Debunking The Secret. ~ Anni Padma

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How to invoke real magic.

Ok, that’s it! I have heard someone I like mention the movie or book The Secret as a description for how they are dealing with their lives one too many times. I feel too sick to my stomach at this point not to speak up about what Catherine Bennett, writer for The Guardian calls: “[a] creed so transparently ugly and stupid that it seems impossible that anyone could take it seriously.You don’t have to have read the book or seen the movie to know of and partake in the idea of “manifestation,” a term that has taken on a bad taste overtime.

Now, I can understand the thrill of realizing that your thoughts can actually affect the outcome of your life. One of my favorite authors and personal heroes, Rob Brezsny actually wrote a marvelous book about this called Pronoia. The title as you can guess indicates is the “antidote to Paranoia” and asserts that “the whole world is conspiring to shower you with blessings.” He points out many times that people can be affected by content of their thoughts, and that people with this kind of positive outlook will probably do better in life.

So what is the difference between that philosophy I value deeply and The Secret which annoys me to no end, which states that through the “law of attraction” you manifest what comes to you in life via your thoughts?

Photo: Jessica Mullen

I heard interesting analogy to describe how people misunderstand the concept of emptiness in Buddhism. He described that it is like a snake, with its head and tail close together.  The head is the highest part, and the tail is the lowest part, yet highest and lowest are actually so close people can get them confused. (In this case, emptiness understood as nothing actually existing is a misunderstanding, and the tail end.  Understanding emptiness to mean interconnectedness with all beings and phenomenon because of an absence of a self would presumably be the highest.)

Tibetan Buddhists are people who would generally agree that, yes indeed the mind has its own power, and your thoughts can affect what comes your way. This is why they are careful and respectful of the minds power, and have methods for tending to it.  I like Breszy’s optimistic outlook because he tries to open people up to the universe, and tells people that by not trying to control it, but rather trusting it and loving life and yourself, that your life will probably find more positive results appearing.

Good things will come to you. Maybe not the things you wanted on the surface, but actually be the things you need deeply.  Trusting the basic goodness of things seems similar in my understanding to Mahamudra philosophy, one of the highest teachings in Tibetan Buddhism, although I don’t know a lot about that subject.

The Secret suggests that if you need something it is possible to imagine getting what you need and thus manifest it into your life. The problem I see here is that is essentially using a spiritual technique for selfish aims—this idea seems to attract people who want material positions and money (and of course the perfect sexual relationship).

This is using spirituality to get material positions. Not that we shouldn’t have things we really need, sacred object and important tools which help us to function and help the world as much as possible. But the problem is that with The Secret mentality is that people tend to develop a contracted and aggressive attitude that seem to make them more miserable over time. It always a battle between the universe and yourself—how can I get what I want. For me.

An insightful friend of mine also noted that this mentality makes people feel that if they don’t have the things they need it is because they are not good enough spiritually and that the burden is on them to manifest these things through their spiritual power.  This leads them to feel bad about themselves, when what they may really need is understanding people around them to sympathies with them, and help them find realistic solutions to material or love related problems.

Trungpa talks about magic in Shambhala Path of the Warrior, and how to invoke it.  He writes,

“Although magic is always available, what allows you to discover it? . . . To connect with the fundamental magic of reality, there has to be and gentleness and openness in you already.”

He states that such an attitude invokes a kind of helpful energy called drala, which is the natural transcendent wisdom in the Universe. By being relaxed and open, creating an uplifted and dignified space, Trungpa says drala arrive naturally.

Trungpa explains that the universe is like a cosmic mirror that is always providing us with messages and sighs; a constant subtle stream of feedback which helps us constantly. I have found this to be true when the mind is able to relax enough to receive messages from nature.  As Morrissey sings, “nature is a language, can’t you read?”

This applies not just nature in its wild state, but to the nature of reality—it is always there for a relaxed and open mind.  Interestingly, Trungpa notes that when people try to get something for selfish reasons out of the universe by using this magic principal, the sighs actually begin to dry up completely. At this point I have noticed life can become like a kind of hell in which you are constantly reaching with great effort for what you think you need, but never getting what you really want.

So, instead of a frantic consumerists approach to spirituality, in which the individual has the right to anything they want at any time, I think that the approach of relaxing and trusting in the basic goodness of existence is more pleasant. It will also help people to get the things they really need, realize what Breszny calls “sacred desires” and to feel genuine happiness.

I like using visualization techniques in Tibetan practice or just visualizing light around people who need help at the time. Making wishes and especially genuine aspirations has been extremely helpful in my life because it provides goals—the difference is always if you are acting for the small  or accordance with nature.

“The way to look back and experience the state of being the cosmic mirror is simply to relax”

~ Trungpa


Editor: Kate Bartolotta.

Anni Padma is a non-superstitious astrologer who is based in Boulder. She has been studying the zodiac archetypes for over ten years now and has learned from experience how the signs express in people. As a life-long Buddhist, who is grateful to Theravada, Zen and Vajrayana traditions, she likes to use meditative insight to unravel astrology. She lived in Seoul, South Korea for three years teaching English and writing and editing articles for the Korea Times, which is ironic as she can’t spell to save her life. Somehow it has worked out alright, thanks to spell check. Her sun is in Gemini and moon is in Pisces. Check out her website.

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12 Responses to “Debunking The Secret. ~ Anni Padma”

  1. ValCarruthers says:

    Enjoyed this, Anni. Btw, Rob Breszny's also one of my faves. His Freewill Astrology columns always rocked.

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Spirituality Homepage.

    Valerie Carruthers
    Please go and "Like" Elephant Spirituality on Facebook

  2. Brooks Hall says:

    This article is a nice step down from consumerist spirituality, and I enjoyed the references… I would probably take it further into the relaxing and trusting (sans basic goodness, because I’m not always sure about that), as well as including fighting and action towards a better situation.

  3. littlewing108 says:

    Love what my friend Tyler Mountain says about the Secret: "Blech. The secret. How to ask for anything you want and look good doing it without the irritating vagaries of self-reflection." =)

    • Eric says:

      Ha!! Great quote littlewing 🙂
      Thanks, Anni, for calling this out (–and brilliant use of the Smiths' lyric!!!) …I actually just finished reading my Free Will Horoscope right before seeing your article. Like Brooks said, I'm not always convinced of 'basic goodness' and 'magic' per se, but I would definitely agree that positive or negative thoughts do create corresponding energy fields; again, this involves intention, commitment, and practice–like anything worthwhile.
      Kwan Seum Bosal~ E.

  4. Elements says:

    Thanks for writing about this issue I've seen ever since The Secret came out of this faux spirituality which is in essence spiritual narcissism in that the end goal of using the law of attraction is the fulfillment of the ego's desires.

  5. Sharon_Marie says:

    Anni, great insight and post. "The Secret" seems to speak to, encourage, and reinforce my attachments and everything outside of me. I'll admit, I saw the movie. I tried to embrace the suggestions. It didn't work. I SUCKED at The Secret, which made me feel like an even BIGGER LOSER than before I was aware of it's awesome power that I couldn't work. The secret is that there is no person, place or thing that can complete me or "make" me "happy". The Secret to that is inside of me. No where else. Oh, well in you too, Anni. It's in you, too. And you Eric. It's in you too. Thanks for spotting this piece. LUV YA. Peace.

  6. littlewing108 says:

    I think believing what is positive is inside not outside also works… both can work i think. . .

  7. Mickie Overturf says:

    This is probably the best Nature program I have ever seen and that is saying something. If you need a classroom video that really describes the complex interdependencies between communities of organisms, it just doesn’t get any better.

  8. […] Aspiration is simply to voice your wishes for enlightenment. “May my compassion for myself increase. May I […]

  9. […] but the theory of work is more realistic. To me, manifesting a life you want, or focusing on the Laws of Attraction are as whimsical as some religions and fairytale dreams. You can have all the power of positive […]

  10. […] that is—seeing that the majority who speak for him do not define him. But, by the time the Law of Attraction took over with The Secret (I thought What the Bleep was more substantial and useful) I was getting over new-agey […]

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