Why the law of attraction is bullsh*t (and why that’s such a great thing)
Walk back with me. Allow me to rewind to May of 2017— about a year ago, in fact…
My family and I were in the glorious cowtown of Minden, NV at the eastern base of the Sierra Nevada mountains. We were happy. We had a simple life living in a little old house on a corner lot with a big back yard owned by Alex’s parents that we had the plan of buying from them.
But in the back of our heads, we knew we were kinda… settling.
We’d been wanting to move back to Chicago for the longest time (call us crazy, it’s fine), but with a kid now, having Alex’s business being based in Nevada as well as my work, and a couple other factors, we felt tethered to the area. It wasn’t BAD by any means — we were 25 minutes from Lake Tahoe, Alex’s parents and sister lived a mile away (hello — free babysitting), and we had a lot of friends and family in the area. It’s where we’re both from. It was comfy.
But that pull back to the windy city — the place we fell in love and lived when we were first married — was calling quietly from deep within our bones.
And then I got the email from a friend who was opening a church in Chicago. We had the conversations and the invite was extended to me to move the fam to Chicago and help open it. I’d be a founding assistant minister, have access to a growing platform, start making a good living in short order, etc.
Suddenly, the visions danced in my head. I saw myself hanging out with Michael Beckwith (who was my friend’s Rev.). Since Beckwith had been on Oprah, that means I’d eventually be hanging out with Deepak, Eckhart (yes, we’d be on a first-name basis), and all the Oprah spiritual crew.
I saw it going perfectly. I saw myself making a living from ministry immediately. I saw everyone getting along perfectly. I saw myself getting up on stage and speaking often. I saw myself being mentored by my friend and learning more every day. I saw people flooding in the doors with more and more showing up each week. I saw myself out in the community shaking hands, patting heads, and kissing babies. I saw myself serving the underserved and doing all the great works that ministers do. I saw the Cubs bringing me on as their spiritual advisor and I’d get them all spiritually amped before games...
I closed my eyes and did what my spiritual tradition at the time — Religious Science — teaches: affirmative prayer. These are basically affirmations on steroids to activate the Law of Attraction.
And we did it. We got to Chicago, which was amazing. But then we started the church. And my role started morphing into a social media manager rather than budding spiritual director/minister.
The people didn’t exactly flood in. The fundraising efforts didn’t rake in the dough. Whatever money I made wasn’t enough to support me/my family and even that was dwindling. I did freelance spiritual counseling (part of my ministerial path) in order to help make a living, but it wasn’t taking off and didn’t jibe with my personality (and I felt weird taking money for it).
All of a sudden, my inner narrative started saying…
Oh, shit. This is not going how it went in my head. More affirmations, more affirmations, c’mon Law of Attraction, kick in!
I saw that everyone in the church had more time than me and were giving it freely, without pay. I was falling further and further behind in bills, my debt was piling up, and Alex was shouldering the load.
At the same time, I was seriously starting to question this entire ‘spiritual’ tradition I was a part of. It wasn’t the first time this Law-of-Attraction-thing didn’t pan out. And really, should spirituality be about manipulating the Universe into giving you what your ego wants at the moment?
So I left. I threw in the towel.
I was mad.
(You know, all the good stuff.)
Why didn’t ‘The Universe’ give me what I wanted? My inner 3-year old was kicking and screaming.
I was disappointed that Rory was just starting to like it and here I go, moving her out of yet another thing. I just wanted so badly to give her some consistency and community in this new place which was just starting to take root.
It was all coming undone. I knew it was happening. And I somehow found the wherewithal to exercise a simple spiritual quality: Patience. Which lead to humbleness. (After much gnashing of teeth and shaking my fist at the sky, of course.)
I decided to listen to God instead of telling her what to do.
What she pointed to wasn’t pleasant, but made perfect sense…
I mean, what were we thinking?! What was I thinking?! I was a first-year theology student. I’d never worked in a church community before. Starting a church is like starting a business — rarely do they take off gangbusters. How would I get paid? (Especially when other ministers started coming on board who had more experience than I had.)
But thanks to that damn belief (as dwindling as it was at the time) in the mass-marketed ‘Law of Attraction’, both I and my friend saw it all happening perfectly in our heads which lead to a lot of crazy assumptions, expectations, promises, and mistakes.
After leaving, Alex and I reconnected to our Catholic roots (which you may have read about here). I went back to work as a creative copywriter for the agency I used to work for with room for some freelance clients on the side (thank God for remote work and old friends). I switched my theology studies from Religious Science to Interfaith Ministry with a Franciscan Catholic focus. And I went back to generously sharing stories here in this blog and letting serendipity carry me forward.
Yesterday, I had breakfast with my friend who started the church. Of course, there were the initial I’m sorries from both sides. But really, all was forgiven. And all is well.
Ok, now let me tie all of this together…
No, the Law of Attraction didn’t ‘work’ the way my ego wanted it to. But everything worked out perfectly. God — the divine flow of life — knows better than we do.
Because, thinking back to a year ago in Minden, NV, if I saw in my head how it actually played out —
…if I would have known the church thing would’ve fallen to pieces
…and I would’ve had to get my job back,
…change my theology studies,
…uproot Rory from yet another community,
…and (holy sh*t) go back to the CATHOLIC CHURCH
…I’d never have done it. We would’ve just stayed in rural Nevada, lived a happy life, but that lingering feeling of settling would’ve remained.
But here we are. In Chicago. We’re settling in and thriving here. I’m loving my job. I’m loving being a bad Catholic and a newly invigorated theology student (with no expectations from that world). And I’m loving that this blog is a place for me to tell stories and chronicle my clumsy journey rather than drive a freelance/business venture.
So, no… The Law of Attraction is not a law. That’s totally misleading. It’s a brand of spirituality that sells a sh*tload of books, programs, and subscriptions. I’ve seen countless people waste countless years on it, including myself. It targets the poor, playing perfectly into their fears (as well as the privileged class who are used to getting everything they want). I’m speaking from experience on this.
Yes, it’s nice to have your thoughts aligned with the direction you want your life to go. Yes, visualization is a good thing to do — especially when it comes to golf, basketball, and other sports.
But when it comes to the bigger parts of life — to think that any of us as individuals understand the big picture or that we control more than a fraction of our experience is to set ourselves up for disappointment and strife.
Seriously, if I’d have gotten everything I’ve ever wanted through hacking the Law of Attraction, my life would be a total wreck right now. Yes, I’d have a lot of really big, really expensive stuff. Yes, I’d own a lot. But my soul would have been empty.
Life has given me everything I’ve needed to feed my soul in just the way it’s needed to be fed at the time. And most of that stuff, I’d never ask for in a million years. It’s stuff like losing my mom at 16. Losing my dad at 34. Being homeless for a bit when I was a kid. Losing certain jobs and opportunities (like this story) that I thought I really wanted. Getting married before I thought I was ready to someone who was way out of my league. Having a kid with said lady before I thought I was ready (turns out, I’m hardly ever ‘ready’). Starting things I’d never thought I’d start. Quitting things I thought I’d never quit. And countless unexpected stuff that’s popped up in-between.
This has been what’s shaped me as a human and hardly any of it I’ve asked for or wanted in advance.
Spirituality isn’t about getting what we want. We wealthy westerners have turned it into a conversation about command and control (we’re pretty good at that).
Spirituality is about stepping into and dancing with the divine mystery that is life. It’s about faith and forgiveness and accepting the blood and bones and messiness of this thing gracefully. It helps us step out of our ego-driven smallness that we mistake as strength. It helps us put love first — even in the face of fear. This is the Christ consciousness that lies at our core if we can lay down our contrived western control freakishness.
At least, that’s what I’m learning. And although I didn’t get what I wanted, I’m more grateful than ever that I’ve always been okay. Even when I was sure that life was against me.