In the first article in this three-part series, we looked at how mindfulness meditation fails to recognize the awesome potential of the mind to create better personal realities, including material abundance. In this article, we will see how one prominent New Age thinker took the next step - a step which acknowledges personal power yet includes the mindfulness-based focus on present-moment conditions. While this may not be the ultimate creative technique, it has helped a lot of people - and might help you, too!
You Can Have It All
One of the most influential figures in the New Age movement has been Arnold Patent, a former attorney who started to look for a different kind of laws - the laws of the universe - when he realized how unhappy and unhealthy he was. His groundbreaking book, You Can Have It All, provides an excellent overview of the main tenets of New Age thought, especially the central concept that everything in the universe is energy and that we are all connected to everything else in the universe. This notion of oneness is both spiritually exciting (though it is actually perceived as a threat by most major religions) and potentially empowering, because it is the foundation underpinning our personal power. When everything is energy, our thoughts and emotions are no longer mere mental constructs used to describe or relate to a separate, physical realm; on the contrary, they are the actual building blocks of our reality.
While this recognition of the power of thought was a step beyond Buddhist mindfulness practices, Patent's book contained much that would be familiar to mindfulness practitioners. In particular, there is an emphasis on non-judgmental acceptance of ourselves and of others. But for our purposes, the interesting aspect of Patent's thinking is how his application of the creative principle ends up looking a lot like Rick Hanson's mindfulness exercises.
Wanting Versus Having
Patent's version of cause and effect, like many New Age thinkers before and since, stressed the role of our beliefs in creating our own realities. His particular phraseology stressed that what you focus your attention on expands. As we shall see in the final part of this series, that advice has been taken by many self-help authors to mean that you should focus on the things you want. But Patent came to a different conclusion: his advice was to think about what you have. In his interpretation, thinking about what you want actually reinforces the idea of "not having" - of scarcity. If, instead, you think about all the things you already have, you are reinforcing a feeling of abundance.
This takes Rick Hanson's mindfulness exercises and supercharges them, recognizing the power of thought that mindfulness practitioners don't. It also resonates with the "attitude of gratitude" that figured quite prominently in Rhonda Byrne's The Secret, another powerful way of leveraging what you already have. Note, however, that just by talking about ways to make our existing situation blossom into something "better," we are implying that we do not have enough. Those little implications can have surprisingly large consequences.
For many people, myself included, Patent's approach is not aggressive enough. It doesn't take the bull by the horns and really exploit the power that is available to us. But it does serve as an important cautionary note that we must be careful not to inadvertently focus on scarcity. And this danger is all too real when we are pushing hard, getting impatient, and wondering why life isn't changing the way we want it to. It is very easy to become depressed by a perceived lack of progress, and those feelings of failure and disappointment can undo all your good work in a heartbeat. That is something to bear in mind as we move on to the third part of this series, in which we will put the pedal to the metal.
If you are enjoying this series, you will find much more in this thorough review of The Secret, which exposes some of the many problems with Rhonda Byrne's bestseller on the Law of Attraction, and in this comprehensive guide on how to manifest abundance.