Means to an end?

The movie “The Secret” changed the direction of my life in incredible ways. When I first saw it, it hadn’t become the “Oh, here we go…yet another fast fix to happiness Oprah will rave about” phenomenon that it, of course, became. Its detractors felt (and probably still feel) it focused too much on the getting of material things. It might be fairer to say that it was the adherents themselves who focused on material things, not that the technique did.

Actually, the Secret was just a layman’s epiphany about a law of nature scientists had known for years: that energy flows toward more energy. Like water, energy (especially electrical energy, which is kinda what we’re all about) rushes headlong to where it finds its Energy Friends. And our thoughts, whether conscious or unconscious, are Energy hangouts — talk about E-Harmony! Lonely Energies flock to where they think they can hook up with Life Energy partners. And just like other dating sites, the results are often disappointing. All too quickly, the meeting’s over; “there is no spark.” Keep moving, keep moving.

The thing about Energy is that it is completely non-judgmental. There is no “good,” or “bad” energy. It just is. Mind just is, as well. If you’ve been following this blog, you know I believe Mind can only be in the Present. There is no Future or Past with Mind. Visualization, practiced regularly, can make Mind think, “It’s real! It’s happenin’, and it’s happenin’ now!” And because Mind thinks it already has “It” (whatever that It is), the Universe’s Energy responds accordingly. Suddenly there’s a new Hot Spot in town. We see our thoughts take material shape, but it’s not magic: it’s just Energy doing its thing. This is, I think, the secret behind The Secret.

What the Secret, or visualization, cannot guarantee is Happiness. So so so so so many people think that having things will bring happiness: even things like health.  This is a deeply held belief that is nonetheless false. Happiness is a choice; it simply bears no relation whatsoever to the things in our lives, no matter how noble or selfish.

On the other hand, Mindfulness, which I define as the conscious appreciation of the present moment., facilitates the experience of happiness, the choice of joy.

Objects, like the Energy hopefuls I discussed earlier, may not be in and of themselves of any consequence. Even alcohol or drugs are not, possibly, intrinsically “good” or “bad.” What they do is take us out of Mind, out of the Mindfulness that begets true ecstasy or joy. Practicing the Secret, watching in amazement as everything from parking spaces to perfect health appear in our lives, is just that: practice. The attachments we create through the Mind’s power are, possibly, not meant to be ends in and of themselves, but means to a different end entirely: joy, bliss, deep happiness. But, like the Energy singles, we give up too quickly; we settle for a spark or two instead of a lasting current of invigorating power. We, as Deepak Chopra once wrote, settle for the map instead of the territory itself.

Let me put this in less metaphysical, more practical terms. I have noticed that my English learners, when I teach vocabulary, fall generally into two camps: the first are those who learn lists of words and their definitions. They are able to rattle these words off with no problem, but when the test is over, they just flush their brains and go on to the next list. When asked for those definitions or spellings even two weeks later, they can only stare blankly at me.

The second group, and I assure you this is a far smaller one — 5% tops — care less about the quizzes and more about actually learning (i.e. internalizing) how to use vocabulary successfully in English. The joy I feel as I watch the light dance in their eyes, when they realize that they know, is probably nothing compared to what they are feeling at the moment of personal triumph. They have chosen the current, not the spark, and I can see it in all the work they do from that point on.

We each have the opportunity to experience the inexplicable joy that resides only in the Present, separated from all attachments, objects, things. Mindfulness might be the only way to reach this Nirvana; it’s the only way I’ve been able to, at any rate. Yes, I have been to this amazing place, but it’s not easy to find, and even harder to stay there. But it can be done. With practice, I believe I can visit more often.

I’d send you a postcard, but I know there won’t be anything to write with.



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