Why is prosperity so elusive? It isn’t for lack of advice. In hundreds of books we’re told to focus on what we want; to ask and receive; to visualize and manifest. When my first book, Writing Down Your Soul: How to Activate and Listen to the Extraordinary Voice Within, came out in 2009, I happily traipsed across the country, teaching thousands how to activate their own “extraordinary Voice” on the page. There was just one problem. I put all those travel expenses on my already burdened credit cards. By November, I had to face a harsh reality: I wasbankrupt. I swallowed my shame and called a bankruptcy attorney, but he couldn’t see me until February. Great, I thought, what do I do till then?
In frustration and pain, I picked up a pen and demanded help from my divine Voice. Help came. To prepare myself to call in a beautiful abundant life, I was told to write at the deepest soul level every single day in December. That’s exactly what I did. On January 1, 2010, after 30 days of intense spiritual exploration, I felt ready to call in a magical new year. I woke early, made a pot of coffee, said my prayers, and settled in for a day of soul writing. I’ve given myself this kind of mini-retreat every New Year’s Day for a decade. But when I reached for my journal, I picked up the book You Are Here by Thich Nhat Hanh instead. I began to read and couldn’t stop.
Thich Nhat Hanh drew me into his gentle, loving explanation of the Buddha’s great teachings. In a chapter on how everything is connected, I stumbled upon a sentence that changed my life: “When conditions are sufficient there is a manifestation.”
I read it again. I read it aloud. I burst out of my chair crying, “Oh, my God! Everything we think we know about manifestation is 180 degrees off!” I scribbled the sentence in green marker on my whiteboard, letting this deeper understanding of manifestation settle into my bones: “When conditions are sufficient there is a manifestation.”
Here I was, wanting to manifest a beautiful life, but I had my eyes on the wrong half of the equation. I was focused on what I wanted, but it’s not about wanting. It’s about creating the conditions that naturally produce what I want. Conditions first; manifestation second.
I had to know if Jesus said the same thing. In English translations, he is quoted as saying, “Seek first the kingdom and God’s righteousness and all else shall be provided,” but what was said in his native Aramaic? In Blessings of the Cosmos, Neil Douglas-Klotz sets us down on a first-century hillside where we hear Jesus describe what happens when we shift our focus from worrying and asking to building a vibrant relationship with the Divine. Do that, he says, and you create “a condition of receptivity” in which all you need will be provided.
Buddha and Jesus taught the same thing. You create a beautiful life by creating fertile conditions, not by asking for anything. In my own words, I hear them saying: You can have anything you want—why, you can have things you don’t even know you want—but not by focusing on them. Instead, put your undivided attention on your connection with the vibrant presence of the Divine within, and your life will change. It has to. It is the natural order.
That afternoon, my Voice and I had long conversations on the page about this paradox. Finally, we talked about my conditions—the actions I take every day to nourish my beautiful life. Mine are: Live in Intention, Pray Out Loud, Work in Sacred Space, Do My Holy Work, Focus Only on What’s Coming In, and Have a Grateful Heart. (Everyone has their own deeply personal conditions.)
As the sun set, I made a special mandala called an “Intention Mandala.” I drew a lily at the center and wrote my conditions on the petals. I also drew small pictures of everything I wanted, but I put them in their rightful place—on the periphery. Then, every morning in January, I stood in front of my mandala, handed my desires to Spirit and committed to spend the day focused on my half of the equation—living my conditions. As the month unfolded, my classes filled effortlessly, people left surprising love offerings at my events, and unexpected gifts simply appeared in my mailbox.
In February, I finally saw the bankruptcy attorney. He asked if I had any questions. “One,” I said. “I made $12,000 in January. Is that a problem?” He looked at me. “Well, yeah, you’re not bankrupt. Come back when you’re bankrupt.” I haven’t been back.
So is prosperity elusive? Buddha and Jesus didn’t think so. And after three years of living my conditions, life looks beautiful to me and the manifestation is richer than I ever imagined.