires. With these beliefs to anchor me, I can then take the hard, unconventional actions needed to walk my own path toward architecting the life that’s best for me.

It’s on me, no one else can do it.

At least… that’s what I like to think.


My First Interview! – The Informed Life Podcast

I was on a podcast!



Jorge Arango Tweet
Tweet announcing my interview on The Informed Life podcast.

Last month, while housesitting in the Columbia River Gorge, my friend and colleague, Jorge Arango invited me to be a guest on his new show The Informed Life podcast.

Here’s a description of the show from the website: The Informed Life is an interview-based podcast that explores how people from different fields manage their personal information ecosystems to be more effective.

I had a blast chatting with Jorge about my journey; how I choose where to go, what I learn along the way, and, most interesting, what structures I put into place to keep going.

Take a listen when you have 30 minutes of ear time to spare, and be sure to report back on what you think!

Lis Hubert on Living an Intentional Life