Soul & Spirit Magazine April 2011

Soul and Spirit April 2011People often talk about the Law of Attraction as if it’s the latest ‘get-rich-quick’ fad, and yet this philosophy is simply ancient spiritual wisdom in modern disguise. Like all authentic spiritual and religious paths, the law of attraction is ultimately about the quest for inner peace and happiness. And, like applying anything, it requires practice.

When most people discover the law of attraction they see it as a technique to get more stuff: a bigger house, a partner, more money, a sports car, a wide-screen television or maybe a new wardrobe. In the same way many of us have been conditioned to think we need to ‘be more’ to be good enough, the law of attraction appears, on the surface, to be a way to quickly accomplish your goals, so that one day in the future you will have manifested enough material things to, hopefully, make you happy. But this is an approach I have seen produce minimal results.

Ancient wisdom

First written about back in the 1800s, in books such as philosopher Thomas Troward’s The Law and the Word, the law of attraction says that once you get into a certain feeling or state of being, you will manifest a life that matches this feeling. In simple terms: if you feel good you will experience a good-feeling life. Not only will your perception change, the philosophy says, but you will actually attract different physical experiences to you. Common phrases like, ‘birds of a feather flock together’ and, ‘what you give out comes back to you’ are referring to this.

Although the law of attraction’s benefits certainly include more abundance in material wealth, it is not a race to lasso the most ‘stuff’. The priority is not really about getting stuff at all; it’s about enjoying your life more. Only then, as a by product, does your outward life experience begin to change for the better.

The life you are living is a mirror of your internal world; attempts to change the outer to affect the inner do not work; mystics and teachers from all traditions have repeatedly said this. Going into a spiritual practice with an endless ‘wish list’ always illustrates you are not happy now, and so this modern and very Western approach to spirituality does not lead to success or happiness.

Many of us are already living what past kings and queens could have only dreamed of: homes with private bathrooms, fridges, central heating, etc; supermarkets stocked with food from around the world. If you can’t be happy with the incredible things you have in life now, then when will you be? Your mind may convince you that when you get the new career or new car (or whatever it is you think you want) you will be happy but it doesn’t work that way. The secret to living a good-feeling life, and to working with the law of attraction, is being happy now. Instead of waiting for life to make you happy, you make a choice to be happy regardless of outward circumstances.

Learning from fairy tales

In my experience, I have found that an untrained mind is usually at the root of most people’s problems. You may think it is your job you don’t like, your parents or children, or your partner (or lack of one); you may think it is the new house or car you haven’t yet manifested that is what is making you unhappy; but it’s your seemingly uncontrollable negative thoughts about the situation that are causing you pain.

Watch a Disney cartoon such as Cinderella, Aladdin or Beauty and the Beast (and there are many other examples), and you’ll witness perhaps the ultimate examples of characters living with a focused, optimistic attitude. OK, the lead characters might be highly stereotyped but they are often single-mindedly looking for the good in their lives, no matter what’s going on externally. You could write this off as childish nonsense, but these mainstream animations are based on age-old tales containing spiritual truth. For example, Belle from Beauty and the Beast was trapped in a dungeon with a monster. It would have been far easier for her to fall apart into fear, perhaps later exacting revenge on the beast (and the world) for her fate. Many people would do that. But what did she do? She looked for the good in him. This ‘saintly’ behaviour was actually the most self-serving choice she made. In her optimism, her whole world transformed. It didn’t happen immediately, but after gradual practice, it completely changed. What many people underestimate, however, is how much practice it takes to be like this in real life; to consistently look at the glass half full; to have a disciplined mind that continuously seeks the positive aspects of any and all situations.

The solution: practice optimism

You may often see people on television performing perfectly – be it sports, dance or music – and yet the months or years of rigorous daily practice that led up to that performance is not shown. In this way, it is easy to idolise such masters of their craft as simply ‘born like it’, forgetting that you may have the same potential too if you practiced. It is the same with feeling good and successfully utilising the law of attraction: it, too, requires practice. It seems silly that we would have to practice being happy but most of us have picked up a lot of negative thought habits since we were born, and need to create new, beneficial habits.

Despite the numerous courses or books promising to fully transform you and your life in an afternoon – a nice idea but one I’ve never seen work – daily practice is the missing link to living a good-feeling life.

Just as reading about going to the gym is very different from actually going to the gym regularly, so it is with practicing being happy. It doesn’t matter what religion you are from or what faith you follow – unapplied wisdom is useless.

Writing lists of everything you appreciate in your life is one simple technique to start the transformation. Initially, it can be difficult to find even five things to appreciate. But after a few days or weeks of doing it, it will orient your mind to look for and find the good things in your life.

Calming your mind and getting in touch with your real self through meditation is another vital practice that has been taught for thousands of years. Studying and being inspired is step number one on your spiritual journey, but time put into practising what you learn is the vital second step.

Have a little patience

If you have picked up negative ways of looking at life and are only starting to see them, it can take a good few months – or even a bit longer – of consistent ‘happiness’ training before you see any results. But that really is a short time compared to the results of years spent going from book to book, class to class, or therapist to therapist. Plus, the practice will feel good because it’s not really about starting a new practice: it’s about reinventing your current routine. Everyone already has a practice in the morning; for some, it’s waking up and immediately hating themselves and their lives. For others it’s feeling lonely. So why not spend time practicing loving yourself and your life instead?

It is normal to feel unhappy sometimes. Negative thoughts can seem permanent when you’re in them, and even make the future look bleak and hopeless. The ancient Buddhist phrase, ‘This, too, shall pass’ is a good mantra to repeat over and over, to remind yourself you have been here before and come through it.  The goal, as the mystic Teresa of Avila suggested, is ‘practice and never perfection’. We are human and this is an ongoing journey. The good news is that although we may need patience before our physical life changes, just like a muscle we can develop faith and belief. And we can begin, through practice, today.

The power of community

Finally, getting together with likeminded others is an important way to put what we know into practice. The famous expression ‘No man is an island’ is true. We are born on this planet with billions of others for a reason. We all hold the answers to each other’s questions. In the Law of Attraction Processes Groups I run, it is amazing how many answers to long-held questions come through from other people. And it’s inspiring to watch as people share how their lives transform, not through studying alone but through attending the groups and sharing their experience with others.

I have seen literally hundreds of people from all types of background drastically transform their lives, from going from poverty to riches, to finding a partner or landing their dream job. But above all, I have seen people feel better and enjoy their lives, which, for me, is what the law of attraction is all about. And the good news that this can work for everyone.

Michael’s top tips

  • Remember, the priority is not really about getting ‘stuff’: it’s about enjoying your life more. Only then, as a by product, does your outward life experience begin to change for the better.
  • Begin a regular spiritual practice. Yes, read spiritual books for inspiration, but just as going to the gym is very different from merely reading fitness books, so it is with spiritual practice.
  • Meditation and appreciation are tried-and-tested techniques that have been suggested for thousands of years. Life-changing transformation hides within them, so don’t discard them because of their simplicity.
  • Instead of waiting for life to make you happy, make a choice to be happy regardless of your outward circumstances.
  • Have patience with yourself and don’t fear negative thoughts. It is in the hard times that the best times are created. It is about practice and not perfection.
  • Enjoy the journey; the aim is not to reach some goal called ‘enlightenment’ or to wait for life to get ‘better’. Life is about enjoying each ‘now’ moment. In fact, your now moment is your life.

How to… implement the law of attraction
– Try these daily processes to help the law of attraction work in your favour:

  1. Meditation: Sit in a comfortable position (cross legged or on a chair), close your eyes; focus on something constant, like your breath, a candle flame, or even gentle music. Bring your attention to the rhythm of your breathing (or the music). At first, your mind may be restless but with practice you will discover and enjoy an inner sanctuary to which you will want to return. This calm will also positively influence the rest of your day, putting you in touch with your inner guidance and allowing you to more naturally think better-feeling thoughts. I recommend a meditation practice of 15-20 minutes to start with.
  2. An attitude of gratitude: Make a list of 20 things you appreciate in your life. Begin with things that have happened recently, however small, and then move outward into your life in general, such as ‘I love my home, I appreciate my comfortable bed, I love my computer’ etc. This may be difficult at first but stay with it. The key is to not simply make a list but feel the appreciation as you write it. This will be a process that, once you get into it, you will want to do again and again. When you are more practiced, try increasing the list to 50 or even 100 things.

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