I think part of the reason it has taken me so long to write my next post is because I was struggling with the title. My original title was “Fear,” because I wanted to say something about fear and how I can allow it to paralyze me and keep me from taking the next step toward the life I want. It wasn’t quite right though, because I want the titles of my posts to be the goals I’m trying to achieve, not the things that are in the way.
I’m a big believer in the law of attraction. Not because I read The Secret (which I did), or saw What The Bleep Do We Know? (which I also did), but because I have seen it in practice in my life. After I read The Secret and saw the movie, I decided to try the technique listed in the book. Quite simply, you need to focus your cognitive and emotional attention on what you want. You can think about it, talk about it, put a vision board up in your room with pictures of it, or whatever helps you to keep it in your mind. The important part of it is the emotional focus. You need to get yourself into the space of feeling like you already have it. If you focus on how much it sucks that you don’t have it, that doesn’t count. You need to find a way of evoking the feelings of joy and gratitude that would come from receiving it. Should you be able to manage this and sustain it, you will literally attract what you want into your life.
I’m a pragmatist who is concrete and literal – to a fault at times. I wasn’t going to believe in that hocus pocus until I saw it for myself. Yeah, they had the woman in The Secret movie who cured herself of breast cancer, but maybe she also walked in the woods in bare feet and got some mysterious bug guts on her skin which worked their way into her system and cured her. There was no control group. So, I decided to try it. I needed a new laptop for nursing school as mine had just died (taking a bunch of important files with it, I might add). I started thinking about the kind of laptop I wanted. I got a picture of it from the web and hung it in my room. I thought about how nice it would be to be able to do my homework at home in my underwear instead of hauling my ass to school on my bicycle and using the library computers. I pictured myself at home, a cup of my friend Vajra’s homemade chai tea next to me, my two cats at my feet, writing a school paper and feeling content. I started doing that around the first of the year. In April I did my tax return. Up until then I had been getting $300 – $400 back each year. When my check arrived, it was over $1000 and was exactly the amount I needed for the laptop I had my eye on.
Say what you like about coincidences, but that was a pretty powerful one for me. If it was a coincicence, so what? As a medical professional I know that a placebo which someone thinks is a real medication can have a real effect on the body. The laptop experiment jumpstarted my attempts to use positive energy to bring positive things into my life. It took me a while to get out of the habit of being negative. I had started a lot of mornings in a row saying to myself “well, this day will probably suck like yesterday.” My friend Heidi from Kindred Spirits camp starts each day raising her hands into the air and shouting “This is the best day of my life!” at the top of her lungs. When I first met her at camp and saw her doing that, I thought it was silly and a little embarrassing. Heidi was always in a good mood though, and it was contagious. She also shared the story of how she healed herself from Lyme Disease using the law of attraction. She took the music to one of her favorite songs by Deva Premal & Miten, and wrote her own words: “Miracles happen all along/one is happening to me as I sing this song/light shines down from heaven above/and heals my body with the power of love. My life is divinely guided/I am always headed in the right direction/light shines down from heaven above/and heals my body with the power of love.” I don’t know how long her sessions were, but she created a meditation practice that she did every day, sitting quietly and chanting her song over and over. She pictured herself completely healthy. She felt the joyful feeling of being free from Lyme Disease. She felt the gratitude of being healed by the version of divinity that works for her. Today she is free from the disease.
I decided to learn from Heidi’s example. I started making lists of what I was grateful for first thing in the morning. I started making a point of sending positive vibes to people who pissed me off. I made little cards with short sentences about what I wanted and put them up in my apartment. I phrased them as though they had already happened. “I have good friends at school who like me and want to spend time with me.” “I focus well when I study and get good grades.” “I treat my patients at clinical rotation with love and compassion and help them heal.” I can be clumsy, and I was worried about dropping bedpans on the floor, so one that I added at a friend’s suggestion was “I gracefully carry bedpans.”
That’s the trick of it. You can’t say “I don’t spill bedpans,” because what the universe hears is “spill” and you attract more spillage. Which brings me back to my topic. You can’t say “I want to be less afraid,” or even “I’m not afraid,” because the universe hears “afraid” and sends you more fear. My friend Lisa taught me this during breathwork sessions at camp. You must always phrase your intentions in the positive. “I am peaceful.” “I am courageous.” “I am calm in all situations.” It’s actually not that different from the work I used to do with 2 year olds, who can’t reverse their actions. If you say “don’t touch the outlet!” they hear “outlet” and touch it. You need to say “walk away,” or “go get me that doll please.” When I had my little group of ten 2 year olds at the school where I worked, I taught them to pretend to be trucks backing up. We would all walk backwards and say “beeeeeeep beeeeeeep beeeeeeep.” When we were on the playground and they were going toward something dangerous, like the time we found a wasp’s nest, I would just say “Back up! Beeeeeeep beeeeeeep beeeeeeep!” They’d all start imitating me and back away from the danger.
It’s not easy. Changing a habit is difficult, especially one that you started as a kid and which is reinforced by the culture in which you are immersed. People’s natural inclination is to focus on the negative. If something unpleasant happens to you, you have an immediate emotional response: anger, fear, sadness. You think about how unfair it is or how much it sucks. If it involves physical discomfort it’s even harder. The fact remains though that the more you focus your energy on what sucks in your life, the more suckage you invite. Every time you can pull your focus away to something good or something you’re grateful for or something you want more of in your life, it makes a difference. Over time, the emotional response to adversity that you believed was completely out of your control becomes a choice. If you could choose in that moment, what would you want to feel?
Am I there all the time? Nope. The reason I wanted to call this post “fear” at first was because part of me is afraid of being healthy. Food addiction isn’t the only thing that sabotages me when I lose weight. It’s fear. Fear of being attractive to other people. Fear of the responsibility I’d have to take for my life if I couldn’t blame all my problems on being fat. Fear of how people would respond to me if I decided to feel good about myself despite being overweight. My girlfriend Ruth, who continues to be an amazing support to me on this journey, recently told me about the Health At Any Size community. While some of the body positive movement gets a lot of flack from people about promoting unhealthy eating behavior, this particular group believes that one can in fact be healthy despite having a weight that is above the standard norm. That’s something else that was in the movie Fed Up that I mentioned in my first post. Heavy people can in fact be quite healthy, and thin people can be unhealthy on the inside. This blog can’t even be posted on the Health At Any Size website because it mentions weight loss.
So here is where I slightly shift my focus. I want to attract health into my life. I want to move my body every day. I want to choose healthy foods for myself. I want to choose healthy emotional states for myself. I want to learn to meditate in a way that works for me. I want to chant more. I want to spend time with people I love and show them how grateful I am for their presence in my life. I want to like myself the way I am. If practicing those things every day leads to me losing weight, great. If it leads to me staying the same weight but being healthier physically and emotionally on the inside, that’s gotta be OK too. Last night I went to a Krishna Das kirtan at The Colonial Theater. I chanted with several of my loved ones and many more beloved strangers. The shakti was all around me, and love was flowing freely among us. In those moments, what I look like matters about as little as a small smudge on the window. I can still see through it to the beauty outside – and within.