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THE WONDER explores perspectives, rituals, and observances of modern, naturalistic, Earth-revering Neopagan religious paths. Naturalistic Pagans embrace the world as understood by science (that is, without gods, magic, or the supernatural), and enhance our lives with myth, ritual and activism. Hosted by Mark Green (author of ATHEOPAGANISM: An Earth-Honoring Path Rooted in Science) and Yucca (formerly of The Pagan Perspective YouTube channel, now of the Magic and Mundane channel).

Named #4 in the top15 Pagan podcasts for 2022! https://blog.feedspot.com/pagan_podcasts/

Manifestation and Creating Our Own Reality

February 8, 2021

Remember, we welcome comments, questions and suggested topics at thewonderpodcastQs@gmail.com



Yucca: Welcome back to The Wonder: Science-Based Paganism. I'm your host Yucca.

Mark: And I'm Mark.

Yucca: And this week we are talking about manifestation, about creating your own reality and luck.

Mark: right.

So a lot of big topics all rolled into one discussion.

Yes, Yes, because if there is any one thing that it can be said that humans all over the world seek to accomplish through magical or ritual practices, the cultivation of luck is probably number one, whether it's luck in love or luck with money or luck with health, those are the big three. But. Luck in politics, luck in, aspirations to better jobs or just so many things.

Yes to win lotteries all that kind of thing. And so we'll be talking about our understanding of what luck is, and also talking about the whole concept of manifestation and creating and this idea that we can create our own reality. So let's get started.

Yucca: So to start with this idea of the being able to manifest or create our own reality is one that is very popular in the pagan community and adjacent communities, as well as in many other modern religions. It's a very strong idea in many types of Christianity, for instance, where it might manifest more as praying rather than whatever your ritual practice or magic practices. Of course, another topic to get into is that magic? It's just depends on what you call it, but but there's a lot of layers to this in terms of what we have direct influence over and what we don't.

Mark: Right, and we should say at the outset that this desire is a very natural human desire. We live in a world that has all these different factors and there's. It could seem like a lot of chaos going on around us all the time, because the world is constantly evolving with new emergent phenomenon happening all the time, including in our lives, new people come along, new situations come along.

Some of them good for us, some of them not so good for us. So the desire to have some control over that, it's very natural. It. It completely makes sense that humans tend to want that that level of control. And that certainly has driven much of the development of Western occultism among, other systems of magical effort.

And there's so there's no doubt that this has been a great focus for for many of the people going back many centuries who have tried to influence reality through ritual and religious practices.

Yucca: And it's a really tricky area because there are some places where there's very strong evidence that we do have influence. For instance, in medical studies, there's a very strong correlation between the patient's general outlook and belief about the outcome and the actual outcome. This is very well-documented.

Mark: Now it's not. Documented that the belief or practice or prayer or whatever of anyone else has any impact on the health of the patient that's been tested pretty thoroughly. And there really is not good evidence to suggest that.

Yucca: Yeah. Now I'm aware of a study in which the patient had someone praying or practicing over them and that improved the outcome. But I don't know of any in which they did not know whether it was happening, whether it was blind, if they were unaware of the person praying or practicing for them. But once in which it's someone else was doing it over them, there was definitely an improvement

Mark: Sure. And this goes to the power of laying on of hands and practices like acupuncture and Reiki and things like that, which probably mostly in terms of their effectiveness have to do with the giving of attention. To the patient and the and the physical contact, the beneficial nature of physical contact that we as mammals experience we're very social creatures and this is why we like to pet cats and dogs.

Yucca: well, and the belief that it will do it right. The placebo and the playfully named nocebo are really very well-documented. So the belief that it will do it, if you believe that pill you're taking is going to harm you or whatever that food item is, if you truly believe it's going to harm you, then it's very likely that there will be actual harmful effects whether or not that substance itself would be harmful to the general population.

This is to say that there's definitely is evidence for our own bodies being influenced by our minds.

Mark: Yes.

Yucca: There's also a strong belief and much of the pagan community that our beliefs can influence reality in a more fundamental way. And in a very, in that the secret kind of way, where if you believe or want something hard enough, then it's going to happen.

And that

Mark: is problematic in our view, not only because there isn't any really tangible evidence that it's true. But also because

Yucca: It becomes very victim blaming.

Mark: Yes also because it, it tends to state that people that have bad things happen to them somehow deserved it or asked for it.

Yucca: It badly enough to not happen.

Mark: The idea that you're poor because not because you were born into poverty, but because you didn't want not to be poor badly enough.

And no this level of magical thinking is so deeply sewn into our society, not just these alternative religious communities, but it. The American attitude towards poverty in many ways is rooted in exactly this idea that somehow you can magically pull yourself up by your bootstraps and make something different for yourself, starting with no resources.

It's demonstrably false, but millions of people in this country believe it.

Yucca: And that particular one ties in to the luck aspect of this, where a lot of folks who are wealthy have had incredibly lucky things in their life, they were born in a time period that wealth existed. And on the level that it does. The country, that they were born in the particular sex, that they are, the family that they were born into, all of these things that they didn't get hit by the train or something like that.

And it's very easy for us to not notice the lucky things, but notice the hard work that we did. So it's very easy to go: I worked really hard in school and I got my perfect grades. And so I got my scholarship and was able to, so I pulled myself up by the bootstraps. But, and it's very natural to notice the things that we did and not necessarily notice the things that other people did or just the circumstances that allowed for that.

And I think it's easy to then think, Oh I believed in myself and I worked hard and therefore it worked out. So why doesn't that person do the same thing? They're poor because they don't believe hard enough or, my grandpa, he was poor. He didn't have a penny when he got off the boat.

But not taking into account the reality for other people.

Mark: And one of the things that people tend not to acknowledge in the course of this context is that in the past 50 years, things have changed in American society dramatically in the economy, the opportunities for people to move up in terms of their income and their standard of living have collapsed while tremendous volumes of wealth have flowed to the people who are already very wealthy.

Yucca: And mobility only really existed for a small group of people anyways.

Mark: That's true.

Yucca: for most of modern American in history. That mobility was possible if you were a white man and not for everyone else.

Mark: Yeah. And there was a short period of time when that started to open out into other groups a little bit, but then. Shortly thereafter came, trickle down economics, and that was the end of it. With a great deal of the messaging going along with that being about blaming the poor for their condition. So this idea of creating your own reality in terms of making lucky things happen for yourself. That's not real. In the same way that you don't see psychics collecting on lotteries pots all the time. It's just not real. That said, what we do have control over is ourselves. We have control over our way of viewing the circumstances that we're in and the situations that confront us and.

There are more empowering ways to do that and less empowering ways to do that. And before we go further, we should definitely talk about toxic positivity. Because we're not saying, Oh, just put on a happy face and be positive about everything. Oh, it was great news that I got cancer because it brought me closer to my family and yada, yada maybe it still, wasn't such great news that you got cancer, toxic positivity is a real thing. And it can be used to shut people down who have experiences that they're suffering under. And it can be used in abusive ways in relationships and in families. And it's really not a great thing.

Yucca: I see it towards children just constantly.

Mark: Yeah.

Yeah. What do you have to cry about?

Yucca: Yeah. Yeah. Or their children in name, whatever the country is at the time. Yeah.

Why aren't you happy? You should be happy. Look at all these things that I'm doing for you. And . Don't cry. Don't cry. Be happy. There's all of these different directions and levels to it. And the toxic part of that is the not acknowledging what's really happening.

Things are not always positive. They arent. And it's not fair to say that they aren't, it's not fair to force to just because somebody else might have it worse. There's always going to be someone who has it worse. But that shouldn't be something to shut down somebody else's experience. Not to say that there can't be value in providing perspective, but as long as it's not shutting them down and oppressing them and in the process or yourself.

Mark: And the key thing to keep in mind in all this is that our perspectives can be mixed. We can have real regret or anger or unhappiness about something that's happening in our life. And at the same time, have a great deal of happiness and enthusiasm joy about. The things that are happening in our life at the same time

Yucca: They're both true.

Mark: Authenticity is the key here. It's engaging with the world as it really is. And with the entirety of your feelings acknowledged and embraced now that said. Some of us learn simply to look at the glass as half empty. And we learn very disempowering messages that make it hard for us to achieve or to grow or to have our lives improve.

And. We talked in a previous episode about the critic voice. And one of the things that the critic voice will often say is you can't do that. It'll never work. So don't try. And that is a very disempowering element of our own psychology finding ways to avoid that so that we can. Take a chance on something working try something new that we haven't tried before is a really important aspect of being mentally healthy. So as we talk about this idea of luck and manifestation, one thing that we are able to do, we aren't able to do our magical hookah Boga, and then have and then magically get a phone call that's offering us the dream job or or when a lot of you know, win a lottery ticket or something like that.

But what we can do is we can calibrate our own way of looking at our life in a way that says empowering as possible. And that's not to say as positive as possible. It's as empowering as possible, which acknowledges all the feelings, not just the positive ones or just the negative ones.

Yucca: That's a really important distinction.

Mark: So what are some things that we can do that will help us to have an orientation to the world that might feel a little more lucky? It doesn't mean it is more lucky because luck is just the degree to which the probabilities are not playing out exactly in the short term. If something unlikely happens to you that you like then that's good luck.

And if something unlikely happens to you that you don't that's bad luck, but in both cases, it's just something unlikely happening and unlikely things happen. Millions, billions of times every day.

Yucca: That's our very existence.

Mark: Yes. What were the odds that, that these people were going to meet and their genetics would combine in just this particular way.

And then they would raise you in a particular context so that you would become you, the odds are astronomical, but

Yucca: and then just follow that back for every single generation that has been, yeah.

Mark: Yeah,

Yucca: just mind boggling to even go there.

Mark: it is

Yucca: think about that.

Mark: So So the idea of trying to cultivate luck is one that as science-based pagans, we don't really know brace that, trying to make things more likely or less likely through a ritual practice that works on us as the ritual practitioners. But it really doesn't work beyond that.

Yucca: But what we could do. Might not be able to make yourself more lucky, but you may be able to change your behavior in a way that you behave more kindly towards someone. And that improves the way that they think and feel about you. And in turn the way that they treat you.

Mark: Yes, our behavior. Really keys a lot of the interaction that we have with the rest of the world. And so if we are rude or mean, or condescending or any of those other kind of negative character traits, then you know, people are not going to be positively impacted by that. And they're not going to want to spend any interaction, energy on us.

Yucca: Or worse they will, but not the kind we want.

Mark: yes, exactly. Even worse. So that can make it harder to get jobs. It can make it harder to advance What you want to do into the surrounding culture. If you have a great idea and you really want to build some community around it, but nobody wants to spend any time around you, then you've really got a challenge ahead of you. This brings a conversation back to one of the fundamental principles of science-based paganism, which is that we can affect ourselves. We can affect ourselves and it is, it's not trivial. It's not extraneous. It is core to being able to have a generally happy and effective life, which is what I think of as the goal of living.

We get to take this ride. We only get to take it once. And we should cultivate as much joy and as much improvement to the world around us as we possibly can.

Yucca: Yeah that's a shared sentiment.

So we can improve our luck by changing the way in which we are interacting, but we could also change the way that we are responding and what our takeaway and how we frame what is happening to us.

Mark: Oh, I see where you're going there. Yes. Yes. When I was living with when I've had deep depressive episodes. The, my memories of those times, literally, there's this sort of gray, dim filter over every image that I can remember, like a literal darkness over my eyes. And what I do when I'm in that condition is I look for reasons to be unhappy. And I ignore reasons to be happy. I just felt my filter is set to negative and all that I let in is all the bad stuff. And that then confirms my depressive brain for being depressed. And then it makes generalized world pronouncements about the nature of reality and humans and society and life and all that kind of stuff that are all negative.

And it leads me to lying in bed and not doing anything. The. So I have a really deep personal experience of how that kind of filter can profoundly impact not only mood, but also just your ability to function. Because if there's no point in anything and it's all doomed and it's all hopeless and it's all pointless and it's stupid even to try then you don't do anything. And you become more and more socially isolated and more and more unhappy. So being able to open those filters so that you can look for reasons to be happy as well. It gives you a more comprehensive understanding of the nature of your life. And that is a sense in which we do create our own reality.

Yucca: Because we do create, we do choose what we are focusing on. And it's got that, it's that positive feedback loop that you're talking about, not positive in terms of positive. Like it's a good thing, but positive and it's reinforcing. So the more of those negative things that you are noticing, the worse you feel, the more negative things you're noticing and so on, but it works the other direction as well.

And those are patterns. These are things that we have learned. Truly learned in terms of as how we are wired to look at the world. And it's a practice to shift that it's not like you just say one day, Oh, I'm going to snap my fingers. And I'm going to look at the positive side of things, right?

It's you have to relearn those patterns, but in the process of relearning, then you are shaping your reality in that way.

Mark: Yes. And it is indeed a learned practice. I had no examples in my family growing up of anyone actually going out of their way to appreciate. Anything flowers, sunsets, anything. They just didn't do that. They were miserable people and they conducted themselves the way miserable people do. And it wasn't until I was in a relationship in my mid twenties with a woman who really went out of her way.

Wow. Look at that color. Hey look, the crocuses are coming up. All those. All those little moments that add to our lives and help us to feel that there is that there's reason for happiness, that there's reason for being glad to be alive. And it took me a long time, but I feel like I've gotten pretty good now at, looking around for the reasons to be happy and embracing them.

Yucca: And then when you do that more pleasant person to be around

Mark: Yes.

Yucca: People smile at you more often, and then you feel better in general. And so there is some truth to this idea that we create our reality, but it's often taken in a, I think in a too literal way that twists the meaning to a point that is a falsehood.

Mark: Yes. Yes. And certainly new age theories, like the secret and prosperity gospel Christian sects and all of these various kinds of what I think of as rackets that hook people in, by telling them that they are going to have everything that they desire just by wanting it really badly in the form of prayer or in the form of intention setting or affirmation. There are lots of these different sorts of behaviors that are supposed to gin up your level of luck.

Yucca: You're just doing it wrong or you just don't want it enough,

Mark: it's your fault. And that is so pernicious. It's just a terrible thing. Those kinds of exaggerated claims tend to drown out the more realistic claims about how we can influence our experience of our lives through changing our judgments, through changing our filters of what we pay attention to and through just becoming wiser just becoming more, more accepting of that reality is as it is, and we now, must contend with it, whatever that is. And that at some deep level that's okay. That it's the nature of the ride on planet earth.

Yucca: And that it's not drastic or sexy or exciting because it's a process. It's not this thing that you suddenly decide and you say the right chants, or you say the right, whatever that it's built on habits. And skills that are developed and continual process. And it's something that gets reinforced because we learn new behaviors.

We never stop learning and changing. We continue to change over time.

Mark: And the reason it's called a practice is because that's what you have to do. You have to do it again and again, and it becomes easier. And then after awhile it becomes automatic. And when you've gotten to the point where it's automatic then you're in good shape.

Because the stuff that is beneficial to your psychological health is now. Folded into your normative behavior patterns?

Yucca: And that's not to say that bad things are going to happen.

Mark: Nope.

Yucca: still, Hey, you might get a global pandemic. That no matter how happy or balanced or whatever you were that doesn't stop the rest of what's happening. But what it does do is influence your resilience and your ability to respond and to be able to then think and feel clearly in those situations.

Mark: Yeah, it gives you a leg up when something bad happens to you, because you can understand that in context and instead of going, why me, or what did I do to cause this, instead, you just look at the situation and realize, okay, this is really a challenge for me.

And, in a methodical sort of way how do I adapt to it? How do I approach this? What would be helpful? What would be less helpful? It just gives you a much more grounded and nuanced way of navigating the events that happen to us in life.

Yucca: Exactly. So why don't we get into some actual practices? People could try some strategies to maybe try out for the first time or build on what they're already doing, or just as food for thought.

Mark: Okay. Okay. I think various kinds of journaling practices are very helpful for this sort of thing. Listing a listing, the good things that are in your life, listing the things that you're grateful for listing the things that you find really challenging and understanding that that both of those lists are true that all of it is true at the same time.

But particularly if you're really beset by a negative filter, it's very effective and it will set your critic voice off to chattering, but you can push through that. And writing down, all the things that you have to be grateful for is a great way to start the process of opening that filter up a little.

Yucca: Yeah, and that could be something that's done in ritual. That could be something built into your daily practice. And both are both a really very powerful in their own rights. I've shared before on this podcast, the practice that I have with my young children of going outside first thing in the morning and greeting the sun and saying hello, and just sing some things that we're grateful for. And. With the little children, sometimes it's adorably cute. This morning it was the color red.

Mark: Okay.

Yucca: That's a great thing. Wonderful thing to be grateful for. It's a great color. Yeah. But just the thinking for looking for things to be grateful for,

Mark: Yes.

Yucca: just that act and as adults for, most adults in North America coffee is a normal part of the morning routine. That's a great place to add in things in that you want to get done in the day. And to just from the very start, just start the day you start the day with coffee and thinking about those things that you're grateful for or trying to do a little bit of a perspective change there.

Mark: Uhhuh. Yeah, I love that ritual that you do with your kids. That's fantastic.

But I think that the main point is just start to be aware of how you're, where are you focusing your attention and the kinds of judgments that you make about the events in your life, how they color your emotional expense?

Just starting to notice, because being self-aware is really core to these pagan paths. In my opinion, I think that, coming to know yourself is a core piece of being able to work with yourself in ways that help you to be happier and more effective.

Yucca: We're going to come back to it again soon. But we're saying about a year ago at this point, we did an episode on ritual and there's a lot of ideas in there for any, anything that you're working on in ritual, but bringing some of those creative ideas into your life to bring some of that perspective change.

Now we've been talking in a sort of a general way in terms of a change of our outlook on our experience, what we're aware of, what we're present with, but there's also specific behavior patterns and events that we can focus in on. It doesn't have to just be general. We could focus in on particular conflicts or challenges we might be having with individuals or after doing that noticing you might notice that there's a place that there's something that really triggers you.

And then you can go back with ritual and with thought and planning to address, okay, how do I address that particular issue?

Mark: Yes.

Yucca: And. Sometimes the ritual aspect can be really powerful, but I also want to suggest that there are, that there's the physical reality environmental side as well.

Sometimes there are environmental inputs that we have that shifting those can just make a huge difference. Are you overwhelmed because it's a really loud environment? So you'd need to step out of that loud environment. Are you angry, right? Are you hangry during these environments?

What are some physical things that you can do that may not be necessarily ritual, but just practical things that you can notice in your life that can make a difference.

Mark: Yes. Yes. As we've mentioned so many times on this podcast, we're monists in that we believe that the body and the mind are the same thing and caring for your physical self has a profound effect on your mood and on your perspective. And that always needs to be kept in mind.

As always we welcome comments on this. Would imagine that there are a number of people that would be pretty unhappy with our characterization of manifestation magic and the secret and so forth. But we're happy to hear from you at thewonderpodcastQs@gmail.com.

We're always glad to hear from listeners and welcome your suggestions for future podcasts.

Yucca: Thank you everyone. And thank you, Mark.

Mark: Thank you, Yucca. It's always a pleasure to talk with you.