Spiritual Seekers and The Law of Attraction
Every generation has their "how to get everything you want in life" book. Each one claims to offer the ordinary person some kind of millennia old secret with which to quickly and easily get a good life. Sometimes too, such as in the case of James Redfield's The Celestine Prophesy, people distort a book into that it can do this. Redfield himself never claimed this for his book and even tried to correct this impression. Redfield had integrity.
What does this have to do with Rhonda Byrne's book, The Secret?
Rhonda Byrne is this generation's "get everything you want" girl. Her "secret?" The Law of Attraction. Picture good and you'll attract this good to you. Unfortunately she adds to this that we must also steer clear of anything or anyone negative. Friends in trouble? People in need? She says we must not take part in their negativity and avoid them like the plague.
The problem of course is that if you buy into this, you make getting what you want the road to happiness, which it's not. At the same time, if you simply dismiss it all, you miss the part of what is true about what Byrne is saying; the law of attraction.
Then too, there's the other problem; that if you use the law of attraction as Byrne suggests, your life will probably get even worse. Why? Because what Byrne fails to realize, let alone tell us, is why this law worked for her. At the time she used the law of attraction, her life was pretty bad. She openly admits this. Thus what she actually did was use the law of attraction to rebalance an already bad life.
What happens if you take Byrne's advice during normal times? Well this depends on how well you can follow her all white philosophy. Most people can't, at least not for long. Good thing too. If you could, what you'd probably get is a few good things followed by a bunch of awful things. Think I'm wrong? Then consider this. At the time Byrne first appeared on Oprah, her book had sold some 18,000 copies. A week later, Oprah's positive endorsement raised this to over 100,000. Nice. The power of the law of attraction at work no doubt. A subsequent mention by Oprah then raised this total to over 190,000, and to many this too appeared to be the law of attraction at work. But was it? I'm not sure. Oprah's a pretty influential lady.
Whatever the case, not long after this, things began to reverse. A woman with cancer appeared on Oprah who said she was going to use Byrne's advice in lieu of medical treatment. The law of attraction at work? Yes. Although this time, Byrne seems to have attracted some pretty ugly energy. Including not only that Oprah had to hurriedly amend her endorsement, but also that the Internet quickly flooded with anti-Byrne blogs and articles.
Where's the problem in what Bryne is saying? Essentially just this. By telling us we must avoid the dark side of the law of attraction, Byrne and her crew of all white philosophers have perverted a genuine spiritual teaching into a recipe for personal disaster. Moreover, while she certainly is the latest to try to cash in on good people's free lunch dreams, she's far from the only person doing this. For instance, most diet books advise the very same, all white thing. Eat all these good things. Avoid eating these bad things. In no time, you'll be healthy and fit.
Ever try to stay on one of these all white diets? My experience has been that trying to follow an all white diet is like trying to use will power on diarrhea; in the long run, you're going to have to shit no matter how hard you try. And yes, when you first go on one of these diets, many people do quite well. But inevitably, the rebalancing comes and you end up even worse.
Sound familiar? Don't get me wrong. Like the good which does exist in Rhonda Byrne's book, many of these diets are based on genuinely sound advice. Unfortunately too few of them teach people to also embrace their failures, let alone that it's the all white philosophy which makes many of these failures happen.
Still not clear as to what I'm saying? Then consider this. How many times have you thought you'd found a way a better way, the secret to a better marriage, or to fitness, or to managing your money. Filled with hope, you earnestly begin this program only to fall back into an even worse state of disaster, months or even weeks later.
Why does this happen to us? It's simple. Deny any part of your nature and you'll end up in an excess. Moreover, that this happens is not even our failure really. It is simply the Tao; the way it is. Including that the unrealistic nature of our hopeful feelings must eventually resolve themselves into equally hopeless feelings. Again, it's just the way it is.
Here then is what the Tao has to teach us about these "secrets." Introduce an imbalance, including an all good one, and you'll end up with an equal and opposite imbalance. Conversely, honor your nature and focus on being real, and you'll end up not only with balance but also with your chances for change improved.
The thing of course is knowing how to accomplish this balance. This is what we're about to look at.
the Law of Repulsion
So what is missing in Byrne's book? Actually, it's pretty simple really. Like all coins and other valuable things, there are two sides to this visualization thing, not just one. Moreover in order to have a genuinely spiritual life, you must honor and practice both.
What are the two sides of the laws governing visualization?
The first is the law Rhonda Byrne refers to in her book, the law of attraction. I refer to this law as the "all white law." Or as it's commonly known, like attracts like.
The other law then embodies what Byrne claims you should absolutely avoid, the law of repulsion. In this case, we're talking about that opposites attract, the law I refer to as the "all black law."
How do these two laws of visualization work?
Can you see why spiritual change always involves a pair of opposites? It takes what Dickens refers to as the best of times, worst of times. This is what creates the potential for change; the two roughly equal sides.
Said another way, these two laws are simply two ends of a single continuum, a natural pair of opposites. They each exist to balance each other out, and if you use visualization to tap into this power, you maximize your chances for getting a better life.
How would these two laws of visualization apply to a real life situation, for instance to dieting? In essence, you'd devote some time to picturing yourself successful and thin while at the same time picturing yourself overeating. Sound crazy? Well consider what it accomplishes. By picturing ourselves as thin and fit, we identify our goal. At the same time, by picturing ourselves overeating, we identify our starting point; where we are now. This then allows us to visualize our whole journey from what we are now to what we want to be. This greatly enhance our chances for success, as you can't very well change what you can't see.
In addition, by picturing ourselves overeating, we satisfy the body's need to overeat. How? By honoring an even more basic spiritual law at play here, something I call The Mind Body Law. Very simply stated, it says, what the mind pictures, the body experiences. I, in fact, have been successfully using this law to manage my anger for decades. Whenever I feel angry, I picture myself losing it and by doing this satisfy my body's need for release.
At the same time, my picturing harms no one including me. And yes, I do get mad at times. But since I began practicing this, I rarely feel anger build up let alone feel ashamed or guilty for feeling angry.
As for what the Tao symbol has to teach us, it is simply this. Great changes occur only in times wherein the mind and body are rebalancing. This in part is why Dicken's words about the French Revolution are so timeless. It's also why picturing all white philosophies do work at times. They work when we're already feeling pretty bad. Conversely picture all good in times when we're already in a pretty good state and you inevitably end up in an equal and opposite state.
What does this look like when it happens? In my life it led to angry outbursts. In fact, one of my worst faults has been that I have had a bad temper. Even as a child, I carried rage inside me. What I now know though is that a big part of my carrying this much rage was that I tried against hope to restrain my anger. To pretend to be calm and in control. Each time I would try to do this though, inevitably my anger would build up to a point wherein I would hit a last straw. Then my anger would burst out of me, often onto some poor unsuspecting soul who had merely bumped into me.
This changed dramatically after hearing someone share without restraint about anger in an Alanon meeting. This man openly and without shame puked out blatant negative wishes, words so filled with hatred I had trouble listening to them. No surprise, as he did, I judged him in the same way I had been judging myself; fiercely and with no compassion. After all, why give compassion to someone who was so openly negative? Wasn't this only making things worse?
Moments later though, I had an aha when I realized his point. He said he knew what he had been sharing was crazy and that it wasn't what he really wanted to do. Then he laughed, genuinely and spiritually, and in that instant I learned the secret to all white philosophy. If you want to change, you must be able to freely and without shame picture both sides of life, not just the white side. In this case then, it meant that when I felt angry, I needed to visually indulge this anger so as create the momentum by which things flow back into balance.
So did this change the way I handled anger? Very much so. In essence, it gave me an alternative to holding it all in, ending my angry outbursts.
In addition, it gave me the key to understanding balance, including that in order to satisfy my body's need for release, I must consciously picture myself letting lose. Here again, what the mind pictures, the body experiences. At the same time, I learned I also needed to clearly know that I did not intend for these bad things to happen. In this way, no harm comes to anyone, and balance is restored.
Does this strategy actually work in real life though? Years after my realization, I was sitting in a driver's ed point reduction class wherein a film on road rage had just finished. In the film, neat little boxes and nicely drawn arrows flow charted how to control your anger; basically that you should suck it up and think it away.
When the film finished, the instructor, knowing I was a therapist, then asked me to comment on what I had seen. "What do you do when you get angry while driving?" I said that whenever I felt like losing it, for instance, when I was stuck behind a little old lady going half the speed limit, I pictured myself driving her off the road, ripping her from the car, and pummeling her to a pulp. At which point, his jaw dropped and the whole room froze.
Seconds later, the air cleared as the whole room roared with laughter, including this instructor. At which point I went on to say that said I sometimes pictured the Mel Brooks' story wherein he once pulled the leather tie of an irate taxi driver through the taxi's little vent widow until the driver's head lodged in it. Again, the whole room roared with healing laughter. I then added that, of course, I never intended that any of this should actually happen, but that by momentarily mentally indulging my insanity, my anger would resolve into laughter at the thought of my doing these insane things.
To this, I would now add that no child nor mentally ill adult should ever be encouraged to visualize these kinds of things. However, when practiced by spiritually minded adults who know the meaning of "intending," using visualization to satisfy the urges of the body is indeed a very useful tool. As well as a spiritual practice rooted in a great ancient tradition; the balance pictured in the Tao.
Add to this that my life's work in and around emergence based theories and practices has been based entirely in that our suffering comes from what we cannot picture. Including that some of this suffering comes from being unable to picture the things we fear. This, in fact, is a lot of what underlies my almost twenty years of helping people. Including that by teaching them ways to use visualization to create this black and white balance, I teach them the simple wisdom of the Tao.
One last thing. Knowing these concepts in no way guarantees success. For instance, I still cannot picture overeating. Nor it seems can anyone else I know who overeats. Which leads me to believe this may be the piece missing in many of the diets which otherwise offer good advice.
What will change if I can figure out how to picture this? The truth? I'm working on it. Only time will tell. At this point, I can say this though. I feel more hopeful about overeating than I have felt in years. Including that I have not missed the irony in where this hope came from; it came from reading the Secret and allowing myself to find fault in it.
Will this work?
I'll keep you posted.