Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Post #85: Getting What You Want, or Wanting What You Have?

I've spent years contemplating the pros and cons of two valuable spiritual perspectives. One is Eastern in origin and goes by many names, but mostly it goes by no name at all. It's what Eckhart Tolle describes in A New Earth and The Power of Now. Byron Katie calls it "loving what is." It might be labeled mindfulness, presence, Buddhism, Taoism, or any number of other names. For me, what it comes down to is keeping one's focus on the here and now whenever possible, and making peace with it---learning to find joy in it. (Note that learning to make peace with life can require a lot of unlearning).

The other spiritual perspective I'm referring to is associated with the law of attraction. It's based on the idea that what we hold in mind will manifest in our lives. The law itself is neutral and dispassionate, meaning that it represents pure cause and effect. The universe neither rewards nor punishes---it just delivers what we have ordered (through our consciousness). This law is always operating whether we believe in it or not, and whether we approach it consciously or not. When working with the law of attraction, there exists a heavy responsibility on the individual to hold in mind only what she wants to experience in her life, and she has to believe that it's on it's way. Any doubts or ambivalence can stand between her and her desires.

Both philosophies represent ways in which people can work with their thoughts and feelings to live happier lives, and both are tried and true. Both help us to raise our "vibration" and feel better, and both have huge global followings. So why embrace one philosophy over the other? Which one yields the best results?

After years of observation, I've noticed a couple interesting things. First of all, it's possible for these philosophies to coexist peacefully in your life, even though they appear to have very different goals, or be in direct conflict with each other. One has the goal of accepting life as it is, no matter what, and the other says you can have whatever you desire---love, radiant health, fame, fortune---if you change your thinking/feeling. One is based on not wanting, and the other is based on wanting. One discourages escapism while the other inadvertently promotes it. Even so, when you have these two tools available, you're ready for any situation.

The other observation is that since everyone has a personality, cultural background, etc., one philosophy may be a better fit than another. For example, my husband is a high-energy achiever/manifestor who comes from a big, boisterous, family. Although he's a spiritually-receptive person, the idea of surrender and accepting life as it is doesn't appeal to him in the slightest. He wants to create his world and make things happen. Buddhism is probably not for him.

I, on the other hand, am a contemplative woman who values peace and simplicity. While I have an artistic side and like to create beautiful things, my focus has mostly been on inner growth, and not on the external world. I have found that by working on my own healing and spiritual growth, I've unwittingly manifested everything that I might want. I've rarely ever practiced affirmations, and I find the use of visualizations, positive thinking, reaching for a better-feeling thought, vision boards, etc. to be effective, but slightly stressful and exhausting. Words like "abundance" and "prosperity" get on my nerves, while "acceptance" and "being" feel nourishing to me.

Ultimately, this is an "elephant and the blind man" distinction because we're just looking at two of many spiritual lessons that I believe humans will eventually learn during our long spiritual careers. Each perspective we embrace may seem like the whole elephant, but it's just the lesson we're learning now. And we're each doing the "right" spiritual work, even if it's different than what our neighbor might be doing.

So, what do you practice? What spiritual perspectives (these or others) fit you best?