Rethinking the Law of Attraction

Rethinking the Law of Attraction

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Mindfulness and meditation teachers explore how to go beyond self-focused manifestation and imagine true global change.

Popularized by enduring titles like Think and Grow Rich and The Secret, the Law of Attraction suggests that the energy we put into the world through our thoughts and words is responsible for the results we draw into our lives. For many people, the Law of Attraction offers an effective vehicle for growing personal agency and power. When followed uncritically, the Law of Attraction leads some practitioners to blame difficult life circumstances on low vibrational thoughts—when the real culprit is often systemic oppression, mental illness, or other conditions beyond personal control. Another version of this misinterpretation suggests that the solution to poverty and performance gaps lies in making individuals more positive and resilient rather than addressing social ills like racism, sexism, and income inequality.

How Does the Law of Attraction Work?

The Law of Attraction is considered secondary to the Law of Vibration, one of the seven Hermetic principles describing the foundational functions of universal reality. According to the Law of Vibration, everything—bodies, thoughts, emotions, objects, atmospheres—resonates at a specific frequency. According to the late self-development teacher Bob Proctor, everything is an “ocean of motion.”

When two beings, thoughts, or objects vibrate at a similar frequency, they attract. Understanding what determines our frequency is the key to harnessing the Law of Attraction. Mystics, teachers, and adepts throughout the ages believed that thoughts are the lever that drives our emotional state and attitude, which in turn dictates our physical vibration and the actions we take in the world. It’s a cycle of thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Visualization, goal journaling, affirmations, and vision boards are all methods for hijacking the subconscious narratives that drive behavior, and all can help in replacing negativity with self-empowering beliefs, habits, and assumptions. Over time, new messages can change the outcomes in our lives by putting us in resonance with our deeply desired results.

How Law of Attraction Teaching Falls Short

If the Law of Attraction is driven by a universal law that governs us all, then it’s the ultimate equalizer, right?

It’s true that the Law of Attraction can empower us to change our circumstances—even within harmful systems of oppression—by showing us how we can be proactive cocreators of our realities. But this should not prevent us from also seeking to change those systems.

Let’s say you are a runner and I’m coaching you on how to improve your stride and breathe more efficiently. Your results will improve as you leverage the universal laws of biomechanics, physiology, and physics to achieve better outcomes.

The Law of Attraction also leverages universal laws. It’s not a hack or a magic trick: It’s a repeatable process we can all access gradually and that can often dramatically change our lives. Universal laws do not see race, class, or gender. In this sense, the Law of Attraction can be a gateway to access.

Returning to the running analogy: We all have access to the same laws of biomechanics, physiology, and physics. But compare two different runners: One has the newest $200 Nikes, eats a nutritionist-prescribed breakfast to maximize energy efficiency, and competes at a professional track near her home. The other runner laces up second-hand track shoes and has breakfast at a gas station because the bus takes 40 minutes to get her to her track meet.

These runners both exist in a reality shaped by universal laws, but the conditions under which they run are not universal. As a result, the ease with which these runners can apply the laws of biomechanics, physiology, and physics is also not universal. This is a systemic problem, not an individual one.

The same is true of the Law of Attraction, but because most teaching about this law focuses on individual actions, these larger circumstances tend to fade into the background. As teachers, we believe everyone should have access to knowledge and practices that can help them shape their own destinies.

Handing someone a tool—whether it’s Law of Attraction, Growth Mindset, or any other self-development concept—and then judging them based on their ability to bootstrap their way through obstacles is unjust.

Shifting From the Self to the Collective

Thinking critically about the Law of Attraction is not merely a political issue: It’s an invitation to expand how we practice and teach the Law itself.

Without understanding the role of systemic oppression and other external conditions, we are left to draw our own conclusions about the causes of inequity. For those of us who were raised in the United States, these conclusions may be influenced by the American Dream narrative, which views success as a direct result of hard work and rugged individualism.

If we don’t acknowledge the realities of power and privilege within our practice, we run the risk of perpetuating systems of oppression by falsely concluding that members of marginalized groups simply don’t work hard enough, and thus manifest a reality that limits access to money, food, safety, and healthcare. Some of us may even cast aspersions on the behavior, character, and capacity of an entire group. Oppression is the institutional embedding of such false beliefs.

Further, if we believe the Law of Attraction is universal, we cannot cherry-pick the conditions under which it does and doesn’t apply. When practitioners use the Law of Attraction to deny their privileges and justify judgment and blame, they operate from a frequency of division and superiority to other people. This will inevitably have a negative effect.

The second reason for expanding our understanding of the Law of Attraction is to help more people manifest success while positively impacting the larger world.

When we move beyond focusing only on individual benefits through individual action, we gain access to one of the most powerful manifestation techniques: activating collective consciousness. Simply put, we are more powerful together.

The Law of Attraction works because everything and everyone in the universe is energetically connected. By virtue of this connection, the happiness and health of one being will positively affect the rest. If we use our power to positively impact circumstances that affect other people, we also help ourselves. Expanding the scope of our practice in this way allows us to amplify our abilities and support a more just and compassionate world.

There are many examples of energetic cooperation in nature, as adrienne maree brown explains in her book Emergent Strategies. Schools of fish swimming, flocks of birds flying in formation, tree roots entwining to support towering trunks, mushrooms growing mycelium networks spanning acres. “All of us can begin to see the world in life code,” brown writes, “awakening to the sacred systems of life all around us.”

Imagine the ripple effect we can create by tapping into our collective consciousness and cocreating a world that values all of us equally.

Rethinking the Law of Attraction

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