The world is full of abundance and opportunity, but far too many people come to the fountain of life with a sieve instead of a tank car... a teaspoon instead of a steam shovel. They expect little and as a result they get little - Ben Sweetland

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Why the rich get richer

For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him
Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 13:12)

When I was a child, I used to look out at the world, watch the news, and think to myself how unfair it is that some people are so rich and others so poor. But now I have come to the conclusion that if all the money in the world were divided equally between everyone, within a short time, the rich would be rich again, and the poor would be poor again. Why? Simply put – money is a symptom or an effect. The cause of money is our attitude, our thoughts, and our self-image.

We attract more of what we focus on. We create our own financial condition. Being rich is the effect of our thoughts, not the cause. Most people have got this the wrong way round. As in all spheres of life, what we sow is what we reap. Our thoughts create our reality and if we sow good, positive thoughts, thoughts of abundance, these thoughts will yield a harvest of money and abundance. If we sow thoughts of poverty and lack, we will manifest that in our lives. Some people’s minds are like rich, fertile soil where the crop can grow strong and healthy; others’ minds are more like rocks and dust which will not support a good harvest.

Many people spend their lives building a ‘money monster,’ made up of the negative thoughts about money and wealth. Many of these thoughts came from parents, teachers and other influential figures which they were exposed to when young, and those thoughts get built on and expanded until eventually they become a huge and terrifying monster which, eventually, turns around and devours them. Others, however, spend their life building a powerful and obedient genie, an unshakeable collection of positive thoughts and convictions which free you from worry and lack; the genie does your bidding and you are always rich. We must realize that money doesn’t control us, we control it – money is our servant, not our master.

We must take responsibility for this. Where we are now is a result of what we have thought and how we have acted in the past. We must accept this. Either we are responsible or we are not – which is it to be? Do you want to carry on feeling that you’re at the mercy of chance? Maybe you do – maybe you get something out of that. But know this – if you do not accept that you are responsible for your financial condition, you will always be poor.
That more gathers more is true on every plane of existence and that loss leads to greater loss is equally true.
Charles E. Haanel (1866-1949)

Many people have self-defeating beliefs about money (which I have written about elsewhere). We cannot be wealthy if we think of money in a negative way. Money is just a way to be free, and creating financial abundance should be top of our list of priorities. Clear out your old ideas about wealth and fill your mind with new and positive thoughts about money. Flaunting wealth is a sign of insecurity and tells of a poverty mentality, but to wish and strive for financial freedom is a good thing – as someone once said, ‘the more you know, the less you need to show.’ Know that whatever your beliefs, the world will support them – so think positive and abundant thoughts, and these will be played out in real life.

One of these self-defeating beliefs is that there is a shortage of money. But in reality, there is not a limited supply of wealth and abundance – if I go out in a boat and fill a few buckets with water, does that mean there is less water for everyone else? If I pump water from the sea night and day, does that mean the ocean will run dry? Hardly! There is so much of it that it can never run out! Even the wealth of the richest person in the world is just, well, a drop in the ocean!

Another reason the ocean never runs dry is that water is constantly on the move. Water evaporates, it forms clouds, the clouds release water as rain, the rain falls into streams and rivers, and the rivers flow back into the sea. Just like water, money needs to flow. If you try to hoard money, it will stagnate, like a pool with no inlet or outlet. But if you keep money circulating, it will grow, just as a pool with a constant flow of fresh water sparkles and teems with life.
Creative Commons License photo credit: teadrinker

In fact, money flows whether we like it or not, since that is its nature. If you try to hoard it, it will find a way of moving on – a big tax bill, an unexpected expense – so keep things moving, keep your money flowing. That doesn’t mean give all your money away or keep buying and selling investments; it means don’t let your money stagnate and die – don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg. It's also important that you don’t try to control the process – who knows through which wonderful channels money and wealth will come to you? Your subconscious mind is wiser than you can know, and will orchestrate events in a marvelous and unexpected way to bring you what you desire. It is also important that you be ready to receive. Sometimes you don’t get what you want – you get something better. So be ready and be open to all possibilities.

Making money is not hard work – it’s easy when you do it right. Like all things in life, see which way the wind is blowing and sail with the wind, not against it. Sailing against the wind is madness – it will take all your energy and you’ll stand still (at best). So sail with the wind, go with the flow of life, and you can be effortlessly abundant.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Believe and succeed

Our life is what our thoughts make it.
Marcus Aurelius
A belief is something you consider to be true. You cannot decide to believe one thing this week and another, opposing thing, next week. You might think you can, but it really doesn’t work like that. I read recently that baby circus elephants are tied to a strong metal post with a heavy chain because they will try to escape and expend a lot of energy on pulling at their tether. After some time, they accept that they will not be able to escape and so stop pulling. The adult elephants are tethered to a wooden stake with a light rope: they could easily escape, but they believe they are unable to do so, and so the light tethering works as a kind of symbol of their bondage. It is clear that whether your beliefs are true or not is irrelevant. What matters is what you regard to be true. It seems to me that this is a good definition of ‘belief.’

People believe all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons. Some beliefs are trivial and others are very important, but two things are certain:

  1. Our underlying beliefs operate at a deep, subconscious level, and
  2. These underlying beliefs affect what we experience in life, including our level of success or failure in any endeavor

Where do these beliefs come from?

Philip Larkin said ‘They f**k you up, your mum and dad.’ Which might seem a bit cruel, but then he did admit that ‘they do not mean to, but they do.’ What he’s saying, of course, is that we learn our world view from our parents, and if our parents think that life is a struggle and that money and success don’t come easily, then this will be our ‘defaults mode,’ too. We spend many years being ‘drip fed’ these beliefs and they get embedded deep in our subconscious. It’s fine to say ‘just change your beliefs,’ but it’s not always so easy. We have picked up many limiting beliefs from parents, teachers, friends, religion (dare I say?) and society in general. Some of these beliefs are holding us back, so doesn’t it make sense that we should want to shed them?

Do we really want to get rid of these beliefs?

Actually, it’s no that simple. We can get a tremendous payback from some apparently harmful and limiting beliefs. I’m sure we all know people who seem to identify themselves as a victim, believing that they are helpless and needing someone to look after them or ‘save’ them. These people get a feeling of security (they don’t have to try to be better or take any risks because they know it’s pointless and they will fail), and they get people running around after them, looking after them.

We need to look at our beliefs and examine what kind of payback we are getting from them and so why we might not want to let go of them. Some examples of limiting beliefs might be:

  • Everyone is selfish
  • People are always trying to rip you off
  • There isn’t enough to go around so you have to grab what you can
  • You can be struck down by circumstances (illness, accident) at any time
  • It’s not my fault that my life is like this

All of these beliefs do something for us; they give us some validation or some comfort. But they are simply beliefs. Deeply engrained, to be sure, but only beliefs and so susceptible to change. Shedding these beliefs may cause some pain, but growth is often accompanied by pain, and I am confident that they pain of growth is a small price for the loss of a lifetime of limitation.

Change your beliefs and change your life

And so that brings us to the good news – you CAN change your beliefs. I suggest three steps for doing this:

  1. Identify a limiting belief (eg Things just happen. I’m not in control of my life)
  2. Cast the belief in a different way (I am in control and I consciously orchestrate my experience)
  3. Look around for evidence of this new belief. You WILL find it! After a while, this will sink in and you will start to think the new belief is ‘true.’

In a sense, I’m suggesting that you brainwash yourself. This may sound negative, but remember that you’ve already been brainwashed into negative thinking, so some reprogramming won’t hurt. Perhaps ‘condition yourself’ is a better phrase than ‘brainwash.’ It takes time, but you can do it if you really want to.

Beliefs I live by

  • I believe the following to be true and I see evidence of these statements around me all the time.
  • Everything in my life works out well
  • I orchestrate my own experience of life
  • Life is naturally abundant. There is enough for everyoneLife, when lived properly, is easy and happy
  • Abundance – health, happiness, money and success – flows to me endlessly and easily. All I have to do is reach out and take it
  • I don’t have to improve myself – I am already as valuable and worthwhile as anyone else
  • I can do anything if I apply myself in the right way
  • Circumstances arrange themselves and opportunities are presented for my greatest good
    The tragedy of much adult life is that our vision is so limited. Like the elephant, we can walk away from our tether any time, but we often don’t because we are shackled by our false and limiting beliefs.

I want to end with a wonderful fable from Anthony de Mello, a man who really seemed to understand the human condition.

An eagle lays an egg but somehow the egg finds its way into a chicken coup. A chicken incubates the egg with all her others and when it hatches, she rears the eaglet as if it were one of her own chicks. It learns to peck the dust for food, to flap its wings and to strut around the farmyard. One day, an eagle flies by overhead. The little eagle looks up and sees this, and says to himself, ‘I wish I were an eagle – how majestic, how free, how beautiful to be like that and have such a life.’ The eagle lived like a chicken and died like a chicken, because that’s hat he thought he was.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The law of attraction is a lie!

As I mentioned in another article, the ‘law of attraction’ seems to have grown into something of a cult, with people wanting to identify themselves as ‘believers’ of ‘non-believers.’ Some people have taken this quite far and are defending their position, one way or the other, quite vociferously.

There has recently been quite a backlash to the ‘law of attraction,’ in the form of websites, e-books and blogs propagating an idea called the ‘lie of attraction.’ For example, people like Sam Crowley and Michael Cheney have some significant objections to the law of attraction as it is popularly presented. People are becoming very emotional about it all. An anonymous writer on one blog, for example, writes ‘The law of attraction is BS…Though the basic idea for the law of attraction is nothing new, it has been misconstrued into a materialistic pile of voodoo nonsense.’

What are we to make of all this? Is the ‘law of attraction’ a dangerous lie, as Crowley and others claim, or is it really an inherent feature of the universe that we can harness to bring wonderful results into our lives?

Napoleon Hill, in ‘Think and Grow Rich,’ wrote that ‘whatever the mind of a man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.’ The only limit to what you can achieve is your imagination. I firmly believe that, in the words of A Course in Miracles, ‘We are Powerful Beyond Measure.’ ‘Think and Grow Rich’ is full of examples of ‘possibility thinkers’ who were scorned and laughed at, but who had a vision and saw it come to fruition. Who could have thought that the systemic racism in the US in the 40s could have been swept away to the point that we now have a black candidate for the democratic presidential nomination? Who could have imagined the end of apartheid in South Africa? Who could have imagined the end of slavery in the British Empire? People like Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and William Wilberforce – they all had a dream, they had a vision, and the results of their visions are with us now. Surely no one can deny the power of the mind.

You cannot expect to get anywhere unless you have a clear idea in your mind. All of the people mentioned above, and the may others mentioned in ‘Think and Grow Rich’ all had a clear vision of where they were going. Of the many people I have known, the most successful all knew where they were going. Not that they weren’t flexible, but they knew what they wanted and they knew they were going to get there.

Jonathan Fields writes ‘even the most dogged focus on the attainment of a goal will bring you nothing without an equal commitment to action.’ If you sit around all day visualizing and saying affirmations, you’re probably not going to get anywhere. You must act. Napoleon Hill is very clear about this. Persistence and determination are key, not letting failure get you down and keeping on going will eventually yield excellent results.

This said, your action must be the right kind of action, it must ‘flow.’ Moving water can be a powerful force – it can generate electricity, it can destroy cities, it can be exhilarating and it can be deadly. But there is no effort in water – it seeks out the path of least resistance, it moves to the lowest point, it goes around things, does not push through them. It achieves everything by making no effort. This is what Alan Watts called ‘The Watercourse Way,’ and is what Lao Tse wrote about in the Tao Te Ching, a book I always keep by my bedside. The right action should not be competitive or confrontational, there should be no force, no strain, no stress. Whenever you are putting in a lot of effort, you are doing something wrong. This way of doing things is the basis of effortless abundance. Our society values work, effort, energy, and industry. The roots of this system of values lie in Puritanism and Calvinism – we take it for granted that work and effort are needed for good results, but there is another way, a more ancient way, a better way.

‘The Secret’ is becoming a belief system. People are starting to miss what is being pointed to, and instead they are grabbing hold of the signpost and defending it to give themselves an identity. Some of the detractors are doing the same. In this way, the idea of the law of attraction is becoming very dominant. It may be interesting to examine the way it is propagating as a meme (According to Wikipedia, ‘any unit of cultural information, such as a practice or idea, that gets transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.’ Richard Dawkins has been a famous proponent of the idea that religion is a meme).

‘The Secret’ has over simplified the message of ‘Think and Grow Rich.’ It is jingoistic and simplistic and superficial. It misses the subtlety which has been explored in earlier books on the way mind and action work together to produce outcomes. It has pulled in some pseudo Science, and been blatantly marketed to attract gullible and needy people looking for quick fixes and easy solutions to their problems. (Some proponents of the ‘lie of attraction’ are beginning to do the same. Just take a look at some of their materials). For this reason, I believe that real success and real happiness will continue to elude most people, and they will simply move on to the next big, hyped up idea which they hope will ‘quick-fix’ their lives. I have read forum posts where people expect to win the lottery by ‘visualizing’ the money. This is not a dangerous thing, but surely that is absurd. We have a wonderful vista before us, but most people will continue to keep their eyes closed.

In a very balanced and well-written article, Jonathan Fields offers a simple and common sense explanation of ‘the secret,’ avoiding any need to invoke quantum mechanics, harmonic resonance and other Scientific ideas. The ‘law of attraction,’ he cays, is a psychological phenomenon. If you keep thinking about something, keep dwelling on it, keep believing it, you will start to behave in slightly different ways; you will say things you might not otherwise have said, you will go to places you might not otherwise have gone, you’ll dress differently, and so on. Eventually, all these little things add up to help you achieve your goal. Essentially, he is saying that you can brainwash yourself, or be brainwashed, either in a good way or a bad way.

The reality is that life is a subtle thing, and we must resist the temptation to over simplify and generalize. If we keep our mind on something and act in accordance with this is a natural, easy and non-forceful way, the universe works out the details and things work out well, though often not as we had planned (usually better). Then we will be effortlessly abundant.

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