Good News: You Can’t Have it All

By Duff McDuffee on August 6th, 2009 1

jamesray349-200pxMany personal development gurus posit that you can and should have it all, that every area of your life can be perfected without any need for compromise. Consider this quotation from personal development guru James Arthur Ray’s website:

“You really can enjoy total abundance financially, relationally, mentally, physically and spiritually…” ~James Arthur Ray, Master of Hyperbole

The total abundance James Arthur Ray is really enjoying is an abundance of total bullshit. Not surprisingly, Ray’s tagline is “As seen on Oprah, Larry King, and The Secret,” sources not exactly known for their journalistic integrity.

Nothing real exists in “total abundance.” Not atoms in the Universe (approximately 1080), not the amount of money in circulation, and not even “abundance mentality”–which is sometimes present and sometimes not, no matter how often or intensely you visualize your goals. Perhaps Ray is referring to mathematical abstractions? “You really can enjoy counting a total abundance of integers. The possibilities of multiplication are unlimited!”

The Ubiquitous Matrix of Lies in Personal Development

The personal development world is full of such lies, exaggerations, and hype–what is remarkable is that we haven’t gotten angry about it, and that folks like James Arthur Ray continue to stay in business. Perhaps this is simply a reflection of “the ubiquitous matrix of lies” our consumerist culture exists within, as Charles Eisenstein eloquently called it. But the difference between “Coors rocks Harrisburg” and “You really can enjoy total abundance financially, relationally, mentally, physically and spiritually…” is that nobody believes the first is true. The Coors slogan is an “obvious and unremarkable lie, beneath the threshold of most people’s awareness,” but we want to and often do believe gurus like James Arthur Ray. We want to believe that we can indeed have a perfect life, free from pain and suffering, and full of wealth “in all areas of your life”–especially financially.

“Isn’t it remarkable that lies are still effective even when no one believes them?” says Eisenstein, and it is worth considering here. Even when we don’t believe the lies of the personal development gurus, we still spend more than $8.5 billion dollars (as of 2004) every year in the U.S. alone on “self-improvement books, CDs, audiocassettes, infomercials, motivational speakers, videos, multi-media packages, public seminars, workshops, holistic institutes, personal coaching, and more.” We clearly believe we can improve our lives dramatically–and perhaps even totally–or else why would we be spending so much on these products and services?

The Ultimate Aim of Life: Getting Stuff?

James Ray says that you can have it all, and this is a good thing. In other words, the ultimate aim of life is to have everything you want–including all the money and stuff you want.

This is a very different view from the current positive psychology paradigm. In The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky claims that getting what you want externally in life has little to no effect on happiness, and that indeed even our happiness–the ultimate aim of life in her view–is only 40% in our control.

Which is it? It can’t be both. Either external circumstances affect happiness or they don’t. I’m more likely to believe the research than the master of hyperbole on this one. So if getting everything that you want in life is not a critical factor at all with regards to happiness, then Ray and his followers value getting what you want more than happiness! In terms of classical economics, this pursuit would be defined as irrational, and indeed the pursuit of what we want despite our happiness is all too common in personal development culture.

Personal Development Junkies and their Drug Dealers

It is so common as to be an archetype for an individual to become “hooked” on personal development products, sometimes spending upwards of $2000-5000 a year on Life Coaching, live seminars, weekend workshops, special diets and supplements, books, CDs, “mastermind groups,” etc., never reaching the ever-receding horizon of total abundance. The initial offering is usually free or cheap–a free CD, an email newsletter, a $15 paperback. The free or cheap thing sells you on the intro seminar, often a few hundred dollars for a weekend, but still within reason. Then at the emotional peak of an incredibly intense workshop, the $18,000 “advanced” seminar (with all the same material as the $400 one you’ve just taken, but in Maui and for 7 days instead of 3) is pitched using psychological tactics as if designed by the CIA to interrogate prisoners of war.

When I was deeply hooked–spending all of my disposable income and time on audio programs, information products, and seminars–part of the justification for my spending habits was that I felt I was so close to “getting it,” and that once I did, I would be rich almost overnight, freed from debt and work–just like the stories of the other gurus. I thought maybe I was alone in this delusion until the personal development blogosphere, and now the Twitter-o-sphere exploded. I’ve now seen so many examples of self-proclaimed gurus of abundant living who consume and produce a deluge of personal development media as to almost suggest a DSM V category: Narcissistic Personality Disorder with Delusions of Grandeur and Cyclothymia, subtype “Personal Development and Social Media Marketing Guru-itis.” (I consider my writing here as part of my recovery program.) If your financial goals include making over a million dollars a year and you are currently middle or lower class, you might already have this disease, which by the way, is infectious!

Some of this $8.5+ billion market would surely exist even without the hype and lies in marketing, but how much? To what extent is the personal development and self-help market inflated due to the addiction to products and services promoting an impossible ideal?

The Necessity of Compromise

When you focus on one area of life, or when one area forces you to focus on it (as in illness, the birth of a child, or job loss), you necessarily must compromise focus on other areas of your life. While these challenges may draw out unseen resources, they also force difficult choices. Sometimes that means the other areas of your life run along just fine, but in many cases, you must make sacrifices. This is good news when you accept it, for it releases you from trying to conform to an impossible ideal of perfection.

If you have a newborn and think you should still be having wild sex every night with your wife, you will suffer needlessly. When you can let this unrealistic expectation go, you’ll still not be having any sex and you might be sad about that, but you can more easily accept that this situation is (hopefully) temporary, and focus back on your beautiful baby. Accepting current reality is a kind of abundance that can be experienced even in contexts when your power to get what you want is very limited.

The Logic of Addiction

Let’s continue with James Arthur Ray, as he is such a clear example of the excesses of personal development culture. If you click the pyramid marked “begin your journey” on Mr. Ray’s website, the headline on the next page asks…

“Are you 100% totally and completely happy with your life?”

The implication is twofold:

1) that Mr. Ray is the first person ever to answer this question “yes,” making him either a pathological liar or a narcissist (or both).

2) that Everyone on Earth needs to purchase his products, forever, until they too are as perfect as him.

The biggest irony is in the video clip on this “squeeze page” (a marketing website that aims solely to get your name and email address and then send you a series of autoresponder sales emails dragging you into the “sales funnel”). Ray begins by talking about the “large amount of stress and fear lately” due to the global recession. “Who could imagine that some of the largest banks in the United States could go belly up?” He then implies that we are not in a global recession but that this is merely media scaremongering, and then says “but stop, just suppose I could show you a way to use the Law of Attraction, as well as the six other Laws of the Universe, to rise above all external circumstances?” Uhhhh, say what?!?

The Secrets of the Universe Were Revealed to Me in this $47 Ebook that I Read In A Vision When Drinking Ayausaca with the Peruvian Shamans…

Ray goes on to explain that when you understand the secrets of the Universe (which elsewhere says he learned from Peruvian Shamans amongst other spiritual teachers and gurus), you can succeed no matter what external circumstances. Implied is that he too used to be a loser like you, until he discovered the Laws of the Universe. Now he’s a winner, his life is perfect, and your life can be perfect too…and best of all, the first hit of his happy drug is free (heh heh)–just provide your name and email and begin your journey into addiction….

James Arthur Ray is suggesting that to solve the problem of the global recession, we should do exactly what caused it. He’s recommending that we deny reality and inflate our expectations–exactly what happened with the housing bubble, the subprime mortage crisis, the crisis on Wall Street, the credit crunch, and all the other aspects of the U.S.-lead global recession we are now experiencing. How many people do you know were interested in buying homes, fixing them up, and flipping them to make a quick buck 5 or 10 years ago? I can list many–including myself, my best friend from my home town, his father, my brother-in-law, and many others. The late night infomercials and expensive seminars advertising getting-rich-quick in real estate had the same tone and exaggerated promises as James Arthur Ray or any of the personal development gurus. (In a future article I’ll discuss the entangled nature of get-rich-quick schemes and personal development culture.) The American tendency for ego-driven inflation is largely understood to be the cause of the global recession by Europeans, and the techniques of most personal development literature are literally the cultivation of inflation.

The Law of Saturn Trumps the Law of Attraction

Hung over with a hangover, the alcoholic reaches for a beer to get rid of the pain. The pain is soothed, but guilt arises, which is addressed with another beer. As the personal development gurus always quote, the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result.” The irony is that insanity and addiction define the primary tendency of most popular personal development literature.

What we need now is not the Law of Attraction but the Law of Saturn, Saturn being the grumpy old god that reminds you of your mortality, the limits of things, your aching back, and the finite nature of manifest reality:

Astrologically Saturn is associated with the principles of limitation, restrictions, boundaries, practicality and reality, crystallizing and structures. ~Wikipedia

Our reality check bounced. Time to get practical, fess up to our previous irrationality, and accept our limitations. The Law of Saturn is the same as Buddha’s first noble truth–life is suffering. When we come to face our situation fully, there will be a time again for visions, dreams, and ideals, but this time more grounded and realistic. It’s time personal development embraced Saturn as well as Jupiter, god of “growth, expansion, prosperity and good fortune…and a person’s inner sense of justice and morality and their ideals and higher goals.”

The Good News of Our Limitations

I share Siddhartha‘s view on this one: to live is to suffer. That’s the first noble truth, but not the last one. In particular, the acceptance of suffering tends to lessen “suffering about your suffering.” This noble truth is denied in the words and actions of personal development gurus that sell a life culminating in perfection. Since perfection is impossible, we become addicted. Nothing can fully satisfy. Nothing can make you “100% totally and completely happy with your life,” and in the moments when we fully surrender to this truth, we are free from the compulsion to anxiously develop ourselves. We also become free from anxiously purchasing personal development products from the sleazy salesmen that overpromise and underdeliver while claiming to do the opposite.

The news that we can’t have it all and be totally satisfied is good news, because it liberates us from the illusion that there is something fundamentally wrong with us that could be fixed with a new beer or a new seminar. We might still enjoy a beer or a seminar, but with a non-anxious presence, without any illusion that we will someday be totally rid of all suffering and pain.

And no need either to get anxious about the fact that you are anxious, to worry that you are not enlightened or perfectly accepting. Just STOP, imperfectly notice your experience as it is, and allow it to be. “I imperfectly accept my imperfections.”

How Do I Accept the Truth of Suffering?

Everyone’s path to acceptance is somewhat unique, even though acceptance is really pretty universally the same. I could not possibly answer this question adequately for all, nor do I have anything resembling a perfect realization of this truth. That said, I find the Core Transformation process very helpful, as well as Vipassana meditation, and a strange form of spontaneous movement called Shaking Medicine. (If you use Core Transformation, try searching for any parts of you that want you to develop yourself, that want to be enlightened, or that otherwise believe that life should be perfect.) But follow your own heart and find what fits for you.

Be wary of the anxious search for the perfect technique, guru, or community, as this too can be a manifestation of the desire for impossible perfection. Go with good enough. If something works pretty well for you–whether a formal practice or an informal exploration–I’d recommend just sticking with it and figuring out the subtleties of the technique or path you’ve found, allowing your understanding to deepen and evolve over time.

I also try to remind myself of the truth of suffering with the affirmation “I imperfectly accept my imperfections,” but feel free to write your own affirmations that make you smile and remind you of your humanness. A Christian might pray the serenity prayer, something I contemplate often: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” If you feel uncomfortable with the word “God,” try rephrasing it as “May I have the serenity…” or however else would suit your metaphysics.

If you’re a personal development junkie, try noticing the impulse to purchase a personal development product without acting on it, or take some time off from reading personal development blogs and listening to tapes and sit patiently with the feelings that arise. Or give up even trying to notice the feelings too–take a total break from improving your life in any way whatsoever. You can always come back to the elements of your former life that you want to keep. However is right for you, I encourage you to question and to challenge any compulsive desire to improve yourself so that you can find a non-anxious presence and an ever-deepening acceptance of your fundamental OK-ness, even as you grow and change.

For more good news and joyful criticism, you can subscribe by email for free in the upper right of the page, or subscribe in a feed reader by clicking here. Your help spreading the word on Twitter, Facebook, etc. is also appreciated if you feel moved to do so.

Please add your respectful and intelligent comments below to begin the community dialogue. Here are some potential questions to stimulate discussion: What did I miss or overemphasize? What would be an antithesis to my thesis? What other examples are needed? How else can we find balance and accept suffering? Are there contexts in which we can in fact have it all? Is James Ray not nearly as bad as I’ve portrayed him to be, or is he not a good example of personal development thought? Is this tendency for inflation actually worse than I’ve portrayed it? Does this inflationary tendency also extend to other areas, like popular American Buddhism, or nationalism? Does accepting reality sometimes or often lead to despair or passivity? If so, how can we account for this tendency? What is the relationship between consumerism and the having-it-all philosophy? Feel free also to ask your own questions related to this article.



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55 responses to “Good News: You Can’t Have it All”

  1. […] Good News: You Can’t Have It All by Duff McDuffee • In the Zone: Sports and Spirituality by Corey W. deVos • 40 Years Later, […]

  2. Joseph says:

    A good read for this subject is Jeremy Carrette's "Selling Spirituality: The Silent Takeover of Religion". The rampant "conscious capitalists" of the spiritual marketplace (and even the academic study of new religious movements!) will find his neo-Marxist critique outdated, but I find it spot on, e.g. “The vacuous nature of the ‘spiritual’ marketplace creates a greater demand and need for some kind of ‘real’, ‘pure’ or ‘authentic’ spiritual experience, always just out of reach, like the inner contentment that consumerism promises but never fulfils. The consumer world of “New Age” spirituality markets ‘real’, ‘pure’ or ‘authentic’ spiritual experiences, but these are manufactured worlds that seek to escape the ‘impure’ political reality of spirituality” (p. 83).

  3. Sounds like your time as a personal development junkie provided you with some great insights by way of contrast. The serenity prayer is one of my all-time favourites as well.

  4. Very good article about how we can be out of balance with what another being is offering, and how what some are offering is dualistic and delusional. I celebrate going slow and staying with one's inner process, no matter what it is. I am so grateful each day for food, shelter and whatever support comes our way. Your blog is added to my list of supportive blogs.

  5. Duff, it's obvious how much work you've done to grow and be honest with your process. But folks may not know that you are also a great Core transformation facilitator for those willing to give it a try.

  6. anali says:

    a little of topic perhaps, but today i started following paulo cohelo. why? i don't know, i just did. he's on this rant about "never happy" "only joyful". to me it sounds oddly weird and manipulative, It seems to me he has come up with a new strategy. "Happiness is out … joy is in" and he's branding it, spreading the word "joy is the new happy". It makes those of us seeking happiness eager to jump off the "happy" bandwagon and into the "joy" train. i won't be surprised if his next book talks about "the power of joy".

    Great article!!

  7. Gina says:

    Aloha Duff…yes fromt the Island of Maui 🙂
    This post is a beautiful look at an addiction right up there with the the weight loss addiction. Both the diet industry and the self growth industry preach and promise something they cannot deliver …*and they know it*!
    It is my opinion that we must simply stop feeding them. Those of us who have come to believe this is a problem have a responsibility to live in a manner that will promote self awareness and inner peace.

    I am happy to see you have mentioned meditation and movement…how wonderful these things are free. I can't imagine any of the great teachers I have loved reading and learning from writing long sales letters…but it seems many don't value what is freely given.

    For me the answer to the question "can we have it all" is in the natural world and its laws….laws we have not yet warped to meet our selfish needs. Everything that livesand grows also gets old and dies. We see the rain fall on the good and the evil and the sun rises and sets regardless of who is thinking abundant thoughts of more daylight. There is more in this life than *us* and to see that is bliss.

    Mahalo for your insight and giraffeness. I plan to keep listening.

    • Weight loss addiction would be an excellent topic to cover here. I can't speak from personal experience on that one, as I've always been underweight, but perhaps someone will write a blog post about the industry.

      I agree that we must simply stop feeding them, although this simple solution is difficult to see when you are in the midst of addiction. As with weight loss, we all need to eat, and we all could use a conscious orientation towards life and self-actualization. I often think that perhaps the path is just that of overdoing it and underdoing it until we find balance–or maybe that is just my particular version of things.

      Meditation and movement are such wonderful things, and yes–they are free. Perhaps we over-value that which costs money!

      Great answer. Some have argued that the natural world was also initially quite abundant for native tribes long ago, who didn't store any food except "in the belly of my brother." I'm not sure if I agree, as this appears to be a bit romantic of a view, but perhaps there is some truth to the notion of an original, abundant Earth.

      Thanks for your balanced comment, and hope to hear from you more in the future.

  8. Maybe he's on to something and just can't express it clearly through Twitter, or maybe he is vacuously reframing happiness as joy. Hard to tell! But I must admit, I do get suspicious when people attempt to reframe or redefine words, like "collateral damage" for "killing civilians." In any case, glad you enjoyed the article, and hope you'll come back and discuss these topics with others.

  9. […] Duff McDuffee commented on one of my earlier posts and alerted me to his overlapping work criticizing the self-help industry. He and I (and many others) agree that it’s time to mount a robust campaign in opposition to the […]

  10. right on!

    a much needed voice in the wilderness of critical thinking. nicely done …

    • Thanks, Julian. I remember you from over at Gaia–haven't been there in a while.

      If you ever wanted to post something on this blog (which is a group blog), let me know. I'd enjoy having your voice added to this dialogue.

  11. @abecrystal says:

    I agree with your criticisms of Ray, but there's definitely a big continuum of "personal development" that ranges from the pie-in-the-sky, mystical stuff like The Secret, to the incredibly pragmatic, like Getting Things Done, and Mark Forster's work… and the scientific, like positive psychology. It would probably help to delineate the different approaches and perspectives and paradigms that pop up in "personal development" and talk about which you find most illuminating and effective.

    Also, I found your intepretation of postive psychology rather narrow. My reading of the research suggests that we can adopt perspectives and practices and habits that will very likely improve our outlook, moods, and general experience of life. And very simple practices, such as regularly expressing gratitude to our coworkers and family, can have big effects. That seems like pretty good news.

    • shannon says:

      I think the issue with positive psychology is that we should know this stuff already without having to buy into it. Like blogs and other social media, there is a plethora of information out there that is free to aid people in understanding how their own psychology works in relation to happiness.

      While I don't want to debunk psychology, as I know it helps people to a degree, I still think that it is up to us, individually, to understand our own minds, thus figuring out that "happiness" or "joy" for ourselves.

      The good news is that everyone has this ability. The bad news is not everyone cares to look deeper into themselves to find it. We are too much a culture of immediate gratification. And that's the real bummer.

    • Indeed, there is a big continuum withing personal development, which is why I'm interested in criticizing folks like Ray. I find that most people interested in personal development are simply enthusiastic and positive towards all of it, without any critical discourse that could sort out the wheat from the chaff.

      Thanks for your feedback re: my portrayal of positive psychology. There is much good news to be had from positive psych, and many more complexities than I captured here.

  12. I agree in total. What sucks in our country is that we teach the youth that they can obtain anything they want, if they put their minds to it. Not true. The reality is, they can achieve only so much because some things are just not obtainable. These "things" differ based on individual life environments, status of job, character values, morals, etc…the list goes on. I call it the Cinderella Syndrome. Kids, both male and female, are told that the ideal is to get married to the perfect person, as in the story books. As we find out, this is just bull shit. No knight in shinning armor will be coming, no woman who is the perfect female exists, and we certainly won't all live in castles happily ever after.

    I also have a strong dislike for people selling that all these are a reality, and that they are obtainable, when there isn't any way that's possible. What we need to do is accept that we can make goals for ourselves, but those goals have to realistic and within our reach. All Ray is doing is making himself rich off of the dreamers–he makes his dreams come true by selling false hope, preying on the weak minded and unrealistic. It's quite sad.

    What we need to do is let people learn and understand their own limitations through trial and error. We don't need to buy another book to tell us what we should do or not do. We need to listen to ourselves more. Our intuition is a powerful thing, and no amount of money can change that.

  13. Great post. I loved you bringing in the bit on the housing bubble. I believe that anyone doing personal work for the purpose of increasing wealth will never "get it" and therefore will always need more personal development. If you think about it, it's the ultimate Ponzi scheme.

    I think people buy into all this because our egos never really want us to feel whole and complete. As long as there is the possibility of "having it all" and we don't measure up, we can remain separate from everyone else, striving and competing.

    This is not to say that I don't believe in some of the messages of personal development, I just think they're skewed.

  14. egilman says:

    Duff, you are a stronger person than I. I tried to read The Secret, so I could legitimately respond to friends who are into this. I've been on the fringe, wanting to belief this stuff, so I understand the desire. But after two pages and noticing my brain cells dying a violent death, I just stopped. My brain still mourns those lost with watching What the Bleep.

    So glad there are folks like you, willing to take the bullet for me. I can always pass along your blog. Stuart Davis also did a great job on weighing in on The Secret.

    As someone said, not everyone can be successful etc. Someone needs to clean the toilets.

  15. egilman says:

    Duff, you are a stronger person than I. I tried to read The Secret, so I could legitimately respond to friends who are into this. I've been on the fringe, wanting to belief this stuff, so I understand the desire. But after two pages and noticing my brain cells dying a violent death, I just stopped. My brain still mourns those lost with watching What the Bleep.

    So glad there are folks like you, willing to take the bullet for me. I can always pass along your blog. Stuart Davis also did a great job on weighing in on The Secret.

    As someone said, not everyone can be successful etc. Someone needs to clean the toilets.

    • I'm glad there are people like you too who are relatively immune to this stuff. I got drawn in mostly in some difficult times. There is some partial truth to this hyped-up popular drivel that passes for spirituality, but it takes some work to figure out what is true and useful.

      And yes, someone needs to clean the toilets, and do the accounting, and engineer the bridges, etc.

      • egilman says:

        And there are better places to get the useful information. You mentioned Richard Wiseman in a different post. I lend out my copy of the Luck Factor, often. So very practical. Plus, I just love the guy. He's fun.

        Glad you found your way out of the insanity. Sometimes, once you've invested so heavily it's hard to face what's really happened and to get back on track.

        • Yea, Wiseman seems like a good guy. With some NLP background he could take his methods a lot farther though. I'll probably write a followup to my previous post about him explaining what I mean.

          I'm still groping my way out of the insanity, and hopefully providing a roadmap for others who want to extricate themselves from the anti-intellectual cult of personal development.

          • egilman says:

            My favorite quote from yoga teacher/psychotherapist, Bo Forbes, at a recent retreat at Shambala Mountain. "forget self-improvement, try self-compassion". So profound, so simple, so perfect. Easier to get rid of a negative habit when it's replaced with something else.

            I grew up a Jehovah's Witness. Regardless of what the promises are, a cult is still a cult.

            Keep up the great work! You already are helping folks.

          • Self-compassion is the best form of self-improvement, if you can even call it that, in my opinion. And thanks for the support. I do hope this site is helpful for people.

  16. Dan says:

    @JamesARay Moved to Beverly Hills! – Here is information about the home: -Guess he took his own advice! How is it being neighbors with Ed McMahon, Gwen Stefani, and Britney Spears?!

  17. willifor says:

    I would expound on my thoughts, yet you and YOUR following(ironic, isn't it?) just don't seem very open minded, thus I will just keep my thoughts a SECRET….

  18. […] news is going around that our pal James Arthur Ray has two dead participants and 19 hospitalized after a 2-hour long sweat in Sedona, AZ. Some […]

  19. Guy says:

    It is perfectly OK not to like James Ray and other teachers, everyone has got the right to his or her own opinion. But I couldn't help but notice that there are no facts in your article. You basically say "personal development" is a hoax. But why is it? Have you studied it? Have you studied quantum physics? They can scientifically prove now that your thoughts do control the world around you and this means that by changing your thoughts you can improve your life.

    Another thing I have noticed over the past couple of years is that people who say that personal growth is all about getting the (material) things that you want just don't get it. It's not about the material things at all, they won't make you happy! But it's ok to enjoy them.

    I used to be skeptic for a long time, but when I decided to use the principles James teaches my life got much better. And it continues to get better everyday.

    • Hi Guy,

      I have studied personal development for about 17 years. I have been a coach in some capacity since 2002. I am not opposed to personal development at all, as the slogan of this blog is "exploring the future of personal development." I am interested in cutting away that which I find unnecessary or contrary to the deeper principles of personal development, so that our field can advance, just as physics has advanced paradigms from Newton to Einstein and beyond.


  20. Guy, who seems to be a James Arthur Ray fan, wrote: “Have you studied quantum physics? They can scientifically prove now that your thoughts do control the world around you and this means that by changing your thoughts you can improve your life.”

    This raises the obvious question of whether or not Guy himself understands quantum physics, but I think you addressed that matter more politely than I might have, Duff.

    Anyway, I am glad I followed the link on Jody’s Guruphiliac blog. This is an excellent article on many levels, and I’m adding the link to my own blog post about the October 8 tragedy in Sedona. (I too am a recovered New-Wage/selfish-help/McSpirituality addict, by the way.)

  21. Brilliant. Not sure if you've read Tal Ben-Shahar's "The Pursuit of Perfect" yet but you might dig it. Echoes a lot of your wisdom here as he talks about the perfectionist's refusal to accept reality while what he calls the "optimalist" embraces the constraints of reality and, within that frame, strives to make the best of everything that life has to offer.

  22. Victoria says:

    The trouble is, many of these New age hucksters rope people in, at least initially, with reasonable, research-based principles of positive psychology. They then use the classical techniques of heavy-duty persuasion to get vulnerable souls into the "sales funnel." Much of what Ray and his ilk espouse are good pieces of advice based on well-known psychological principles, and some is quite insightful. The difference is in the egoism, the excessive focus on financial wealth, the denial of limits, and drastic methods of forceful persuasion.

  23. Victoria says:

    It is relatively easy to get people to obey a charismatic leader, especially when they have been made physically and mentally uncomfortable, fatigued, and "on the edge." These scary "mind control" techniques are used in military inductions and hazing rituals, and in other rites where the participants are being encouraged, or forced, to enter a state of identity change. In the bad old days of EST, people would be persuaded to suffer through great humiliation and physical stress, in order to break down their ego defenses and infuse them with a new identity which, of course, involved acceptance of the ideology of the leader. The "ultimate transformational experience" promised by Ray et al. includes extreme physically and emotionally traumatic experiences because that is what it takes to create conformity and obedience.

  24. manifest destiny says:

    america seems to have an abundance of spiritual warriors

    still playing cowboys and indians.

    new wage yuppies promote genocide

    desecrating others cultural ways.

    atheists looking for a soul to buy,

    ironic how these fools and their money soon part ways.

    buy a yoga mat for a homeless being

    so they too can find abundant growth and prosperity

    and capitolize on others misfortunes or blatant ignorance

    worship ben franklins and dead presidents

    dream a green grandeur, green notes of hope

    disposable income for a disposible culture

    disposable yoga mats and plastic sweat lodges,

    styrofoam cups full of child labor latte

    the new age is here,

    you can pay to be perfect

    create wealth and harmony

    buy your way into bliss

    retreat forever in your money pit.

    but, there is no escape from your green abyss

    from the reality you helped to create.

    from others cultural traditions you desecrate.

    guru’s can’t cure your guilty cultural ills

    your but an empty vessel to simply fill

    a pepsi can, a red bull.

    a new wage soul,

    a curious consumer, a fools fool

    a spiritual warrior

    go to aghanistan and find yourself.

    go to iraq and find yourself

    go to pakistan and find yourself.

    being an arrongant american, being yourself

    learn what you are doing,learn what youve done

    to the rest of the world, and native americans

    no some plastic shaman who defines yourself

    you pay for the seminar

    you pay for the NY best seller

    your happiness is abundance for yourself

    get in your volvo or mercedes benz

    eat sushi with your enlightened friends

    tuna is nealy extinct you know.

    i am sure your guru will tell you

    when the supply gets low and valuable..

    time to invest in what little is left

    new wage abundance. shit for brains.

  25. […] found this amazing poem in a comment on Beyond Growth by a fellow going by the name “manifest destiny.”  If manifest destiny or anyone else […]

  26. dimsim says:

    Most of these newage people who claim to be "teachers" or "gurus" or "masters" have given the titles to themselves and offer no qualifications whatsoever to back up anything that they say. They are usually just parroting what they have read in books or other peoples programs and presenting it themselves. They have no skills in dealing with peoples psychology but do a nlp course and claim to be masters of the world, well of everyones problems anyway. I challenged the australian guy once who frequently claimed to be a teacher and spruiked the same crap that all these people do. If you aren't wanting it all right now anyhow you can get it you are just plain stupid in their eyes and they don't want anything to do with you. You obviously fall out of their target audience for sucking more money out of you so you are no longer needed and you are made to feel like that too. If you question them they shoot another question back at you (the usual tactic that they think we haven't mastered yet) and they always say that you have not applied the material sufficiently to understand it. Just amazing that they've got away with it for so long but it seems that it took the death of several people to make it so obvious that it made the news. Its extremely sad and these people are extremely dangerous. They will stop at nothing to feed their greedy addiction and that is why they should be shut down immediately. I notice that the aussie guy is now moving from personal development into marketing and religion. I guess he will now claim to be an expert marketer and be following gods footsteps too. No matter what they claim they will never find real satisfaction in what they do because they know they are being fake and it shows.

  27. dimsim says:

    "New-Wage/selfish-help/McSpirituality "

    Excellent names and their time for accountability has come.

  28. […] a guarantee like that from a suspected homicidal guru and master of hyperbole, it’s no wonder Bill Harris has mysteriously removed James Arthur Ray’s testimonial […]

  29. Anonymous says:

    I can’t help but put my two bits in here. I used to work for one of the secret teachers UNTIL I could no longer agree with the persons ethics. I discovered so much was going on behind my back and behind the backs of this persons clients that I was absolutely disgusted. This all was by someone who was claiming to be the guru of so much and a christian. I no longer buy anything to do with personal development in fact I treat it like a very serious drug addiction. For anyone caught in the web of charm and visualising, take a very hard look at yourself, your success and ask as many questions as you can think of from the person you are buying anything from. If you are criticised or do not like anything that you are being told start asking more questions because this is the point where you need to completely separate yourself. Full separation is the ONLY answer. I have seen far too much damage to too many lives as a result of one persons greed.

  30. Alexander says:

    Thanks, Duff. I'm not accustomed to agreeing (or at least not flat-out disagreeing) with so much of what one human writes. I'm really happy that you are writing.

    Yes, the pursuit of perfection is poisonous. I'm changing tracks as we speak with regard to it – the use of Core Transformation has been helping me a great deal in accepting being perfectly imperfect, or something, and has highlighted for me just how much suffering is caused by a) the understanding that things are not as they would be if they were perfect and b) seeking to make everything (including ourselves) fit whatever vision of perfect we have.

    Interestingly, however, I would not say that I have ceased looking for perfection. I think it's just a different perfection that I'm following now. It's a perfection of acceptance, a perfection of happiness. Is this more healthy, or just a paint job on a still-not-cool type of focus? I don't know, but it's certainly what I'm doing.

  31. […] also think we cause harm by allowing NLP practitioners and trainers to make ridiculous claims without being publicly criticized or held accountable for the results they actually […]

  32. […] Good News: You Can’t Have it All | Beyond Growth By Shana I also try to remind myself of the truth of suffering with the affirmation “I imperfectly accept my imperfections,” but feel free to write your own affirmations that make you smile and remind you of your humanness. A Christian might pray the serenity prayer, something I contemplate often: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” If you feel uncomfortable with the word “God,” try rephrasing it as “May I have the serenity…” or however else would suit your metaphysics. via […]

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