The New Face of New Age Guilt
The power of thought to affect our health, wealth, and relationships has become a hotter topic since The Secret by Rhonda Byrne was published in November 2006. Much of The Secret were clarifications of Louise Hay's work . . . and there were authors going back to the Bhagavad-Gita, some 5,200 years ago, who wrote about how the mind interacts with the physical world.
What is thought? What is prayer? What is a want, a need, a desire? These are not easy questions to answer. One of the clearest ways I can illustrate the power of thought is through a story I heard at a local gathering. This story caught my attention. The wife of a rabbi (I'll call him Weinstein) in New York City had fallen into a coma after an accident, and was unconscious for several months. When Naomi Weinstein came out of her coma, she said to her husband, “Please thank everyone in the synagogue for thinking about me and praying for me. I reached out and grabbed every thought and prayer and that is what sustained me. But why wasn't Mimi Goldberg praying for me?” The rabbi responded, “Honey, Mimi has been in Israel for several months and didn't know about your accident or the coma.”
Rebecca Weinstein's comment left a very deep impression on me. What struck me was:
1. To those in a coma, and others with second sight, prayers can be seen, felt, touched, and “grabbed.”
2. Because thoughts can be touched and grabbed, in some way, they are “things,” and are certainly not mental fictions.
3. To someone in the “heightened” awareness of a coma, the effect of prayer is so positive that the source of each and every prayer can be felt separately, and the person praying can be determined. Likewise, Rebecca knew the one person who was not praying for her.
Since hearing her story, I make sure to send a quick prayer to the site of a car accident whenever I have driven by one. Dr. Larry Dossey's book “Healing Words: The Power of Prayer” (1994) was the first breakthrough book on the subject that looked at prayer scientifically and examined the data, the double-blind, controlled studies on prayer. Because of Dr. Dossey's brilliant, scientific, yet down-to-earth examination of prayer, his book opened doors and minds. Soon, medical schools were contacting Dr. Dossey to teach classes on spirituality and medicine.
Last time I spoke with Dr. Dossey, which was several years ago, he had helped create classes at more than 100 medical schools, with only 15 medical schools that had not yet brought him in. I am sure that number, 15, is smaller and may be zero at this point. The data showed that the results of prayer were so positive, if it were a new drug, it would have been hailed as a gigantic medical breakthrough.
Dossey looked at the question, “How does God fit into the equation?” He noted that studies of all religions showed equal success rates with prayer, including Buddhists, who do not pray to any deity at all. Scientifically, the role of God in prayer has yet to be clarified. However, among those who pray to God, the data showed that the nondirective prayer, “Thy will be done” seemed to be the most effective.
Double-blind studies examine large numbers of people or objects. Dossey examined many scientific studies, and did not set out to “prove God's role” or to disprove. He is not claiming that praying to God does not work. Rather, he is pointing out that it is difficult to distinguish focused thought from prayer.
Many of us were raised with the idea of God as an old man in a white robe, not a terribly humorous fellow, who stood in judgment over us. Many people dislike the word “God” and choose words like, “The Universe” or “Creative Force.” Those writers who are blending physics with spirituality use words like “Akashic Records” or “Cosmic Mind.” I can't please everyone, so I'll use the word “God.”
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his research team did a number of excellent studies involving the role of meditation on health and a variety of social factors. In these studies, a large number of people skilled in Transcendental Meditation (TM) meditated in a number of cities for extended periods. The results were that crime dropped and visits to emergency rooms dropped.
Meditation is not about “sending prayers out into the world” for specific purposes. It involves a state in which each meditator strives to quiet his or her mind, to raise his consciousness. The question was, “If a large number of people are meditating, will there be a measurable, positive impact on that city?” The answer was clearly, “Yes.”
The data shows that meditation has demonstrable, positive effects on our minds and bodies. Data also shows that prayer can be as powerful as the most powerful drugs we have. But it is very difficult to tease out the difference between positive, focused thought and prayer.
The Power of Thought
Here is a common sense way to look at “thought” or “thought-emotion” to see if it also has the kind of results that prayer and meditation have. Have you ever walked into someone's house, and known instantly that a couple had been arguing, really angrily with each other . . . but were able to put on a pretty face as soon as guests arrived? You know the feeling where there is just a “dark vibe” and you want to turn around and leave right away? You can't see “it,” but the thoughts and emotions are so thick, you feel like you could cut it with a knife. That dark vibe involves the power of negative thought.
Oprah Winfrey is a genuine master of the power of thought. She's a natural. Oprah thinks about something, then walks into the next room to check the mail, and there, waiting for her, is the thing she just “thought she wanted.” She came from a childhood of poverty and created her own empire out of the hope that books brought her. She has used her wealth, fame, and power to do a lot of good work in the world . . . to help bring schools to Africa, and to empower millions of people. It is ironic that Oprah was so moved and surprised by The Secret and the message of the power of attraction of our thoughts. It is ironic because she “is” a genuine master.
Wealth and Health for All?
I've been beating around the bush. Here is my point. If prayer, meditation, and thought can and do have positive effects, both near and far, why are so many people sick, in spite of their best efforts? Why are so many “conscious” people going under financially, and losing their homes in foreclosures? Is this the answer: Are all of you folks doing it all wrong? Have you not learned how to manifest your reality effectively? Are you just not trying hard enough? Are your mental powers simply too weak? Maybe you have not understood The Secret, and need to go back to square one and learn how to take more responsibility for your life. You are not “co-creating” correctly and lack the clear intention you need. (Please do not stop reading this article).
While all the “wise ones” are happily co-creating and manifesting everything, and then maybe converting all that new wealth into gold, millions of Americans are a paycheck away from being homeless. Millions of people are struggling with chronic illness, or are painfully dying of cancer, or walking around with joints ravaged by rheumatoid arthritis.
I get indignant at how the new generation of Prosperity Consciousness is yet another chapter of New Age Guilt, repackaged as The Secret Cause For Guilt. But let me be clear. I believe that the power of the mind is enormous. I've seen so many people over the years cure themselves after we spent a number of months working together. I've worked with people who got permanently cured of very serious illness, and others whose physical state did not improve (or they died), but their mental and spiritual state improved dramatically. How does The Secret apply to people who are dying? Are they failures at “creating the reality they want?” We all die. Those who have spent decades with an incomplete understanding of manifestation will be unprepared for death.
Taking personal responsibility does not mean that you all (all 300 million Americans) will become prosperous and free of illness, if we all just “do it right.” If you are going broke or remain chronically sick in spite of doing your best to “create your reality,” I don't think it is your fault or your failure. In spite of your best efforts, it still may not yet be the time for your healing.
The overriding intention of The Secret, the DVD, was to make money for the author and producer. Early on in the film they showed a picture of Einstein and then said, “He knew the secret.” They continued with photos of other brilliant and famous deceased people. The movie didn't say a single word about what Einstein or the others said or did…just that, “They knew the secret.” I found The Secret to be crass commercialism with great marketing.
What The Secret discussed, in terms of actual legitimate material, mainly related to how our thoughts create money! The Secret was not useful in helping us understand how to create peace of mind, genuine love, health, or a deeper spiritual life. It was all about me, me, me, with no social conscience whatsoever. We didn't learn the secret about service to those less fortunate, helping with world hunger, global warming, or anything beyond our tiny, personal ego-driven wishes.
I am writing about The Secret at this time because, as a clinician, I can say that it fostered the cruel illusion that, “if you really know how to use your mind, and harness the power of thought,” you will obtain everything your heart desires. And, gee folks, I hate to be Scrooge, but you're not all going to get everything you want. For some of you with chronic illness, it's going to be a long, tough journey.
Responsibility in Clinical Practice
I ask a lot of and from my patients. I am asking that they be willing to look at Everything. I ask them to learn and practice Mental Fitness Techniques and to move to the healthiest lifestyle possible. And with some people, I teach tools for manifestation and peak performance.
It is important, when changing your life, to be open, but skeptical. That's a fine line to walk. My work and your healing are complicated by the repackaged New Age, NewSpeak Guilt, which includes words and phrases like:
“I'm choosing to create my reality.”
“I am manifesting my life.”
“I am co-creating my life.”
“I (me and God) am co-creating my life.”
“I am totally responsible for my reality.”
I encourage you to “Act as if everything depends on you, and pray as if everything depends on God””— if that is your belief. That sentence is a profound paradox. I advise that you remain hopeful, and find tools for manifestation that make sense to you. Prayer, thought, meditation, and imagery—“work.” Make them work for you “your” way, at your own speed, and in your time.
Please go easy on yourself. Along with “doing everything you possibly can,” take time to accept “what is.” The combination of striving and non-striving empowers you. New Age guilt was destructive. It is still destructive and I suggest you hit the “guilt delete button” when you feel guilty for not “being a successful manifestor,” and for still being sick or living month-to-month financially.
David Gersten, M.D. practices Nutritional Medicine and Integrative Psychiatry out of his Encinitas office and can be reached at 760-633-3063. Please feel free to access 1,000 on-line pages about holistic health, amino acids, and nutritional therapy at www.aminoacidpower.com, and information on earthing at www.EarthingUSA.com.
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Are you ready to be a good citizen? Like many of us, you may have some trouble naming your congressperson, or knowing the number of your congressional district. No blame. It's easy to get caught in demands at home or work and forget that one of your most important relationships is with your government— community, city, state, and national.
While you can choose to be a parent, spouse, lover, boss or employee, however, unless you live illegally, you cannot choose whether or not you are a citizen. You can only choose whether you're ready to be a good one.
Here's the tip. First, step outside for a breath of air. While you do that, consider whether keeping air fresh and healthy is the responsibility of a good citizen. Come back inside and eat some fruit, veggies, grains or meat. Have a drink of water. Contemplate whether the quality of your citizenship might have an impact on the quality of your food and water.
Next, drive down to your bank to withdraw some money. Calculate how the safety of your investments depends on government oversight insisted upon by engaged citizens.
Now, check out whether these deliberations have increased your readiness for active citizenship. If yes, it's time to write letters, make calls, walk precincts, demonstrate and organize. And, of course, do what all good citizens do—VOTE! It's simply a matter of life or death.
Penelope Young Andrade, LCSW www.penelopetalk.com Call: 858-481-5752; fax: 858-484-8374 email: email@example.com
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