When did the law of attraction—the seductive notion we can manifest anything our heart desires—become so intertwined with yoga?
Yoga teachers host vision board workshops, and if I had a penny for every time I heard the word “manifest”—let’s just say I’d have manifested a new reality as a gazillionaire.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with either of these things. I have a vision board and also talk about my work projects as things I’m manifesting.
But I also think the yoga community should stay mindful of the language it uses, and careful to keep the philosophies pure. Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happening. The law of attraction and yoga are sleeping together, spewing out love children and confusing spiritual seekers everywhere. Perhaps this is the inevitable consequence of modern spiritual mayhem, with centuries of philosophy and religion colliding in a globalized world.
On one level, spiritual seekers have never had it so good. They can handpick those parts of a philosophy that resonate with them without fear of being burned at the stake.
As a result, we have yogis with angel cards who manifest things with crystals before going to church and listening to their A Course in Miracles audiotape on the way home. This, to me says we’re hungry for meaning and spirituality in a fast-food-and-reality-television world. This is mostly a good thing, but nothing is all good or all bad, and this mash-up of spirituality also has a down side.
From a yogic perspective, it means the powerful principles often become watered down.
At their core, the law of attraction and yoga espouse similar values: put good out into the world and good will come to you.
However—and this is critical—the law of attraction encourages people to fixate on their desires to make them materialize, while yoga encourages practitioners to release all attachment to the outcome.
The law of attraction encourages spending precious mental energy trying to manifest something that does not yet exist, while yoga encourages contentment and gratitude.
The law of attraction teaches us that if we’re not manifesting our desired reality, then there must be something wrong with us. We’re “low vibe,” or “sending out negative energy.” Yoga says chill out. Practice and meditate, find peace in your heart.
Those times I’ve spent extra energy visualizing objects of my desire, it’s made me unhappy. After an initial surge of energy, my mood inevitably falls in the hours or days afterward as I realize that my current reality doesn’t match that of my dreams. I find myself comparing my life to others’, wondering why they have what I want.
Sure, I can and do work toward my dreams every day, but focusing too much on a reality that doesn’t yet exist makes it difficult to enjoy all the awesome things happening right now.
Then, there’s the dark side of the law of attraction that involves people blaming themselves for getting sick or encountering bad luck.
I’m a cancer survivor, and when first introduced to the ideas of energy and disease during treatment, I wracked my brain thinking about ways I’d made myself sick. I’ve heard others blame themselves for everything from feminine problems to lost luggage.
I believe this creates more unhappiness, and potentially makes us less compassionate human beings as we blame others for getting sick or facing life difficulties.
Understanding our power as creators of our lives is inspiring, but that power doesn’t mean we have control. Things happen, our souls have lessons to learn, and ultimately, the universe is an unfathomable mystery that we must learn to appreciate without ulterior motive.
Life can be scary in its uncertainties, and the idea of manifesting gives us the thrill of believing we hold the secret key to making the universe our plaything. But the universe isn’t a vending machine designed to placate our every desire.
From a yoga perspective, we’re here to learn, to feel joy, but also sadness. For our souls to evolve and ultimately know complete, boundless peace. The kind of peace that doesn’t require manipulating our reality in order to feel it.
And so, while I’ll continue to gaze at my vision board and visualize myself healthy and happy, I’m also going to maintain the core part of my yoga practice.
Enjoying what’s right here, right now. With gratitude.
Author: Suzanne Heyn
Apprentice Editor: Kendra Hackett / Editor: Catherine Monkman