Now that the Arizona manslaughter trial against James Arthur Ray is gearing up for a verdict, one thing is certain: Ray -- who came to fame riding the coattails of the law of attraction in the movie, "The Secret" -- sure doesn't seem to be putting the law to work for him.
For anyone not familiar, the law of attraction is the "New Thought" teaching (actually more than a hundred years old) popularized by Ray and others in the movie. Oprah featured the cast, including Ray, on her show. The premise behind the law is that what you think about and what comes into your life is always a match, energy-wise. Think poverty and wealth won't flow to you, the theory goes; spend time envisioning a great career, and the job of your dreams will appear. It definitely sounds weird at first blush -- and is made even odder by the fact that its primary advocate is a woman who channels -- Esther Hicks. (Her Law of Attraction book is a New York Times bestseller.)
The fact that Ray would "attract" the deaths of three participants, allegedly from overheating, in his sweat lodge during a October 2009 "Spiritual Warrior" event, and, subsequently, the criminal trial where he potentially faces a dozen years behind bars, might seem to negate the prospect of the law's existence. Indeed, the Twitterati is ablaze with sneers that Ray's predicament means exactly that.
At one time I might have agreed. But I have seen the law work so perfectly in my own life that I've become an enthusiastic convert. Watching its incredible effects on myself and those around me has enticed me to research the teachings more closely. Here are some things I've discovered -- and why the James Ray situation doesn't change a thing.
1. The law responds to energy, not isolated wishes. There's a feel-good moment in "The Secret" when a young boy asks for a bicycle, and quickly receives one. Things aren't quite that simple in the real world. First, there's a time delay, so you rarely manifest your creations the moment you ponder them. Second, it isn't your words that matter. The law is misunderstood by many to be comparable to affirmations or positive thinking. But it isn't the upbeat words you say or think that brings things to you; it's your overall energetic "set-point" about a given topic. What the law does is draw similar energies together, like magnets. When you feel happy, for example, that happy vibration brings other joyful events and people into your sphere. Same with feeling prosperous or lucky -- or, by contrast, feeling victimized or angry.
2. Your expectation is most important. What really moves the energy needle are your core beliefs or expectations. Which brings us back to Ray. It's true he lectured and wrote about attracting good fortune and prosperity to himself. But he's the only one in position to know if he truly expected that. Don't think an upbeat spiritual teacher can actually feel like an under-confident fraud? You must have missed Oprah's televised February reunion with self-help guru Iyanla Vanzant. In her many TV appearances and her bestselling books, Vanzant had long emphasized that loving yourself is what most matters. Yet here she was, confessing that she'd needed Oprah's validation to feel whole. "I just wanted you to say you liked me and you never did," a teary Vanzant recounted. It's no surprise that the law of attraction piled onto Vanzant's sense of being unloved: Within a few years she lost her book deals, money and even her marriage.
3. Your feelings reveal your focus. Walk around boasting about how you're about to win the lottery and you may convince others of its possibility. But is that helping you manifest more money in your real life? The key is how you are feeling. When you buy objects, pay bills, or think about your money throughout the day, are you joyful and expectant, or fearful and sad? If the former, you're at the prosperity "set point" level needed for those lottery-winnings to flow to you; keep it up and it eventually will, even if your wallet is currently empty.
4. There's no blaming the victim involved. Some complain that this law seems to blame people for their bad predicaments. I have come to see that it can empower them, instead. Once you understand how the law operates, you can use it to shift unhappy circumstances rather than feel defeated and stuck. A friend of mine had one disappointing boyfriend after another. She could have bemoaned her horrible fate, but knowing the law, she realized it was her energetic expectation that the next one would be awful that kept shoveling these bad dates in. She changed her expectation, and a great guy (now husband) followed. In some cases there isn't so direct a correlation. It's not that someone expects to get cancer; it's that they spend much of their time feeling angry or disempowered about life, which attracts other, similarly low-vibration creations, including diseases.
5. Denying its existence doesn't stop it. Just because you didn't learn about the law of attraction in school doesn't mean you can ignore its effects. This law is powerful, so you might as well at least experiment with harnessing it. As Esther Hicks observes, if you didn't believe in gravity, you still wouldn't be able to leap up and fly away. Test the law by noticing that what comes to you is, at its core, an energetic match to what you are anticipating. Don't like what you see? Tweak what you expect and watch what follows.
6. Action gets you to your destination. The law of attraction does not mean you can sit on your couch all day waiting for the universe to drop goodies from the ceiling. Life doesn't work that way. When you're an energetic match to your desired creation, you are inspired to act in a way that brings desired results. It's similar to the "liquid luck" potion that Harry Potter drinks in book six. Although Harry needs to seek out Professor Slughorn for crucial information, after drinking the potion he decides the right thing is to head for the gamekeeper Hagrid's hut. By following his inspiration, he runs into Slughorn and learns everything he needs to know. When you're feeling good and get a strong impulse to call someone or head someplace, that's the law of attraction at play. You'd be wise to follow the trail.
Ultimately, then, the James Ray trial doesn't say anything about the truth of the law of attraction. It only says something about Ray: That if he does sincerely believe in the power of this universal principle, he somehow didn't put it into practice as well as he might have.
Edited to add: On June 22, Ray was convicted of negligent homicide for the deaths of three of his sweat-lodge participants.
Follow Meryl Davids Landau on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MerylDL