Enlightenment teaches, in its most common form, that we should transcend our desires, and enter into a place of desirelessness, where there is no suffering.
The law of attraction, on the other hand, says that we actually came here to pursue our desires, and that we can have anything as long as we can be a match to it vibrationally.
These two systems of thought seem to be very different. Could there possibly be any similarities between them?
My Own Path out of Pursuing Enlightenment
I was recently having a discussion with a friend about enlightenment and the law of attraction. He had told me that he is staying away from the LOA teachings, and getting more into Buddhism.
It reminded me of my own path.
For a long time, I had been pursuing enlightenment myself. I got into Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta, and the like.
It really all made a lot of sense at the time. Attachment to desires causes suffering, so to end suffering, just get rid of desires.
And for many years, I tried to do exactly that, with mixed results.
On several occasions, I had very intense spiritual awakening experiences that permanently changed my own perception of the world, and placed me into a state of perpetual joy, for sometimes weeks at a time.
So, I really thought this was a good thing. I thought I was experiencing the utmost of spiritual states.
However, it messed with me in many different ways.
I had the deep desire to help people, but from a non-dual perspective, I just couldn't find the reason why I should.
After all, if everything is one, and there is really no seeker, then there are no seekers to help, right? That was just an ego illusion, that there was anyone to help at all.
And yet, I still wanted to.
I saw that there was no “I”, and yet I still wanted to help.
Life no longer seemed to have purpose. It didn't really matter what I did because there was really nothing to be done.
In brief, I found that following this idea to its natural end resulted in futility.
The dreamer dreams, and yet once the dreamer realizes he is, in fact, dreaming, what is then the point?
Enter: The Law of Attraction
At that time, I of course knew about the law of attraction. I don't know many people who didn't know about it. 🙂
However, to me, and many of my friends also studying non-duality at the time, the law of attraction was just a way to indulge one's ego desires, and could only lead to greater suffering.
At the time, I was on a particular personal development forum, probably around 2010.
And, there was a guy on that forum who always posted about his law of attraction successes. And, these were big successes. Huge increases in salary, nice vacations, etc.
It annoyed me to no end. I thought, “Doesn't he see that this stuff can only lead to suffering?”
Although, I had to admit, it really didn't seem to be doing so in his case. He seemed to be pretty happy.
I saw the law of attraction as very shallow—as simply focusing on the material to the exclusion of all else.
Now of course when I look back through my life, I see how the law of attraction has always been working for me. I always knew that things would just work out, and, of course, things just always worked out, sometimes in very unlikely ways.
But, it wasn't until I got my training in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) that I really saw it in action.
The training didn't even mention the law of attraction, besides one brief mention in one lesson of the course. But, it still became very evident to me.
There were many exercises on changing one's beliefs and outlook on the world. And as I did these, I noticed that my outer reality started to shift itself to match these new beliefs. Essentially, the law of attraction. 🙂
And it was from that point I started delving into it more and learning what was really behind it.
The Law of Attraction and Enlightenment: Two Sides of the Same Coin?
At first, the law of attraction seemed to be the total opposite of the idea of enlightenment.
And on the surface, it certainly is. As I said, enlightenment is all about transcending desires and being non-attached to all things.
Meanwhile, the law of attraction is about embracing those desires, and actually pursuing them.
Can't get much more different than that, can you?
But actually, the more I studied the law of attraction, the more I saw it wasn't really about material things.
I mean yes, that's why most people come to it. And truly I think that's counterproductive, for reasons you'll learn soon.
But, the more I learned about how the law of attraction works, the more I saw that it is really about spiritual development, and… non-attachment to your desires.
Yep, non-attachment. Remember when I talked about the law of detachment? That's exactly what we're talking about here.
So really, I see these as two sides of the same coin.
Enlightenment approaches it from the point of everything being one, and so what's the point of pursuing material things?
The law of attraction approaches it from the point of reveling in this wonderful universe we are in. Yes we are one, and yes this is illusory, but that means we can shape it however we want to.
It's like the dreamer. One dreamer, realizing it is a dream, will just wake up.
While someone else, upon realizing they are dreaming, will say, “Cool!” and proceed to bend reality in all sorts of interesting ways.
It really rests upon the same premises, but comes to very different conclusions.
Misconceptions of the Law of Attraction
Now unfortunately, “Be detached from your desires and they will enter your reality” is a lot harder to sell than, “You can have anything you want by just visualizing it!”
So, part of the misconception about the law of attraction arises from its marketing. This is stuff that people have known for thousands of years. It's only in recent times that we've been talking about it in such a materialistic paradigm.
And of course, the other part of it is that more people know about it now, and there are always going to be desperate people who just want their “stuff”, without undergoing the necessary spiritual development first.
They want to apply that one magic technique, so that their desire just poofs into existence. They win the lottery on the first try. Their crush finally admits their undying love.
Yes, I'm good at manifestation now. But, I see my years of spiritual development before this as an extremely helpful foundation to that skill.
It allows me to become more detached from my desires, because I already have that understanding.
But to someone just coming to this, when you tell them they can have anything they want, and then immediately in the next breath follow it up with, “But only if you detach from the desire for it,” well they're going to think it's all just too complicated.
I try to make these principles as simple as possible through my writings and my spiritual coaching, but it doesn't eliminate the necessity of simply letting go and detaching from the desire. That's always going to be a necessary component.
There's no magic technique. You can't just snap your fingers and your desire fall into place like that, without the necessary inner work being done first.
Of course, that's not a popular thing to say. It's all about the “secret technique” keeping your desires away from you, and how to “force the Universe to give you what you want.”
Yes, manifestation is effortless and often nearly instant. But that comes after doing the inner work to let go of the desire and be happy with what is, right now.
Do Desires Cause Suffering?
I think this is an overgeneralization that many non-dual teachers make.
No, desires don't cause suffering.
Buddhism isn't far off when it says the attachment to desire causes suffering.
However, unfortunately this is often interpreted as that we should not have desires at all.
The thing is, we can't help but have desires. It is who we are. Just like how I said I had the deep desire to help others.
Non-duality teachers will get around this by calling them “preferences”. But whatever you call them, they are the act of drawing towards some option over another option. I would call that a desire.
Yes, it is true that attachment causes suffering. I have written many times about the importance of detachment from your desires. I've also called it letting go, or surrendering.
However, our energy naturally wants to flow towards something.
Notice that all of those notable “enlightened” teachers are out there teaching? Why do you think that is?
Their energy wants to flow towards something. And, for them, it flows towards teaching.
And I guarantee that teaching is not just the same as not teaching. There is a definite “preference”, as they might put it, for teaching.
As I've been saying again and again, when you keep going general, your energy is going to become stagnant, and you'll just get bored.
Incidentally, that's exactly what I find among my clients who have gone down this path of extreme dissociation. They seem very much without direction, and unable to really connect with reality.
So we have the law of attraction followers who want their desires now. And there are the non-dual believers who say desires are the cause of suffering.
Can we find some balance here? I think so.
We are all really talking about the same thing. We're just often talking past each other so it seems like two entirely separate concepts.
The enlightenment seekers get the idea that we need to be happy in the present moment, and that the attachment to desires will take us out of that happiness.
The law of attraction seekers get that we have the power to create anything we want to create.
If you combine these two things, it is really what I have been teaching all along: decide what you want, detach from it, be happy now, and it'll come to you effortlessly.
It really comes down to the two extremes I discussed in my post about the 3 approaches to the law of attraction.
Those who denounce all desires are keeping their energy far too general, and denying themselves the natural specificity of their energy flow.
Those who try to manifest are often too focused on the specifics, thereby not allowing their energy to go general and shift focus away from the unwanted, and towards the wanted.
This is really a “middle way” (haha, see what I did there, Buddhists?) between these two extremes.
So what if this is a dream, or an illusion? Who says we can't use that knowledge to shape the illusion to our own whims, just for the fun of it?
Who says we can't be lucid dreamers? Who ever heard of waking up in a dream, just to tell everyone in the dream to stop desiring, because it's all just a dream anyway?
Now on the other hand, if you still believe in the dream, then the law of attraction is never going to work for you.
That is, if you still believe you need things, that you are separate from the totality of the Universe, and that anything could ever go wrong, then you're still too involved in the dream to be able to manipulate it reliably.
It's only when the lucid dreamer realizes he can't actually be hurt, that he feels free enough to start manipulating the dream.
Did you ever notice that it is the awakened masters who are often able to perform “miracles”?
It's because they don't believe in reality. And in not believing in it, reality conforms to their will.
Do you think Jesus believed in reality? I don't think so!
Do you think the Buddha believed in reality? I doubt it.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying you have to be perfect at this. But, the more you can let go of believing in the need for your desires, and the more you can start believing in your absolute freedom, the easier it will be to deliberately apply the law of attraction to your life.
What Really Is Enlightenment?
I'd like to answer this one last question, because it is so misunderstood.
So many people think that enlightenment is this rarified state that only a very few people achieve.
First of all, if you know about the idea of enlightenment, then it is quite obvious that no one really ever reaches it. Universally, everyone who has “reached” it has said there was really never anything to reach, and no one to reach it.
But I want to make it a bit simpler—a bit more accessible.
In the context of the above conversation, it is anyone who doesn't believe in reality.
It is anyone who realizes the malleable nature of the world around us.
It is anyone who realizes that the apparent outer reality is just a reflection of what is actually real: our own inner state.
And, it is anyone who aligns with their true nature, what Abraham might call “entering the Vortex”, and stops “needing” anything.
Is enlightenment eternal?
Not always. Don't you sometimes have good days and bad days?
Don't you sometimes have days where anything seems possible, and other days that the whole world just seems to be against you?
Sometimes we can be lucid, and sometimes we can forget that it is all a dream, and the old fears return back to haunt us.
But we are always evolving. We are always becoming more and more aware.
I don't think there is any state of perpetual enlightenment.
Abraham says, we didn't come to stay in the Vortex all the time.
We came to be aligned, then meet some contrast, and use that contrast to get aligned again.
But the more you become aware of the nature of reality, the easier it is to become lucid again.
This isn't about whether or not you are enlightened. Everyone is “enlightened” in one moment or another, because we all have moments of alignment.
If you replace that word “enlightenment” with “alignment”, I think it'll stop being so scary.
Enlightenment evokes thoughts of climbing the mountain. We aren't at the top until, well, we're at the top.
But alignment is a moment-by-moment endeavor. Sometimes you're there, and sometimes you're not. And wherever you are, it's okay.
And what's the goal? Is it absolute freedom? Final awakening?
Not as long as we're in a human body. Of course, we are always free. But as long as we are here, we will always be growing.
I believe there are infinite dimensions in this Universe, for infinite levels of awareness. If you transcend the experiences this particular dimension can offer you, you'll just move up to the next level.
But are you ever “there”? I don't think so. To me, that'd be immensely boring, to just be “there”, with nowhere higher to go.
The whole fun of it is in the seeking for more and more.
That doesn't mean suffering. That just means the thirst for more experiences, while at the same time being happy with what I have now.
How About You?
I know this post went pretty deep. But, I'd love to hear your experiences. What do you think about enlightenment? Can it be reconciled with the law of attraction? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.