February 9, 2007

More about The Secret, Post-Oprah...and The Work of Byron Katie

Yesterday's Oprah show, "Discovering The Secret," featured Rhonda Byrne, creator of The Secret DVD, with a panel of personalities from the film. If you've been reading this blog you know I'm no fan of The Secret. However, I respect Oprah and with so many people excited about this film, I wanted to see how she would position it on her show.

Oprah's producers are brilliant; they know that, after all these years of offering good, solid information, their audience won't buy half-baked spiritual junk. So I wasn't that surprised to see how beautifully The Secret was presented on the February 8th show. In fact, this Oprah segment was a lot more substantial than The Secret film itself. With the exception of Byrne and Jack "Chicken Soup for the Soul" Canfield, who both spouted the usual Law of Attraction platitudes, the panelists came off as deeply aware and grounded. They filled in some of the blanks I felt were missing in The Secret DVD around gratitude, opening the mind and present-moment awareness.

Still, "Workie" that I am, I can't help but compare Byron Katie's approach to abundance and happiness to that of The Secret.

From the Oprah website: "Gratitude is one example of the magnetic force of the universe. 'Basically, nothing new can come into your life unless you open yourself up to being grateful [for what you already have],' Michael [Beckwith] says."

Beautifully put...and we already know this. Won't someone please tell us how to tap into gratitude?

Byron Katie says that as a result of inquiry, what you are left with is gratitude. She doesn't say "Be grateful or you won't get what you want." Being gratitude is not an automatic function of the opinionated, unexamined mind. If we are told, "Be grateful" and we find we are not, why aren't we? It's because we have not questioned the stressful beliefs that keep us from recognizing the bounty which is already and always freely given.

From the Oprah website: "Lisa [Nichols] says...too many people who want to make things better focus on what's wrong with the present. 'Instead of wanting to change it, appreciate what's there,' Lisa says. 'Find the things about it that work...and by doing that, you create a space for it to get better.'"

So how do we find out what there is to love about what's there? Again, if it were automatically obvious, wouldn't we just do it?

"For example, Lisa says she would like to lose some weight. But instead of focusing on the negative—that she hasn't dropped the pounds yet—she loves and appreciates the present moment. "I accept it. I love it. I embrace every inch, every pound," she says. In this way, Lisa is creating the space to 'celebrate the now' and then invite better things into her life."

Again, we are not told how to "celebrate the now," only that it's a "positive" experience when we do. Duh. This is why I say of Katie's Work, it's "The Tao. The Now. And finally, the How."

Byron Katie says of "loving what is": "Just when you think it can't possibly get better, it does. It's a law." And she doesn't leave us hanging with that. The way to love what is, is to first realize what is not. As long as we think "I haven't dropped the pounds" is a "negative," we are not truly celebrating the pounds...or the $100 as opposed to $1,000,000...or the spouse we have (or lack thereof) versus the spouse we think we should have.

From the Oprah website: "True forgiveness, James [Ray] says, is when you can say the following to the person who hurt you: 'Thank you for giving me that experience.'"

Byron Katie says, "Forgiveness is when you realize that what you thought happened, didn't." How can we know it did not happen? Through questioning thoughts like, "She hurt me." Is it true? Are we wounded, damaged, destroyed, the worse for wear? "Nobody can hurt me," Katie is famous for saying, "That's my job. I do that."

From the Oprah site: "But how can you forgive when something truly tragic or terrible happens? James [Ray] says you should grieve, but eventually you need to look for a hidden gift. 'Here's what I encourage people to ask themselves: How does this serve me?...If you're really willing to dig, there's a lesson in there,' James says. "And secondly, what can I learn from this situation?'"

Katie says, "Nothing terrible has ever happened," and "The worst that could happen is the best that could happen, but only always." Very reassuring; however, she doesn't expect us to believe this simply because she says so. That is how The Work's four questions and turnaround were born, to give people a way to replicate the "enlightenment" experience for ourselves. And even then, we don't stop with questioning our beliefs and turning them around; we delve deeply: how. specifically, is the worst that could happen actually for our highest good? Without the education of self-inquiry that The Work's four questions provide, we are merely jumping to the turnarounds, which can leave us feeling disconnected. If enlightenment could be experienced through a New Age version of Pollyanna's "glad game," we'd all be self-realized by now.

From Oprah: "In chronic situations with no end in sight, Michael says you should ask yourself another important question: 'If this were to last forever, what quality would I have to grow to have peace of mind? Now, as my attention goes to the quality I have to grow, that quality starts to emerge,' Michael says. 'The issue that I'm resisting and fighting against becomes less and less intense...it begins to dissolve because it doesn't have your attention any longer.'"

Sounds awfully complicated to me.

From Katie: "Who would you be without this thought?" That is a way into what Michael Beckwith hints at. Here's another hint: you don't have to "grow" any qualities. If you can answer Question Four of The Work, those qualities are already yours. The issue may continue to have your attention but you no longer give it any credence. That's when the issue dissolves. Resistance is born of (stressful) belief.

From the Oprah website:"'I'm the first example of how the world is supposed to love me and I have to give them the best example ever,' [Lisa Nichols] says. 'We expect someone to show us our greatness when [instead] I'm supposed to show up understanding my greatness and allowing you to celebrate it with me.'"

Katie says, "Your turnarounds are your prescription for happiness." How will you show up knowing who you are? By questioning what you are not. That leaves the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Willing ourselves to have great self-esteem has never worked.

From the Oprah site: "You can start living the The Secret today by following three simple steps: Ask. Believe. Receive."

Katie asks: "Do you believe everything you think?" If you do, then you believe you are a manifester, more powerful than God. Then if you get what you want, you say "I did it." If you don't get what you want, then "I" did it wrong.

From James Ray on the Oprah site: "'It's not, 'If you build it, they will come,' necessarily. It's, 'If you build it and it provides value, they will come,'...'It's that heart space. Not 'What can I get?' but 'What can I give and how can I serve?' And when you're in that moment, the universe lines up behind you and it's at your command.'"

Katie: "On my knees is my favorite position." Maybe that's the same thing in essence...without the marketing-tinged angle of "adding value." For me it feels more natural and true when I'm the grateful servant rather than to arrogantly dictate to reality that I'm the one in charge. A sense of entitlement implies there is a lack; is that true? Service with motive to gain is not service at all. Serving others as the service to oneself contains everything. I don't expect the universe to line up behind me. Can I line up behind the universe, God, what is? Can I do what I am asking the universe to do? Alignment is not a getting or a doing, it's a being. It is grace. Can I stop wanting, wanting, wanting for a moment and just notice that alignment is here?

So from where I sit, The Secret has not been revealed through this movie, or through the Oprah segment on it...yet. It can be revealed when we ask ourselves to clue us in to what we truly want. I know of only one way to do that which works for me and, thanks to Byron Katie, it is no secret at all. That's my story until it isn't; and I'm open to being proven wrong.

(Read the comments to see some work I did on this at the behest of a reader named Patty. Thanks, Patty!)

©2007 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

"Why Don't I Feel Better? Mastering the Basics of The Work of Byron Katie" is a three-week teleclass beginning on February 13 and facilitated by yours truly. For more information and to register, visit the Events pages at ClearLifeSolutions.com


Patty said...

Wow Carol. From reading your words, your opinion, you have a bit of charge on "the secret" and "the law of attraction". Might be interesting if you do "the work" on these topics and get back to us.

There are many roads to the truth and there are many truths in this infinite universe.

With gratitude, love and compassion, from my heart to yours many blessings to you and yours.

Carol L. Skolnick said...

Hi Patty,

Thank you for the suggestion. I can find some charge around one thought and I love to go in for all the pieces.

"People who practice LOA principles are missing out on something greater."

Is that true? I can't know. It could be that they "attract" the rest of it. :) I can't know what's best for their path either, or that I'd be happier if they did something else. So, no; it is not an absolute truth for me.

How do I react when I believe that thought? I want to educate them (as opposed to simply sharing my experience...and "to educate" would imply I think they need to know something that I think I know).

I want Katie to be on Oprah. (So that I can be right about people "needing" something else.)

I watch the Oprah show and immediately start writing an article in my head, even while I agree with and enjoy much of what is being said.

I immediately dismiss anything involving Jack Canfield as lightweight.

This thought has its roots in the period of time in my own life when I attached to things like LOA and magical thinking. For example, I was involved in an Eastern sect that chanted Lakshmi mantras and performed prosperity rituals. I sold MLM products through a company that promotes LOA principles. I was also a great fan of the book Moneylove and used to use those practices which were essentially the same as those of The Secret and Millionaire Mind combined. I found these practices to be grasping and empty and not aligned with loving what is, so I presume they cannot be the be-all-and-end-all for anyone else. I am in their business when I believe they are focused on something which is lacking in substance.

And I cannot know that "all roads lead to Rome" and that they did not bring me to this place, now.

Who would I be without this thought? I would still write about this topic without the expectation that anyone will like or agree with what I say. The only difference is an internal one: I would not presume that the way that has served me best is better for anyone on God's earth other than myself. So maybe I'd come off as less "edgy" to folks who enjoy a variety of approaches and I would not view them as lacking anything or as kidding themselves. I would listen to them with a more open heart.

Turned around:

"People who practice LOA principles are not missing out on something greater." As I said, they could "attract" clarity as much as they could "attract" anything...I cannot know the outcome of anyone's actions, nor can I divine their perfect path.

"I am missing out on something greater."

1. That was true before I wrote this Work as far as this particular belief goes. There are many times in the course of a day, that I have an opportunity to experience deeper peace (something greater) and don't always go for it.

2. Am I missing out on something greater by not practicing LOA? Anything is possible. In this moment I can't find it.

3. I am missing out on greater connectedness with adherents of LOA principles if I don't dialog more about it and understand where they are coming from. So I would like to begin now; I am open to anything anyone has to say about it. Feel free to correspond with me if you feel it would serve.

"People who do not practice LOA principles are missing out on something greater." Quite possible, although none of my business.


Dale B Steele said...

Hi Carol,
Here is more story around LOA.

As I understand it the LOA suggests that what I vibrate as is what I attract to me; the way to get what I want is to vibrate at the feeling frequency of already having it.

It seems logical to me that if I imagine what I want, I am present with an image. If I create an image and a vibration of what I want, I am present only with my imagination. (As far as I can tell, imagination is as good as it gets as long I think I exist as separate.)

So if the LOA is true, what I am attracting more of is being in my imagination and not being present with reality as it is. And that must be exactly what I need when I do that.

Why be present when imagination is so much more fun? What we miss is that we are only present with our story of reality. And if we project a scary story, (always imagined) we want a better story (also imagined). And WHY NOT use imagination to get out of one scary projection and into another more delightful one? It sounds a lot kinder than alcohol, or other stuff that I’ve used to avoid being present.

To want to be present with reality as it is, is another imagined reality until it is true. The best way I know to be present with reality as it is, is to be present with what is or investigate what my uncomfortable story is about it.

Investigation via inquiry seems to facilitate the dissolution of my story and leaves me present, or at least more present. That is my story for now. Thanks for the opportunity to talk story.


Carol L. Skolnick said...

Dear Friends,

This post is sparking a lot of agreement and also a lot of "controversy" as I thought it might. Not everyone wants to sign up for a Blogger account so I'll post the occasional comment from readers myself, with permission. Here's one:

"I have practiced principles of The Secret, studied A Course in Miracles, and Christian
principles for 35 years...only to be upset and unsettled because I knew there was something to get and I didn't know HOW to get it. One of my favorite lessons from ACIM was Workbook Lesson 129 *Beyond this world there is a world I want*. I knew there was another way, another world, that others were talked about, experiencing and enjoying and I felt so left out and alone. That is why I was soooo willing to do The Work...it was the How to get there...to find that this world is the one I want...not as I wanted it to be...and my wanting this world to be different was causing my pain.

"The frustration I felt from my spiritual practices (like LOA) just
fueled my desire and willingness to find a way...and then Katie's first
book smiled at me. And I found you at the Loving What Is Yahoo group.

"You show the How to get there...and for that I am grateful...you make
it so easy and down to earth and simple by showing us how...

"So I can see that there is a need for a book called The Secret,
unlocked...or something like that.


Carol L. Skolnick said...

I love Dale's "story." Makes perfect sense to me. If everything is imagined, then "reality" is too. "No story, no world," Katie says. So what can we do? Only this: recognize that when there is unhappiness, it means there's an unhappy story. Identify the story that causes stress. Investigate it. Come to know a source of peace in this "relative reality" that is unlimited by thought.

Everyone isn't comfortable with the idea of "nothing/no thing" yet. So we may imagine ourselves into a happy dream complete with partner, wealth and the Barbie Dream House. Perfect for some. Beats bellyachin'. :) It wasn't enough for me, that's all.

Carol L. Skolnick said...

Phyllis writes:

"I think the movie was called The Secret (aside for hype value, perhaps (I can't KNOW)) [because] although the LOA concept has been around forever, a huge percentage of the population do not live their lives in conscious awareness that their thoughts have ANY effect on how their lives unfold.

When I bought The Secret and invited friends to come over to watch it, a lot of people immediately put me into the little box that defined me in terms of their understanding of this movie and its premises: I'm less spiritual than they are because I probably want to manifest a shiny red car or SOMETHING expensive. I'm materialist; I'm a consumer. Yeah! These are the things people have been trying to set me straight about! (Of course, I CAN find it all!)

Actually, I just love it that someone would put out a film that is more thought-provoking than the usual Hollywood fare. I love it that we might think about the effect our thoughts have on our lives! I love thinking about the LOA in terms of noticing how a stressful thought is closing me off to love and peace and joy in that moment!

If some people want to use it to mainifest cars and mansions, well, how perfect is that!? They should be more spiritual? Ha! I can already see the turnaround on THAT horizon!!

Until I see that "those who practice LOA" are ME, is my Work done?

And good that you see it any way you do!!

P.S. After writing the comment I went to a neighborhood gathering. In the past, I had felt a lot of tension (mine) at these gatherings as I sat in the midst of their "dualistic-based, liberal, political talk" and so I avoided them for about two years (they get together for a potluck every Friday.) For some reason It wanted to go tonight.

Well, I've been doing TW pretty intensively for the past year (and was just getting going with it the year before that) and I didn't even recognize myself. I felt so in love with everyone. I could really take them in fully. I had no issue with the politics. I remembered my former reaction and now it was about 10 percent of what it was (good for another JYN sheet, at least!) What a wonderful feeling of connection-with myself, with them. It was a big WOW! I walked home in such gratitude.

I mention this because your issue about TS sounds like mine about political activists. The 10 percent that is left is tied to my belief that I really am wiser in this matter. Is this fun or what?!?!

Loving you,

Patty said...


Thank you for your further inquiry.

I too would like Katie to be on Oprah. I think it would be very positive, interesting and a missing piece to the puzzle called life for many.

I still find your dismissal of Jack Canfield bothersome, but that is me. Who knows what his depth of experience is. Well, that is his business. I find him harmless, and at least puts individuals on the path to discovery and inquiry.

I come from a place where I searched and searched, and mentally hit a wall when I participated in Scientology. It was an awful experience, but it is where my journey led me. I have my own charge on too much "mental" exploration.

In understanding, I see I have awareness on heavyweight and you on lightweight. You like to educate folks as do I. In the end it is their business and these folks will make their own choice.

Thanks for inquiring with me. I greatly appreciate this.

Best to you,


Carol L. Skolnick said...

Dear Patty,

I appreciate you too.

I also like to see where I put people on "lightweight" and what I think that means. Jack Canfield and others who make a living off of "inspiration"=lightweight (and that would be me sometimes). People who think they are enlightened and need to prove it=lightweight (that would be me sometimes). What I know is that the word leaves me feeling smug, which is stressful and separatist...and therefore it is worth looking into the validity of it. And I am all things... heavyweight, lightweight, weightless. My thinking is lightweight when I do not look within. "Mentation" is my meditation and it serves me so well.

I can't imagine my mentor BK saying that about anyone, only reacting with "Thank you and no." In fact, I saw her do as much the other night when asked if she'd like to read a book about NVC. She said "I read only one book, the book of me."

Some would call that lightweight of her, I imagine!


Patty said...

Dear Carol,

Happy Valentine's Day to you! I look at VDay as a day to celebrate the heart and love for all.

What I love about Katie is when she communicates (writing or speaking) you know exactly where she is coming from. That deep place inside, whether she is saying yes or no, one feels the love. That is what inspires me most about "the work". It helps clear the mental clutter and helps one to access the authenticity within.

Katie a lightweight or heavyweight, neither to me. I experience her as openess & willingness. What a profound statement you witnessed,
"I read only one book, the book of me." I'm not sure if I will ever get to that place nor if I want to. What I appreciate is the willingness to be who she is. That to me is beautiful.

So my dear, thank you for taking the time to explore and understand with me. For now I am "done" with this topic. Looking forward to more inquiries down the road.

Many blessings to you!

xo patty

Sydney Jones said...

Consciously or subconsciously we all knew the secret & we have been living with it for all our lives. However what Rhonda & her team have done is that, they have made all of us aware of this fact. I don’t know if the secret will help me achieve all the things that I desire but yes since I have watched the movie I am feeling good & it seems like everything happening around me is great & it will be so for the rest of my life.

I work with a non-profit organization Blog The Bible, where we discuss all the things which can make you happy & also relate to Jesus & Bible at the same time. I think if The Secret can generate the same happiness within all of us then there is no harm in believing the Law of Attraction.

We all have experienced it, whenever we feel good & happy we think of god, we think of Jesus, we think of Bible. So I would say that no matter what everybody thinks but this DVD has surely brought me close Jesus, Bible & at last Happiness.

Sydney Jones

Carol L. Skolnick said...

Dear Sydney,

I don't quite get the correlation between Jesus' teachings and LOA but if it makes you happy I'm for it. I am not ever asking anyone to question a belief that makes them happy, only those that create tension, stress, "shoulds." If we're not happy with the here-and-now, aren't we missing out on what Jesus said about where the Kingdom lies (as in, not in the material world)?


P.S. Not everyone feels happy thinking of the Bible; great that you do!

Muse said...

I have to say that from experience, the LOA/Abe info doesn't cut stress, resistance, or fear like doing The Work does!