The Problems I Encountered with Positive Thinking & Law of Attraction

October 15, 2013

“Why do you want enlightenment anyway?
You may not like it.”
– Shunryu Suzuki Roshi

Friction is necessary to create beautiful things

This story by Steve Jobs had a huge impact on my life.

He talks about how he put a bunch of ugly rocks into a rock tumbler. Put in some liquid & turned it on. A few days later, came back and found a bunch of beautiful polished rocks.

I’ve been using this philosophy recently

The common thought for most of my life was right or wrong. Either this is right OR this is wrong.

ie: Either atheism is right or religion is right. Either democrats are right or the republicans are. There is no way both can coexist.

I now see that both HAS to be right. It’s not this OR that. It’s this AND that.

Why? Because there seems to be well-educated smart folks in every camp. And they are very convincing with plenty of “evidence.”

The question isn’t IF both belief systems are right. It’s: HOW are they both right?

All ideas are ugly rocks. Put them into a rock tumbler to get pretty ones. Ugly rocks tumble with each other, create a lot of friction and smooth out the rough edges.

Ugly Rock 1: Law of Attraction Belief System

My ugly rock is law of attraction. It says that I create my reality using my thoughts.

I create my reality.
Thoughts create things.
Like attracts like.
I can create abundance by thinking of & appreciating existing abundance.
If I’m misaligned, things go wrong.

This is a powerful belief system because it puts responsibility strictly in our own hands.

We don’t blame the government or high taxes or parents or neighbors for our lack of success. We no longer have to be victims. We are in full control of our life train. We are in the drivers seat.

But no matter how hard I tried, I could not create a 100% easy life. Something always happened that could be considered “bad.”

The Good:
I make money. Great, I did that with my thoughts.

I solve a difficult problem that’s been plaguing me for months. Great. I did that. I’m awesome.

A pen slips out of my hand, but I instinctively catch it before it hits the floor. Damn, I’m a super hero.

The Bad:
I get stuck in traffic on the highway. The roads are closed due to construction. Why did I create this? Did I do something wrong today or yesterday? Were my thoughts unaligned?

I’m cracking some eggs for breakfast, stop paying attention for one millisecond & one falls to the floor. Making a mess. Why did I create this? Was I thinking a negative thought?

Things inevitably go “wrong” and the blame falls squarely on me.

That’s fine.

But then I spend hours trying to figure out what I did wrong to attract this wrong. I start feeling bad. It’s a downward spiral because I can’t perfect my life with ease & flow. I cannot create a 100% hiccup free life.

All of this becomes deflating & frustrating. Unhappiness arises.

I need to add another “ugly” rock into my rock tumbler.

Ugly Rock 2: Zen Philosophy

This interview with Robert Pirsig, the author of the famous Zen and the Art of Motorcycle led me back to Zen beliefs.

I had no idea that he was committed to a mental institution for 2 years. I had no idea he spend a bunch of years isolated, bored and stuck – all of which forced him to write his book.

He mentions how we should bless stuckness because that’s really a gift.

Basic Zen Beliefs:
When things go “wrong” – I need to detach myself from the results or blame.

Things happen. I don’t need to get involved. I’m just the watcher of events.

Living experience is all relative. For something to be good, we have to have something to compare it to.

When there’s pain in my arms, I start to focus on the pain. I start to pay attention to my arms and how fragile it is. Before this pain, I never paid any attention to my arms. Everything was working fine but I didn’t know that til I have pain.

Things have to go wrong to make us realize when they were going right.

Sometimes we have to go on vacation in a distant land to appreciate sleeping in our bed.

No matter how much I use positive thinking, my body will age. Parts of my body will deteriorate. At some point I will die. Probably thru a heart attack or cancer. Or maybe some type of epic “accident.” Who knows. Can’t prevent that with law of attraction.

Struggle & stuckness is good for our growth. Bad things happening is necessary for us to learn. One cannot learn from only winning. Most of the lessons come during terrible losses.

The Bad of Zen:
I’m not 100% proficient in zen to talk about the bad aspects with clarity.

My initial reaction is that zen seems even keeled. When good things happen, I pay no attention. When bad things happen, I pay no attention.

When I think of the best zen masters, I picture buddhist monks in their temple, working on their rock garden every day. Enlightened masters are not running successful companies. They are at peace, usually in solitude meditating.

I have no intention of becoming a zen monk. So from my point of view, zen is not a beautiful rock, it’s an ugly rock to be used in my rock tumbler.

I want to achieve greatness in business, make a lot of abundance & more. At least that’s how I feel right now.

For someone not caring about the things I care about, zen might already be a polished beautiful rock.

Zen detachment is hard on the ego for the prosperity upside. Ego wants/needs credit for super achievement.

Bottom Line:

When studying prosperity, I consistently run into belief systems centered around law of attraction: think and grow rich, unity church teachings, abraham hicks etc.

But it also was backfiring when things didn’t go my way and causing tremendous unhappiness.

This is what I realized today.

I don’t have to only believe one thing. I can believe many things. Even things that seem to contradict each other. Who cares?

When good things happen, I created it. This fuels my ego to feel good & create more. Like attracts like and the more I feel good, the more I’ll feel good. Thank you law of attraction.

When bad things happen, I am detached. I don’t blame myself + spend hours trying to trace all my actions that led to it. I bless the difficult moments as moments of growth.

Zen, to my rescue.

Everything I’m saying here could be wrong and I may not realize it til a later time. So don’t pay too much attention to all of this :)

“The way that helps will not be the same;
it changes according to the situation.”
– Shunryu Suzuki Roshi