Archive for the ‘Creative Visualization’ Category

29 September

How to Manifest Abundance: What the Law of Attraction Industry Won’t Tell You

The self-help industry that has grown up around the so-called Law of Attraction, popularized by Rhonda Byrne’s pop-psychology hit, The Secret, wants you to think that you can have everything you want with very little effort on your part. All you have to do, the theory goes, is ask the universe for what you want by thinking about it, and the universe will gladly oblige. The conventional critique of this pitch is that it forgets about the not-so-insignificant role of action in bringing about those results. Both the pitch and the conventional response are inadequate, for neither view helps us to really understand the remarkable process of human creativity in its entirety. And since life is short, we really can’t afford to spend any more time laboring under misapprehensions.

In this post, I want to be as realistic as possible about the problems you will encounter as you try to apply the Law of Attraction. We will look at real-world issues that don’t figure prominently within the glossy covers of masterfully-marketed information products. Hopefully, some of the points we address will resonate with you, and you’ll recognize something that has been holding you back.

Debunking the Debunkers

The conventional critics – the men of action, if you will – aren’t worth much time here, for they are not even willing to try New Age ideas, and simply dismiss them on their face. They seem particularly offended by the implication that, if things aren’t going well in your life, it is your own fault, an attitude they regard as tantamount to blaming the victim. It never seems to occur to them that being able to take responsibility for the conditions in your life empowers you to change them for the better, and that the only reason things aren’t good now is because you never understood how life worked. And how could you? No-one teaches New Age principles in elementary school; if anything, as children we are more likely to be brainwashed into believing all manner of religious nonsense that is even more absurd than anything ever presented by Rhonda Byrne and infinitely less useful. It might be more helpful to human enlightenment if the critics would focus their ire on the Catholic Church, an institution that does demonstrable harm around the world. To tar the New Age movement with the same brush – the one labeled “ignorant superstition” – is to admit that you can’t be bothered to look for answers within yourself or don’t think you would find any if you did. And that brings us to our first problem.

Introspection is Not an Option – It’s Required

We live in a world that prizes physical action, athletic prowess, and rampant materialism. Most of our energies, mental and physical, are directed toward interacting with the physical world in some way. Particularly in the West, our culture does not encourage quiet introspection or meditation; its attitude toward such inner pursuits could be summarized with the question, “What’s the point?” The point is that if you don’t look within, you will have absolutely no chance of understanding what’s happening “out there.”

While I have many problems with Rhonda Byrne’s book (as discussed in our separate review of The Secret) I have to give her grudging credit for at least getting people to wonder if their inner, mental activities might have something to do with the quality of their lives. The problem, however, is that working with beliefs, mental images, and emotions requires introspection, and some personality types are particularly loathe to do this. In fact, mastery of the human creative process requires a great deal of inner examination – a completely different way of living. You must constantly examine the contents of your mind and the events of your life in great detail, looking for possible patterns of causation. This is an incredibly difficult, often-frustrating, painstaking task. Practitioners of meditation techniques have a head start, but for most readers of The Secret, the necessary work does not come naturally and, unfortunately, will not get done. For all of those people, the Law of Attraction will continue to work, but they will not think so because they have no idea what, exactly, they are attracting. The rules work, but are you working the rules?

What Do You Want, Anyway?

One of the greatest defects of The Secret was its failure to require readers to engage in some serious thought about what it is that they really want out of life. The book just assumed that, if you think you want a BMW 750iL, you should concentrate on having one in your driveway. This superficial thinking no doubt contributed to the book’s commercial success; after all, people don’t want to be challenged and they like simple solutions. We will come to the “simplicity” of the solution in a moment, but we need to do a little challenging first.

When you realize that you create your own reality (and skimming a book does not equate to full realization), you realize next that you had better be careful about what you choose to create. And this, in turn, means asking yourself whether the things you think you want – certain possessions, a particular relationship, social status, etc. – are really going to make you happy. We’ve all heard stories of lottery winners who are miserable. You probably don’t need the same income as a hedge-fund manager to be happy; in fact, you might find that most of what you want already exists.

There is a saying posted on the wall of my hairdresser’s shop (admittedly not the sort of place where one would expect to find real pearls of wisdom) that says, “Happiness is not having what you want; it’s wanting what you have.” This is important to bear in mind as you sally forth on your creative adventures, particularly when you get results that don’t seem – at first glance – to match up to your “requests.” Maybe the universe knows more than you’re giving it credit for; maybe it knows you better than you know yourself. In the introspection department, being honest with yourself about what you really want in life must be near the top of the list of priorities. Are you mature enough to do that?

The “Equivalency Problem”

The single greatest failure of The Secret was its over-simplification of the creative process. Readers were told they would get exactly what they asked for, and numerous anecdotes were sprinkled throughout the text to supposedly corroborate that expectation. So why, you might have wondered, after visualizing that BMW like you were told, don’t you have one?

Over many years, I have come to think about reality creation in a slightly different way from the textbook versions. In my experience, life makes it easier for you to think/feel/believe what you think/feel/believe. (Sorry about the slashes, but I can’t simplify it any further.) If you spend a lot of time looking at a picture of a car, life will make it easier for you to see that car. You might start noticing such vehicles more on the road. You’ll see it on television, or while surfing the web. It doesn’t have to be in your driveway for you to see it. That’s why visualization alone rarely produces the results you desire.

If you want to actually own that vehicle, then you must generate within yourself all the feelings that come with ownership. You must try the experience on in your mind – mentally rehearse it – and pretend it is real. This is difficult for two reasons: first, you’ve never had that experience before, so you don’t really know what it does feel like; and second, your conscious mind is screaming at you that you are being silly because you don’t have it. Feelings are immensely powerful, but infinitely complex and fickle. It is almost impossible to consistently generate the necessary feelings within yourself.

Furthermore, even if you do manage to do some good work internally, you must understand that all the other thoughts, beliefs, and feelings that are going on within you don’t just disappear at the flick of a switch. When you add a positive concentration to the existing mix, it is effectively diluted in your baseline mental “solution,” losing some of its force. So what often happens is that you see your life move a little bit in the desired direction, giving you a watered-down version of what you want, but falling (far) short of a full-blown success. I have long referred to this as the equivalency problem, and it has often been a source of frustration. But it is important to take heart from these semi-successful creations, because they prove that you can make a difference in the quality of your life. There is no turning back once this fact has sunk in.

Patience Is A Virtue

Here’s another major problem, especially in America (and even more especially for New Yorkers!). We want what we want and we want it now. Sorry, but that’s generally not possible. And if you stop to think about it, that might not be such a bad thing after all. For if life were so responsive to you that it gave you what you wanted immediately, it would also give you garbage immediately whenever your thinking is negative (which is more often than not). Unless you have mastered your thoughts to the same degree as the Buddha, you do not want life to be that responsive!

As a general rule, if you’re looking to effect long-term changes in your life, there will have to be a long-term change in your thinking beforehand. The recipe for successful manifestation includes intensity (of emotion and belief) and persistence. Of these two factors, intensity is by far the most important, but also – as we have already discussed – the most difficult. Unfortunately, you will most likely see intensity at work when you are intensely negative. Indeed, if I could have the critics of the New Age do one thing to test their viewpoint that thoughts and feelings do not affect their reality, I would have them indulge in some absolutely grisly emotions and see if they can get away with them. If they had the self-discipline and intellectual integrity to conduct such an experiment, a few of them might actually see the light. (But I won’t hold my breath.)

The Role of Action

Understanding how actions fit into this process is a breakthrough the critics will never make. It’s only going to make sense when you actually work with these concepts and observe accurately what follows. What you will see is that actions take care of themselves. Once again, this is a lesson that is easier to learn the hard way. When you set yourself up for disaster by engaging in profoundly negative expectations, you are likely to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, do something that upsets somebody else, or make a mistake that has serious consequences. And because of the brain’s innate tendency toward negativity – an unfortunate evolutionary hangover – there is a good chance that you will have multiple opportunities to observe this phenomenon at work. Of course, as we noted above, all of this observation requires a level of careful introspection that may be a new skill for you; you need to become something of a detective and develop a sixth sense for your own particular M.O.

(Refer to the earlier post on the human constitution for another way to think about this.)

Balancing “Fantasy” and Reality

In the quest to generate intensely positive emotions, the resistance of the conscious mind is a perennial handicap. Even if you understand the principle that you create your reality with your beliefs, and you have actually seen real-life examples, your conscious mind still pulls you back to the facts of your current situation. And we need to be forgiving about this, because that is its job. To be able to function in this world, you must be able to perform a myriad of tasks that require concentration and alertness in the here and now; living in a fantasy land would impair you in a profoundly dangerous way. What we are looking for, therefore, is a balance between present-moment competence and future-oriented belief modification.

In other words, there is a time and a place to work on your creation sessions. You may be able to do it “interstitially” and fit it in the mental gaps between various daily activities, but most of the time you will be better off allocating a distinct period when you will not be distracted or disturbed and can maximize your focus on the desired objective.

A Little Helping Hand….

Even in ideal situations, when we are sitting quietly by ourselves and are completely free to think whatever we want, the chatter of the conscious mind can be difficult to overcome. An excellent way to help yourself leave present-moment concerns is to listen to music – preferably instrumental so that you can hear yourself think. Well-chosen music can help you reach mental and emotional states of great power in a relatively short period of time.

Over the last few years, music itself has become more powerful than ever before. The new audio technology of brainwave entrainment uses specially-engineered, subsonic frequencies to coax your brain into altered states of consciousness. For belief modification, the states we wish to target are the Alpha and Theta frequencies in which the subconscious mind is more amenable to re-programming. Alternatively, for powerful concentration on a desired objective, the advanced Gamma state places the brain in an incredibly powerful, synergistic condition. Either way, the brain has been taken away from its normal, everyday state, which is characterized by Beta waves. It can come back later, but while we’re working, we want it to take a little breather….

Refer to our Home page for specific guidance on choosing the best meditation audio products for your needs.

29 August

Book Review: Why I Hate “The Secret”

Rhonda Byrne’s magnum opus, The Secret, made quite a splash in self-help circles after its publication in 2006. All of a sudden, everyone was talking about the Law of Attraction, and debating its plausibility or absurdity. Thanks in part to a hard sell from America’s self-appointed high-priestess, Oprah Winfrey, Byrne made a lot of money telling other people how to make money. And in this whirlwind of commercial success, the complexity and subtlety of human creativity was left far, far behind.

In no particular order, let’s review some of the problems with The Secret.

  1. The Secret was not original. Why is that a problem, you might ask, since the stated purpose of the book was to expose hitherto secret information that had been kept from us (for some unexplained reason), meaning that it obviously dealt with existing ideas? It’s a problem because other authors and researchers in the self-help field had already explored these topics, written about them beautifully and thoughtfully, but never received the media acclaim or financial rewardsJane Roberts - The Nature of Personal Reality that accrued to this Johnny-come-lately. And I’m not referring to any of the other self-promoters involved in this particular project. I mean people like Shakti Gawain, whose classic book Creative Visualization came out over 25 years before The Secret and dealt with the subject matter in a far more intelligent and sensitive way. Important as it was – in my life and for many others – Gawain realized that the book was not perfect, and developed her ideas further in later works, reflecting a humility that is conspicuously lacking from Byrne’s business. And if you really want to discover the ultimate source of wisdom, there is nothing comparable to the Seth Books by Jane Roberts, particularly The Nature of Personal Reality. The Seth books are not easy reading, and are at the other end of the scale, in every sense, from Byrne’s mass-market fare.
  2. The Secret was largely the work of other people. I don’t know what sort of revenue-sharing arrangement Ms. Byrne had in place with contributors like Bob Proctor and Joe Vitale, but all the best content in the book came from them. Ms. Byrne was a film producer who saw an opportunity, and ran with it for all it was worth (which turned out to be rather a lot). She had only one year’s experience with these concepts, and yet considered herself qualified to tell the whole world how life works. That level of hubris still floors me, but not as much as the willingness of the marketplace to overlook her credibility deficit.
  3. Constant quotes from famous historical figures, like Winston Churchill or Albert Einstein, were used shamelessly to attempt to convince readers that many of the world’s greatest people had achieved their success because they knew The Secret. How they found out about it, or why they never wrote about in the way that Byrne did, was never explained. Churchill for example, was one of the best writers the English language has ever seen, and made most of his money from selling books that he knew would be popular. Did he not want everyone else to know? Was there a Mason-like conspiracy to hide this information? This ridiculous over-reaching undermined the seriousness it sought to advance.
  4. Worst of all, The Secret over-simplifies in a child-like manner. If you want a new BMW in your driveway, then you are told to look at pictures of that car and think about having it, then trust The Universe to deliver it to you. Apart from the fact that there is no meaningful examination of what it is that you really want, or why you want it – an important exercise to engage in before attempting to create a new reality – the process simply doesn’t work that way. While there may be a few isolated incidents in which you will get exactly what you picture in your mind, more often than not the outcome is not exactly what you expected. Sometimes nothing happens, and a cause needs to be found, possibly in conflicting beliefs. (The fact that nothing appeared to happen doesn’t mean that you don’t create your own reality; it means the process can be difficult, confusing, and take time. And Keep It Simple - Simpsonsit may also mean that you aren’t even perceiving all the details of your life correctly, failing to see changes at the margin and connecting them to inner changes you have made.) Frequently, there is an equivalency problem and you get something that comes across as the closest thing you’re going to get in the circumstances, but which doesn’t fully satisfy you. At other times, you get something completely unexpected, which can be a very good thing, for there might be something out there that was outside your previous experience and could never have been imagined by you, but which will fit the bill nicely. How can you know, for example, what your ideal life-partner will look like – or talk like, or sound like – if you’ve never met them? All you can do is try to grab hold of the general concept of what you would like to manifest. The details are far less important than the quality of the experience. As you try to embody this quality, you may use different details at various times, so long as they make you feel the way you want to feel in the desired situation. There is much more to be said here, but I think the point has been made: creativity is not like picking a new toy off the shelf in the store. Failure to address these complexities will lead many readers of the book to see failure instead of success, and not know how to even recognize the difference between them.
  5. The Secret was a grotesquely commercial, multi-media marketing exercise. It was as if we took a religion, patented a certain strand thereof (in much the same way as the Supreme Court has allowed agri-business corporations to patent the DNA of food crops) and proceeded to charge everyone royalties for practicing something that had always been intensely personal and private. Perhaps this money-spinning venture would have been more acceptable if it led to a general enlightenment of the population. But, when all the dust settles, most people will return to their old habits of thinking and acting. It is immensely difficult to effect genuine change in the way other human beings think, precisely because our beliefs have a life of their own, akin to self-sustaining organisms that gather around themselves corroborating facts and experiences. People change when they are ready to change, not when someone else sells them a shiny new belief system.

Release of The Secret was the first time that the mainstream media had been exposed to the proposition that our inner thoughts and feelings have an effect on our outer reality. These reviewers had never experimented with these concepts themselves – a process which takes years of careful introspection to assess correctly – yet summarily dismissed the book as utter nonsense or worse. (One of the more thoughtful reviews, with a particular emphasis on Oprah’s involvement, was on Salon.com.) Byrne may have imagined herself catalyzing a Great Awakening of the human spirit, but she was the wrong person and employed the wrong methods to have any chance of succeeding in that monumental endeavor. In fact, by provoking such strong negative reactions – many of which were deserved – she has actually made that task even more difficult than it was before. We who believe that we do, in fact, create our own reality – however difficult that concept may be to fully explain or fully implement – have all been tarred by Rhonda Byrne’s tacky brush. We would have been better off if The Secret had remained just that – a secret.

15 September

Meditation MP3, Relaxation Music, or New Age CDs – Which is Best for Creative Visualization?

Listening to music is one of life’s great pleasures, enjoyable not just for the sounds themselves or the artistry that creates them, but also for the mental and emotional states music helps us reach. The music industry has responded to our need to relax and reduce stress by producing special recordings to soothe our frazzled nerves, but a meditation MP3 can do much more than relaxation music. These sophisticated recordings can connect us with powerful inner talents that have been lying dormant for years, waiting to be unleashed.

The Tremendous Power of Music for Creative Visualization

If you’re interested in this topic at all, there’s a good chance that, like me, you’ve listened to a fair amount of instrumental, “New Age” CDs in your time. Names like Kitaro, Vangelis, Jean-Michel Jarre, Andreas Vollenweider, Yanni, etc. will be familiar to you. I always preferred instrumental music over vocals, as the vocals distracted me from visualizing whatever it was I wanted to concentrate on. Although I enjoyed music in its own right, I freely confess that I have long used it as a tool, helping me to forget about quotidian problems and focus on a better future. And it works! Music is very, very powerful when you learn to ride the waves of emotion that can be generated by particularly resonant recordings. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was actually using music to alter my state of consciousness.

What is the Difference between a Meditation MP3 and a Relaxation MP3?

Relaxation music is generally not designed to be an emotional roller-coasters at all. Its main objective is to help us relax and relieve stress, an important goal in the modern world to be sure, but a somewhat limited one nonetheless. Typically, such recordings feature soothing nature sounds such as waves crashing on a shoreline with seabirds calling out overhead, whale songs, or a waterfall or rainstorm in some imaginary, moss-covered rain forest in the Pacific Northwest. There are even more esoteric recordings based on “space sounds” – electro-magnetic waves detected by the Voyager and other space probes. Such recordings can definitely help us achieve a relaxed, Alpha state, wherein the brain’s dominant frequency slows down and becomes more powerful. This can be very beneficial in combating hypertension, and opens the door to deeper levels of the mind. But it is only the beginning of what is possible with sound today.

The Meditation MP3 Revolution – Towards Complete Mind Control

Meditation MP3s are more than just music. While they generally do feature some kind of instrumental music, which may be classical, New Age, or traditional relaxation fare as discussed above, they include specially-designed tones that are intended to encourage the listener’s brain to operate at a particular frequency. It has long been known that the brain exhibits a frequency-following response, tending to mimic the wave forms of sensory stimuli. Sound waves are the easiest way to harness this phenomenon to our advantage, and a raft of brainwave entrainment recordings has resulted. The specific techniques employed include binaural beats, monaural beats, and isochronic tones.

These special recordings can be used to take you places far beyond the reach of ordinary New Age CDs or relaxation music, entraining sound frequencies that are below the normal range of the human ear (20Hz – 20 KHz) and which correspond to the Alpha, Theta, or Delta brainwaves associated with the subconscious and the unconscious mind. Even the more exotic waves discovered quite recently, like Gamma and Lambda waves, can be entrained with a well-engineered meditation MP3.

For the purposes of creative visualization, a meditation MP3 targeting the Theta wave, or the boundary region between Alpha and Theta, can be extremely effective, as the mind is particularly receptive to “reprogramming” in this state. (For more on Theta, see the companion article here on Meditation-MP3.org, Exploring Theta Waves – The Exciting Implications of Theta Brain Waves for Learning and Memory.) The right recording can get you to this state in as little as 10 – 15 minutes, and what you do once you get there is entirely up to you!