Beyond ‘The Secret’: Life From a Meditator’s Perspective

Beyond ‘The Secret’: Life From a Meditator’s Perspective

by Neil McKinlay

‘The Secret’ is causing a lot of buzz these days. As a personal coach and meditation instructor, some of this has come my way. People assume the material presented in the movie somehow connects with meditation. “You’re working in the same field,” someone observed. I’m left wondering, ‘Is this assumption accurate?’

In considering this question, I need to be clear I am going to limit my thoughts to popular conception of this film. I am not going to address the law of attraction which, to some extent, the movie is based upon. As our ideas about the movie are what I am hearing again and again, these are what I want to focus upon. I
want to look at our embrace of ‘The Secret’ as a means of getting what we want. This is what people are talking about in coffee shops and fitness clubs. People are saying ‘The Secret’ is going to help us attract cars, homes, jobs, relationships, health, and holidays into our lives.

Now, one may ask, “What’s the problem with this?” What is the problem with using ‘the secret’ to get a new truck? To me, the problem is that this message reinforces a particular view of human fulfillment. This view holds that what we need and want most deeply is not here. Instead, it is over that hill or around that bend, past that bigger home or through that better vacation. This view holds that our fulfillment lay elsewhere and ‘The Secret’ can help us get it.

The effects of this view are distressing. On a personal level, it encourages a disconnect with immediate experience. After all, we are always looking over there. Spiritually, it leads to the use of practice not as a means of connecting with ourselves, but as means of acquiring something separate. On a broader level, this view reduces the world to little more than resources for our wants.

Put another way, popular embrace of this movie reinforces the dominant view of human life that exists in our culture today. In doing this, ‘The Secret’ ignores what, for many of us, is the gateway into the practice of meditation. This gateway is the realization that fulfillment does not actually lay around the next bend.

Our fulfillment is never around the next corner. It is never over there. True fulfillment is never obtained through a faster car or better clothing. In this regard, I am reminded of a quote I read the other day: “Enlightenment is nothing more and nothing less than having the clarity to see the obvious and the guts to act on this.” The clarity to see the obvious. I don’t think any of us needs to scratch too far beneath the surface of our lives to see the ‘over there, better thing’ approach does not work.

When we look at our lives, they are disappointing. Plans don’t work out. Dreams don’t come true. Friends don’t behave as we want, families don’t adhere to ideals. We can use things like the law of attraction to help us, but if we are really honest – if we really see things clearly – the obvious truth is the approach to life reflected in our response to ‘The Secret’ doesn’t work. Chasing things does not bring happiness.

In fact, it could be said to bring the exact opposite. Under this view’s reign we have come to feel we do not have what we need, spiritual practice has degenerated into an enterprise used not to strip down but to reinforce familiar ways of being, our entire culture has wandered to what just might be the brink of existence.

At this point, one might ask: if the dominant view of the modern world does not bring human fulfillment, what are we to do? What else is there? As mentioned earlier, coming to this realization can be a kind of crossroads for many of us. For whatever reason, we suddenly see our typical ways of being do not bring happiness. In response to this often devastating insight, we consider doing something else. We check out therapy. We take up tai chi, yoga. Perhaps we look into meditation.

The path of meditation affirms that a valuable and, in fact completely sane, response to the situation above, is to sit down and take pause from our perpetual chasing of rainbows. In this pause, we place our attention on the breath and attend to what’s happening right now. We then sit there long enough to realize that our lives are offering just what we need.

This is not theory I am talking about – it is realization, understanding. It is experience. We sit down, follow the breath, and begin to see that our lives as they are presenting right now – all the job pressures, all the family insanity, all the disappointments and insults – are exactly what we need to realize our humanity. A broken marriage can show us where we need to let go. A troubled friendship can tell us where we need to soften.

The path of meditation asserts we can come to understand that our lives are the perfect vehicle – are the only vehicle – for waking up. If we are willing to put in the work, we can see that our lives are our means for reconnecting with everything we’ve become disconnected with, for rediscovering everything we truly long for. The practice can bring us to a point where we experience this first hand.

Through practice, we realize our lives are rich already. Maybe we don’t have the house or portfolio we would like, but, in greater terms, our lives offer everything we need. Given this, I have to disagree with the person who asserted that, as a meditation instructor, I am “working in the same field” as those who share the techniques revealed in ‘The Secret’. To the extent one affirms our life fulfillment is here and now, and the other reinforces a view of it being over there, they are very different enterprises.

Neil McKinlay is a meditation instructor, personal coach and author living in Victoria, BC. Running through all of his work is a sense of the inherent dignity of human life and a desire to see others connect with this. He can be reached through his website at

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