Review – “The Secret”

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As I’ve been on this spiritual awakening journey, one book kept coming up in recommendations – The Secret by Rhonda Byrne (affiliate). Apparently, I’m not the only one on a journey as there was a substantial waitlist for the audiobook. I quickly devoured it when it arrived. It’s a relatively short book – less than 5 hours – and I had the opportunity to listen to it four times, twice while I was awake and twice while I was sleeping. That may sound extreme, but I wanted the lessons of this little book to really sink in to my subconscious.

The titular secret is the law of attraction, the idea that like attracts like. By thinking good thoughts, The Secret posits, you will attract good things to you. If you think you have an abundant life, you will see examples of this come back to you. Conversely, thinking bad thoughts will only draw more bad things to you. If you think you’re going to be late, you’re always going to be late. The book advises you declare to the Universe that all your positive thoughts are powerful whereas your negative thoughts are weak. This is the kind of old programming I wanted to uproot, and it’s why I listened to it while I slept.

I’m quite familiar with the idea of bad thoughts attracting more bad thoughts.

After a woman hit me with her SUV, thinking good thoughts was the furthest thing from my mind. Wide awake at night with pain, I would have one unpleasant thought after another, spiraling into suicidal ideation. Some of those ideas were pretty humorous, in retrospect, but they weren’t at all humorous at the time. Even though they were “just” ideas, they felt real.

Sometimes things need to be felt. If we believe what The Secret says that the feelings we have are the indicators of the thoughts we’re thinking, then I know there was something I needed to feel today that I didn’t think I had the time to feel.

I had a hard time writing this, not least of all because I woke up with a lil anxiety that later morphed into depression. I tried all day to shift my thoughts to good ones, to be happy now, but it’s not always as easy as The Secret makes it out to be.

Maybe I should have done something else instead of struggling to write this post. Maybe it would have been easier to write if I’d felt whatever-this-was, stayed in bed and listened to Dashboard Confessional all day.

Who hurt you, Chris?

Some days are just off, and that’s okay. Sometimes things just suck, and that’s okay, too.

In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s even more okay.

I don’t mean that it’s okay for things to suck, but that’s just kinda how life is. It sucks, and then it doesn’t, and then it sucks again. And then it doesn’t. The good news is the sucky things can be our teachers, if we let them.

Happiness did come through momentarily, and I even connected with my Inner Self for a few brief breaths, but those old, negative thoughts are deeply ingrained. All I can do is be aware of them. Byrne says, the moment you are aware of your thoughts you are back in the present. She writes, “All your power is in your awareness of that power, and through holding that power in your consciousness. When you are aware, you are in the present, and that’s where all your power is.”

And like Captain Planet says, the power is yours.

After my bike accident, while I was aware of my pain and dis-ease, I wasn’t accepting it. I was trying to push it away. I was stuck in victim mode, trying to out-think everything, but I couldn’t. I kept thinking despite having done everything “right” it still happened, and all the thinking in the world wasn’t going to change what had happened.

The book points out that, by the law of attraction, this must be a friendly Universe – because if we believe that then we will attract more friendliness to us. That’s a fine thought, but that doesn’t mean life isn’t going to suck sometimes.

Maybe the lesson of my struggle writing this was to roll with it instead of getting rolled by it.

I like the idea of declaring to the Universe that all your positive thoughts are powerful and all your negative thoughts are weak. But I don’t like how blasé the book is about the ease with which one can switch from negative to positive thoughts. It takes some practice, especially if those negative ruts run deep in your brain. Like Dave Chapelle points out, telling starving kids in Africa to change their mindset about their starving isn’t going to put food in their bellies.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with thinking good, positive thoughts. Fill your day with them! But all the wishful thinking in the world isn’t going to change anything. Yes, it will change your view, and that will change something about you internally – and that’s a great start, but what are you going to do about it?

After the accident, I started therapy. I learned how to detach from the thoughts and the story I had created. I think that could be called positive thinking, and while changing your mind is an important step to changing your life, I knew I wasn’t going to change my life unless I took the necessary action to do something about it. At the time, I didn’t love my job, and I knew I wasn’t on my purpose. So, one by one, I started looking at the things in life that weren’t serving me, that weren’t benefiting me. I looked at the things that were holding me back, that were keeping me from being the best me I could be. I’m still doing that today; it will likely be an unending process. Maybe I’ve gotten rid of too much too soon, but even now I can accept that and just hope that I’ve learned a lesson.

I think most of this book’s detractors will point to the feel-good, highfalutin idea that all you need to do is think better thoughts and everything will change. But that’s only part of it.

You have to do the work.

The book offers three simple steps to create anything you want. The first step is to ask. Lisa Nichols (one of the many commentators featured in the book) suggests making a command of the Universe to let it know what you want. Bob Proctor recommends writing it down on a piece of paper in the present tense: I am so happy and grateful now that _________. Then, you detail exactly how you want your life to be. Gratitude and clarity are important, because if you’re not clear, your results will be unclear. And bringing more gratitude into your life is never a bad thing.

The second step is to believe, have what Nichols calls “unwavering faith.” Believe in your bones that what you want is already yours.

See the things that you want as already yours. Know that they will come to you at need. Then let them come. Don’t fret and worry about them. Don’t think about your lack of them. Think of them as yours. As belonging to you. As already in your possession.

Robert Collier

What if you can’t believe? Byrne suggests you tap into your inner child and make believe. There is something wonderful about the way children’s minds work (Yoda knew this). At one point, we could all make believe, but then society told us to get our acts together, sit still and look pretty. Maybe the real secret here is to embrace your inner child.

The third step is to feel good about receiving what you want. Say, I am receiving now.

All of this is only possible if you’re aware of what’s going on in your mind. Marci Shimoff relates that researchers say we have about 60,000 thoughts a day (and most of ’em are about sex, amiright boys?). You must have control of your mind if you want to live the life you want. You must clear out the clutter, like outdated sexist jokes, if you’re to focus on imagining the life you want.

If you aren’t aware of your thoughts, you won’t be able to have only positive thoughts. If you’re not having positive thoughts, you’re not going to be able to manifest the life you want. Imagining that you have positive thoughts is great, but what about the other 59,999 thoughts? At some point you have to put in the work to getting those other thoughts under control. Being more present will make your entire life better because instead of overthinking the things that have already happened or worrying about things that haven’t happened, you’ll be right in the moment. And that’s where the magic happens because that’s where you are.

The book briefly talks about this, calling it inspired action. Byrne says that while the word action implies work to some, inspired action doesn’t feel like work at all. The difference, she says, is inspired action is acting to receive.

When you are acting to make something happen, it will feel as if you are going against the current of the river. It will feel hard and like a struggle. When you are acting to receive from the Universe, you feel as if you’re flowing with the current of the river. It will feel effortless. That is the feeling of inspired action and of being in the flow of the Universe and life. Sometimes you will not even be aware you used action until after you’ve received, because the acting felt so good. You will then look back and see the wonder and matrix of how the Universe carried you to what you wanted, and also brought what you wanted to you.

Rhonda Byrne

This is about all the book says about what to actually do to bring these things into your life. I would suggest if, for example, you want to improve your life, you start by getting control of your mind. Meditation is a great way to do this, and Byrne mentions that every commentator in the book uses meditation. Even if you don’t buy into the woo-woo, it’s nice to just sit and be, doing nothing but experiencing your existence.

Once you start getting control of your mind, you can more effectively imagine yourself living that future life you desire. Imagine how you’d feel waking up in your penthouse or cabin in the woods or grass shack by the beach – whatever your thing is. Imagine every possible aspect of your new life. Who do you hang out with? How do you make money? What do you do for fun? What kind of thoughts and feelings do you have? What kind of clothes do you wear? Do you still have that stupid goatee? Have finally let your roots grow out? Get as specific as possible about each detail. Then, start feeling grateful for everything you see. Feel the gratitude in your bones.

Then, get to work on making your current life align with the better life of your imagination.

You’re not gonna be living that penthouse life any time soon if you’re slinging quesaritos at Taco Bell thinking about how much your life sucks. Take a good, hard look at your life and see what you need to do to get to that version of you. What skills do you need? What bad habits do you need to let go? What can you amplify that’s already working for you? Think about these things for a long weekend, write them down and then get to work. If you’re working on improving your life, I promise you your life will improve.

Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

Yes, it will be work. Yes, it will take action. But if it’s for your betterment – if it’s for your purpose – it will not feel like work in the way folding crunchwraps does. It’s almost going to feel like play. I don’t like calling writing work because I don’t want to taint (hehe) it with all the negative connotations that come with the word work. There will be some parts that are tedious and unenjoyable (I’ve got to find a more efficient way of transcribing my audiobook bookmarks), but even that will be more enjoyable than the most tedious part of whatever your job is now, because you’ll be on your purpose. You’ll be living más.

So maybe the real secret is more in line with what Alan Watts said: “This is the real secret of life – to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”

Read the book yourself. Take what resonates and leave the rest. Beliefs can change as you gather more knowledge. That’s how it should work. That’s how we grow. Just like there’s not one right way to have a spiritual awakening there’s not one life path that works for everyone. We each have to walk our own path until we either find another path that resonates more, or we die. Think outside the bun.

Right now, I’m going to believe the lessons of The Secret. I’m going to make a concerted effort to have more positive thoughts, and work on controlling the unhelpful ones. And I’m going to work take inspired action every day to align my current life with the life I imagine, a life of purpose.

And maybe it is woo-woo. But like I always say: find the woo-woo that works for you.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to live más before I die.

Have you read The Secret? Do you have any tips on how to take control of your thoughts? What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever manifested into your life? Sound off in the comments below!

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