by Nancy Humphreys
Jack Canfield: The Secret Law of Attraction (PBS television show). Jack also wrote The Success Principles, and the best-selling Chicken Soup for the Soul.
I just realized that I picked up on the Law of Attraction over 35 years ago when I first met Jack Canfield. We were all fresh out of college. As my husband introduced me to Jack, one of his best friends from an education internship in Chicago, I was totally struck by the difference between the two men.
My husband, an earnest guy from a working class family, felt he had to work and sweat for every privilege he’d earned. That, he said, was because he came from the working class. Often he complained about being unlucky compared to his wealthier friends. Jack, a Harvard undergraduate, was tall, thin, good-looking with a full head of dark hair, sparkling eyes, and an air of ease about him.
I knew even then that Jack would succeed at his dreams. He was the Law of Attraction in action. I knew too that my husband would be lucky to achieve and be satisfied with even a fraction of what he desired and should have had. My husband acted out of fear and desperation. He went around muttering one negative affirmation after another. If there was an obstacle in the road, he looked right at it and hit it.
My husband, a basically good man, built his whole identity on being confrontational and controversial. “I aggravate, therefore I exist,” seemed to be his motto. This was not a practice likely to bring him the love or friends he wanted but didn’t seem to believe he was really entitled to. Jack, on the other hand, had that kind of confidence that just assumed everyone who met him would, of course, like him.
I was surprised more than I could say, when after the introductions, Jack immediately told us matter-of-factly that he tended to hold his butt in too tightly and was working on being looser in that part of his body. I assumed they used more graphic language with each other, but guys didn’t usually talk that freely about such things in front of me!
Jack then took us on a tour of the grounds of the property he’d just bought for a conference and retreat center in New England. As we walked, Jack shared his dreams, dreams he’d far exceeded by the time I saw him again recently on PBS. There he was, talking again about his body, joking with the audience that he’d cut out a photo of his head and pasted it over a bodybuilders body as part of a visualization designed at improving his physique.
He also affirmed that being successful should be easy, rather than requiring the constant grind of hard work that so many of us assume it must take. My now ex-husband did succeed in becoming a tenured and well-published academic, but every step of his way has been fraught with difficulty. Jack, on the other hand, compared succeeding with rafting down a river. There’s just an occasional need to paddle through rough spots, he said.
The audience loved Jack’s stories. I found myself reminded again of that day so many years ago and of the alternative routes my husband and Jack took, and decided to listen to the rest of the show. I’m glad I did. I learned a couple things.
First, I was reminded by Jack that affirmations must be stated in the present tense. That’s so the high degree of feeling needed to make affirmations happen can be generated by imagining that the thing you desire is already true. (And if you’ve read Lynn Grabhorn’s Excuse Me, Your Life Is Waiting, you know you have to hold those strong feelings for at least 15 seconds for them to have any effect.)
A new thing I learned from Jack was the 30-Day Rule. This was derived from NASA’s research with astronauts. Jack told the story of NASA asking the astronauts to wear special lenses in glasses so that the world would appear upside down to them. They had to wear the special glasses 24/7. NASA wanted to find out how they would handle being upside down in space.
After about three weeks, the astronauts wearing the special lenses suddenly saw the world right-side up through the glasses. Their brains just rotated everything they saw by 180 degrees. From this NASA posited the 30-Day Rule: it takes us (our brains and body) a month to adapt to seeing a new world view.
Hence the need for constant practice at visualization and affirmations.
I appreciate the Law of Attraction and practice it often, although now I will try doing it for a month at a time. I’ve also stated my reservations about the Law in a previous Daykeeper piece. And I have to reiterate them.
Right before I saw the PBS special on The Secret Law of Attractio, I came across an article on the Web about mass disasters such as airplane crashes. Researchers wanted to know why so many people die in them. The deaths seemed unnecessary given what is known about the time it ought to take people get out of planes or buildings in an emergency. Amanda Ripley published the story, “How to Get Out Alive” in Time Magazine, May 2, 2005.
Ms. Ripley learned from experts that people react to disaster by going into total denial. As someone who experienced the Loma Prieta earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area while standing underneath a BART train station and tracks, I can attest to this fact.
From the noise I heard that day in 1989, I was sure the BART train had jumped the tracks and was about to come down on my head. I looked up, but saw only what seemed to be impossible: concrete supports and the track bed overhead swaying. Seconds later, as I tried to run, the concrete below my feet turned into jello. I stood rooted in perplexity. Was I going to be swallowed into the ground? I didn’t know what was happening or what to do.
Afterwards, a cab driver yelled out his window at me, “Was that an earthquake?”
“Oh,” went my brain, the lightbulb going on, “Yes, yes, I think it was.”
“I thought so,” said the cabbie, “from all those car alarms goin’ off. What a racket they’re makin’!”
People on the bridges over the Bay reported thinking it was the wind blowing that moved their cars sideways. Other people thought they were having a stroke.
People on airplanes do the same thing we did. They cannot fathom what just happened when the plane crashes. Rather than the fight or flight mechanism, the freeze mechanism kicks in. Like the proverbial deer-in-the-headlights people just sit tight. And they die. From smoke inhalation, fire, and other non-impact causes. They die needlessly, tragically.
According the Time article, the same phenomenon happened in the World Trade Centers on September 11. People sat, or rummaged around desks, or saved files and shut down their computers, or dialed up loved ones on cell phones, rather than fleeing immediately.
One women who survived an airplane crash that killed nearly everyone on board reported her life was save by her husband, who essentially shouted at her, “Get up, we have to get out.” She was sitting frozen. He, however, had been in a theater fire as a young boy. When he boarded the plane he’d read the emergency brochure and noted exactly where all the exits in the plane were in relation to their seats.
The wife said that as she followed her husband out the door of the plane she looked back and saw a friend still sitting in her seat, hands folded in her lap. Their friend did not survive. Ripley’s article said that all the people on the plane could have exited in 90 seconds and lived. In fact, they had 60 seconds, but only 70 people out of 396 survived. An estimate of the needless deaths in the World Trade Center implosions was 135.
The Law of Attraction may smooth our way in life, but we shouldn’t just ignore the possibility of a disaster happening. When disaster does happen we need to recognize it and be able to take action quickly. The same method that is used in the Law of Attraction can be used to do just that. We can mentally rehearse survival in order to actually survive.
To do this, we need to imagine the worst that we fear before it happens; before we’re overwhelmed with fear or denial. Then visualize what we would do if our worst fear came true, hopefully without the high degree of feeling that might attract it into our lives.
And, I figure, just in case the worst does ever actually happen, it couldn’t hurt to nest a positive affirmation within the visualization of yourself taking action, like picturing yourself saying “I am now safely out of the plane and far enough away” as you get up from your seat and exit through the smoke!
And if you do face or survive a disaster, I highly recommend Belleruth Naparstek’s guided imagery tapes. While mourning the loss of our three cats, all within three months, and two within just a week of each other, someone gave me a CD of Belleruth’s visualizations/affirmations about grief. They hoped it would help me. It did. Greatly.
I’ve downloaded several more CDs on other topics since then. Whatever fears or ills you face, there seems to be a guided imagery on www.healthjourneys.com. I’m sure Jack’s books and CDs are widely available in bookstores, but I urge you to keep an eye out for him on PBS as well. He’s a very good speaker and a great story-teller. Even if you’ve heard it before, you’ll enjoy seeing him.
Nancy's previous article on the Law of Attraction here.
Nancy Humphreys is a writer currently in the midst of exploring lost wisdom of the I Ching based on the work of King Wen.