Image courtesy of Chicago Art Department
A few weeks ago, a reader asked me to address the law of attraction as it relates to cultivating presence. Most people are familiar with this ‘law’ as it has been popularized in recent years by films and books like The Secret. My experience with the concept has been minimal. I understand it conceptually, but my experimentation with it only extends as far as it applies to Creative Visualization as outlined by Shakti Gawain, which I attempted for a few weeks before deciding it wasn’t for me.
As such, this article contains information based on my limited experience combined with research I’ve done on the web. Understand that I’m not saying it doesn’t work and I do not wish to deter anyone who wants to try or already successfully uses the law of attraction. But I do believe this tool needs to be implemented within a structured wellness practice that includes other such tools if it is to be used skillfully.
A Law, You Say?
The law of attraction states that what you think about is what you attract into your life. So if I want to make 50 percent more income, then I need to think about achieving that goal constantly. I would make a point to visualize on a daily basis what that will be like, among other thoughts surrounding that objective.
The idea is that what you put out into the universe will eventually manifest itself. Even simpler, if you constantly think positively, positive things will come to you, and the same goes for negativity.
While I don’t necessarily disagree with the message, I think when it is presented in such a way it leaves a lot of room for failure, disillusionment, and unconscious behavior. Not to mention the difficult questions it brings up. For instance, if I am a spiritually, physically, emotionally healthy individual and I develop a life threatening illness, then I must have been attracting it in some way? Or, if a child is abused or neglected, then they were asking for it on some level?
The way I see it is there are two pertinent issues surrounding the law of attraction. First that it has been coined a law which makes it seem infallible. Second, and more importantly is the fact that the potential for negative results often goes unaddressed. I submit that as with any tool we use in life, whether physical or mental, it is not the tool that produces results; it is the way in which that tool is used by the tool-wielder.
The truth is that no one can claim the law of attraction is a universal truth. It can only ever be a subjective truth. Meaning it will only be fact when you, the individual, have realized it for yourself. How or if it will work for another person is unknowable.
Think about a cellist (or any musician, or specialist for that matter). She may be able to play the exact same notes in the exact same rhythm as the cellist to her right, but the way in which she does it is completely unique. How the two cellists move, what they’re feeling in each moment, the expression on their faces- they could be similar, but they are not the same because those are expressions of their beingness.
So it goes with the law of attraction. The way in which two people ultimately use it will be completely unique. Therefore we should think of it as a tool rather than a mandate. Then, what becomes important is not the tool itself, but the approach.
Using the Tool Skillfully
If we approach meditation or visualization or any kind of mental practice without awareness of how our mind operates, then we are probably just furthering more unconscious behavior. The reason I’m such a fan of meditation is that no matter what type of meditation you practice, you have to confront your mental processes head on. Unfortunately, the same does not go for visualization via the law of attraction.
The danger stems from the fact that we all have unconscious mental impulses. We experience them every day and some are more pertinent and enticing than others. So for someone who is blindly using the law of attraction in their lives, they could end up doing more harm to themselves than good.
For instance, let’s say I’m an extremely unconscious individual who wants what I want when I want it and I decide I need a ferrari. I implement the law of attraction, and eventually I get my awesome new sports car. What has happened in between? How did I get it? Did I work long hours to make more money and thereby spend less and less time with my family and friends? Did I engage in unethical behavior to make more money in order to finance my endeavor? Perhaps it’s a bad example, but bear with me.
The point is that the law of attraction stems from desire (as do most things in life). What we need to be aware of before we decide we want something is the why. Why do I want this ferrari? Is it because I’m feeling inadequate in comparison to my co-workers? Is it because I want people to know that I’m rich and powerful? Or is it because it will bring true joy into my life?
Furthermore, often our materialistic desires stem from deeper, more emotional desires and fears; the desire for joy, the desire for connection, the desire for life in tandem with the fear of not being seen or heard, the fear of abandonment or loneliness, the fear of death. It is so important that we see these things before we take action. Then, we have a real opportunity for spiritual/introspective wellness.
Understand there is nothing inherently wrong with materialistic desire. It’s perfectly natural and can be very enjoyable when realized, but I do believe it needs to be observed in order to curb any unnecessary suffering associated with obtaining that thing. This is why I said earlier that I think implementation of the law needs to be used with other tools like meditation, or even journaling. We need to have a practice in place that cultivates presence thereby allowing us to see the nature of our patterns of thought and action. Then we can use the law of attraction to our advantage, and I would argue, that is when it truly starts working.
In a Nutshell
I believe in the law of attraction as a concept, but it must be used consciously. If we first cultivate presence so as to uncover the nature of our deepest desires beyond our daily neuroses, then the law of attraction becomes a very viable tool for self improvement.
What do you think? Does the law of attraction work? Feel free to add to the conversation!
By Terence Stone
Chief Editor and Founder of Urban Spiritual, I’m a classically trained singer and actor living in New York City, who has performed in the U.S. and Europe. I’m also a writer, traveller, meditator, arts-lover, and well-being enthusiast.