There’s a life-size check for $35,574 in the Bear home of Debbie Gill that gives her a good reason to feel that changing your thinking can change the world. For the last seven years, she’s been working on becoming a more positive person. That includes an affirmation that money flows abundantly to her. And it’s been one of her goals to overcome a $26,000 debt left over from her divorce. In July, just eight days after beginning the money affirmation, she took her mother to an Atlantic City casino for an outing.
And while the 48-year-old Gill says that she does not gamble with her money, when given $100 from her mother as a thank-you for the trip, she played the nickel slots and won the Super Prize Jackpot at the Borgata Hotel and Casino.
“No one will convince me that it was luck that got me out of debt,” says Gill. “I know, if I wasn’t saying that affirmation, I never would have had the money come to me. I am a firm believer in the law of attraction, and I live the principles.”
The energetic and upbeat Gill believes her thinking, feeling and stance in the world attracted her success. And that makes her a believer in “The Secret,” a phrase that’s become a sort of new millennium-speak for extending the power of positive thinking to amazing heights.
As you probably know, “The Secret” is a razzle-dazzle DVD by Australian TV producer Rhonda Byrne that’s captured the imagination of millions of Americans who are suddenly taken with the idea that whatever the mind can conceive, it can achieve. And that goes, not just for a change in consciousness – the realm that the world’s spiritual teachings have historically addressed – but for nuts-and-bolts material reality.
Believers often use a “vision board” where they imagine dreams coming true. Gill has such a board. On it you’ll find a Lexus, a $750,000 Toll Brothers house and a Sylvan pool, as well as trips to Tahiti and Egypt. She’s also been a supporter of the American Cancer Society, and her charity giving is reflected there, too. “The more I have the more I can give away,” she says.
“The Secret” promises that if you work with consciousness in the right way, everything you desire will be yours. Much like the 2004 film “What the Bleep Do We Know!?” Byrne’s DVD says that quantum physics teaches that the universe is hugely impacted by our thoughts. So our beliefs about who we are (and what we deserve) create our molecular, spiritual and physical reality.
Others scoff, such as consultant Jeff Davidson of Chapel Hill, N.C. He sees this as a mis-statement of quantum physics as well as a foolishly simple notion. He and others ask: What about the randomness of life? What about people innocently killed in war or those who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks? What about upbeat people who still get cancer? Does all this suffering come from thinking the wrong thoughts?
“What it says to people is that they’ve brought sickness onto themselves and have the potential to make suffering people feel a whole lot worse,” says yoga teacher Linda Hall of Wilmington, a cancer survivor and founding member of The Wellness Community, a nonprofit which supports people overcoming cancer.
“With ‘The Secret,’ what I hear is mostly a materialistic philosophy of getting and owning,” says Hall. “Where is the larger focus on a higher power and helping others? There’s not much said about that.”
Even marketers, who admire Byrne’s success, sometimes scoff at how she’s put forward her ideas.
“She’s the P.T. Barnum of 2007,” says marketing guru Peter Shankman of New York. “She’s shown us how easy it is to sell to the American public if your production values are slick. And more power to her in her trip to the bank.
“But have we become such sheep that we accept someone telling us all we have to do is dream something and it will be so? “What about getting off our butts to do it ourselves? Oh yeah, there is that … the step most of us leave out.”
Material Gain And Peace of Mind
Since “The Secret” was produced a year ago, Byrne’s ideas have won multiple TV airings on programs by Larry King, Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey, who says she has always embraced the underlying ideas.
Here in Delaware, success groups and study circles have formed to explore how adjusting one’s thinking can tap into Byrne’s “ancient philosophy.” She says it’s been espoused, in one way or another, by Jesus, the Buddha and more modern American thinkers, such as Napoleon Hill, who rose from poverty in the 20th century to create a philosophy of achievement still inspiring people in business. Hill’s best-known book is “Think and Grow Rich” from 1937.
Locally, Wendy Mackowski of Hockessin is such a study group leader for the law of attraction. Professionally, she is a life coach, helping people achieve their dreams, and has been working with these principles for 35 years, eight years as a coach.
“The Hollywood presentation is simplistic, but I see it as a bridge — a way to give people some common understanding and what they do with it from there is up to them,” she writes in an e-mail. While much attention has been given to material gain, Mackowski says the true starting point is inside, where all change begins. So she helps people choose more joy and peace of mind. She says everything good flows from that.
“We are constantly sending out vibrational ‘messages to the Universe’ which are attracting back to us what we are asking for,” she writes. Unfortunately, many people are unconsciously attracting what they don’t want because their thoughts are not aligned with their desires. (She’s observed several paradoxes surrounding the law of attractions which are included in a sidebar to this story.)
Another practitioner is Corrine Pearson of Newark, who came to these principles through the Bible and has worked with them 27 years. She’s found the law of attraction a complex idea and has been turned off by the marketing of “The Secret,” which seems to present the world as a candy store.
In reality, she says, people may use “The Secret” to seek superficial material goals that will hinder their spiritual advance. Pearson says the real secret to “The Secret” is submission to the divine and alignment with God’s will.
“You’ve got to get your lower nature out of way,” she says. “Only by total surrender do you hear the right voice.”
The grounding principles of “The Secret” are well-known to many Delawareans through religious science. In New Castle County, there are at least two worship communities devoted to their application – Pathways Community Church and Awakened Heart Spiritual Center. In recent months, “The Secret” has brought new people to the centers.
In these settings, teachers work with a set of beliefs that come out of the late 19th century New Thought Movement. One principle is that the spread of ideas transforms the world.
A later expression of new thought was religious science, which teaches that people – all beings really – are an expression of an infinite intelligence or God. As with God’s creativity, our thought can be creative. Religious science says as people change their thinking, they change their lives.
At Awakened Heart, teachers such as the Rev. Anna Marie Trotman talk about working with source energy, Allah or the spirit of life. And Trotman stresses that using such energy in consciousness is a process, not a quick fix, as many people want.
“It would be difficult to go from hopeless and despair right into joy,” Trotman says.
Gill feels that, too. Struggling with a spiraling depression after her divorce, she had to confront a drinking problem as well as ingrained disappointments that caused her to react with anger, judgement and irritation.
Gradually, she turned her life around, first through a 12-step program and later through the teachings of religious science, as expounded by teachers such as Jack Canfield, one of the experts on “The Secret.” “When I got sober it was a gift,” she says. “I got whacked over the head and realized I had choices of what I want to be and what I want to attract. I also had a spiritual awakening about turning everything over to God.”
All of this has left Gill with a sense of gratitude for everything she’s experienced, even her divorce. And, if you criticize her choice to live with love, happiness and abundance, she may remind you “mediocrity attacks excellence.” “Absolutely nothing in God’s world happens by mistake,” she says. “I now believe we are exactly where we need to be to change and grow.”
In leading discussions about the principles of The Secret, Wendy Mackowski of Hockessin often talks about 10 paradoxes.
- This physical world appears solid but is made up of waves of vibration.
- Thoughts and emotions are more powerful than actions. Our intentions are where the true power lies. There can be productiveness in doing nothing.
- What appears to be our outside circumstances are really our mirrors of attraction.
- Effectiveness is in taking responsibility, not blaming. All experiences that seem bad hold a gift.
- Be what you want to attract what you want. Be grateful for a current job to attract a better one.
- Accept what is in order to change. Fear, resistance and avoidance attract what we want to avoid. Embrace the unknown to find the known.
- Letting go brings what we want. Holding on restricts the flow of energy.
- Contentment and desire can co-exist. You can be in the present moment and hold a future vision.
- Successful people are laser-focused yet open to the unexpected.
- Ask and expect. Don’t force and demand, which means accepting events that seem to deny good can appear.
It will look like this: Does All Suffering Come From Thinking The Wrong Thoughts?