man doing yoga on porch

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Existential Kink" by Carolyn Elliott. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here.

How does meditation tap into your unconscious mind? How can you use meditation for manifesting desires that you have?

Carolyn Elliott explains that meditation is the primary method of employing what she calls “existential kink” to manifest your desires. Her book Existential Kink describes a six-step process for meditation, and we’ve condensed it into four steps.

Let’s look at Elliott’s practice of meditation for manifesting desires.

Step 1: Relax & Create a Comforting Space

Before you begin this form of meditation for manifesting desires, you should be as relaxed as possible. That’s because existential kink involves noticing physical sensation in response to your thoughts and feelings. This will allow you to better tap into your body and mind so you can be more aware of your feelings and sensations. Elliott recommends using incense and a candle, along with a 15-minute timer to keep you centered in the moment and to keep you from losing track of time.

(Shortform note: Experts note that it can be difficult to relax during meditation, especially the first few times you do it. Some ways you can make relaxation easier if you’re struggling with it is to focus on your breathing, repeat a mantra to yourself, read a poem or other short meaningful text, or pray.)

Step 2: Choose a Life Event or Circumstance to Reflect Upon

This should be something that your conscious mind dislikes, or something that you would typically label “bad.” This works best for recurring patterns. As an example, imagine you find yourself drawn to romantic partners who are distant or unreliable, and even though this frustrates you, it continues to play out in your life. 

(Shortform note: To help you identify what you want to reflect on as you meditate, consider combining journaling with your meditative practice. Take a few minutes before you begin, to write down your thoughts and feelings and also to brainstorm what you might choose to meditate on. If you also write down how you’re feeling after the meditation, you can more easily track your progress.)

Step 3: Enjoy Bodily Sensations & Emotions

In this step, you should notice the bodily sensations and emotions that this circumstance evokes in you, and revel in them. Elliott explains that this involves approaching these feelings from a sadomasochistic perspective, allowing yourself to take “kinky” pleasure in these ostensibly negative feelings. This doesn’t mean coming to enjoy the negative situation itself, merely the sensations it evokes in you (which are the sensations your unconscious is seeking). In the case of the distant partner, you probably don’t enjoy rarely seeing your partner, but you might be drawn to the feeling of martyrdom you get when you complain about how unreliable they are. 

(Shortform note: This step requires you to tap into both your emotions and your physical sensations. If you have trouble tapping into your emotions, consider some techniques like talking to your emotion as you would to a person or making artistic representations of what you feel. If you’re struggling to tap into your bodily sensations, consider doing a body scan, a meditative practice in which you focus your attention on each part of your body in turn. A body scan may be particularly helpful for existential kink since it can help you home in on your physical sensations. This can help train you to notice not only the good things you’re feeling, but also the uncomfortable or bad sensations, which will make it easier to take pleasure in them.)

It may help to pretend the circumstance you’re reflecting on is going to magically disappear from your life in a month so you can feel more open and honest about it. It can also help to give yourself explicit permission to feel good about these things, or even to talk dirty to yourself about how much you like them. This will culminate in an emotional and physical release not unlike (and possibly including) an orgasm.

(Shortform note: Pretending your situation is about to end can help you gain some distance from it, as can imagining yourself reacting to a situation in the future after it has actually ended, a technique called temporal distancing. However, in creating distance, it’s important to avoid making yourself feel ashamed of how you’re reacting to it in the present by pretending the situation is less important than it really is. This is a tendency called minimizing, in which you downplay the significance of something good or bad in your life. When you minimize, you’re essentially refusing to give yourself permission to feel how you feel, which will interfere with your existential kink practice and your ability to experience the emotional and physical release Elliott describes.)

Step 4: Connect With Your Unconscious & Embrace Gratitude

In the previous step, you allowed yourself to feel joy from the feelings surrounding your “negative” experiences, but in this step you’re identifying and connecting with the part of your unconscious that has these feelings. Here, you’ll move past the feelings and fully embrace and feel gratitude for the negative situations that caused them. 

(Shortform note: Gratitude has many benefits for your health, including improved interpersonal relationships, more happiness, better empathy, and better self-esteem. However, it’s often a difficult thing for people to express, even toward themselves. To make it easier to practice gratitude during your existential kink process, consider practicing gratitude through exercises like writing notes of gratitude to loved ones, creating visual representations of things you’re grateful for, and frequently reflecting on what you’re grateful for.)

This is the step when your unconscious and conscious merge, putting you in touch with your whole self as you come to understand that you as a curious human seeking to experience all of life, both the good and the bad. The more you do this, the more uninteresting the “negative” circumstances will become and the more easily you can let them go. Still, your goal in this practice should be to just feel and enjoy, not to get rid of the bad things in your life.

(Shortform note: As you engage more with both the positive and negative in life, you may experience hedonic adaptation, finding that the joy you once got from your negative patterns becomes weaker over time. This means you won’t be less happy after you break these negative patterns that bring you joy, as hedonic adaptation results in a return to baseline happiness after a joyful experience has lost its appeal.)

Returning to our example, in this step you would acknowledge that your unconscious wants these feelings of independence and has created this situation (the pattern of seeking distant partners) in order to achieve those feelings. Instead of feeling bad or resentful for this, you give thanks to your unconscious for the relationships in your life that it created.


Elliott gives some caveats about existential kink. She explains that it’s not a good idea to attempt this meditation when you’re feeling depressed or dealing with a recent trauma, as it can cause you to ruminate on your negative feelings and make you feel worse. Additionally, you shouldn’t use this process if you’re currently grieving, as you’ll need some distance from the situation to view it with gratitude. Finally, reflecting on childhood trauma during this process can also cause you to feel worse, because we have very little control over the things that happen to us as children, and existential kink is most useful when we reflect on things we choose or have control over.

(Shortform note: The above issues will require a different type of healing that existential kink can’t offer. Consider finding someone you can talk to about your experience and feelings, such as a trusted confidante or a therapist. You may specifically want to seek out practitioners trained in trauma-informed therapy to get the best possible care for your needs.)

A 4-Step Meditation for Manifesting Desires (Existential Kink)

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Carolyn Elliott's "Existential Kink" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Existential Kink summary:

  • That the negative patterns in our lives are manifestations of what we desire
  • How to dissolve your negative desires so they lose hold over your life
  • How to practice existential kink meditation

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *