Believe And Receive

Latest self-help concept, `The Secret,' is all about the power of positive thinking. Sound familiar?

March 25, 2007|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Reporter

The Secret, the latest Oprah-approved mystical self-help sensation, promises to bring you wealth, fabulous sex, health, joy, jewelry, a fancy car - whatever you most want.

It works this way: When you want something strongly enough you put out a positive vibration to the universe, which then deposits whatever you desire in your lap. The opposite is also true. Think negative thoughts and bad things will happen.

This so-called "law of attraction" may get you something even more desirable than health, wealth and happiness: a great parking space.

That's what Rose Byram, 43, who lives in Carroll County and works for the federal government, says she's found. A few months ago she bought the movie version of The Secret, which spawned the best-selling tie-in book. "It definitely works," she says.

"I now get front-row parking spaces at work even if I come in late as long as I have no doubt I will. It teaches you not to think negatively. Things you don't want won't be there because you don't want them."

The law of attraction can be used for loftier purposes, says Amy Bloom Connolly, 57, who lives in Timonium and works with low-income elderly women in East Baltimore. She thinks the film dwells too much on material things, but she agrees that "When I align myself with positive energy, the universe gets on board."

She wanted to bring mindfulness training (often associated with Buddhism) into the inner city, she says, and by getting very clear on what her next step was, people and resources started to show up, including a philanthropist with a five-year grant.

If you're skeptical that the secret works, you need look no further than the filmmaker and author of the book, Australian television producer Rhonda Byrne. The secret, or rather The Secret, has brought her fame and wealth beyond the dreams of avarice. Her film and book were a huge success in the New-Age community before they were featured twice last month on Oprah Winfrey's show and once on Larry King's. Now they've gone mainstream.

The book is No. 2 on Amazon's best-seller list, just behind the latest Harry Potter. The film version is the top seller on Amazon's DVD list. The book is also No. 1 in The New York Times hardcover advice category.

In Baltimore, you may have trouble getting hold of the book or the DVD.

The library copies are checked out and there's a waiting list.

Barnes & Noble continues to get new shipments of the books, but they sell out quickly. (Simon & Schuster Inc., the publisher, has ordered an additional 2 million copies - the publisher's largest reorder ever - bringing the number in the U.S. to 3.75 million.)

On Netflix, the Internet DVD rental service, there's a "very long wait." In mid-March Blockbuster wasn't carrying it.

The Ivy Bookshop in Lake Falls Village has sold 35 copies of the book since it came out three months ago and had a few left in mid-March. Check first before you go in case that's changed.

Wish fulfillment

Breathe Books, a New-Age bookstore in Hampden, has a sign outside its door announcing that both The Secret DVD and the book are in stock. Susan Weis, the owner, says she's the sole distributor of the DVD in Baltimore. She also offers monthly screenings of a previous version of the film, which she likes better because it is less focused on material gains. She has had to turn people away from the showings.

Weis used the law of attraction, she says, to will Breathe Books into being two years ago by repeating over and over again, "I am a bookstore owner. I am a bookstore owner."

"I didn't have the money or the knowledge," she says. "I'm just this girl from Pikesville. The universe set it in motion. It dropped the right people in at the right time to help me. I was vibrating at levels of bookseller so I received it. You start by believing it already exists. The universe has everything in an escrow account waiting for you to receive it."

Of course, if you are responsible for your own happiness, the opposite is true as well. Michelle Silver, a clinical psychologist who leads support groups for cancer patients in Towson, agrees that having a good attitude can help you cope with adversity but believes there is a limit to the changes you can make by thinking positively.

"If you have cancer and you envision being cancer-free," she says, "it doesn't mean it's going to happen. The implication then is that it's your fault and there's no evidence to back that up. That's why it could be potentially harmful."

Proponents of the law of attraction say that the universe is neutral: It simply gives you whatever you're thinking about.

Positive packaging

In creating The Secret, Byrne used long-standing inspirational concepts. The New Testament's "ask and ye shall receive" comes to mind, as well as the teachings of Buddha, Christian Scientists and Norman Vincent Peale, author of 1952's The Power of Positive Thinking.

"This information has been around for a long, long time," Weis says. "It's been packaged in a slick, approachable new way."

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