Yo, Universe!

Mar 19

If I were on a diet, I’d really resent hearing about those “new” plans on the market that I’d already tried. I mean, how many spins can you put on low calorie, low fat, or low carbs? Apparently, like the universe, it’s endless.

Since I don’t do diets, yet need something to rail against (I am, after all, a professional whiner), what I do allow to bug me are all the “new” philosophies that I hear about— things that have been around forever— like “The Secret,” which had viewers of Oprah in a frenzy last year.
The Secret, I’m here to tell you, to save you the expense of buying the DVD, is simple: Everything in the universe is connected, especially your thoughts, so that what you think about directly affects your life. Put another way, you get what you ask the universe to give you.

It’s not like praying or begging, but like placing an order in a catalog. (And if the universe is explanding, as Woody Allen says it is, then the choice of goodies just keeps getting bigger.) Just as you would at www.gap.com (they don’t call it the worldwide web for nothing), you have to be specific. I mean, you can’t just order a T-shirt, you have to choose the color, size and length of sleeves.

Likewise, you can’t be vague with the universe. Saying “I want to be happy” won’t cut it. You have to spell out your request/order in some detail. And after that, you have to work, sometimes really hard, to achieve your goal. That’s the price you pay. Shipping and tax included.

But if you do this, you will get what you want —and that’s the best deal in the universe . . .
Trust me, folks, this is not new. I’m not saying it’s bad, nor am I mocking it as some have. Maureen Dowd called it a cross between Dr. Phil and the Da Vinci Code. Well, yeah, maybe, a little around the edges. If I were a cynic, I’d say that’s it’s a new way to make money from an old idea. All I know is that when I went to the web site, it asked me for $4.95 to enter, and when I didn’t, that colorful whirling ball came up and wouldn’t stop until I shut down the computer and rebooted. Coincidence? Retribution? You decide. (You could always read the book. Remember books?)

Anyway, this whole philosophy is anything but new. It probably goes back to the time of Aristotle (a lot of good it did him!) or to some cheery caveman (one of them who hasn’t seen the Geico ads). Hello? Positive thinking? As in: The Power of? As in, Norman Vincent Peale? It’s no secret that he preached these ideas and had a huge following more than a half century ago.

How about the practice in the early 1900’s, revived in the sixties (what wasn’t?), of repeating positive statements to yourself. “Every day in every way I am getting better and better” was the favorite mantra back then. Substitute “richer” and “richer” these days, but you get the point. On an episode of Upstairs Downstairs (worth getting on DVD), one of the characters repeats to herself that everyday in every way her baby is getting more and more male. Hmm. How do you say that in Chinese? Never mind. The point is that The Secret has been out there for a long, long, time, in many, many versions that all say basically the same thing.

Beginning in the seventies and up to the present, I have sometimes used a visualization technique called Psycho Cybernetics. The idea is that if you can picture yourself doing something—really picture it, in clear and vivid detail—you can do it in actuality. Say you want to be able to do a perfect swan dive off the high platform. You don’t just picture yourself doing the dive, you visualize every step of the process in detail: you close your eyes and see yourself in your red Speedo walking up the steps (there are four), moving to the front of the diving board (another four steps, perhaps) taking a deep breathe, springing up and down (however many times you need), and finally, lifting off in perfect form off the board and into the water, cleanly, vertically, making the slightest little nearly silent SPLASH! You do this over and over until you believe you can do it, and then you can.

I can tell you for certain that this works. I, for one, cannot begin to imagine myself executing a perfect swan dive off the high platform anytime in this lifetime. And sure enough, I can’t.

All right, that’s not fair. And in reality, I have successfully used visualization to win over difficult clients, to get the apartment I wanted (you think that’s easy in Manhattan?), ride a horse (not well, but without falling off), even to find a man! Yes, yes, I swear it’s true. I worked with a counselor nearly 20 years ago who helped me to focus on what I really wanted. So I pictured myself and this person, whoever he was, cooking together and laughing. Soon after, I totally got my wish. It came with a few features I couldn’t have begun to dream up (let’s not go there) but really, although we do bicker about how much salt to put in the pasta water, we also do cook and laugh, and it has been a happy relationship for all this time. This positive thinking stuff really works!

It’s always been true that like attracts like. So if you’re happy —or depressed —most of the time, that’s how the kind of person who’ll gravitate towards you will be, too. It’s also true that How a Man Thinketh ( a book written in the 1890’s by James Allen) really does count.  It counts a lot, according to Allen, to the point that “all that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the direct result of his own thoughts.” The book calls this idea “The Strangest Secret.”

Anyone ever hear of Dennis Waitley, Tony Robbins, or Wayne You’ll-See-It-When-You-Believe-It Dyer? I think they’re all in on the secret and will be happy to share their version of it with you. I haven’t read Think and Get Rich, but I suspect the title says it all. And what about Chicken Soup for the Soul? Isn’t that a long way of saying all this? For a condensed version (I couldn’t help myself) here’s what Loretta Lynn once told me in an interview about how she overcame obstacles: “Honey, I didn’t think about what I didn’t have, but what I did have.” Worked for her, didn’t it. Although you could argue that she had a lot to work with.

Did you know that at the turn of the century (20th, that is), there was a lot of this positive thinking going on. On New Years Eve, 1899, people were so wildly optimistic about the coming century that they saw a big snowstorm in the Northeast as a positive omen —a fresh new beginning—of wonderful things to come. Science and technology, they thought, would cure everything. Harumph, a person might be tempted to say. Not I, of course.

I once studied a discipline called Religious Science, not to be confused with Scientology, I was always quick to add. Religious Science, also called Science of Mind, doesn’t have Tom Cruise, thank god, but what it does have is the philosophy that everything is connected. And if everything is connected, then your thoughts are powerful, and you can control your life and . . . sound familiar?

Science of Mind also teaches about the concept of abundance, a prime feature of The Secret. The belief is that there is an infinite amount of everything, so that if you get something, it doesn’t mean that someone else will have to go without. There’s plenty for everyone! This is a nice thought, but it’s not a new thought. Although, to give The Secret its due, in a world where the haves and have mores seem to be getting it all, it’s good to be reminded of this.

Did you notice that at the beginning of this article I said that I “allow” something to annoy me? That was my little way of telling you that you choose your thoughts, just the way you choose what you eat. And a steady diet of negativity can get you into deep doodoo, whereas positive thinking. . . oh you know.

I used to tell people to “talk to the universe” to solve their problems.  Of course, they hated me for that.  That’s another thing: it’s fine for someone like Oprah (there is no one else in the universe like Oprah) to broadcast the good news to millions, but you, on the other hand, should not try this at home. Or the office.

People don’t want to hear, from you or me anyway, that they are the cause of all their problems, and that they could have a better life if they gave themselves an attitude adjustment. If you tell them about this too aggressively, they might be tempted to give you one, upside the head.

Look on the bright side. You know The Secret. Now you can be rich. And thin. And never grow old? (Why doesn’t that one work, I wonder. Never mind.) Let us go forth in our wonderfulness and unleash the glorious power of our thoughts into the bountiful universe. Negativity? Don’t even think about it.

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