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About Jennifer Read HawthorneEffect and Cause
December 1, 2014

        In Western cultures there is a belief that we do something—and a result happens. Cause and effect, we say.

        Several years ago, when I had the privilege of sitting with Ramesh Balsekar, the great  proponent of the spiritual philosophy Advaita Vedanta, I asked him about the law of cause and effect. I told him about the self-help book and movie The Secret, which was taking the world by storm, in which the Law of Attraction—a classic cause-and-effect principle—is explored.

        This universal law says that like attracts like—that a person’s thoughts and feelings attract experiences, people, events, and situations that “match the frequency” of those  thoughts and feelings. The Secret further suggests that, if we’re not attracting what we want into our lives, we can change our frequencies by practicing what it feels like for a goal or vision to become reality. In other words, if we want to attract health, wealth, and happiness, feeling those things can actually draw them to us. We do something—think about a desire, focus on it, feel its fulfillment—and it happens. Cause and effect.

        Ramesh said it doesn’t work that way. In fact, he explained, it’s actually the other way around: If something is our destiny, then we may decide to do something such as practicing the Law of Attraction as a mechanism for fulfilling our destiny. In other words, what we think of as the effect is actually the cause of our doing certain things, making certain decisions, or choosing certain life paths. In spiritual language, Ramesh was saying that “I am not the doer.”

        Of course, this doesn’t sit well with the popular mindset that says “I create (or co-create) my reality.” And what about free will? Ramesh pointed out that we always have to act in the world as if we have free will. It’s just that we never have control over the outcome—a concept everyone can relate to!

        It’s an extraordinary overturning of a collectively held perspective, but one I find brings great freedom. For one thing, if destiny is written, it tells us that we can’t ever really make a mistake—everything we do is just a mechanism for the fulfillment of our destiny. And whatever our destiny, whether it’s practicing the Law of Attraction or something else, the right mechanism will always present itself for us to fulfill our life path. It’s not possible to keep our good away from us.

        This also explains why some of the things we desire and work for never come to fruition—no matter how hard we envision and feel them. It can really help us not to take things so personally once we realize it just may not be our destiny to have or become what we had hoped for.

        “I am not the doer” doesn’t excuse us from being responsible. It just excuses us from the burden of guilt and shame that comes from thinking we’ve made mistakes. This understanding can lead to the deepest acceptance of whatever happens in one’s life. What could be freer than that?