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COVER STORY: It's mind over what matters: 'The Secret' is out: If you want your life to be better, think positively
[March 12, 2007]

COVER STORY: It's mind over what matters: 'The Secret' is out: If you want your life to be better, think positively

(Newsday (Melville, NY) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Mar. 12--It is the quintessential suburban battleground -- the mall parking lot, high noon on a Saturday.

You troll the aisles in your Honda Odyssey. Sunlight glints off the car roofs, a sea of metal. No spots, not even on the fringes.

But this time is different. You have a good feeling, a subtle certainty cloaking you, that you will find something -- right near the Bloomie's entrance, no less.

And then, as if on cue, someone ahead of you pulls out, and you glide your minivan in.

Until now, you might dismiss that as a short-lived moment of serendipity. But those who know The Secret claim to know differently.

With a catchy name and tremendous word of mouth stoked by not one but two "Oprah" shows devoted to it, "The Secret" is a New Agey empire that has hit the mainstream with all the heft of the lambada. Bookstores cannot keep the eponymous book, written by Australian documentary-maker Rhonda Byrne, in stock, and it currently is the bestselling title on, elbowing aside preorders for the final Harry Potter tome. (With 3.75 million copies of "The Secret" in print, Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, is ordering another 2 million.) Despite the lack of a theatrical release and no marketing campaign, the DVD has sold 1.5 million copies at $34.95 a pop.

Sort of "The Da Vinci Code" colliding with a Deepak Chopra seminar, "The Secret" purports to reveal a time-worn but suppressed truth, known by such luminaries as Einstein, Beethoven and Lincoln: that we literally are what we think.

At its core, The Secret is a slick repackaging of the Law of Attraction, which has been kicking around the self-help community for years now. The theory borrows from quantum physics to suggest that thoughts and feelings are real, with their own vibrational frequency. And they attract those things -- or people, or circumstances -- with which they are in sync.

Buried in bills, slogging to a dead-end job? Essentially, you manifested them, to use a Secret-ism, by thinking about how tough it is to make ends meet and how much you loathe the boss' three-hour lunches and computer-Solitaire marathons.

It's simple

"It really is that simple," says Hale Dwoskin of Sedona, Ariz., one of the DVD's 24 "Secret Teachers" and the man who pioneered the self-improvement Sedona Method. "If you want to know what you're holding in your mind, just look around you. What you have in your life now is the sum total of your thoughts and feelings."

Michael Losier of Victoria, British Columbia, who wrote a book on the Law of Attraction in 2003 and has taught the technique to more than 125,000 people in seminars and umpteen-city tours, says the runaway success of "The Secret" is certainly good for business. But he worries that some may be getting an incomplete message.

"You hear a lot about positive thoughts," says Losier, who gives a seminar called "You Get What You Vibrate." "But a positive thought can have a negative vibration."

As an example, he thinks back to a decade ago, when he weighed 300 pounds, and dutifully repeated daily "affirmations" such as "I have a happy, slender body." "How do you think I was feeling when I looked in the mirror and couldn't see my feet?" he asks rhetorically. "It's not about positive thinking. It's about how you feel about the things you say."

Further complicating this is the fact that the Law of Attraction has a bit of a tin ear. In the case of someone who obsesses about not wanting to get cancer, the cosmic search engine hears only the disease, and metes it out accordingly.

"Whenever I use the words 'don't,' 'not' and 'no,' I just brought attention to what I don't want. The Law of Attraction doesn't have a conscience, it doesn't decide to attract only good things to our lives," says Losier, who tells his audiences to reframe their thinking: Instead of "Don't forget," say, "Remember." Instead of "Don't slam the door," say, "Close the door quietly."

(In an ironic nod to negative energy, The Secret itself has been the subject of an intense push-me-pull-you: Byrne had to edit her original movie, which was released a year ago, after a falling-out with Esther Hicks, a decades-long Law of Attraction advocate who claims to receive her wisdom by channeling an amalgam of spirits named Abraham and who was unhappy with the way she was depicted in the film and how it was marketed. References to Hicks were removed from the book.)

According to The Secret, then, the reason your weekly therapy sessions spent rehashing a lousy childhood are getting you nowhere is that you keep dredging up and lingering over negative memories, thereby inviting in more of the same.

"What you resist, persists," says Paul G (that's all, just G) of Great Neck, who has been a Law of Attraction coach and trainer for six years. "That's because you give it attention, energy and focus. Rather than pushing against things we don't want, we align ourselves with what we want."

A longtime spiritual seeker, "I've been through everything," G says, "from Buddhism and Hinduism and Judaism to Tony Robbins and Marianne Williamson." When he learned about the Law of Attraction, "all of a sudden, all those little pieces just hooked up and made sense. It was nothing short of an epiphany."

Before he started running Law of Attraction workshops and doing one-on-one sessions in his Long Island home, G was involved in real-estate finance and investment. "I did deals with Donald Trump," he says. "I'm sure he has no idea about the Law of Attraction. But he believes in himself and his products so much, he thinks everything he does is going to be the best and huge." Which explains why a guy with a bad comb-over and Queens Boulevard diction can have a multibillion-dollar empire, along with a top-rated reality show (well, the first two seasons, at least). "It doesn't matter whether he knows the difference," G explains, "because he creates it through his positive thoughts."

"Enough for everybody"

Speaking of unabashed capitalists like The Donald, "The Secret" DVD shows a room of stone-faced businessmen who plot to cork their metaphysical theory like a bottle so no one else can benefit. But modern-day robber barons have nothing to fear, G assures.

"The Law of Attraction teaches that the universe is abundant. There is enough for everybody." And those who have -- the rich who get richer -- will always have, because they expect no less. "If you took all of Bill Gates' money away," G says with certainty, "he would find a way of making it back."

At first glance, The Secret seems focused on garnering material possessions -- a bigger house, a faster car. "People in America want things, and that's understandable," says Larry Kleinstein, who runs "Law of Attraction Thursdays" at Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan -- he doesn't advertise, but people show up anyway. "But what everyone wants is to feel good, have love in their life and to feel that life is worth living."

The flip side of the Law of Attraction's empowerment ethos is the twitchy idea that victimhood is self-inflicted: The poor get poorer because they do not truly believe they can get richer. And no Law of Attraction devotee is comfortable explaining how this cosmology of intent explains, say, a 5-year-old incest victim.

"That's an area that people do grapple with -- there are some things that are beyond our intellect," says G. "Children are the hardest to understand because they've been vibrating for a short period of time. We teach people how to choose how they're feeling, but children often are very influenced by what they see, and the people around them."

Beyond individuals, the Law of Attraction can shape global relations and the zeitgeist, says Dwoskin, noting that the Bush administration's focus on terrorists -- as opposed to, say, security and prosperity -- only attracts more of the unpredictable violence. The anti-war movement was probably the worst thing to happen to the Vietnam War, he adds, because the focus on war -- not peace -- energetically extended the conflict.

If you think this all sounds too good to be true, then for you it probably is, say those for whom the Law of Attraction has become a way of life -- not to mention a lucrative revenue stream.

"People are always talking about just 'putting it out there.' But there's another step in the process, which is called allowing. In 'The Secret,' it's called receiving. What it really means is an absence of doubt," Losier says. Doubt and desire cancel each other out, he continues, pointing to people who buy lottery tickets: They want to win, but don't really think they will.

"The speed at which one gets what one wants is not about how big your collage is, or how much you're visualizing," he concludes. "It's how much doubt you have."

Law of Attraction fans exchange Secret Chatter

Since one of the linchpins of the Law of Attraction is to surround yourself with like-minded souls -- not to mention skinny ones, if your goal is to lose weight -- some diehards find themselves at The Secret Forum at powerful There, the discussion ranges from the ever-popular "car-manifesting" stories to debates on whether Osama bin Laden knows The Secret.

Here's a snippet of some recent Secret Chatter.

Vision boards. Essentially collages for adults, these hodgepodges of inspirational quotes and magazine cutouts help "Secret" devotees focus on what they want. One enthusiastic poster created a "money" tree with leaves of faux hundred-dollar bills. And some report that unsupportive husbands and cynical kids have mocked their motivational tools.

11:11. You may not have gotten the memo, but a bunch of celestial beings are popping around prompting certain people to keep looking at clocks and other numerical devices when the numbers 11:11 appear. Technically, they're called Midwayers, because they live sandwiched between life on earth and the great beyond. The numerically overwhelmed can find more information at 1111spirit

The "Star Wars" connection. "After considerable thought on the subject, I've concluded that 'The Force' in George Lucas' 'Star Wars' films is none other than the Law of Attraction," writes a guy name Rod Jones. Whether you're using the Force or trying to vibrate positively, it's apparently all the same thing. To quote Yoda: "Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try."

The Secret 2. Forum members are already mentally casting the second film. Among their picks: Alan Young (yes, of "Mister Ed" fame -- apparently he lectured on the Christian Science circuit), peak-performance guru Tony Robbins, presidential hopeful Barack Obama, immigrant success story Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Dog Whisperer and Marcy from Maui (if you know who she is, then you really are on "Secret" overload).

- Denise Flaim

Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.

Copyright (c) 2007, Newsday, Melville, N.Y.
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