What do yoga, the Law of Attraction and A Course in Miracles have in common? A few things, but on critical points, they directly contradict one another. This could potentially confuse the modern spiritual seeker, delaying peace.
This century is a veritable buffet of spirituality, and with so many dishes to choose from, it’s easy to overindulge and end up feeling sick.
Making it more confusing, many high-profile spiritual leaders and yoga teachers mix philosophies without clarifying the source of a belief or statement. For those wanting to follow the yogi path, this could cause a great deal of confusion.
What is the Law of Attraction?
The Law of Attraction was popularized by the book The Secret. It basically says that you can manifest anything you desire by thinking positively and changing your vibration.
Thoughts are essentially electromagnetic waves. The Secret says that if you change the vibration of your thoughts to match that of your desired reality, that future will have no choice but to materialize. Similar vibrations will naturally attract one another, this philosophy says.
This sounds wonderful, but I believe the Law of Attraction actually prevents us from enjoying our natural state of joy. It focuses a lot on what you want to happen instead of cultivating gratitude for what is and surrendering your will to Divine will.
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How does yoga differ from the Law of Attraction?
There’s a very dangerous undercurrent in the Law of Attraction that involves blaming ourselves for bad things that happen to us.
Get cancer? It’s probably your fault because you were thinking bad thoughts or you’re low-vibe. Lose your luggage? You probably made it happen somehow.
While our external realities do have a lot to do with what emanates from within, some people, in my opinion, take it too far. We don’t have control over our lives. Only immense influence.
This is really different from the system of yoga, which first of all operates on a much longer timeline. The Law of Attraction posits that we can manifest things in a timeframe of several months or years. Ancient yogis believe in reincarnation, and so the timelines of karma — which is nothing more than action and reaction — span centuries and multiple lifetimes.
I’ve sometimes seen karma referenced as the basis for the Law of Attraction, but karma in the purest sense says that every action causes a reaction.
In yoga, we are not punished, only taught. So if we kill someone in a previous life, then maybe in our next life we experience the consequences so that our soul can evolve. Either way, only a person who suffers causes the suffering of others and sometimes that is punishment enough.
Yogis also believe that we don’t know the larger picture. Perhaps one tragedy prevented an even more horrific one from happening.
Another way these two philosophies differ is the idea of influencing outcomes. While in the Law of Attraction, people are encouraged to set clear goals and consistently visualize their lives as if the wishes were already true, yoga teaches us to take positive action without attaching to results.
Yogis cultivate trust in the universe’s grand plan, letting go of control and surrendering to the flow of life. Yoga teaches that we don’t have control, only power over our actions and responses. Meanwhile, the Law of Attraction emphasizes generating the outcome that we wish, which often leaves us blaming ourselves if things don’t work out as intended.
Trying to live by yogic principles and the Law of Attraction could cause suffering and feelings of conflict.
Another critical component of the yogi’s path is living in the moment. Mindfulness brings peace. Yet the Law of Attraction encourages us to pay precious attention to our desires that don’t exist right now when we could spend time just being grateful for what we already have.
This focus on manifesting can engender feelings of ungratefulness and jealousy as we see others experiencing the life we want, but don’t have. We may believe we’re doing something wrong, or worse, that there’s something wrong with us because our similar dreams aren’t coming true.
Another point of difference is in the way painful emotions are handled. In the Law of Attraction, people often feel afraid of sadness and anger because of worries these feelings will bring undesirable circumstances or even lead to disease.
Note: The more I learn about the Law of Attraction, the more I see that experts do talk about feeling your feelings, but it’s still very much with the intention to “get rid” of them, or with the undercurrent that if you feel sad or “low vibe,” good things won’t happen to you.
In the effort to stay high-vibe at all costs, we may ignore inner turmoil that could be a catalyst for a powerful transformation.
And so we may bury these feelings, sugarcoating and pretending everything is dandy instead of honestly confronting and feeling painful emotions.
In yoga, we feel emotions and have compassion for ourselves, not reacting to how we feel, but instead sitting with it until pain dissipates into peace and clarity. We investigate these feelings because we recognize that they hold lessons.
In yoga, cultivating presence and compassion guides us toward true, unshakeable peace. We develop this by going through the fire of pain, not by ignoring it and hoping it goes away.
Both philosophies promote the idea that a good life comes from cultivating positive thoughts and a cheerful disposition. That’s the main similarity.
What is a Course in Miracles?
A Course in Miracles has also generated much buzz and is espoused by popular self-help gurus like Gabrielle Bernstein, who also teaches Kundalini yoga to make matters even more confusing, and Marianne Williamson, who wrote A Return to Love, which is possibly even more famous than the original Course.
A Course in Miracles generally encourages love over fear. While yoga also encourages love, A Course in Miracles is based in Christianity and so the tones are different. It characterizes spiritual evolution as a battle between fear and love. By choosing love and forgiveness, we silence the ego and its fear, which seeks to destroy us.
Yoga also talks about clouded sight that has the power to cause emotional pain, but yoga teaches accepting all parts of ourselves with compassion, and to go through what we’re feeling because it all has meaning. We find peace by processing pain, by sitting with whatever is.
In yoga, we don’t really battle against things, but instead cultivate trust and the habit of no fear through surrender and acceptance.
Here is a prime example of the difference between A Course in Miracles and yoga. In A Return to Love, Williamson writes:
“Only love is real. Nothing else actually exists. If a person behaves unlovingly, than, that means that, regardless of their negativity — anger or whatever — their behavior was derived from fear and doesn’t actually exist. They’re hallucinating. You forgive them, then, because there’s nothing to forgive. Forgiveness is a discernment between what is real and what is not real.”
By contrast, in the classic tome The Heart of Yoga, T. K. V. Desikachar writes:
“If we subscribe to yogic concepts, then everything that we see, experience, and feel is not illusion; it is true and real.”
Yoga — the path toward peace
In yoga, we better our lives and selves through presence, by practicing the art of discernment, ridding the mind of the stories we tell ourselves so we can see clearly and make good choices. Accepting what is so we can be happy in the present moment.
Ultimately, we rid our hearts of desire, which causes pain. One definition of yoga is to join our will to the will of God, or the universe. We see that we’re just one piece of a puzzle and surrender what’s best for us to instead promote what’s best for the greater good.
Yoga says we go about our lives, doing the best we can, but we can never be sure what the result will be of our actions. So we do the best we can and let go of the outcome. We let go of expectation and focus on what’s happening right now, trusting that whatever is happening is the will of the Divine.
Once we’re firmly anchored in the peace of our own heart, the turmoil of another cannot disturb us. We only react to what already exists inside ourselves.
In a state of total surrender the mind and heart see clearly. Then, we feel joyful and at peace.
Do you mix these philosophies? What is your experience?
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