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Friday, April 24, 2009

The Law of Distraction

One of the most intense aspects of our personality is the voice of desire. Buddhists point to this aspect of the human experience as the source of all human suffering and yet life without desire would be a very passive and dull experience if life were possible at all. It would be foolish to try to eliminate desire from our lives but at the same time it is equally foolish to allow our lives to be run by our desires. One of the things we must come to terms with is that the aspect of us we call desire is insatiable. When we get what we desire we quickly move on to desire more or something else. I think this is what the Buddhists are actually pointing to with regard to desire. Satisfying a desire is like filling a bucket with a hole in it. So the task becomes one of managing desire such that it serves us and not enslaves us.

Several years ago a video was released called “The Secret”. Since that time many in the spiritual community have come out to criticize the video (which is now also a book) as being just another appeal to the base desire of wanting stuff, including money. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. The premise of the movie is an idea called The Law of Attraction. This is really an ancient idea that had a incarnation in the early 1900’s which provides the material that is with us today. This principle tells us that we get what we focus on. But the big question for many who have spoken about this principle is how clear is our vision of what will satisfy us and is this just another way to allow our desires to run our lives. Are we really attracting what we think we are atracting?.

I think those who have criticized this video are not questioning the validity of the law of attraction but are pointing out that this may just be a way to put that voice of desire on steroids. A drive that is already so powerful in most of us that it distracts us from really enjoying the amazing gift that is our life.

Here is my two cents on the matter. Checking in with the Buddhists again we begin to see the irony of how desire works. Desire is usually rooted in some dissatisfaction with whatever is currently so. The irony is that the Law of Attraction then tells us that what comes from dissatisfaction is just more dissatisfaction. It is a kind of Catch-22. This is why many tell us that in order to eliminate human suffering we should simply eliminate desire and yet without desire we would probably just fade a way and die.

Now here is my suggestion. Let’s look for a way to live our lives in such a way that we are sustained and excited by life, a way in which things flow to us without us having to desire or even envision them before hand. Is there good evidence that this could actually work? Yes, and we even have a word for it. It is called serendipity! So if serendipity works, why don’t people rely on it? Simple, we are distracted by our desires. We are so distracted by our desires that we feel like we need to buy books and videos to learn how to get the stuff we want. I call this effect the “Law of Distraction”. We are distracted from noticing and appreciating the gifts that flow to us in each and every moment.

Virtually everything that we are offered on TV is telling us that we are missing something we need to have in order to be happy. It is not that the Law of Attraction is not working, it certainly is, and often we get exactly what we ask for. But along with it we get more wanting. Let’s face it, “wanting” is a lot of work and it by the principle of the Law of Attraction, it cannot result in contentment.

So what is my answer? Simple, in order to attract contentment we must already have it! No, this is not some type of double talk. Just because we are content does not mean that all manner of things do not flow to us through serendipity. The catch is however, that we will get what the universe freely provides not necessarily what our voice of desire is insisting we need. Can we come to trust and be content in each moment that the universe will always take care of us? Can we feel deep gratitude for this process and all that it provides? I think what those who use the Law of Attraction successfully are trying to tell us is that when we stop being so distracted by our desires that a space of contentment, love and abundance will naturally arise within us and we will attract more of the same. Our desires can then be seen as things that might be “nice to have” not a dire necessities.


Blogger tommyp said...

Very refreshing article Michael - and I think you have hit the nail cleanly on the head. You must start with yourself - to understand what you you really need and then you will see how the universe provides for this. Egoically desiring more "stuff" is seldom realized through the nature of the universe.

7:46 AM  
Blogger The Rambling Taoist said...

For me, the secret to life is balance. As you aptly point out, we can't live without desire (like the desire to breath), but we can't let our desires overwhelm us either. So, the trick is to find the balance, harmony or equilibrium between these two extremes.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Lauranimist said...

A very enjoyable read, Michael.

I've been getting Law of Attraction references (specifically Abraham Hicks) coming at me from all directions lately. It's fascinating how things happen in clusters like that, including references to the Law of Attraction/Distraction.

So I've been looking into it.

Immediately, I manifested a $20 bill, a nine-inch-nails CD, and a waffle baker... things that I vaguely wanted and then forgot about. I thought that was pretty funny.

On the other hand, things that I desire with great craving, and have desired for years, just won't manifest at all. This is probably also pretty funny - but certainly not to my ego.

I believe therein lies the actual "Secret" to the Law of Attraction: the act of desiring seems to accrete onto its own self, so that the desiring increases by the law of attraction, rather than the thing desired.

Non-attachment is definitely the key to manifesting desires, and non-attachment is, in the realm of reality that the people of our culture spend most of their time in, quite the opposite of desire.

So it all comes back to ego again. And ego is a way of getting energy from other people, or of preventing other people from taking energy from us. Probably a necessary thing when we're half-grown children who still don't know how to take care of ourselves fully, but do have to interact in the wild world.

In our society, though, that half-grown child state becomes permanent for most of us. Alas, only our cuteness fades. We remain, for most of our lives, in a needs-not-fully-met state, absolutely stuffed with desire upon desire. Every meal, every dollar spent, every interaction with another is packed with emotional charge, complete attachment, and burning desire. Non-attachment can't be much more than a vague ideal in such a state.

So, the irony is, that even the Law of Attraction gets packaged up and displayed tantalizingly so that "consumers" will "desire" it, and will spend a lot of their energy to try and get it... and hopefully get it first.

Meanwhile, we, as half-grown children, are not even clear on what it is we should desire; hence, being fed marketing messages that we should desire giant mansions and disgusting levels of consumer power, and the adulation of millions of strangers. Does anyone actually, earnestly desire these things of their own innocent accord?

How about desiring peace, genius, joy, unconditional love, and a sense of purpose? It turns out, when we can grow up a little and clear away the misplaced desires of egocentric attachment, those underlying desires, through the instant and ongoing power of the Law of Attraction, are always already satisfied.

Ah, it's all so ironic. And screamingly funny.


9:58 AM  

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