It's TikTok's favourite affirmation, but is it the ultimate life hack or just wishful thinking?
words Rosie Price
Maybe you know it as the law of attraction, visualisation, or prayer, but no doubt you’ve come across manifestation in some form or other. Its current, most popular iteration is as the 369 method, a hashtag that has over 200 million views on TikTok. Manifestation, drawing on 19th century New Thought spirituality and the belief that you create your life through your thoughts, was made huge by Rhonda Byrne’s 2006 book The Secret. Oprah Winfrey, who attributes the successes of her own career to manifestation, puts it simply: ‘the message is that you are responsible for your life.’
On the surface, the sentiment is an empowering one. But it doesn’t take much digging to uncover the controversy. If you can manifest the good things in your life, then your own negative thoughts are also responsible for when things don’t go to plan. Lizzo laments that though the lyrics of her 2021 hit track Rumors manifested plenty in 2021, she ‘hasn’t yet manifested f**king Drake.’ Lizzo, maybe you just didn’t will it enough. Though sending requests out to the universe is more magical thinking than neuroscience, there’s an argument that self-affirmation practices can help to overcome self-limiting beliefs and to change the way we respond to difficult situations.
As a yoga teacher, my main encounters with manifestation have been through intention-setting, mantras: I nourish myself. I offer myself compassion. I am strong. I’ve tended to stick to intentions I can realise, but the first few TikTok manifestations I watch are making more ambitious and specific demands on the universe. Manifesting $800 for a holiday, a new job fulfilling an exact set of specifications or a crush. Less aspirational: the manifestation of a parking spot.
The 369 method varies, but the version I choose involves writing the same affirmation three times in the morning, six times at midday at nine times in the evening. Clark Kegley, who sent 369 manifestation viral, advises being brief but specific. And for me, edging towards the tail-end of the month and awaiting a number of freelance invoices, I am financially secure feels pretty good. On day one, I wake, and I write my affirmation three times over. I know I have to believe it in order for it to become real, so I set aside the knowledge of my fast-diminishing bank balance and choose instead to write myself into abundance. I repeat the process, writing my affirmation six times after lunch, nine times before bed.
By the end of the day, my bank balance has not grown, but certainly the knowledge of those incoming invoices feels much more solid than it did earlier that morning. And the next day, repeating the process, I at least have the sensation that what I’m writing is attainable. The anxiety that usually arises when I’m having a particularly arid freelancer month has shrunk just a little. I think, because I’m facing it head on, enacting some form of control here at my desk with my pen and paper.
Day four, this small domain of control has begun to expand. I’m eschewing organic vegetables and I’ve got around to returning the package of clothes from ASOS I didn’t really need; refund pending. Day seven, my notepad is growing thicker with each page of handwritten manifestations, and I get an email from an old client, asking if I’m free this summer, could I come and teach a series of one-on-one yoga sessions. The universe, I am certain, has started to listen.
It’s unsurprising that manifestation has blown up in the last couple of years. With our agency, freedom and ability to connect compromised by lockdown after lockdown, it makes sense that we want to get a handle on just a small slice of our individual destinies. Certainly, I’m planning to keep it up. Manifestation keeps my desires and goals in the forefront of my mind, allowing me to tailor my actions around an intention that would otherwise get lost beneath the pressures and chaos of daily life. For me, with uncertainty reigning and anxiety taking its chances, it’s both empowering and grounding to be reminded of the things I can control: my own spending, the types of work I accept, prioritise and reject. I can’t say I’ve quite worked my way up to dizzying heights of manifesting a parking spot, but it’s there in my sights. Before I do that, I should probably start by manifesting a car.
The Damage: £9.95/the price of a notepad and pen.
Where to go: @clarkkegley, @bellas.crystal, @bitchcraft444 (also currently accepting spell requests via Instagram) for how-to videos.