Do We Define Our Lives Essay
Do We Define Our Lives
Over the last decade or so people have begun to make a shift into accepting a new way of looking at the world that we live in – the belief that is making this impact is that you create your own life and, in some respects, you are in charge of your own destiny. This system of beliefs became known as the “New Age Movement”, however it’s really not all that new. The “law of attraction”, as it’s also known, has been around perhaps nearly as long as humans have been able to have reasonable thoughts. In fact, there’s a quote from Buddha saying, “All that we are is a result of what we have thought.” This law of attraction has only gained popularity recently because of the emergence of books like The Secret into popular culture that seemed to take the world by storm. As with anything that becomes hugely popular, it has varied from being widely accepted to being strongly criticized. There are numerous authors who have written books instructing readers how to “tap into the universe” and use the law of attraction to bring things into your life that you want.
Conversely, there are just as many who criticize this new way of thinking as being lazy, selfish, and causing people to not take responsibility for the actual work needed to achieve their goals. Perhaps the biggest criticism of the New Age movement comes unsurprisingly from the Christian community, who claim that the idea of you being in control of your own life takes away from the teachings that are portrayed in the Bible – that God is is ultimately in control and that we should leave things completely up to Him. However, even in books guiding people to understand the law of attraction, they use quotes from the Bible or use the name “God” to describe the force that is helping people achieve their best lives. It’s hard not to get caught up in something that claims that we can “attract” great things into our lives with little or no effort, or to get caught up in the argument that it’s selfish of us to want certain things in our lives and to pursue them.
Ultimately, I think what it comes down to is what you find that works for you. I believe the biggest influence on convincing people that the law of attraction works is participation in the act of defining what you want out of your life instead of floating thorough it aimlessly, and in doing so, you cause yourself to put in motion the actions that will make those things happen. My English professor, Dr. Janet Smith, expressed it best when she said, “You can’t control other people and you can’t control the world, but to some extent you can control your own life.” Another influence from the law of attraction is actively changing your perspective on the events that are happening in your life. Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, “People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be” and I have to say that I agree whole-heartedly with him.
To begin to understand the law of attraction and the effect that it’s had on the world and even on your own life, the first thing that you should look at is the book The Secret written by Rhonda Byrne, released in 2006. The book actually came out some time shortly after the movie that shared the same title and is basically a way of reiterating the main thoughts that were presented in the film, but in a text version that could be easier used for referring back to. The book begins by introducing the idea of the law of attraction by saying, “When you focus your thoughts on something you want, and you hold that focus, you are in that moment summoning what you want with the mightiest power in the Universe” (Byrne 14). The book actually takes the liberty of describing the law of attraction as a definable law of nature as is seen when Byrne states, “The law of attraction is a law of nature. It is as impartial and impersonal as the law of gravity is. It is precise, and it is exact” (Byrne 27) and also, “Just like the law of gravity, the law of attraction never slips up” (Byrne 36).
The Secret then goes into describing how a person can tap into the law of attraction and bring about the life that they’ve envisioned for themselves. The book highlights “gratitude” and “visualization” as being key components to receiving what you seek. Byrne takes an example from her own experience and says, “With all that I have read and all that I have experienced in my own life using The Secret, the power of gratitude stands above everything else. If you only do one thing with your knowledge of The Secret use gratitude until it becomes a way of life” (Byrne 76). Visualization is described as, “… powerfully focused thought in pictures… When you are visualizing, you are emitting that powerful frequency out into the Universe. The law of attraction will take hold of that powerful signal and return those pictures back to you, just as you saw them in your mind” (Byrne 81). By using these two powerful forces of attraction, supposedly you can bring about whatever it is that you desire to have in your life.
However, the most important thing to notice here is that by using gratitude in whatever circumstances you find yourself in, you are forcing yourself to change your perspective of how your life appears; and by visualizing what you want out of your life, you are defining clear goals that you want to work to achieve and your subconcious begins to take actions to make that happen for you.
One of my good friends, Mark Aspiazu, defined life as a Plinko game: “The coin is basically going along the path that your life is taking, and each peg is a decision that you make, every day, every hour, every minute, etc. If you have unclear goals, the coin just bounces along and goes wherever. If you define your goal, you find yourself making decisions that push the coin one way or the other; and if you find yourself off the path and then remember your goal, you can bring the coin back to where you want it. Sometimes you meet your goal, sometimes the goal changes, but your decisions never stop pushing the coin (your life) along the path.” – Mark Aspiazu, President of Herzing University (New Orleans campus)
A book that I read recently, The Alchemist, written by Paolo Coelho in 1988, is another novel that introduces readers to the idea of the law of attraction and the universe helping people to achieve what they set their minds to. However, in The Alchemist, rather than having personal desires fulfilled by the Universe and the law of attraction, we are introduced to the idea of having a predetermined path that will make our lives complete, should we make the decision to follow it. Paolo Coelho lays out his teachings through the story of a young shepard boy named Santiago who discovers his life path, or “personal legend” as the author refers to it, through a recurring dream. He then takes bold measures to pursue it and loses everything he has at least twice in the process. But along the way, he meets key people who instruct him on the practice of following your personal legend and lead him in the right direction to follow his own.
One of the first, and most influential people that Santiago meets is an old king who introduces him to the idea of personal legends and says, “… when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it” (Coelho 22). The biggest thing that Santiago is taught to look out for is omens that come from God in various shapes and sizes, “In order to find the treasure, you will have to follow the omens. God has prepared a path for everyone to follow. You just have to read the omens that He left for you” (Coelho 30). However, following the omens can sometimes be intimidating because it’s a step that you have to take that pushes you out of your comfort zone and into unknown territory.
This is where the idea of having the courage to follow your personal legend really comes into play – “Courage is the quality most essential to understanding the Language of the World” (Coelho 117). This isn’t a foreign concept to anyone and is brought up throughout history, one quote being by Basil King circa 1900, “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid”, and another more recently by the former owner of the New Orleans Hornets, George Shinn, “Growth means change and change involves risk, stepping from the known into the unknown.”
Santiago succeeds and manages to follow his personal legend to the end, even though he regretted it and wished to return to his sheep several times along the way. Though sometimes it may seem as if he’s strayed off the path, God and the universe continue to push him and gently guide him in the direction that he’s meant to go. At every crossroad, he’s given the option to turn back or move forward, and though he’s afraid, he perseveres remembering, “…people need not fear the unknown if they are capable of achieving what they need and want” (Coelho 76) and eventually finds success and happiness.
The idea that Coelho introduces through his simple story is one of choosing to follow a predetermined fate and having God (and therefore, the universe) conspire to help make that a reality. It introduces the law of attraction in a way that would maybe be easier to swallow for those who were most opposed to it. The biggest argument against the uprising movement that The Secret inspired came from the Christian community, and with good reason – it seems to go against the very basic fundamentals that are taught in the Bible, to follow God’s will unfalteringly and let Him handle everything, no questions asked. At first glance, they could be seen as being right. But when you look at the supposed dilemma through the eyes of Coelho’s young shepard boy, you see someone making choices, yes, but choices to follow a path that has been laid out for them. There’s no denying that God has a designated a path for you, for He himself says, “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).
While The Secret can be seen as bordering on herecy according to some Christians, it actually claims to follow the formula that’s demonstrated in the Bible on how to receive what you’re looking for and uses the passage to display this, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24 NIV). Jesus also says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7 NIV). However, these can be considered to be taken out of context. The dilemma that’s causing the real issue here is: Is what you’re asking for what you want for yourself or is it what you believe God wants for you? Christians believe that God gave us free will, and if that’s the case then He gave it to us for a reason – and part of that involves making the decision to follow His path for us or to attempt to forge our own.
The Bible says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him” (1 John 5:14 NIV). So if you’re following the will of God, then you are surely asking for what God would want for you, and will therefore receive it. In The Alchemist we have the idea that God gives you signs and conspires to help you to find what you’re seeking for, but only if you’re following your personal legend (or your predetermined path). This aligns neatly with the Puritanical views of predestination and the Christian views of following God’s path that’s laid out for you, but it still demonstrates the “Universe” complying to the law of attraction and giving you what you visualize yourself receiving.
Though both novels are demonstrating the law of attraction with equal clarity, because of the different approaches that they took, The Alchemist could be easier for someone coming from a Christian background (who would normally be opposed to the law of attraction) to accept. Getting caught up on religious specifications and the different titles that people use to define “God” may be the biggest obstacle holding multitudes of people back from discovering the actual potential that their lives hold. In some cases perhaps it’s better to separate yourself from religious restrictions that confine and limit your beliefs and allow yourself to be open to new possibilities that present themselves to you. To quote Abraham Lincoln once again, “When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad.
That’s my religion,” – this is maybe the approach that more people should be willing to take. As Paolo Coelho shows in his novel, it is entirely possible to believe in following the will of God and to have the law of attraction work in your favor to help you achieve it. It all relies on your perception of how you view your life and how you choose to bring about what you want from it. One of Eleanor Roosevelt’s most well-known quotes is, “Life is what you make it. Always has been, always will be” and this rings true in every aspect. The key to achieving real success in your life is to clearly define what you want and to appreciate the things that you have. Ultimately it all comes down to you. William Ernest Henley wrote it best in the concluding lines of his poem, Invictus – I am the Master of my fate:
I am the Captain of my soul.
There is no herecy in accepting your God-given right as a human being to decide on the path that you wish to walk; and know that no matter which way you choose, always keep a clear visualization of your end goal in mind, and be grateful for every step that you are able to take.
Byrne, Rhonda. The Secret. New York: Simon & Shuster, 2006.
Coelho, Paulo. The Alchemist. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.
New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 23 December 2016
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