Readers’ Choice #1: The Law of Attraction


The commentors have spoken! Last Friday, I asked which of the dormant posts in my drafts folder should be brought to life, and which left to die. Results? A tie! This week, as requested, I’ll talk about the Law of Attraction; next week, I’ll talk about…well, you’ll just have to come back next Friday and see…

If you…

  • are my friend on Facebook, or
  • tried to date me on one of the eleventy-seven* dating websites I worked my way through pre-BF, or
  • like to comb the archives for weird communicatrix tags

…you probably know that I, as I like to say, “hew to the woo”. This doesn’t mean I eschew science or that I’m the opposite of The Non-Believers we had to wait through 44 fucking American presidents to have someone put a name to; au contraire, I rejected the notion of the Lord Jesus as either personal savior or savior of mankind a long, long time ago. No, I like to think of myself as a “Well, hell, who knows, so arm yourself with factual knowledge, be nice and use whatever story you like as a meditation to get you through the rest of it.

A meditation? What the…?

Let me back up a wee bit.

First, much as I’d like, I’m no meditatrix. I sit, I breathe, and if I’m not doing anything else, I start to itch. I’ll get there someday (and YES, I try now and again) but for now, I use the dishes or the dog’s walk or even HULU hooping to let my mind go elsewhere. (Although I confess, yesterday I HULU hooped to the one episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County they have loaded, just to see what the unholy fuss is about, of course, and do you know, I actually started to get dizzy, which never happens with Dragnet.)

No, when I say meditate on something, I mean some sort of stick to wrap the loose bits of your life around so you can get them off the floor and closer to your myopic gaze. Or, better yet, a lens through which to observe things. Woo-woo stuff lends itself nicely to this, because most of it has some structure and a whole lotta loosey-goosey.

Take astrology, for example. I’m a Virgo (duh…tagline!) with a Libra moon and Cancer rising. That’s about all I remember from the first chart I had done, by my first shrink-slash-astrologer**, except that I also have Venus in Leo, which means I have to be very happy with my hair, which, sadly, since the Crohn’s and the meds and now middle age hormonal change, I am not. However, I am extremely happy with The BF’s hair, which oddly enough makes up for a lot.

Sorry, digressing.

Anyway, when you get your sun sign and moon sign and suchlike, you can get all crazy about “Oh, I’m a Scorpio, so all I like to do is have sex sex sex and all the other signs hate me!” OR you can look at the attributes, think about how they might be manifesting (or not) in your life, and think about how you might tease out the purported good qualities and grapple with the particular challenges this system presents. It’s framework for looking at something, or a way to section off a piece of your life so you can start looking at something, somewhere, rather than just woe-is-me-ing it all the way home.

All that woo-woo stuff works like this (for me, which, let’s face it, is the way I think it should work). Not gospel, not prophecy, not something that dooms you to some predetermined end or even tells you what you should (or shouldn’t be doing that way). Whether you are reading a horoscope in the paper or getting a fancy-expensive, one-on-one reading from an astrologer, you are, you’ll pardon my saying so, an idiot of colossal proportions if you try following them to the letter.  Okay, that’s judge-y; how about, you’re being awfully imprudent, aren’t you? Putting your life and your decisions in the hands of a third-party?

No, that’s not how I roll. Numerology, enneagram, magic Chinese throwing sticks, what-have-you: they are tools to play with, and to use with caution and discretion.

When the hell are getting around to this Law of Attraction, anyway?

Okay, I’m getting to the meaty part of the post now. But the preamble is important, because I think that swallowing the Law of Attraction whole, whether served up by The Secret or the Hickses or Florence Scovel Shinn (back in 1925!) is what both gums up the perfectly reasonable underpinning works and infuriates the skeptics, a.k.a. the Non-Believers (who have every right to be kinda pissed off by the name, even as they’re happy for the shout-out).

Before undies start getting themselves in bundles, let’s look at what the Law of Attraction means. Well, the new age-y version. Which generally gets summed up as thoughts having vibrations, or energy, that attracts things that have similar vibrations or energy. Or, to put it in a neat, 19th-century, no-nonsense nutshell, “Like attracts like.” (Which either sounds sensible or even dumber, depending on your opinion of Ye Olde Fashioned Bromides.)

People for it say it empowers people to be masters of their own destinies; people ag’in it say that at its most benign, it’s hooey and at its most pernicious, it promotes blame-the-victimism, e.g., if you’re attracting the bad juju, it’s YOUR FAULT, weak and gormless ninny, so neener neener to you and your barren womb, terminal unemployability or string of Job-like trials.

My own take is this: it might work. Bodies in motion tend to stay in motion, bodies at rest tend to stay at rest.

Or it might not. I give you medicinal leeches and a sun that revolves around the Earth. (On the other hand, I give you medicinal leeches, so who the hell knows?)

I tend to think that if the Law of Attraction does work, for most people, it doesn’t work head on. You learn a little about yourself, you learn a little about the outcome of dating cads, you learn how to start liking yourself, the cads become less attractive, you become more attractive et voila! You magically, through the Law of Attraction, and 15 or 20 years of hard work, stop dating assholes and find a nice guy.

Same thing applies to health, money, happiness or whatever. The universe may or may not be doing its thing, but either way, the thing is gonna get done hella faster if you’re doing some of the heavy lifting, exercise, or eating right, or therapy, or whatever, than if you’re wishing really hard for God to turn you into a fairy princess who rides a unicorn every day to her magical castle on the hill.

Using The Law of Attraction as meditation!

So what’s the mashup? Pretty much project thinking, as I see it:

  1. Figure out what you want.
  2. Figure out where you are.
  3. Figure out the steps between where you are and where you want to get to.
  4. Execute.

The steps will most likely change along the way, oh, boy, will they ever. And at some point in the journey, you may even decide that you’re not so interested in that destination, but this rest stop, or this detour. Personally, I think it’s because we’re most of us are kind of impatient dumbasses (when I’m being harsh) or ignorant flowers (when I’m being generous): really, how the hell are you supposed to know what the hell it is you want when either you haven’t experienced it yet or it doesn’t exist, or both?! I mean, yes, there are a few people with a vocation for, uh, a vocation that already exists, and they seem to have it from the time they’re three, and it’s simply exasperating to the rest of us. Doctor, nun and astronaut were on the list when I was growing up; “communicatrix”, alas, was not.

As you get closer to The Thing you want, it gets a little easier, just as you relax a little when that landmark you’ve been scouring the unfamiliar horizon for finally appears in hour 11 of a very long drive in unfamiliar territory. Then you just, you know…go.

Pointing your guns in the right direction is kind of a prerequisite (unless you’re pretty cool about being open and explore-y, which I’m not, so shut up and quit making me curse my stupid lot even more.) If you need some sort of guide to exploring yourself, there are lots of fun ways to go about it, from rigidly structured to loosey-goosey, and from free (costing only time) to sky-high expensive (we’ll leave off those for now, this being a depression and all). They range in woo-woo-ness from not at all to quite a bit, so, you know, find what suits you (or what resonates, as the new age kids say) and leave the rest:

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People I’ll confess that this is kind of a tedious read. (Sorry, Mr. Covey!) But there are good stories that keep you going, and TONS of good exercises. You kind of can’t argue with the principles behind it, and they really will help you build up great habits that will “attract” great stuff into your life.

Toastmasters International Yes, it’s a speaking club. But it offers a terrific, solid, workbook structure for systematically, incrementally getting better at something. Plus the people are so nice. And bonus! You will become a better communicator of ideas, as well as a better leader of men, if you participate. Lots of stuff accelerated for me as a result of my two years in Toastmasters. If you live in L.A., I can personally recommend the Del Rey and Joseph P. Rinnert clubs. Tremendous support for a great price.

FlyLady She’s currently enjoying a spike in popularity, but she’s been delivering solid advice on making a better life for yourself for years now. There’s lots of stuff for sale on the site, and the design is kind of loopy and gives me a bit of a headache, but there’s a wealth of great info for free. The Twitter accounts especially add a lot of value, as they say in the biz world. I’ve dipped in and out of FlyLady for years now, when I’ve needed a little clarity and action. Those little mini-cleanups she advocates (which pop up randomly if you follow on Twitter) are fantastic for getting things moving.

The Artist’s Way Hands down, my fave reco for anyone who self-identifies as at least slightly creative. It’s a 12-week, self-directed course of study in YOU, with some great exercises I used for years afterward. You can buddy up or find a group to do it with, if you’re not a lone wolf, but I did it all by myself and it worked like gangbusters: got me transitioned from advertising to acting. Za-zing!

Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life My fave feng shui book, I used this to get me out of some of the darkest post-breakup days into the light. And a shitload of money, no lie: I feng shui’d the crap out of my kitchen (prosperity corner) and within two weeks, two individual gargantuan residual checks which the agency had been sitting on finally showed up. Might they have come anyway? OF COURSE. But this way, I got a clean kitchen, felt great about it, and distracted myself from thinking about how my life was over because my heart had been tossed into the dumpster like so much trash. (Which is bad feng shui, btw: always keep your trash can emptied!) I still crack it open when I’m feeling stuck, or like I want to pull a little goodness into my life.

Tarot, horoscopes, numerology, enneagrams, etc. These are all fun toys to play with for looking at yourself, finding patterns and even coming up with daily (or weekly, or monthly) “meditations”. I put them last because they’re the most woo-woo, the easiest to do badly and better, in my opinion, better as a sort of an advanced-class add-on to more practical, hands-on stuff. It’s really easy to get passive about the serious woo-woo stuff, and that’s always dangerous territory; everyone remembers that one episode of The Twilight Zone where William Shatner and his young bride narrowly escape the clutches of a tiny, mechanical fortune teller who casts a terrible spell upon the less fortunate couple who decide to give up on skeptical thinking and entrust their future to a devil doll in a diner jukebox.

Wait, we don’t all remember it? For the love of all that’s holy, drop everything and go watch it now!

As you’ve likely surmised by now, I’m an adherent of the belief that pretty much any course of study or action can be a meditation, and that whatever you start applying your considerable (really! it is!) will to begins to “attract” more of the same. It’s Yellow Volkswagen Syndrome, if you like: you become oriented towards cattle ranching or long-distance running or pie, and you start to see longhorns or times to sneak in a run or flaky crust wherever you go.

Me? I pull stories from life. And the more I do, the more I see stories, and the more I attract the kind of people who like to read them.

Not sure they’ll ask for something like this again anytime soon, though. Although, you never can tell: sometimes, the stuff you pursue pulls you in some mighty interesting directions.


Image by gsloan via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license, and you really should go look at the full-sized, uncropped version.

*new-favorite word alert!

**won on a bet! Now there’s a future post for you!


  1. Cool, I like your point of view. It’s what a lot of people would call skeptical, but I’d call it empirical. Skeptical implies closed-minded, but you’re open-minded. “Maybe this Law of Attraction and other woo-woo stuff does work. I don’t know, let’s try!” As opposed to “It’s all bunk.” Everyone has assumptions and a paradigm they view the world through, and it’s hard to see your own and easy to see everyone else’s that differ from yours. Some rationalist types have as much faith in their assumptions (“If it’s not measurable, it doesn’t matter”) as religious types do.

  2. Well, I forgive everyone who voted for this for two reasons: your choice of pic (so great!)
    and “the Non-Believers (who have every right to be kinda pissed off by the name, even as they’re happy for the shout-out).”

    The 1st time “non-believer” came up in this post, that’s exactly what I was thinking. I mean, what the hell? Non-believer? I’m not just kinda pissed off by the term.

  3. Joely – Whew. I was half-expecting torches and pitchforks. Thanks!

    Pace – As someone who is very woo-woo friendly AND has partnered almost exclusively with atheists, I’ve always hated the term “skeptic.” I have this picture of an arms-folded Iowan or Missourian, eyebrow cocked, saying “I’m afraid you’ll have to show me.” Open (within reason) is better. The tricky part is determining what’s reasonable. Sigh…

    Dale – Wow. Given your website, I’m kind of surprised that you don’t own it already. But also given your website, pretty sure you’ll enjoy it.

    Claire – Man, it is SO hard not to offend these days. Or to get offended. And once someone does, it’s SO hard to have a conversation. I think we’re all overloaded and overcrowded and most of us don’t feel seen, which makes it hard to feel taken care of and have the generosity of spirit to keep reaching out. As much as “non-believers” is hurtful, it’s a step—maybe like the now-cringe-inducing “colored” was back in the day. Baby steps.

    And yeah, how about that picture, huh? SO FANTASMIC!

  4. I’ve recently been introduced to The Law of Attraction, and although I can’t claim to be fully inducted into the circle, I must say one thing.

    It sure sounds a great deal like prayer to me, ableit a little less directed to God/Great Spirit/Allah/Odin, etc.

    Nice post!

    When will you start meditating w/Kettlebells?

  5. Hi, I’m with you on The Artist’s Way, FlyLady, and horoscopes (Capricorn sun, Leo moon, Aries rising), but 7 Habits is just a re-mix of earlier Theory Y management, just in a slick package. Can’t stand Covey personally–he’s cold, calculating, unloving, treats his family like shit–reminds me of too many cads I’ve known.

    Here’s one you might appreciate: the I Ching. Presents life as cyclical, with guidance on how the “superior man” might behave in any situation. Depending on the translation (I started with the Wilhelm-Baynes, currently also adore “A Guide to the I Ching” by Carol K. Anthony), and often combining several, the Ching urges looking for and listening to the power of your “inner truth,” which is a good thing in any language.

    The experience/philosophy behind the Confucian codex is not nearly as inscrutable as many think. I began my journey to inner independence in 1968, after an unusual experience in a zoo after lock-down one night. Met a fascinating English professor who showed me where to hide to avoid the zoo-keepers, and spent much of the evening on the African veldt, witnessing what exotic animals really are like after dark. Around midnight, he taught me how to throw the coins to build two trigrams into a hexagram, and totally opened up a new world.

    Great post, you have the knack of applying a sense of humor to a profession that’s a little like “crossing the great water.” Oh, and it furthers one to find a great teacher–isn’t that a bit like blogging on the information highway?

  6. Dave – It sure sounds a great deal like prayer to me, ableit a little less directed to God/Great Spirit/Allah/Odin, etc.

    You noticed that, too, huh? :-)

    When will you start meditating w/Kettlebells?

    You CrossFit people are nuts, I tell you. Nuts!

    Claudia – Oh, phooey. I hate hearing that about Covey. You have insider info? Bleh. Crazy Mormons. (He’s Mormon, right?) Thanks for the I Ching tip. Never got into it, probably b/c I had a bad translation. Makes all the difference.

    BF – Well, he is. :-)

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  8. Ha! Now I know why I connect with you more than with other Virgos in my life. I’m Cancer with Libra moon and Libra rising… *and* my Venus is afflicted in Leo. That’s a lot to have in common, girlfriend. :) And damn if that lesson on living with Venus afflicted in Leo didn’t take years to get… and damn if it doesn’t still need learnin’ sometimes.

    Lordy, the neck on that cat! Just lovely.

    “Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui” was my fave. I really need to do the “crack it open” thing again. Nice to have a reminder that there’s power in that lack of crud. Inside and out!

    Great post, as always. :)

  9. Okay, first of all, I hope you are keeping a separate record of Colleenisms. These could make a very easy and entertaining book of quotes. Here are my faves from this post:
    -Hew to the woo
    -gormless ninny
    (I like eleventy-seven, too, but I don’t think it can go in your quote book. I think I’ve read it elsewhere. Although… it may have been here.)

    Second of all, yes to everything. I quite agree.

    I used to facilitate AW groups. Loved the process. Opened up many new possibilities for me, as well.

  10. Hmm, I may have overstated my frustration. I find it irritating in light of a study/poll I read about that indicated Americans consider atheists the least trust-worthy of a variety of groups including gays. I wouldn’t have been happy if LGBT had ranked lowest, but I would’ve seen that coming.

    For me, my non-religious outlook makes me more accountable for my actions. “Non-believer” seems to highlight the untrustworthy/lack-of-conscience perception. Any recognition is a start, that’s true, but it’s not a term I want to hear for 40 years to come. Doesn’t mean I won’t listen when it’s a misguided attempt to reach out though.

  11. Bonnie – Well, we have many, many Significant Areas of Overlap. But yeah, it’s interesting to see these kinds of things, too, ain’t it?

    Alexis – Hm. I have a list of swears extant, but not Colleen-isms. That’s kind of a fun idea. I hope someone else will jump on it right away. :-) (Oh–and not surprised to hear you’re a fellow fan of the Cameron. Good stuff!)

    Claire – Part of it is the insulation we have, living in big cities and on coasts. When I spend time in small-town, interior U.S., I’m always being reminded of how suspicious the genpop is of The Other. I mean, I thought this one woman’s eyes were gonna pop outta her head when she heard I was half-Jewish! I didn’t even try broaching the topic of skepticism.

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