August 8, 2011

Follow up to “Blood on the Hands of ‘The Secret:'” Why in the BLEEP doesn’t “The Secret” work for me? ~ Tom Lietaert

Photo: D'Arcy Norman

So why am I only now writing about The Secret?

It’s passé, blasé, already been analyzed and criticized. The Secret has sold over 19 million copies and is still going strong, and Rhonda Byrne’s new book, The Power, soared to Amazon’s top five the first week out. While old news for many of us, it still seems to have strong appeal. This makes sense given our quick fix culture, and as we will see—with new eyes and a path to authentic fulfillment—we can utilize this as an opportunity to grow…

Once upon a time a movie called The Secret rolled into town like a proud hero on his powerful white stallion with great intrigue, excitement and promises of a new world of opportunities. The movie largely appealed to those of the New Age movement generating an excitement that was almost palpable. The theme of the movie was centered around how to manifest things in your life, a concept rooted in the Universal Law of Attraction. Simply put, it is believed that we have the ability to literally manifest (bring forth into existence) anything we want into our lives and all we have to do is master the techniques laid forth in the movie.

And here the fairy tale ends.

Many of us who watched the movie found there was something lacking. I believe that there is great value in critically examining what is not working in our lives so we can consciously create a path to living richly. Here I will examine what is missing in The Secret in order that you may fill in the gaps and lay your path toward generating a rich life; I will share my Three Keys for Manifesting a Rich Life process to begin transforming your desires to those which will nourish and fulfill. While watching the movie I had a wrenching feeling. I sensed a shadow lurking behind The Secret. I assessed it to be a marketing gimmick—a cleverly wrapped common marketing tool presenting materialism as a source of happiness and well-being. I saw multiple illustrations of material manifestations, but I wanted to see some evidence of spiritual principles in which to ground this information.

At the end of the video I found myself asking, “For the sake of what am I manifesting?” And further, “How am I, or how is the world, a better place as a result of my manifesting?”

I realized the potential for emotional pain to those unable to effectively manifest what they want. I envisioned multitudes manifesting resource-intensive goods without regard for anything beyond their own primitive wants. Those unable to manifest would see this as evidence of their unworthiness and blame themselves for their lack. Yet under a paradigm of manifesting ungrounded in spiritual principles, it’s not just the materially poor who suffer. The rich are victims of an equally insidious disability—a sense of righteousness that furthers their resistance to change, often further isolating themselves in their attempt to feel empowered. After hearing so many great reviews about the movie I found myself stewing with anger.

As a life coach with training in psychology, I know that one component of anger is that it reveals our unrealized values. This revelation of my values inspired me to develop the Three Keys for Manifesting a Rich Life and to create Intimacy With Money, a transformational program aligning money habits with core values. I discovered a pearl in my angry experience of The Secret. That pearl is a component of my life’s purpose and mission: to create a just, equitable, harmonious and loving world by transforming our relationships with money. Does it really matter what we strive to manifest? There is a popular belief that if you want to manifest gold the universe will create gold for you. There is always enough for everyone and there is enough good in the universe to counter any potential detrimental consequences. Perhaps. This seems a convenient argument absolving those with material excesses from any sense of responsibility for the outcomes of their choices.

If we manifest a chemically toxic environment because we all have resource intensive toxic mansions attained by destructive means, such as the huge home illustrated in The Secret, then it must be our children’s karmic destiny to deal with the mess. It is a Calvinistic worldview in which those successful at manifesting must be good and righteous and therefore are rewarded while the rest of us are condemned as not being good enough. Would it not be prudent to err on the side of caution and consider that there are consequences for our wants? What if I create my reality and we co-create our reality? If the sins of the parent are passed on seven generations, then what are the consequences for all that we manifest?

I suggest that it does matter what we want or seek to manifest and that there are consequences for all that we choose, both individually and collectively. I suggest that there are circumstances beyond our control, not born of our manifestations. And while we may not be responsible for manifesting them, we are responsible for the manner in which we react or respond to them. This is where we can experience real power and authentic choice in our lives.

What if you were to start your manifesting process by assuming that there are consequences for all of your choices and manifestations, both for yourself and others?

What if you were to focus your energies towards manifesting that which embraces and celebrates the interconnectedness of all being and things?

What if you were to stop self-medicating with material wants and expend your energies on introspection and seek to create a rich emotional landscape to find your fulfillment from within?

To suggest that there are consequences for our choices and what we manifest in our lives does not contradict the principles of manifesting, but rather grounds those principles. Most people believe their choices are rational. But the process of making a choice does not occur in the reasoning part of the brain (the frontal cortex). Choice occurs in the limbic brain (the emotional center). Advertisers know that creating a positive emotional response to their product results in sales. This is why so many beer commercials show average guys getting the super hot scantily clad sexually available extremely horny stripper models. Advertisers, knowing we live in a shame-based culture, target their marketing to appeal to our longings. They feed our sense of inadequacy and convince us that we can be worthy and special if we purchase their product. It’s a seductive quick fix that encourages us to avoid deeper issues.

This is the same reason people flock to get-rich-quick seminars. When we make a choice from a mood of scarcity, we generate more scarcity. I suggest the choices we make from a mood of scarcity, what we imagine we want, are not aligned with our soul’s desires. Therefore, even if we manifest something substantial in our lives we will likely still feel unfulfilled. Perhaps this is why, despite Americans having more material wealth than ever in history, most report being less happy. In order to manifest profoundly, we must learn to shift our emotion and mood space to end the habits of scarcity.

Fortunately, we can use our wants as a key to unlocking the mystery of our soul’s desires. Following are the Three Keys for Manifesting a Rich Life which I’ve developed, through which you may know a new experience of your divine nature. I’m certain that if you practice these Three Keys you will experience a richer life, manifest more powerfully and experience more joy in what you do manifest. I have used these keys with great success in my own life as well as my coaching practice and the Intimacy with Money program.

KEY 1: Your Soul’s Desires.

Most of us are hooked by our cultural mythologies of success, persuaded by the mass marketing blitzkrieg and anxiously seeking a quick fix for our shortcomings. I have found in my coaching practice that what people imagine they want—a huge income, the perfect vacation, the right wardrobe—rarely fulfills them. These things have never filled the emptiness and they never will.

Step 1. The Vision.

In the following portion of the exercise we will critically examine our wants.

a. Cut out pictures from a magazine which represent the things you want to have or the goals that you want to achieve. Turn a blank sheet of paper horizontally and paste the image on the left side of the paper, one item per page.

b. Give the vision a juicy title—one which excites, motivates and inspires you, and write it at the top right side of the page.

c. Next, ask yourself the following questions. Write your answers under the title. Write the first thing that comes to your mind. Ask the question again, and keep asking it, until you get a “truth response”—that visceral feeling when you know you’ve reached a core truth. Continue with each of the questions repeating the process for each. Then, see if you can distill your answers down to a few emerging patterns.

  1. What does _____ represent to me? What else? (Repeat)
  2. What do I imagine would be better about my life if I had _____? What else? (Repeat)
  3. What would people think about me if I had _____? What else? (Repeat)
  4. What do I imagine I would have if I had _____? What else? (Repeat)
  5. What would be different about me if I had _____? What else? (Repeat)
  6. *What’s wrong with me that I don’t already have _____? What else? (Repeat)

*I don’t like using this question, but I find that those deeply rooted in shame are already living this assessment as their reality can readily relate to the question. For example, when I was single and I wanted to attract the right woman, I imagined her as health conscious, earthy, grounded and more (I had a two page list). I found a yoga magazine with a picture of a pretty woman who I imagined embodied the qualities and characteristics I wanted. I titled her Earth Goddess Partner.

Under my heading of Earth Goddess Partner I distilled my answers to:

1. Ultimate measure of my personal growth success

2. Celebration of one another, life, unity and Divinity

3. I’m living in abundance and living in mission, I’m being seen

4. Unity, Communion, community

5. Playful

Step 2. Your Soul’s Desires.

The desires you are conscious of are often masking a deeper want and moving you further from that which will fulfill you. You may notice patterns emerging from your answers to the above questions, if you are able to detach yourself emotionally from your ego defenses. Here are a few questions you may ask yourself to help reveal to you those underlying wants embodied in the conscious want—what I call your Soul’s Desires.

a. Are you seeking something external to validate you or your sense of self worth?

b. Are you imagining that if you have this you will have “arrived” or be affirmed in some way?

c. Do you imagine that having this will make you more interesting, attractive, special, popular or sought out by others—that you will feel connected or worthy?

d. For what reason do you imagine that you can’t have it now?

e. Do you imagine you need to have something or to be something different to be fulfilled?

f. Are there emotions you are avoiding by focusing on your stated wants?

g. Are you substituting the feeling of excitement you get for a lack of joy in your life? What’s valuable to discern here is to notice that it is not what you imagined you wanted which was important, but rather what the want represents. You may further recognize where the wants you’ve listed are coming from a mood of scarcity, a void or some unresolved emotional business—some part of you which is yet to be transformed, and thus you seek external validation or affirmations of your self-worth.

You may also recognize that you’re using material desires to avoid feeling contracted emotions, or substituting the rush of excitement for a lack of joy. By recognizing what the goal represents you are able to recognize a clearer path toward fulfillment—your Soul’s Desires. If you want to experience feeling rich and fulfilled, seek support in fulfilling the underlying Soul’s Desire and your wants will be transformed along with your relationship with yourself and others.

Key 2: Clearing.

As mentioned, we make our choices from the emotional center of our brain. The choices you are likely to make from fear or mistrust are not going to serve you toward living a rich or fulfilling life. The choices you’re likely to make coming from love will create a whole new world of possibilities. Like all other habits, our emotional patterns are habitual. By learning to understand emotions as a domain for learning about the self and developing a rich emotional landscape you will be more empowered to effectively respond to the vicissitudes of life and generate a powerful future. We internalize many messages about who we are, our self worth and who we should be in the world. I often find that in order to manifest effectively, some clearing is necessary.

Clearing might look like discharging stuck energies, creating a corrective emotional experience or transforming your assessments and stories to open yourself to new possibilities. You must become aware of your unconscious habits of being which are keeping you stuck and suffering. You must transform your habits of emotion, of language (speaking and thinking) and of the body. And here’s where I assess most New Age guru’s get the law of attraction wrong. In order to transform an emotion you must move through the emotion, not avoid it. I call this the archetypal model. In order to access your warrior energy you must first move through your anger. You are not in your warrior energy when in anger—it’s the energy of clarity you have once you’ve discharged the energy cleanly (in a way that does not cause harm).

To access your lover energy you must move through sadness / grief, and so on. These are not negative emotions—they’re all here to teach you something about yourself; they have a positive intent. Learning to channel emotions effectively is paramount to manifesting that which will bring you a fullness of being. To deny or avoid our emotions—and we are always in an emotion—is the basis of all forms of spiritual bypass. Do you believe at some level of your being that you are not truly worthy of having what you want? Have you internalized some belief that to be a good person you have to choose only things for others and sacrifice the self?

Here is a simple process which might help you in developing your awareness around issues where you may feel stuck: Notice any resistance, thoughts of doubts or emotional charges you’re aware of when you think of those things you desire in life – feel the resistance or charge in your body.

  • What does it feel like and where do you hold it in your body (what size, shape, color is it and what sound does it want to make)?
  • What is the memory that comes to your mind when you experience this feeling?
  • What stories and assessments come up as you experience this feeling?
  • When did you learn this?
  • What choices did you learn to make?
  • How is it serving you today?

For example: when I examined my responses to the Soul’s Desires question, I realized that I was holding a belief that I had to achieve some measure of success before I would be worthy of having a fabulous woman in my life. I had a habit, rooted in my shame, of denying myself and choosing options which kept me isolated. Every habit of being has been developed to help us cope, adapt and survive in our environment. It may not be serving you in attaining what you desire today and yet, it has served you in some capacity or you wouldn’t have adopted it. So ask yourself, “How is it serving me?”

Does it help you to avoid feeling contracted emotions? Does it keep you from taking responsibility or from taking risks, particularly emotional risks? Does it allow you to continue having the sense of power a victim holds, to blame something or someone outside of yourself? To “sin” is an ancient archery term meaning “to miss the mark”, the mark of our highest good, or our Divine nature. That said, in my way of thinking, to commit oneself to personal transformation work, to move closer to our Divine nature, is the highest form of prayer. We cannot do this alone.

I still find, despite decades of personal development work, there are some aspects of myself which are so ingrained in my habits of being that they are transparent to me. This is when investing in a personal coach, support groups, a therapist or a great workshop program is invaluable to develop your awareness and begin creating new habits of being. (I have some strong biases: Newfield Network-trained coaches, Gestalt therapists, or transpersonal therapists are preferred.)

Key 3: Essence vs. Form.

The third key is where I diverge from many authorities on manifesting. Rather than focusing on the form of your desires, I suggest you focus on the essence of your desires and you will have a much more fulfilling experience of manifesting. With this distinction, you will allow the Divine to create mysteries beyond imagine. When you focus on the specific form, you focus your energy to a specific point. This has the downside of limiting your ability to perceive other possibilities, even those right under your nose! When you focus on the essence of your desires, a world of possibilities opens up—you can see a broad perspective from which forms emerge that are often far better than what you would have even imagined for yourself.

Having completed the first Two Keys, Your Soul’s Desires and Clearing, you now define your want as its essence. For those things on your list such as a life partner you may want to prioritize and identify (A) those aspects which are non-negotiable, (B) those that are negotiable, and (C) those that would be nice but you would be fulfilled regardless of their presence or not. For example, in my two page list of qualities and characteristics that I sought in my Earth Goddess Partner, I included items such as a graduate degree, athletic, lean and likes music. When I reconsidered my list, distilling these to the essence of what I desired, my list looked like this: intelligent, health conscious and someone who would bring more music into my life. I have since manifested a life partner who not only possesses every quality and characteristic in my (A) and (B) categories, exceeding my wants in many ways, but also possesses all but one item in my (C) category!

Now that you’ve clarified your Soul’s Desires and cleared what you need, recreate your visioning board. This time, as you focus on the essence of what you want, notice what feelings arise within you. Sit with this for a moment. Notice what image emerges within you. Sketch, paint, collage or sculpt this image and give it a juicy title as you add it to your vision board. Notice in the next few months what opportunities reveal themselves. Notice what new choices become available to you.

There is nothing inherently wrong with having wants or specific wants. What I offer here is an opportunity for a more profound experience of life and of manifesting, an opportunity to experience a degree of fulfillment yet unrealized while allowing for a greater experience of the Divine mystery. Much of the coaching I do is to transform the mood of scarcity, a predominant yet largely transparent mood which is rooted in shame and fear. As I continue to work with my own coach and transform my old habits of being, I am continually astounded that my life continues to get richer and more joy-filled every day.

I believe it does matter what we manifest and that humanity is on a self-destructive path, gobbling up our worldly resources and poisoning the earth with our choices, seeking a spiritual bypass from the only true path to riches. Developing a rich emotional landscape and vocabulary is primary to living a rich life. If you are not fulfilled within yourself then no amount of doing or having will satiate you.

It’s very simple, though not always easy, to take the path less traveled and do the introspective work necessary to discover your Soul’s Desires (Key 1). I’ve given you a powerful tool to accomplish this. Sometimes you may need to move stuck emotional energies in order to get yourself clear. Sometimes you may recognize old patterns of thinking, feeling or being which are simply old habits attempting to cling on.

It takes a gentle courage to transform our habits of being and there are lots of resources available to help you in this process (Key 2). You will likely delight in the rich surprises that will unfold in your life if you focus on the essence of your Soul’s Desires rather than focusing on specific wants (Key 3), as you bear witness to the miracles that unfold. I believe that when we all learn these simple tools for satisfying our Soul’s Desires, the world will be transformed to a profoundly loving place. My blessings to you on your Sacred Odyssey as you discover the richness of your Soul’s Desires.

It is my sincere desire that you find something useful in what I’ve shared and that you might use these Three Keys toward living a rich and joyful life. You can download a free copy of The Three Keys for Manifesting a Rich Life at my website.


Tom Lietaert has been coaching and facilitating personal transformation processes for individuals and organizations for over fifteen years, including facilitating large scale change processes for social-profit organizations. His passions are facilitating personal development and transformation work, seeking healthful and sustainable ways of being and ballroom dancing. Among his great strengths are his ability to feel and express emotions which allows him to hold a safe and non-shaming presence in the midst of powerful emotions and conflict, his intuition which fosters profound insight in his coaching and a breadth and depth of wisdom he has developed as a result of his years of personal development and the variety of roles he has held. He has regularly been sought out for conflict resolution and offers training and coaching around conflict and effective communications, in addition to the Intimacy With Money and affiliate programs.  Tom’s Purpose for Being is to be a presence of awe, wonder and gratitude flowing with the mystery of life. His Mission is to co-create a sustainable, harmonious and loving world by transforming our relationships with money.

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