Disciplining Your Mind to Become Better at Manifesting

June 28th, 2006 by Steve Pavlina

A key to the intention-manifestation model is that you must keep your thoughts focused on what you want and avoid thinking about what you don’t want.  Even if you’re skeptical about the power of intention, it shouldn’t be hard to see that a disciplined mind brings benefits.  Improved mental discipline is sure to be a useful skill regardless of your current model of reality.  It’s hard enough to achieve goals via direct action if your mind is cluttered with negative or distracting thoughts.  But with intention-manifestation, it’s nearly impossible.

I’ve found that in order to improve my results with this model, I’ve had to put significant effort into disciplining my mind.  I consider this time well spent, regardless of the outcome.

Yesterday I saw the movie Peaceful Warrior, which is based on The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman (one of my favorite books).  In the movie there’s a scene where Dan is able to hear his friends’ mental chatter.  Even as they’re preparing to practice their gymnastics routines, their minds are filled with distracting fears and worries.  When Dan is able to clear his mind of all distractions, he performs at his best, and in the end he attracts what he wants.

Even as you read this article now, what other thoughts are passing through your mind?  Is 100% of your attention focused on reading this, or is your consciousness split?  Is any part of your mind churning over work-related issues, emotional stress, physical discomfort or hunger, noise from the next room, or past or future events?  It’s often the case that less than 50% of our attention is directed to the task at hand.  That isn’t focus — that’s blur.

When our mind is cluttered and we attempt to introduce new intentions, it’s like throwing pebbles into a stormy sea.  The ripples will still occur, but they’ll just be absorbed.  The calmer we can make our background thoughts, the cleaner will be our intentions’ ripples, and the more readily they’ll manifest.

I think anyone who’s attempted intention-manifestation in earnest can attest to the difficulty of staying focused.  How can you hold a thought of financial abundance without succumbing to worries about paying the bills?  How can you focus on attracting a new relationship when you still harbor thoughts of being alone?  How can you manifest health when you keep thinking about your ailments?  In my opinion you can’t… at least not right away.

I think a good solution to these problems is to build your mental discipline, your ability to stay focused on whatever it is you consciously decide to think about.  We spend a lot of time thinking, but how much effort do we put into consciously managing our thoughts?  How skilled are you at choosing your thoughts?

If you decide to think about a lemon, surely you can do so.  The mere suggestion may bring that thought into your mind.  But what if I asked you to allow no thoughts of fruit other than lemons to enter your mind for the next 30 days?  Could you do it?

Now what if after issuing this challenge, I come to you and say, “Don’t think about an orange… or an apple… or a bunch of grapes.  Don’t even imagine them.  Don’t even read about them.”  You’ve already failed, haven’t you?

But what if you took this challenge seriously?  What if you didn’t need to be absolutely perfect, but you wanted to ensure that during the next 30 days, of all the time you spent thinking about fruit, at least 90% of it was focused on lemons?  Could you do it?  How?

Of course instead of lemons, you can substitute whatever it is you wish to manifest.  Suppose you want to manifest financial abundance.  Of all the financial and money-related thoughts that go through your mind over the next 30 days, what can you do to ensure that at least 90% of them are in harmony with financial abundance?

I’ve been considering this question, and I’ve come up with a number of practices that have been very helpful in keeping my thoughts focused on what I want and away from what I don’t want:

  • Giving up TV.  If you want to stay focused on what you do want, it would be wise to start blocking sources that flood your mind with thoughts of what you don’t want.  TV is filled with negative images, especially TV news programs, so it’s a prime killer of positive intentions.  I’ve noticed that after doing without it for about four weeks now, my thinking has become noticeably more focused.  I’m technically still doing my 30-day trial, but I see no reason to re-addict myself when the trial ends.
  • Consciously focusing attention on the task at hand.  Throughout the day I try to perform a few tasks with 100% of my attention on what I’m doing.  When lifting weights at the gym, I focus on the current muscle group I’m training.  When eating a meal, I focus on the taste and texture of the food.  When driving I focus all my attention on controlling the car.  This means staying in the present moment, not thinking about the end of the workout, the work I’ll be doing after the meal, or my driving destination.  This not only improves my concentration, but the secondary benefit is that it keeps my mind off of would-be negative thoughts that might creep in while I’m not paying attention.  If I’m thinking about the weight I’m lifting, I know I’m not accidentally thinking about financial lack.
  • Index of distraction tests.  Occasionally I test myself to see how long I can hold a single thought in my head without experiencing a distracting thought.  This is a great exercise for raising your awareness of just how easily your mind can drift.  The first time I did this, I lasted only seconds.  It took a lot of practice just to reach three minutes.  Try this for yourself to see how long you can last, and train yourself up to improve your concentration endurance.  Just start a timer and imagine something simple like a lemon.  Hold the original thought of the lemon as long as possible.  If any non-lemon thought breaks into your awareness for even a split second, stop the timer.  The elapsed time is your score.
  • Focused environment.  Creating a relaxing workspace reduces stress, which makes it easier to concentrate on what is desired instead of worrying about what isn’t.  A clutter-free environment is particularly important, since the sight of clutter can trigger distracting thoughts.  Even photographs should be used sparingly if they tend to distract you when you look at them.
  • Improving finances first.  I find it much easier to concentrate on what I want when my finances are in good order.  Unpaid bills, debt, and financial lack can be an enormous distraction, making it incredibly difficult to focus on what you want.  Erin and I currently enjoy a situation where our monthly income is more than double our expenses, so our basic needs are easily met.  Our financial situation was the first area where we began consciously using intention-manifestation, and we’ve been delighted with the results.  As we see it, the main benefit isn’t material wealth because neither of us are particularly materialistic.  The primary benefit is that we eliminate financial lack as a distraction, which makes it easier to focus even more attention on our other intentions, especially those that are much more important to us than money.
  • Setting aside time for conscious intending.  Simply increasing the amount of time spent thinking about your intentions is beneficial.  I currently spend about 20-30 minutes a day thinking about what I want.  I pick a few intentions and let my imagination chew on them for a while.  If the intention-manifestation model is accurate, I believe I should see an improvement in the success of my manifestations.  And in fact, there are already indications that this is working.  Perhaps the most noticeable is that the pace of change Erin and I experience in our lives has increased dramatically.  Life is moving much faster now than it was last year, almost like our goals are racing toward us.  If we simply compare our lives today with how they were a couple months ago, the difference is monstrous.
  • Recreation.  Even simple recreation is helpful because it helps you focus on something positive, which at least helps prevent you from succumbing to fear and worry.  I’ve been playing disc golf with a friend lately (early in the morning before it gets too hot), and even though I’m not thinking about what I want, I’m definitely not putting any mental energy into fueling my problems.  My mind is on the game and the conversation.
  • Sex.  Consider this a subset of recreation.  It’s hard to think of something better at eliminating negative thoughts than sex (unless you really have it bad and start worrying about how you look naked or how you’ll perform).  And after sex when your mind is calm and relaxed is a great time to put out some new intentions, or even discuss some of your desires out loud with your partner and intend them together.  You heard it here first!  ;)

I’m sure if you give it some thought, you can come up with your own processes that help you to 1) spend more time thinking about what you desire, and 2) spend less time thinking about what you don’t want.  In fact, the whole second half of the book Ask and It Is Given covers 22 different processes you can use, many of which are very simple, such as cutting out pictures of your intentions and putting them in a box.

I still consider myself a baby at intention-manifestation, but I’m immensely pleased with the results I’ve been getting so far, more than enough to justify the time I’ve put into it.  I’ve been seeing across-the-board improvements in my life since I started experimenting with this.  Compared to just six months, my income and net worth have gone up significantly, I have a new car, my web site traffic has doubled, I’m more physically fit (faster and stronger), my relationship with Erin is better than ever, I’m happier, my motivation is sky-high, my social life has improved, my purpose is even more clear, my intuition is more accurate, and I’m having more fun and finally enjoying some vacation trips.  Some stagnant areas have finally come unstuck and are moving forward again.  Without a doubt the past six months have been the most positive and growth-producing of my adult life, and I know Erin will say the same is true for her.  So it’s rather easy for me to justify continuing to put more energy into these experiments.  Even though intention-manifestation can require a massive belief restructuring to successfully utilize, I think it’s well worth the effort.  I can’t say I fully understand the mechanism by which it works, but that doesn’t prevent me from continuing to test it.


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