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People talk about “the Law of Attraction” as a way to hook Hollywood headlines, Washington power, and Wall Street wealth. I believe in the Law of Attraction, but I don’t think it’s that simple. In fact, I direct a slightly bitter laugh at the whole concept of thinking ourselves to success. Haha.
Here’s the sobering truth: We don’t attract what our minds want. We attract what our souls want. The mind, despite its amazing abilities, is powerless to do miracles unless it’s in cahoots with the soul. And what do our souls want? Not the cabana on the beach, not the well-oiled, nubile partner, not our names in lights.
Our souls want us to wake up.
Because of this, we draw into our lives—inexorably, unintentionally, with maddening repetitiveness—exactly the things that lead most directly to awakening. In many cases, that’s our deepest suffering.
You know how the road to hell is paved with good intentions? Well, the road to heaven is paved with apparently horrible mistakes. In order to wake up, we must not only observe people who bring up the most unenlightened parts of our egos—not even merely encounter them. We must give birth to them, move in with them, invite them into the bathtub and the bed right along with us.
So many of the things that transfix us, the things that make us fall madly in love, are Trojan horses. We think they’re a gift that will make us happy, and for a while they do. But then our time to awaken arrives. The new baby who’s slept angelically for two weeks develops colic. The perfect lover quits antidepressants, cold turkey. The friendly new coworker smilingly throws us under the bus in a meeting.
The soldiers are out of the horse.
There’s an awful period of resistance when this first happens. We go through all the stages of grieving our own deaths, because part of us is dying: the ego’s attachment to the story of the thing that’s going to make us happy forever.
So, here we go. You know the steps to this dance:
This isn’t happening. At worst, it’s just a blip. Everything will go back to normal soon.
If I try harder, if I do a better job and really make them happy, everything will go back to normal.
I WILL NOT PUT UP WITH THIS HAPPENING! EVERYTHING HAS TO GO BACK TO NORMAL, NOW, NOW, NOW!!!!
Nothing’s ever going back to normal. I want to die. I can’t get out of bed.
Maybe I can find a new normal. True, Troy is now being run by the damn Greeks. But on the other hand, we’ve got a really nice big wooden horse.
This sequence happens when we fail to get an expected email or our favorite sitcom gets cancelled, let alone when we lose a job, a love, or a lifestyle. I’ve been through it several times lately, on a moderate scale. And here’s what I’ve seen, every time:
I’ve seen that what we’re most afraid to lose is never a thing, person, or situation, but our story about how that thing will make us happy, conform to our ego’s desires, and remain forever unchanging. This is true even when the thing is our own body.
I’ve seen that when we relinquish our stories—when the truth of our soul kills the narrative we’re spinning out to impress ourselves and others—we reach acceptance and suffering ends.
I’ve seen that on the other side of death lies peace. Not the peace of the unsuspecting Trojans before they got that awesome horse, but the peace braided through their epic poetry and psychologically compelling myths.
This is what our souls attract. This joy, this disappointment, this euphoria, this depression. This death after death after death. Ultimately, I believe that we can let all our stories die. Then we’ll accept every Trojan Horse, every betrayal, as precisely the gift we most needed in order to awaken.
The meta-learning I take from all this is simple: know that your story is your own invention, and that it will die. Hold it lightly. Enjoy your gift-horse. And when the Greek soldiers pour out of it, offer them your sword.
Dr. Martha Beck is a life coach and the New York Times best-selling author of these popular resources for finding your life purpose: Finding Your Own North Star, Steering by Starlight, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World, The Joy Diet, and more. She’s also the author of the bestselling memoirs Expecting Adam and Leaving the Saints. Beck’s latest book, Diana, Herself: An Allegory of Awakening, is her first foray into fiction and is the first installment of her Bewilderment Chronicles series.