Monday, June 21, 2010

The Secret - Rhonda Byrne

Old potion, transferred to a new bottle, wrapped in colourful, glittery paper and of course, sold under a new brand name.
A clever endeavour, successful because of un-clever consumers.

I heard about the law of attraction in 2007 from a friend while in California in late 2007. I could not believe it first, but was impressed after I heard him fully, half-believing though. It took a few months for it to sink in and I even posted a blog about it.

The book was too expensive (600 plus) and I thought I would wait for the paper-back edition, which never came.
Tired of waiting, I finally bought this for 400 something after a 20% discount.
An effective book, I must say, though too expensive.

Using different examples, different sentence formations, under different chapters, the book tries to say one thing. You are the master of the universe. The universe is your slave. Ask what you want and you shall have it.
The repetition is painful but behind it is the purpose of reiterating, emphasizing and reemphasizing the most incredible idea in the world – that you can have everything that you want in life. Whatever you have today in your life, you have chosen – health, wealth, love, relationships, mishaps, calamities, miracles… and you can choose what you want in future, a million dollar company, the car of your choice, the perfect partner, fame, ….everything.

Cleverly selected quotes (minus their contexts) by well known personalities have been sprinkled on all pages and interpreted suitably to endorse the message of the book.

The natural question would be ‘Why many a time we don’t have what we want if it is true that we can have all we want?’ According to the votaries of the law of attraction, most of us don’t know what we want or we don’t know how to want what we want. Most important of all, when we get what we want, we don’t want it anymore!

Thus, the book addresses the above one by one and attempts to teach us how, in a scientific and methodical way, we all can have all we want. A separate chapter dedicated to wealth, health, relationship, life and so on. The content is repetitive and could be cut by 25% but it anyway serves to impress the point of the book on the reader’s mind.

The techniques and processes mentioned in the book are

The creative process – Ask. Believe. Receive – Ask the universe (once) what you want. Believe that it is coming to you. Receive it – feel wonderful about it as if you already have it.

The process of Revision – everyday, before you retire to bed, revise in your mind all that did not go right and then play it in your mind exactly the way you would have wanted it to go.

Gratitude – be grateful for what you have. Say ‘thank you’ many times in a day and feel thankful. You will have more reasons to thank the universe.

Visualization – Visualize what you want in detail and feel good while doing it. Do this exercise often. What you visualize will realize soon.

Affirm - I am. I am beautiful. I am love. I am on time. I am healthy. Instead of I am late, I am sick, I am bored, I am broke…words are powerful.

Laughter is the best medicine – watch comedy shows, comedy movies, laugh, do what makes you happy and you will have more reasons to laugh…

Treat yourself with love and respect – treat yourself the way you want others to treat you.

But the book encourages individualistic attitude as different from collectivistic. It says you can have whatever you want, just about anything under the sky, anything on your mind, you only have to ask for it. Don’t worry about the how, about the means of realization of your desire.
It gives not a penny for right and wrong, for moral, immoral.
What kind of desires should be nurtured, what desires should be stopped or controlled because they may not be good for someone else or for you – these have been dismissed as unnecessary.
In fact the book explicitly says ‘don’t think of whether your wanting this is good for others – the universe will take care’.
Sacrifice has been called unnecessary. ‘All of us can have what we want, it is not necessary for one person to sacrifice for the good of others’, the book says.

When I call the book clever and the consumer unclever, it is because this book is a replica of The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy. And I am sure a lot of other books on positive thinking before this one carry the same message. It has been marketed as the discovery of a secret, as a new revelation and sold for millions.

Certain examples used to illustrate the effectiveness of the techniques are immature.
For instance, a certain man visualized in his mind, a feather of a particular shape and colour just to test whether this technique works. And lo behold! After 3 days, he found the feather of his imagination near an elevator.
A reader does not need this you know. Regardless of the truth of the incident, the author needn’t go that far to make her point. Silly examples and small talk.

A lady who was unable to find a right partner realised (after being enlightened by the author or her book) that she had been occupying the entire bed, so she started sleeping in her side of the bed leaving the other side to her partner ‘who would arrive soon’. She would park her car in the garage in such a way that there was enough space left for her spouse’s car. And indeed, in a few week’s time, she got married to the perfect man!
So what about those millions of singles who have a single bed at home and not a double bed? Will they never get married? 
The reader is being taught to go by the literal meaning of words instead of understanding the underlying sense and spirit of the advice.
The vast majority of the author’s readers being westerners, would not, of course, be able to see the ludicrousness. And used as they are to packaged solutions for every problem of life, such references would surely appeal to them.
A ‘packaged guaranteed solution’ approach to the law of attraction, I am sure, is what they are ready for.

But a more mature and sensible approach to the law of attraction would be to understand the larger meaning “Think good thoughts, feel good. You will attract more good in your life because of your own happy disposition. If you think bad thoughts, and consequently feel bad, you will attract more of bad in your life, because of an unhappy disposition.”

While the book proclaims that nothing is impossible, that the universe would move mountains to fulfil your wish, that there is no destiny, that no laws govern the universe except the law of attraction, that you can have perfect health, perfect beauty, lots of money...simply by believing that it is coming your way and that you already have it, it carefully avoids the difficult questions.
For instance, it says you can have any man/woman you want. But it avoids the question ‘If you love a person who is already taken (married or committed to someone else) do you have it in your power to eventually possess that person?’ Is it even right to desire something like that?
Very briefly the book says ‘old age is in your mind. You can remain young’. It does not dwell upon the subject too long. ’Can you attain immortality by asking for it?’

One really good thing about the book, however, is that it impresses upon the mind of the reader the urgency of the matter.
A lot of books describe in detail how important it is to think positively and avoid negative feelings – anger, vengeance, hatred, regret, guilt etc. We have heard it from our elders, read about it in various books, email forwards, SMSs. But none of them jolt you out of habit.
This book does.
“…every minute, every second, you are attracting into your life what you are thinking about. Now…this moment…what are you thinking, how are you feeling… its coming back to you…”
You become watchful of your thoughts like never before. For a week after reading this book, I was afraid of bad thoughts. I was paranoid about what I was attracting into my life and switched to positive, good, happy thoughts many times a day.
And guess what………..within a few days, the thoughts of people who had offended me at work, 2 years ago – that jackass manager, the spineless woman who was my mentor - tormentor, the jerk who would pinch my arm when I wore a new dress and stamp my feet when I wore new shoes, without my permission…all of them were forgotten. I was generally happier than before.

The thoughts came back again after a few months, but that’s not the fault of the book. You have to consciously practise what is advised. If you ask me, I’d say, carry a copy of the book with you all the time and read one page everyday so the urgency and gravity of the matter never get off your mind.

As I read through the pages, it was natural and inevitable for me to verify the contents of the book against how my own life had unfolded thus far and what my take on this subject was.

Most of the good things I attracted into my life, the US visit, the Himalayas, the Ladakh trip, the toastmasters, my company Sumeru were all without the process of visualization, gratitude or other techniques recommended in the book. It was all unexpected! They just happened. What I have consciously wanted and craved have been quite elusive.
So once again, it makes complete sense to present the general promise – good thoughts, intentions and feelings beget good while bad thoughts, intentions and feelings beget bad.
But getting down to specific thoughts and their direct result, I mean, trying to establish a one to one connection between every cause and every effect, every incident and its causal antecedent would be a futile exercise, an immature one and would result in one’s losing faith in the law of attraction because of too many exceptional cases that are not in agreement with the law.

After going everywhere that the author wanted to take me, I was back to square one. Actually, slightly better than that. And wiser.
What happens to us is the result of the combination of free will and destiny. So you cannot have all you want to have. But you can have a lot of what you want, by knowing clearly what you want, by taking steps in that direction and by completely shunning negative bitter feelings and thoughts of any kind from your mind.
And that requires effort. Being positive. Although it is supposed to be your natural state of being!

Karma plays a huge role in our lives. Destiny definitely determines. But a lot depends on free will too. That said, why worry about destiny when you cannot change it? Pretend that everything depends on free will and give it your best shot.

Last word. I would recommend reading this for as I said earlier, it impresses upon your mind the urgency of the matter. But do not buy the book. Borrow. Or perhaps buy the pirated version sold on pavements (I would never say this about another book, a lover of books as I am).


Ketan said...

I remember reading your original post on law of attraction. I'd also posted a strong disagreement there.

The book does not endorse merely keeping a positive attitude which would prepare us for calculated risks. But she takes law of attraction to a level of superstition or a mental ritual, if I may.

Somewhere I'd read she or someone else had tried to invoke quantum physics as justification of law of attraction! If that's true, then it's exemplary pseudoscience.

In my original comment, I'd also pointed out that so-called negative thoughts are integral to our survival instinct. Think of it, helmet, condom, seat belt, vulcanized rubber insulation, third pin in electric plugs, vaccination, antibiotics, gloves - all are outcomes of so called negative thinking. Can we dispense with negative thinking altogether? I don't think that would be wise at all.

One sentence in your post made me jump almost and also smile:

"The vast majority of the author's readers being westerners, would not, of course, be able to see the ludicrousness."

I've never been outside of India, so the apparent force of conviction behind the statement tempts me to ask, if there was an element of mischief behind what you wrote? :D

With hundreds of swamis that Indians believe in & donate to temple trusts with 'turnover' of crores in a week (of rupees, of course, and not devotees), are Indians fundamentally very different in their being uncritical in analysis than westerners?

Of course, if it's true that around 50% Americans don't believe in natural selection, then it's easy to believe you. :)

Rishi said...

Deal with life and be happy. That is what I understand.

You have no choice but to deal with life the way it unfolds.

Happiness is a state of mind independent of events that happen. Its understanding of events of life in a happy perspective than waiting for events to happen, defined to be associated with happiness.

It will be interesting to read the book. On a different note does Meru and SuMeru mean the same ? I work for Meru Networks (Not the CAB service :-)).


Sowmya said...

Hi Ketan,

Yes. Using Quantum Physics for justification - it was either in this book or The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy - totally went above my head.

Negative thinking as you said cannot be dispensed with - but the important thing is - dont be preoccupied with negative thoughts - take your precaution (a one time action) and then let go fear.

Are Indians fundamentally different from westerners in their living and thinking? I think so. They are less robotic. They would not demand proof of everything, which is why they dont need that feather example which would probably mean a lot to a westerner looking for proof.


Agree with you.

But most ordinary people (including me) would be affected by events and only by effort and practise, be able to make happiness a habit.

Sumeru is a software company by the way. Sumeru Software Solutions :)

SMS said...

I have heard about secret from my friend then first i watch the movie secret and then i bought the book to understand it more deeply,but i found that most of the topic in the book were similar that were shown in the movie.
so any one who wants to know about the book or want to read it then they can simply watch the movie on YouTube at free,don't need to waste money on the book as i do.

The book told us to think positive and then we get the positive results in life.
The language is easy to understand,but one thing i noticed at the end of the book the author gave brief introduction about all the experts that were shown in the movie as well as in the book with their email id.
It seems to me like the author wants us to went on the experts site and buy their book also for more detail understanding.
One of the experts Bop Proctor were introduced their separate 11 untold laws which was not given in the book of secret and it seems like he didn't get the payment from the secret producer so he had launch of it's own...
But the book is very good and movie was also very simple to understand.....