Ray was on a tear.
"All that self-help stuff is okay, I guess, but it has never worked for me. Ever." He was starting to get excited, waving his arms and pacing around.
"In fact," he went on, "it usually makes things worse for me."
I asked Ray for examples.
"Well, like, I'm out of work -- you know that, right? -- and I've wasted the last two months trying to affirm myself a job." He sat down, dejected. "Heck, it would have worked better if I'd just gone and seen about all the jobs in the classified ads or visited the employment agencies."
"You didn't physically do anything to find a job?" I asked.
"Well no," he almost shouted. "I didn't want to drain my energy away from the affirmations. I mean, that'd show a lack of faith, right?"
Ray was running a pattern I'd seen him do before.
One time he had told me about the expensive new "good luck charm" he'd ordered. Paid a couple of hundred dollars for it, so it was sure to work. But it didn't -- at least not for Ray -- and the next time I saw him, he was complaining bitterly about how he'd been "taken."
Another time, he was attending a series of classes by a rising new teacher. This also bombed.
And now Ray was telling me that, other than doing his affirmations, he'd made no physical effort to receive the benefits he was programming for -- had avoided it, in fact.
Sooner or later, everything disappointed Ray. Nothing "worked" for him.
Ever had a little of that feeling?
Now, maybe most of us are not as extreme (nor as obvious) as Ray, but we've all had times when neither our best intentions nor our best efforts were rewarded. We got no results and we didn't know why.
Well, here's the short answer: for everything that happens (or doesn't happen) to us, all the causes are within ourselves.
That may sound a little too fuzzy-edged to grab hold of, or to do anything with, so let's break it down into smaller, simpler pieces.
What you spend your time thinking about shows up in your life.
Buddha said it.
One way or another, all the religious teachers and philosophers have said it. And virtually every successful person who ever lived has told us this.
They all told us that the thoughts we think become real and happen to us.
Positive thinking is not just repeating some phrases over and over.
Positive thinking -- ANY thinking -- is what you're expecting to happen to you this afternoon. It's how you feel about yourself, and about me, and about your neighbors and co-workers and family members.
Your thinking is more than just words. It's your feelings. It's your attitude toward yourself and others. It's what you expect to happen to you today and next week. And it's your determination never to give up when things get tough and don't go the way you had planned.
Your thinking is far, far more than just the words you repeat.
If you see somebody at your level or below and think they're not worthy of your notice, or if you see someone richer or more successful and you feel jealous of them, then that's not positive thinking. It's negative because it's expressing feelings of lack and limitation.
If you don't know why events happen to you, then you don't know what you're thinking.
How can you control your life if you haven't yet learned to take control of what's going on in your own head? But the sad truth is, most of us are grossly unaware of what flits around in our skulls.
The enlightened being knows what's happening in their inner landscape, and can choose thoughts, select emotions and feelings, and direct their expectations with the same ease that you and I click buttons on the remote control. That's why they seem to have the events of their life under control.
And no matter how faraway that ideal may seem, you can learn to do some of that "enlightened" stuff too.
Here's a quick tip: Reverse engineer your life.
To find out exactly what thoughts, feelings and expectations are in your mind, look around at your physical life. Painful as it may be to admit, your life is solid evidence of what's emanating from your head.
Don't like what you see? That's good. In a moment we'll learn a way to use this to our advantage.
Accept yourself, warts, hiccups and all.
Ray was always looking for something or somebody to "save" him. He had no belief in his own power, so he constantly sought out some outside power to lean on. Something to make up for his own powerlessness. He was seeking a guru or savior when it would have been more profitable to find a mentor that he could imitate.
Of course, he unknowingly felt he was incapable of being saved, so that outside guru or lucky charm or new technique always failed him. Naturally it failed -- all of his natural, inherent power (of which he was completely unaware) was being directed by his belief in his powerlessness.
Ask Ray if he was ready to recognize his limitations, and he would talk all around the subject, telling you why this book or that amulet didn't perform as promised. It was always "their" fault, not his.
We've all done this -- every one of us -- and it's a big stumbling block. We simply hate to see ourselves as we really are.
But if you want to get past this stumbling block, you'll have to give up the concept of "fault." Their fault AND yours.
In its place, you'll need to start using "responsibility."
What's the difference? Mainly resentment and guilt.
When anybody talks about fault, don't they usually go directly from that subject to WHOSE fault it was? And how badly it inconvenienced them? There's no power in fault.
On the other hand, if you take responsibility for an event, this implies that some kind of control is possible. It's a description of who has the power and how they CHOSE to use it.
Everyone has power, even though they don't know it.
As we saw with Ray, he was using his natural power to form his world in a backwards way, keeping himself blinded to what he was doing.
And he was doing this by assuming that the power was "out there" somewhere. He was desperately seeking something or someone to lend him that power. But it always remained out there, out of reach, outside himself.
Okay, now let's talk about getting your self-help to really start helping.
List what's not working. What are the things in your life that are not the way you want them? Make a list, on paper.
This is a word-map showing exactly where you're unable to feel or accept your own power.
Take all those items on your list and spend 5 or 10 minutes fantasizing. Imagine what it would be like if you COULD control them. What if they were working perfectly for you? How would that look and feel?
Yes, I know that life never works out that way, and this excuse or that excuse is always in the way. Never mind any of that. Just sit yourself down and do it anyway. I mean, little else is working for you, right? So what's to lose?
Keep doing this regularly. Don't stop at one tepid toe-in-the-water trial. Do it often and get some enthusiasm into it.
When you get a hunch or idea or intuition, write it down before you forget it. Then go do it. Immediately.
Again, you should ignore any fears that "this won't work either" and just go ahead and give it an honest try.
Whether one particular effort brings smashing success or turns out to be a dud, keep on doing this. It makes just as much sense to do things this way as to continue on with your other method (that wasn't working).
Anytime you get results, whether good, bad or indifferent - anytime anything happens - deliberately repeat to yourself, "I caused everything about this situation. Nobody else stood in my way. It was ALL my doing, from start to finish, and I'm the power here."
WILL THIS REALLY WORK?
I guarantee this method will work at least as well as what you've been doing up till now, and you may be surprised to find it working far better. Why? because you're starting to fill your mind with things you want, emotions that support you, and expectations that these good things might actually be for you.
Furthermore, you're starting to practice control over what goes careening around in your head.
And that's the biggest key of all.