Whirled Musings

Across the Universe with Cosmic Connie, aka Connie L. Schmidt...or maybe just through the dung-filled streets and murky swamps of pop culture -- more specifically, the New-Age/New-Wage crowd, pop spirituality & religion, pop psychology, self(ish)-help, business babble, media silliness, & related (or occasionally unrelated) matters of consequence. Hope you're wearing boots. (By the way, the "Cosmic" bit in my moniker is IRONIC.)

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Bad sports, good sports

The more I write about The Secret, the more criticism I receive. That's the one topic on this blog that seems to have really touched a nerve. However, I have to say that I'm not getting quite as many critics as I did just a while back, and I'm sure that's at least partly because there are now so many other detractors to keep Secret fans occupied. Now that the mainstream media have finally taken notice of the Secret phenomenon and have loosed their own critics, I'm kind of second-string. (Well, I probably always was.)

There's an increasing amount of Secret-related activity in the blogosphere as well, and not all of it is Secret-friendly. Just the other day, for example, CBSNews.com’s Melissa McNamara mentioned that quite a few bloggers don’t care for The Secret. Case in point: The Stupidity Tracker. Just don't read it while you're eating tomatoes.

I also found more critics in Secret creator/producer Rhonda Byrne’s homeland, Australia: the self-described "bitches" who run The Spin Starts Here.

I’m pretty gentle by comparison.

Even so, some of the comments I've been getting lately are, to put it mildly, colorful, and I've rejected more than one. I gladly print critical comments, but I do have limits, and lately I've been receiving vitriolic messages from some real Mister Dirty Mouths (as our friend Lincoln Meyer on Boston Legal might have said). I am assuming these Dirty Mouths are male, anyway. In the event that I am wrong, I apologize to the entire male gender for my sexist assumptions.

As for you D.M.s, if you're reading this, be aware that I have a policy of not printing blatantly abusive comments on my blog. Even as I write this, though, I realize that abusiveness may be relative. Some contend that I am being abusive by being so sarcastic about The Secret and referring to its more obsessive fans by a term I coined: "Secretrons." (Hey, and here's another term I just recently thought up: "LOAnoids."*)

Abusive or not, I do allow sarcasm here, even when it is directed against me, as it sometimes has been. And I allow some name-calling as well, even when people call me names. Fair is fair, after all. Among the names I've been called as a result of my Secret-baiting are "Captain Bring-down," "hate-monger," and "rat."

However, I draw the line at gratuitous epithets, particularly those having to do with parts of the female anatomy.

You D.M.s should know that you are not shocking me by sending me these childish missives, and you are most certainly not changing my mind about The Secret. (I also do not think that you are at all representative of Secret fans, so if you are in truth Secret haters who are just trying to make Secret fans look worse, it's not working.) All you are doing is guaranteeing that your words will never see the light of day on Whirled Musings. And if you keep harassing me, I will find out who you are and tell your mommies, and they might restrict your computer access.

In marked contrast to disgruntled Secret fans, a person whose company I lampooned recently on Whirled Musings wrote me a nice note yesterday, thanking me for "keeping it real." In truth I was not satirizing his product so much as I was poking fun at the extraordinarily hype-y marketing. The person who had actually sent the numerous breathless emails about the product, via my favorite New-Wage spam service, seemed like a typical young and hyper-enthusiastic MLM type. And the product itself had been endorsed by one of the most aggressive self-promoters in the history of modern self-promotion. (I'll keep that person's name a Secret for now.)

But the company president, with whom I struck up a brief but friendly correspondence, agreed that some of the marketing may have been over the top. Admittedly, this guy has ties in the New-Wage world, and in one of his emails he mentioned a particular self-help path that he said had worked for him. A couple of Google clicks revealed he has a pretty close association with the founder of that self-help system. Yet he seems like a genuinely nice person who is backing some research that may well be worth pursuing. But my opinion is that if he wants more respect from mainstream science, or even from run-of-the-mill skeptics and cynics, he would be well-advised to distance himself and his product from the miracles-and-wonders marketing milieu.

Still, it's nice to know that some folks to whom I have not been overly kind can be pretty good sports. It's a point well worth considering. No matter how weary many of us may be of the New-Wage hype and hysteria – particularly that surrounding The Secret – the issues cannot be boiled down to a simple "us vs. them." Despite the apparent joy some get from polarization (and at times I have been just as guilty of this as anyone else), we're all in this discussion together.

Except, of course, for you Dirty Mouths. Y'all are getting a time-out until you can learn to behave yourselves.

PS - All of the criticism, serious and sarcastic, isn't making a dent in the Secret franchise's bottom line. Chris Locke just forwarded a notice to me from Publishers Weekly.com that Simon and Schuster has placed the biggest reorder in its history: two million more copies of the book version of The Secret. Maybe they can air-drop a few hundred thousand copies on East Timor, Somalia, and Sierra Leone, currently rated among the poorest nations in the world.
PPS - At exactly 12:28 PM Central Standard Time, March 1, 2007, my hit counter reached 666. This is the number of new visits since a week ago today, February 22, 2007, when I set the counter up. Boy, the hits are really flooding in now! And to New Visitor Number 666: I wish I could award you a door prize, but I don't know who you are.

* LOA stands for "Law of Attraction"




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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Lust and light

The debate about The Secret rages on, and it’s getting really fun now. I think people on both sides of the fray, as well as those who fancy themselves to be sitting on the fence, can agree on one thing: All of the criticism that’s coming out isn’t going to even make a dent in the sales of this New-Wage marketing masterpiece. If anything, it will boost them. But I don’t have a stake in it either way.* I’m just having fun with the whole thing.

Yep, I seem to have gotten over my boredom with the topic. I mostly blame Blair Warren, dispenser of Crooked Wisdom, for this. Blair, it seems has recently been given a Universal Law even more powerful than the Law of Attraction: the Law of Extraction, or LOE. Works first time, every time – and no loopholes. Be greedy now!

And speaking of greed, I need to warn y’all about something. There’s a tall, lanky guru named Tilak who seems to have attracted some pretty prominent Law of Attraction fans in recent months. I blogged about him a while back. Rhonda Byrne herself was seen partying with him in Las Vegas during Tilak’s birthday bash last year. (More on that in a moment.) At that time Tilak was one of the darlings of the conspicuously enlightened, including Marcy From Maui, owner of the Powerful Intentions web site. (Powerful intentions are a cornerstone of LOA culture, as I blogged about a few months ago.) Anyway, it seems Tilak got himself in a spot of trouble on the East Coast back in the early 1990s, but hey, no problem, there’s always the West Coast. So that’s where he is now.

Well, the other day I learned from the Guruphiliac blog that poor Tilak is in trouble once again. I wonder how this is going to affect his cozy relationship with Rhonda Byrne, which I learned more about when I went back to Guruphiliac just now. The plot thickens!

I hasten to add that, according to his lawyers, all of the accusations of fraud and sexual shenanigans leveled against Tilak are lies. But I did notice that Marcy From Maui seems to have taken down her bubbly blog posts about Tilak, as well as the birthday bash photos from last November. I imagine she feels pretty let down. I’m sure Joe Sugarman, the BluBlocker Man who, according to Marcy, first brought Tilak to Maui, feels a bit let down too. Maybe these people should have done a little background check before they so enthusiastically welcomed this guy into their inner circle.

And how must poor Rhonda feel?

Anyway, here’s a link to a news story and video of Tilak’s latest troubles.

http://www.10news.com/news/11087742/detail.html

But remember, his lawyers say it’s all a lie, or at least a big misunderstanding. And lawyers never lie, so I’m sure Tilak will get off. Wait, let me reword that. I am sure he will be exonerated. So you people on the North and South Coasts, get ready. A new guru may be coming to your town soon!

Well, that’s it for now. Keep practicing whichever Universal Law works for you the best. If none of the existing Laws work for you, make up one of your own. Just stay away from tall dark horny guys who have itty-bitty flashlights in their mouths.

* If I decide to do Google ads or something in the future (and I may do that because, let’s face it; we’re all whores in one way or another), I will have a financial stake in getting traffic to my blog. But I will disclose that information when and if it becomes applicable. BTW, the "PetSmart coupons" link at the bottom of my blog is there as part of the hit counter. I'm not getting any money for it; I just get to use the hit counter for free. The counter shows new traffic only, beginning on February 22, 2007. Just in case you're wondering.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Sunday rumblings from "the dark side"

Did I scoop the New York Times?

"There are some surprising secrets behind The Secret," says an article on the front page of the Style section of today’s New York Times. (I think I pasted in a Permalink, but just in case it doesn't work it should be pretty easy to find elsewhere. It's worth the effort to do a bit of searching.)

Written by the delightful Allen Salkin, the piece is entitled, "Shaking Riches Out of the Cosmos," and the title would seem to say it all. Salkin begins with mentioning a topic that, as it happens, Yours Truly wrote about on December 6 of last year (in a piece that, as it happens, I called, "Some secrets behind The Secret"): the fact that there are two versions of The Secret DVD. Missing from the second, "new and improved" version are channeling stars Esther and Jerry Hicks, the George and Gracie of the New-Wage world.*

Of course, I really didn’t scoop anyone. (I may be a narcissist, but I am not deluded.) I got my news last December from some of the Secret-friendly blogs and discussion forums, and all I was able to do at the time was quote the "official" message from Esther Hicks regarding the reason for the split with Rhonda Byrne, creator and producer of The Secret. At that time, it was spun as an amicable divorce, and all of the decisions about the split were made with love, according to Hicks. I did, however, do a little bit of reading between the lines and got called on my cynicism by angry Secret fans.

Well, now the truth is out, or at least more of the truth is out than was previously the case. That’s probably because Allen Salkin is a real journalist and actually did some digging. But it seems that I was reading between the lines correctly. Despite all of her syrupy talk of wanting to make others happy and do good things for this ol' Universe of ours, it seems Rhonda Byrne is just as motivated by the great gods of commerce as any other New-Wage capitalist.

Big surprise, eh?

Of course, Allen Salkin is probably working on the "dark side" too, as I have been for many years. I am sure he and the Times will be hearing plenty from disgruntled Secret fans.

In any case, the split hasn’t really hurt the bottom line of Esther and Jerry Hicks, who have apparently made a fortune with their gang of imaginary pals collectively known as "Abraham." By their own admission, they make millions per year. For that matter, so do JZ Knight and her fantasy bud, Ramtha.

And in case you weren’t aware of it, Newsweek has just come out with its own cover story on The Secret. The article is critical of The Secret and is already generating the expected responses from The Secret’s stars and fans, who rationalize that, after all, "It's mainstream journalism."

As I’ve noted here before, however, Oprah and Larry King – who rank among The Secret’s most prominent cheerleaders – are mainstream too. Not that they’re journalists; Larry King may have been one at one time, but he has long since slipped into that nebulous but profitable category called infotainment, and Oprah is…well, Oprah, the reigning Queen of Pop Culture. But they are every bit as influential, if not more so, than the "mainstream news media."

Many Secret fans will find the Newsweek article unfair, as they found last December's critical Time Magazine article unfair. And some Secret non-fans will say the Newsweek and Time articles weren't critical enough. But, as I said in a comment on one of the discussions on my blog, "Fair is in the eye of the beholder, particularly when it comes to media coverage."

By the way, in the interests of fairness, I do want to say that no matter how much I agree with people such as Skeptico about the science, or lack thereof, behind the Law of Attraction, I do not think it is dishonest or hypocritical of Secret star Joe Vitale – or anyone else – to moderate comments on their blogs. I’ve been round and round about this very issue recently myself, as some of you may recall. Anyone who owns a blog, web site, discussion board or any other online forum has a right to decide what gets published and what doesn’t. And from a liability standpoint, it’s just good common sense.

This is a major point on which I disagree with Skeptico and his friends. Upon reflection, I’ve come to the conclusion that this probably has more to do with "cultural" (or perhaps more accurately, generational) differences than anything else. Gen-Y folks are more likely to view the Net as a no-holds-barred, anything-goes environment – the last bastion of free expression, perhaps – and are therefore more apt to see withholding publication for just about any reason as "censorship" or "intellectual dishonesty." I, on the other hand, am a member of the fuddy-duddy culture that believes in open discussion, but with limits. And in my own forum, I get to set those limits. So does Joe Vitale.

Not that I haven’t learned a lot from the no-holds-barred crowd. I have. I’m still learning. And I do want to emphasize that even though I am a firm believer in comment moderation, this still doesn’t mean that the Law of Attraction is a scientific principle, or a "law" in the sense that the Law of Gravitation is. It is not.

One more thing, speaking of "the dark side": There are some interesting discussions about The Secret and the Law of Attraction on Blair Warren’s "Crooked Wisdom" blog. Hurry on over there and get in on the fun. (But I'd better warn you now that Blair, too, is one of those fuddy-duddies; he moderates.)

That’s it for now. I’m going out to enjoy this glorious day with The Rev.

PS - I want to thank my new friend "moi," aka "d'botm," who comments here frequently, for telling me about the NY Times article. I should also mention that in response to one of my recent posts, a Secret fan going by the name of Operators R. Standingby mentioned a "critical but fair" NY Times article the other day, but didn't mention its publication date or the author. If this is indeed the same article, and Op just had an advance look at it, then of course I owe thanks to her/him too. Well, actually, I owe this person thanks anyway, for keeping the discussion lively.

* The big difference being that George & Gracie's comedy was intentional.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Pizza pan Mary enthralls thousands

I don’t know why I’m so negative and whiny (as the Secretrons keep pointing out to me). After all, miracles and wonders are all around me. In fact, another miracle has just manifested in my own fair city.

This past Ash Wednesday, a humble cafeteria worker beheld a sacred splotch on a pizza pan (pictured here). Now thousands are flocking to a makeshift shrine at the home of a PTA member from Pizza Lady’s school. They're all coming to see the splotch, which they believe is an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. They are asking the splotch for all sorts of favors and healing of illnesses and such.

These are the kinds of things that make me feel so unholy. To tell the truth, Our Lady of Guadalupe is not what I see when I look at the image. And a different kind of healing comes to mind.

But maybe that’s just me.

PS - Eventually I'll get around to applying labels to my posts for easy cross-referencing, but for now, if you'd like to read more of my profound ruminations on miracle items, here's a post I wrote last August.

PPS - Regarding my interpretation of the image above: I realize there are various sacred traditions surrounding that image too, but my guess is that these traditions are not observed by the visitors to the Shrine of the Holy Splotch. And I'd also be willing to bet that if someone were actually to try to practice one of these other religions at this particular shrine, they'd get the holy crap slapped out of them.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

I’m mostly bored with it, but…

What I’m mostly bored with are my own rants about The Secret, not with what others have to say about it. I felt a need to share two links I came across today (just in case you haven't already found them, and I know some of you have). I’m just trying to maintain some balance in this ol’ Wish Book we call the Universe. Or at least some balance in the blogosphere.

So anyway...

Here’s a write-up about the Law of Attraction on SkepDic.com, the online version of The Skeptics Dictionary. Granted, it is written with a skeptical p.o.v. and a touch of cynicism; it could hardly be called dispassionate. But it provides a good, and, in my view, urgently needed, counterpoint to all of those "scientific" claims about the Law of Attraction, as well as some worthwhile links to related subjects: confirmation bias, manifestation, and magical thinking.

Via SkepDic I discovered a blogger named Mike (who, you can see by his pic, is the Devil incarnate); here’s his rant about The Secret. Warning for those who are sensitive: The language gets a little colorful, and there's a bit of name-calling, but it's just too funny to pass up.

Okay, that’s my contribution for the day. Now let's all get back to work.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Things are looking up...I think

I hate to have to deviate from my role of Captain Bring-Down, skipper of my very own electronic garbage barge (as one of the Secretrons helpfully suggested the other day), but I felt compelled to share some good news. It’s been a while since I reported on the Nether Regions rescue project that’s being run by Extreme Lightworker Bryan James. Bryan, owner of Circle of Lights, is heading up this daring project to rescue 50 million souls who are trapped in Hell. Along with Mother Mary, several Ascended Masters and Chakra Queen / Powerful Intender Shondra Burt – plus thousands of viewers like you* – Bryan has managed to make a real difference in Hell. Here, according to Bryan, are the latest stats on those 50 million folks:
  • 100% have shown some movement
  • 100% have opened their eyes
  • 45% are walking with some assistance (6% without)
  • 39% are asking questions (e.g., "Who am I?" or "Where am I?")
  • 2% are regaining cognitive ability

So how do we know we can trust Bryan’s numbers? Well, he’s pretty knowledgeable about numbers, as I have previously reported on this very blog. Furthermore, he’s the father of two Indigo Children. How can you not trust a man like that?

By the way, you still have a chance to get in on the Nether Regions rescue project. There’s a lot more work to be done, and there's a heck of a lot going on down there, as indicated by the pictures here. To participate in the fun, all you have to do, before you go to sleep at night, is ask to be taken to the Nether Worlds while in your dream state. Once you get to Hell, simply provide support for the Holy Ones trying to revive the souls coming out of comatose conditions. You may be called upon to make donut runs, put out a few fires, do some light typing and filing, clean up some excrement here and there, or simply participate in a prayer, meditation, or group hug.

Then you simply send Bryan an email telling him how many nights you served. It’s totally on the honor system, but remember, Mother Mary and all those Masters are watching you. For every night you serve in Hell, you will receive one free Frequency Acceleration from Bryan, which would normally set you back $24.99.

Bryan James also offers Extreme Lightwork training. Sign up for a class and you’ll receive:

  • An etheric electric blue robe that signifies membership in the Sacred Order of Dionysius, who is in charge of all Lightworkers.
  • An etheric Light Rod with a frequency of 9,999. This is a useful tool for generating Light energy at a moment's notice for healing or clearing negative energies. (Eat your heart out, Luke Skywalker!)
  • A legion (1,000) of protective angels from Archangel Michael. This number can be increased as necessary.
  • A squad of Lightwarriors from Horus (Heru) for protection (usually two to four, but more are available as necessary).
  • 18 Protective Light Shields from Melchizedek. This number is also increased as necessary.
  • 5,000 'teammates' from other dimensions (originating from over 600,000 dimensions). This number grows as a person grows in their Lightwork. No other person on the planet outside of this group has more than 200 teammates. (Even Verizon Wireless, with its "Network" headed up by that friendly but suspiciously reticent dweeb, can't beat this deal.)
  • Advanced class receives much more!

So… that’s what some concerned souls are doing as we hurtle towards the End of Days (or not). At least that’s what I think they are doing. And I think they are serious. But boy, will my face be red if I find out that this is all part of some elaborate online game community or something.

* Well, like you, except a lot more gullible.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Wake up and smell the controversy (it’s been brewing for months)

In response to increasing criticism of The Secret, pep talks to reassure the faithful are popping up all over the blogosphere. Some of these writers seem to be treating the censure as if it were a recent phenomenon. What they either don’t realize or aren’t acknowledging is that criticism of The Secret has been going on for some time. It is not, as some defenders have claimed, "a sudden controversy." The critics are not just now "climbing out of the woodwork" or "flying out of their dark hiding places," as other defenders have said.

For example, Steve Salerno, author of SHAM: How The Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless, has been blogging about The Secret (and its hype-y marketing) since the beginning of last year. I may have mentioned it a time or two on my blog as well, beginning with this post from August 12 of last year. In more mainstream media, Time Magazine published a critical piece just after Christmas last year. And if you look at the discussions on public forums such as Amazon’s discussion boards you will see, among the oceans of glowing praise, some islands of sharp criticism from viewers of the DVD and readers of the companion book.

Granted, some critics such as Skeptico have only just recently deigned to write about The Secret, and since his blog is more geared towards science and critical thinking than mere pop-culture commentary, I can’t say I blame him for putting it off. But I have a feeling he and his regular contributors will soon be making up for lost time. (BTW, nearly two years ago Skeptico also posted an article about What The Bleep Do We Know?!? His article has some good links to information from real scientists, explaining why What The Bleep?!? is at best a ludicrous misrepresentation of quantum physics. (At worst, as many critics have noted, it is an outrageous infomercial for "channeling" superstar JZ Knight and her imaginary friend Ramtha.))

In short, there have been rumbles of discontent about The Secret, and some of the related New-Wage topics, since long before Rhonda Byrne’s cash cow was featured on Oprah. Oprah just brought the phenomenon a bit more into the mainstream. True, there did seem to be a honeymoon period in which The Secret received nothing but uncritical coverage from the mainstream media, if it received any attention at all. (The two-part Larry King Secret/What The Bleep showcase last November is a case in point.) But the critics have been around since day one. Nowadays there are just more of them, and they’re popping up increasingly in the mainstream media.

For the record, I don’t think The Secret is dangerous or that it should be censored. I know that such an idea enhances The Secret’s image as forbidden knowledge that ‘they’ want to keep from you, but I have no desire to keep any kind of knowledge, beneficial or not, a secret from anyone. And from what I’ve seen, the desire to keep humankind ignorant does not seem to be the motivating factor behind most of the criticisms of The Secret that I’ve seen. I’d say quite the opposite is true, in most cases.

Moreover, I don’t have a religious agenda, though some who criticize The Secret (at least some of those on the Amazon discussion boards) obviously do. I’m not affiliated with any church or faith that believes The Secret is sinful and that people who believe in it will go to Hell. Nor am I anti-spiritual or anti-success; where this blog is concerned, my only mission in those areas is to make fun of trends in pop spirituality and business geekdom.

Furthermore, I’m not a therapist who’s afraid The Secret will make people so happy and well-adjusted they won’t need therapists any more. Nor, for that matter, am I a therapist who is genuinely concerned that some rather unbalanced folks are being harmed by some of the ideas in The Secret. I’m not any kind of therapist at all, though over the years a few folks have suggested, perhaps with some justification, that I need therapy.

It should also be obvious that I’m not selling a New-Wage product or service that competes with anything or anyone in The Secret. I’m not dissing The Secret to get traffic to my blog, as one Secret defender claimed another critic is doing. It doesn’t benefit me financially for people to visit my blog, since being a "self-appointed monitor of human interests," as one of my critics called me, or a smarty-pants, as I call myself, is not what I do for a living.

And believe it or not, I don’t get any particular pleasure out of raining on people’s joy.

It doesn’t even bother me that so many people find the ideas in The Secret appealing. I find many of those ideas appealing too. That doesn’t mean I can accept them, however. And I do think that more people need to take a critical look at The Secret – not just at the actual material, but also at the machinations behind The Secret franchise. Perhaps fans should spend more time examining the possible motives of its producers and stars, and less time pointing fingers at the possible motives of its critics.

And this brings me to the numerous charges leveled against my character by Secret defenders: e.g., that I am negative, weak, ignorant, fearful, unhappy, envious, hateful, self-hating, hostile, rude, and worse – judgments that they reached solely from reading my blog posts about The Secret. It seems to comfort some of them to believe that harsh criticisms of The Secret are merely a result of the critics' own inadequacies, or what the The Secret's fans have deemed those inadequacies to be.

Some have imagined more dastardly factors than an unbalanced personality behind my Secret-baiting. One person said I was a hate-monger, concluding the message with, "Lady, I can smell your kind of rat from a mile away."

Which probably tells you a lot more about that writer than it does about me.

But here's something very curious: As The Secret controversy grows more intense, I find I am actually beginning to get bored with this subject. I mean, I’m even beginning to bore myself, and I am one of the least easily bored people I know (or the most easily amused). I won’t promise that this is my last word on The Secret. It’s just too tempting a target. But there are so many other things in this crazy Whirled that are just begging for my attention. I need to return to them for a while.

But I’ll still be watching.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Open season on the manifestation manifesto?

While engaging in her customary sport of poking fun at Dubya and gang in her February 17 Op-Ed piece, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd managed to get in some well-aimed digs at The Secret. Although the thought of the nominal leader of the free world actually embracing The Secret is somewhat frightening, I found the piece hilarious, and my thanks to Chris Locke at Mystic Bourgeoisie for first bringing it to my attention.

Though it could be argued that The Secret was just collateral damage for Ms. Dowd, LA Times editorial writer Karin Klein went straight for the jugular.

I imagine Law of Attraction fans are going to be very busy now, since they’re going to have to fight on so many fronts, pop-psychoanalyzing everyone who expresses the opinion that The Secret is a glorified infomercial for the conspicuously enlightened and the hopelessly gullible. It’s clearer now than ever that disdain for The Secret is no longer restricted to the blogosphere (by the way, see Steve Salerno's SHAMblog post today); it has broken out all over. Of course, fans of Rhonda Byrne’s most successful commercial and companion book now have Oprah on their side, but, appearances to the contrary, not quite everyone accepts everything Oprah says as the unconditional truth.

The Secretrons do have another option besides their psychobabble interventions: they can always try simply ignoring the growing number of vocal non-Secret fans, hoping we’ll just go away. For many of them, though, it is altogether too tempting to jump in and declare us all to be weak, jealous, negative, rude, bitchy, ignorant, hate-mongering, and worse.

They can ignore us, abhor us, or try to floor us with their LOA logic or their declarations of our abject ignorance. But as long as The Secret franchise continues to spew out its preposterous product, we are not going away.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Boy, was I put in my place (not)

Apparently I have royally ticked off a fan of the Sri Lankan guru Tilak (pictured here with one of his most faithful followers). Today I received a response to a post I wrote last November about Tilak and some of his followers. Until today, I'd received not one comment in response to that post, although Jody at Gurphiliac mentioned it on his blog.

I've chosen not to publish today's comment exactly as sent, because I am trying to maintain a certain decorum on this blog. On the other hand, I really hate being a total censor, so I will present an edited version.

The person wrote, "What do I think of you? Um....yer a dumb [expletive that rhymes with runt]? Yep, that about sums er up."

And that was the message in its entirety.

Wow. What an incisive, persuasive argument, from an obviously enlightened person.

Nevertheless, I consider this comment to be a gift. People such as the one quoted above do more harm for the New Age/New Wage culture than my silly little blog ever could.

At any rate, fellow bloggers, in case you're not already convinced, this is yet another illustration of why it is a good idea to moderate your blog.

PS - I probably don't even need to add this, but thought I'd mention that the commenter paraphrased above wrote anonymously, as do the overwhelming majority of my critics.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Just don’t crap in the river, okay?

Just in time for the Chinese New Year – and Happy Year Of The Pig, everyone! – I get this email from a woman inviting me to China this summer to help heal the planet and activate my intestines at the same time. The woman, an Aussie named Dr. Lilliana Corredor, is, according to her bio page on an Austrailian site called HolisticPage, "an Expert in Water, with Degrees in: Biology, Chemistry, Marine Biology, General Oceanography, Biological Oceanography and Freshwater Organisms from Universities in South America, France and Australia." (Were there at one time Freshwater Organisms in the Universities in South America, France and Australia? Someone look into this for me, okay?)

Dr. Corredor, who is said to have two decades of publication in scientific journals under her belt, left academia in 1990 and has been devoting her life since then to water-oriented environmental education campaigns. At some point on her life’s journey, she realized that healing the waters of the Earth is key to healing the Earth itself, as well as to healing "the Lovebody of Humanity," the latter of which, near as I can tell, has to do with karmic issues. Dr. Corredor even wrote a book about the subject, Healing The Water & The Emotions, which retails for $50.00 (Australian dollars, that is; that would be a little over $39.00 US at current exchange rates). She apparently gets most of her guidance in these matters from the Star Dolphins and the Higher Council of Water Beings, of whom Poseidon, God of the Sea, is one. With their help, she now leads Water Healing Tours, including the upcoming Water Healing Journey To China and Tibet.*

The focus of this tour, which takes place from July 22 through August 3 of this year, will be the Yangtze River, the longest river in Asia. I can hear Monty Python’s Eric Idle now, reciting the eloquent poem: "Oh Yangtze! / Oh Yangtze! / Beautiful River. / River full of...fish." Alas, fish are not the only things in and around the Yangtze and China. There’s that controversy with the Three Gorges Dam, f’instance. Not to mention China’s notorious history of human-rights violations, such as that unpleasantness a while back in Tiananmen Square. The place is a hotbed of historical, environmental, and karmic issues.

And that’s where Dr. Corredor and her group come in. They’re going to tackle all of those things and more. By performing daily meditations during the tour, under the guidance of the Hosts of Love & Light of course, the group will "harmonize and balance the discord generated by humanity that is accumulated in the waters of the areas visited," Dr. Corredor explains. This will also help alleviate global warming. "We anchor our love & gratefulness in the local earth & waters," Dr. Corredor says. "We consider this a small payment to Gaia, this magnificent planet that provides us with all that supports our life stream."

"But wait, Cosmic Connie," I hear you saying. "You mentioned intestines at the very beginning of this post. What does all of this have to do with my intestines?"

Well, as you probably know, next to planetary healing, the one big issue that the typical New-Wager has long been concerned about is his or her colon, and for good reason. Some researchers believe that the intestines, rather than the heart, are the seat of all emotions, and there’s some pretty compelling evidence to support that notion, such as this picture from Dr. Yakov Koyfman, an intestinal expert in the Atlanta, Georgia area. The intestines are also apparently to blame for many health problems. "In any modern person, the walls of your Small Intestine are covered with toxic mucus and stagnant bile, you get nutrient deficiency," Dr. Koyfman helpfully advises on his web site.** He will clean out all of your intestinal parts for a mere $1,200.00, or $1,080.00 if you pay in advance.

"But that still doesn’t explain what this has to do with the China Water Healing tour!" I hear you saying. Wait, I’m coming to that. At the same time that the participants in Dr. Corredor’s Water Healing Tour are tending to the Yangtze and other area landmarks, they will also be activating their intestine chakras, according to the information on the Water Healing Tour web site. This all has to do with the Lovebody thing, I think.

If you cannot understand how your intestine chakra can be activated by a group meditation, or, for that matter, how a bunch of affluent, conspicuously enlightened tourists with newly-activated intestines could possibly help heal the Yangtze, clear the discord in Tiananmen Square, and help mitigate global warming,*** you clearly have no understanding of the subtle energies at work in the Universe. Then again, I don’t understand these things either, as fans of The Secret are always trying to tell me. But it's not necessary to understand how something works in order to make it work. I'd just take Doc Corredor's word for it if I were you; after all, she got the word from the Star Dolphins and Poseidon.

Anyway, I thought you’d like to know about this great new tour op. I think it’s a wonderful chance to give something back to this old rock we call home, while helping to heal humanity’s Lovebody and working on your own intestinal issues.

And if that doesn’t work, remember, Dr. Koyfman is waiting in Georgia with his…um…instruments.

* The link, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, is http://www.water-consciousness.com/china.htm.
** I sure hope you aren't reading this while you're eating dinner or something.
*** Some might argue that overly active intestines could actually contribute to global warming.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

It's a light work day

I had actually started a real blog post, and it was about something terribly important concerning planetary healing, but then I got distracted with other matters of consequence. So what the hell, I'll finish up tomorrow. The friggin' planet can wait to be healed. Meanwhile, I offer as consolation yet another recycled morsel from Cosmic Relief.

It's been fifteen years since I created this simple and rather crudely rendered little ad parody...and very little has changed in the New-Wage world. The main difference between then and now is that a hell of a lot more people are into New-Wage diversions such as aromatherapy, Hellerwork, craniosacral therapy, and the like than was the case in the early 1990s. (Some would call that progress, but these are probably the same people who think The Secret represents progress too.)

What's more, I could probably place my "ad" in a real New-Wage rag, and I would probably get calls from real people wanting to avail themselves of these powerful therapies. (Or someone would get those calls; that's not my real phone number.)

As usual, you need to click on the pic to see the enlarged version...

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Heart of snarkness

I hope everyone to whom the holiday matters had a wonderful Valentine’s Day, or, as some would have it, Fourth Chakra Day. I definitely felt the love yesterday; my email in-box was positively bursting with sweet Valentine’s offers and love-related messages from my favorite New-Wage spam service. There were, for example, several ads for books about soul mates, Twin Flames and eternal love. One message that really stood out was an ad about a couple of twin flames calling themselves Antera and Omeran, who have, naturally, been together for thousands of years. They have written a book and created a musical play and a CD about their twin-flamation.

I also received a notice from a Kansas woman named Debbie King, who makes and sells personal altars that can help bring on love and a feeling of unity with all that is, and, by so doing, can ultimately create world peace. "Peace starts with you, to have peace in our world we must first become and allow peace in our lives," Debbie explained. "One Song Peace Boutique has beautiful and unique personal peace altars, One Heart I AM tee shirts, and good people bracelets all of original artisitc (sic) design." (The altars sort of reminded me of the company I blogged about a couple of months ago that manufactures makeshift memorials.*)

There was also the latest of several reminders about World Sound Healing Day, which, frankly, didn't seem at all sound to me. The event was described as a "Sonic Valentine to the Earth," with the intended result being a projection of "the energy of Light & Love throughout the Planet." The idea was that people all around the world would let out a big "AH" sound to heal this ol’ planet. But I know how easily these things can go awry, and, of course, have blogged about it, though admittedly my blog concerned a worldwide "OM" chant rather than the "AH."

The World Sound Healing people said it didn’t matter when I did my AH, as long as I did it within the 24-hour window. "You will actually experience generating a field of transformational energy as this occurs," they wrote. "We have found that creating a Global Sacred Sound any time within a 24 hour period on the planet will create a coherent waveform that will affect the entire Earth. Through sounding together we will make a difference."

But I totally forgot to AH, because I was too busy Cosmic Con-tificating on other people’s blogs to AH (not to mention too preoccupied with doing my "real" work). Heck, I didn't even have a chance to write an official V-Day post on Whirled Musings. So now the big day has come and gone, and I’m not sure if the world is soundly healed or not. I’d say probably not, but then I’m just a negative whiner, so what do I know?

As for personal celebrations, I’ve pretty much let The Rev off the hook when it comes to Valentine’s Day, since the holiday falls a mere three weeks after my birthday, and my b.d. celebration generally continues for weeks at a time. It just ended, in fact, and this year I was treated to not one, not two, but a total of six special birthday dinners and assorted other sweet surprises. Of the dinners, I have to say my favorite was the one I enjoyed with The Rev at an Empire, Colorado bed-and-breakfast called The Peck House. Here’s their dinner menu.

So…Valentine’s, Schmalentine’s. I have more important matters to think about now. F’rinstance, it’s been far too long since I’ve blogged about The Secret, the New-Wage infomercial that’s making waves all over the world. In the brief time that Whirled Musings has been up and running I’ve blogged several times about The Secret; just type "The Secret" into the Blogger search field at the top of the page and you can see for yourself. But lately I’ve been quite negligent, particularly in light of the fact that The Secret has now officially been endorsed by none other than Oprah, who on February 8 turned her show into an infomercial for the infomercial.

I’d heard disturbing rumors that Oprah’s Secret show was so popular she decided to do a follow-up show on Friday, February 16, and I needed to find out for myself if the rumors were true. So I went to Oprah.com, which, according to the description that appears on the title bar at the top, is my leading source for information about love, life, self, relationships, food, home, spirit and health. I wish I’d known that! For years I have been making all sorts of life-, love-, self-, and food-related decisions without consulting Oprah.com. No wonder I am so messed up.

Anyway, there on the home page at my leading information source was this blurb: "One week later…the reaction to The Secret! Your emails poured in and Oprah.com went off the charts! The secret to making more money, losing weight, falling in love, landing your dream job...and you want more! The questions, the successes, and the lives changed. Stories you have to hear. A follow-up to the show everyone is talking about!"

So, yes, The Secret is coming back to The Oprah Winfrey Show by popular demand. Was there ever any doubt? Oprah herself seems positively awed and enchanted by The Secret and its creator, Aussie TV producer Rhonda Byrne. As do her fans. I popped on over to The Secret forum on Oprah’s discussion board to see firsthand the enthusiastic viewer responses to the February 8 hypefest. One of the first things that caught my eye was an amazing true story of a woman calling herself Soul Angel, who had put the principles in The Secret to work in her life. She said she’d asked her genie for a whole bunch of things, and one of the things she asked for was for Oprah to do a follow-up show on The Secret. And…ta-da! Oprah is doing it!

Who says, "Ask, believe and receive" doesn’t work?

However, Soul Angel still had a few issues:

Here's My Question regarding "The Secret": I am an overweight, single - never-married, unemployed for the third time in 4 years, and on government assistance 46 year-old woman who is looking to change careers who has always lived in rental apartments, but who wants to financially improve her bank account in order achieve her goals to own her own home, have savings for retirement and travel.

So what do I focus on first - Career? Getting any job? Abundance of funds? Healthy relationship with a life long partner? Health and feeling whole?

Where does a woman start with -what area of her life? Teachers do tell??????

PS I now re-phrase my needs and desires to the positive - "I am a healthy and whole, intelligent and attractive woman who is successful in all areas of my life and love myself and my creative life and those I come in contact with everyday!"

Another participant answered her:

Soul Angel, Start wherever u feel the most energy or desire but know u can work on it all. U don't have to choose. One of my favorite activities to do is work on my creativity box. Find a beautiful box that u enjoy looking at, get a piece of paper and write or type "what is in this box...Is!" Then leaf thru magazines, write on pieces of paper, look all around u for the things u want and enjoy and put them in the box. Then let the universe create them for u. Just stay focused on the good things that u want and not where u've been. U r a beautiful child of God and deserve all the things u desire. One of the things I love to do now when i get a little down is to dump everything out and one by one put them back in reminding myself of all the beautiful things I now have or soon will. Good Luck and Feel Good!!!

All righty, then! I’m going to go make a creativity box of my own.

Not quite everyone who participated in Oprah’s board discussion was enamored of The Secret. A person using the name "cosmophilo" wrote, "In any upcoming show about The Secret, ALLOW SOME DEBATE. Instead of just having 5 people singing from the same hymn-book. That is called an INFOMERCIAL for the DVD."

The only thing Cosmophilo left out was that the DVD itself is an infomercial. Cosmo continued:

This is not a Hollywood movie, so it need to open up DEBATE. So allow on a few learned critical thinkers, who can point out some of the flaws in the philosophy of The Secret…

Also, for BALANCE, also allow on some Christians, to give their point of view. I myself am not a Christian, but I realize that their critical point of view has value to this discussion, even though I personally disagree with parts of it. Its healthy to look at all sides of an issue….

Otherwise, Oprah is going to be severely criticized, like the James Frey incident, when the stuff hits the fan with The Secret, as it will very soon, once people are able to think about its implications over time. The Secret is going to get severely criticized once people take the time to really think it through, and get passed the fuzzy soft-peddled sales-pitch.

Does Oprah want to be associated to being an Infomercial for a product that could lead to serious problems for people, like people with Manic-Depression, or mental health issues?

Its already being reported in the LA Times that therapists are saying...

"...they're starting to see clients who are headed for real trouble, immersing themselves in a dream world in which good things just come."

Cosmo concluded the message by saying Oprah had better get smart and at least have some qualified psychologists talk about the potential dangers of some of the principles taught in The Secret.

In response mainly to Cosmo, a person going by the name of plillian wrote:

…Yes many people have mental health issues, what if you watched the secret and learn to help these people?

I believe Therapist are afraid people won't need them anymore.

If there are "testimonials" how is it that it's not a fact? Why would someone tell a testimonial and it's false?

This is something completely different than James Frey.

Just to let you know, there are millions people who knew about the secret long before Oprah presented it on her show.

It's obvious you haven't watched the secret, or you would know that there are professional psychologists on the DVD.

Dr. Phil would tell you that the secret does work, it's how he lives his life.

It's ashame that you have your rose colored glasses on and you have a hard time believing that you could have a life you truly want and actually be happy, instead of critizing others for trying to make changes in their life. If it's not working, stop doing it. Give it a chance.

Ahh…ummm…hmmm. As Meg Ryan’s flibbertigibbet character Angelica said in Joe v. The Volcano, I have no response to that.

Oprah, as you probably know, is not the first media giant to highlight The Secret on her show. Larry King ran his own two-part infomercial on November 2 and November 16 of last year.

Fortunately, and notwithstanding Oprah, Larry King, et al., not everyone in the media is singing the praises of The Secret. Time magazine ran a critical article last December, which I blogged about. And on his SHAMblog yesterday, Steve Salerno, another assertive non-fan of The Secret, provided a link to a piece by one of Rhonda Byrne's fellow countrywomen, journalist and commentator Anita Quigley. Quigley described The Secret DVD and companion book as…

…basically the self-help book and DVD to end all self-help books and DVDs.

In other words it should be called The Scam. And it’s such a good one that it’s making all those other life coaches that have gone before Rhonda such as Anthony Robbins and the author of The Celestine Prophecy green with envy.

Pop psychology. The modern art of making money. Where you pay a group of clean-cut Americans with big white smiles and impressive titles and letters after their names to tell you what you already know.

And the thing about those impressive titles and letters is that in some cases they’re just made-up, and they’re not all that impressive anyway, at least not to me. But Anita is right about those big white smiles, and about the clean-cut Americans’ propensity to tell you things you already know. And most of all, she’s right about it all coming down to "the modern art of making money."

Fans of The Secret who’ve visited my blog have told me I’m closed-minded, that I clearly don’t know what I’m talking about, that I just need to "get over it." One implied that my criticism of The Secret and the Secretrons stems from heart-chakra issues. And one even said I was a hate-monger, no better than Nazis (that would be related to the heart-chakra issues, I imagine).

When it comes to The Secret, though, it’s not my heart chakra that’s the problem. It’s that my crap-detection meter is getting way overworked, which in turn makes me inordinately snarky, which inspires yet more sanctimony from the Secretrons. And so it goes.

And speaking of the latter, I’ve noticed that Cosmophilo, the naysayer on Oprah’s board, is getting the obligatory pop-psychology analysis as a result of criticizing The Secret:

Cosmo, You have so much anger, and Jealousy. It's really said. Re read what you've written and listen to the anger.

You may want to consider something new in your life. It's no secret that you are filled with so much hatred for others being successful.

This all sounds so eerily familiar…

Well, Cosmo, I hope you someday discover Whirled Musings and SHAMblog. I think you’ll feel much more at home among those who aren’t quite so attracted to the Law of Attraction.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I really have to get back to work. Besides the books we’re working on – and we just got yet another new project in – my big project now is trying to convince The Rev to publicly come forth as the real father of Anna Nicole’s kid. Claiming paternity of little Dannielynn seems to be a hot growth industry, and I want The Rev to get in on the ground floor. Since Anna Nicole is from Our Town, I figure The Rev has a better chance than many of being believed.

Wish us luck!

PS (added on Sunday, Feb. 18): The Rev just sent this my way. It's from the very inspiring web site Despair.com; it somehow seemed appropriate to the discussion of The Secret:

* I made up the makeshift-memorial company; it was part of a blog post. However, the personal-altar company mentioned above is real. Or at least as real as things get in the New-Wage world.
** I was dismayed to find out that in 2005 a UK psychologist declared my birthday to be "the most depressing day of the year."

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Feline Feng Shui?

If you have cats, and you keep them indoors, you probably know something about Feline Rearrangement Compulsion Syndrome, or FRCS, which is a chronic condition I just made up. Or rather, I just made up the name. I certainly had nothing to do with the syndrome, which has been around at least as long as cats have been cohabiting with people. Cats, it seems, are never quite satisfied with their environments and are continually in the process of changing and rearranging, destroying and recreating. The time not spent dozing, playing, scarfing down food, licking themselves, or coughing up hairballs is devoted to moving your stuff around to suit their fancy.

I know, because I’ve been living with indoor cats for many years, and Ron and I currently share our home with three of the little stinkers. When we go to bed at night, the living room, which is the cats’ part of the house, is in perfect order. Or at least it’s as close to perfect as it’s going to get in the care of negligent housekeepers. More often than not, however, when we wake up the next day we find knick-knacks and DVDs pulled off of shelves, pictures askew, lampshades all cockeyed, newspapers scattered and shredded, Ron's bicycle moved halfway across the room and tipped over on its side, even the occasional chair or sofa moved. Sometimes the place looks like the disheveled love nest after Rene Russo and Pierce Brosnan had their inaugural boink in The Thomas Crown Affair remake. During Christmas, I have a devil of a time keeping the living room decorations in place, thanks to my feline decorating committee. And throughout the year, anything small and lightweight that isn’t nailed down is likely to be cat-batted across the room, behind or underneath furniture, or even, quite possibly, into another dimension.

Ron has a simple explanation for all of this: "The world is a cat toy." (And whenever we have this conversation, he invariably starts humming the old War song, The World is a Ghetto, which, I am sorry to say, will now probably be going through your head for the rest of the day.) Animal behaviorists, of course, explain that cats are hunters by nature, and in lieu of prey, they’ll slap or bat around toys, food particles, household items, other pets, dangling human naughty bits or anything else that’s even marginally slappable. And then, of course, there are situations in which the wacky reshuffling or outright destruction of household items can be classified merely as collateral damage resulting from frenzied feline romping.

I’d always more or less believed the hunter/prey and collateral damage explanations, but I also believed that sometimes cats mess with our stuff out of spite. They crap in our shoes when they’re p.o.’d at us, or they find some other way to let their ire be known. For nearly eighteen years I shared my life with Bruce, a human in a cat body whom I still miss more than any animal I’ve lost in the past few years. Bruce was a large and beautiful tuxedo longhair who was not only one of the most talkative and profoundly affectionate cats I've ever known, but also, alas, one of the most destructive. Once I accidentally locked Bruce in the bedroom while I was gone from the house for a few hours. When I returned, it was to his loud and persistent complaint about having been imprisoned for so long.

Knowing my little guy’s destructive tendencies, I looked around the bedroom with apprehension. And at first glance, all seemed to be in order, but then I looked over at one of my bookcases and saw that someone had removed an expensive and somewhat rare illustrated children’s book, one of my favorites, and had flung it to the floor. It was only one book out of a couple hundred in the room. Moreover, it was packed tightly in between other books and had to have taken some effort to extract; I’d have thought opposable thumbs, or at least fingers, would have been a minimum requirement. But Bruce, or perhaps some impish creature from another world, had somehow managed to remove the prized book from the shelf (leaving the surrounding volumes neatly in place), toss it to the floor, take off the dust jacket without tearing it, and then crap on the lovely illustrated jacket. The book itself was unharmed, but what’s a book worth to a collector without its jacket?

After that, I was hard-pressed to believe any animal "expert" who claims that our companion animals are incapable of acting out of spite.

But it turns out that maybe Ron, the animal behaviorists and I have never had the whole story about why cats mess with our stuff. It’s not necessarily a manifestation of the hunter-prey dynamic, it’s not invariably a side effect of roughhousing, and it doesn’t always have to do with spitefulness.

It’s very possible that a cat who constantly rearranges household objects may have Feng Shui issues.

Feng Shui, as you no doubt know, is the ancient Chinese art of arranging one’s environment in ways that are harmonious with nature. It’s been around for thousands of years, but in the past decade or so it has really taken hold in the West, and now there’s a Feng Shui "expert" on every New-Wage corner. There’s even a gal in Connecticut who can Feng Shui your food; I blogged about her last September. In cities with a relatively large and influential Asian population, such as my own beloved Bayou City, the Feng Shui influence can even be seen increasingly in architectural design. And that’s fine with me. I’ve always been fascinated with octagons and would someday love to live in an octagonal-shaped house – not for any Feng Shui reasons but just because I think it’s a really cool shape.

Feng Shui is all about placing everything in one’s surroundings in such a way that there’s an optimal flow of a life force known as qi, or chi, as some spell it. I don’t know much about qi, apart from the fact that it seems to have caused quite a furor on this blog and a couple of others in the past week or so. At any rate, the result of this optimal flow of qi is, supposedly, a balanced and harmonious environment.

Apparently humans aren’t the only species for whom balance and harmony are essential. Feng Shui can benefit our animals as well, and I have that on good authority, the authority being Sharon Callahan (pictured above), a Mt. Shasta, California animal communication specialist and creator of her own brand of flower essences for animals. She's got a halo and everything, so I assume she's pretty evolved. I found an article by Sharon in the January 2007 issue of Natural Awakenings magazine, one of those New-Age/New-Wage freebie rags that’s available in a growing number of markets in the US. According to Sharon, "Cats, in particular, are extremely sensitive to the energies given off by different objects and the energies generated by different configurations of objects."

Sharon writes that when she communicates with small animals, which, naturally, she does telepathically, they often convey to her "a sense of discomfort with their indoor environment." She says the cats and other small animals transmit a mental picture to her of the undersides of beds, couches or other pieces of furniture. While these areas may be NBD to us, she explains, they comprise a great deal of our animals’ world.

Many of Sharon’s clients complain to her that their cats frequently explore the tops of their dressing tables, dining tables, kitchen counters, and other places where there are delicate objects or food is being prepared.

"Well, duh, that’s what cats do," I said to myself. They do it partly to see what’s going on in the upper regions of their world, but they also do it for the sheer bloody fun of it – and I just know they score extra points in their demonic little games for knocking valuable items to the floor, or getting their litter-encrusted paws into our food. Which is why Ron and I keep our cats shut away from the food-prep and computer areas of the house.

But Sharon has a different take on kitty’s compulsion to jump up on the table, dingle-berries and all, and get her butt as close as possible to your plate while you’re trying to eat dinner. "When questioned about this type of behavior during telepathic communication sessions," Sharon writes, "cats will often communicate that they like the energy in these places; they experience a sense of order, cleanliness and beauty that they do not experience when on the floor."

Hmmm….food for thought, though the implication that cats are obsessed with cleanliness is a little suspect. So, does this mean that we should just stop using tables and other furniture, and live our lives totally at cat-level in order to make kitty feel included and completely loved? For that matter, should we abandon that imperious upright-walking affectation and just crawl about on all fours in the presence of our beloved felines? Or, alternatively, should we give up and just let the pointy-ears join us on the upper levels? Well, those are certainly possibilities worth considering. (For other ways to make your cat feel utterly adored, click here.)

But Sharon has another idea. Instead of giving up our own high-level living, or resigning ourselves to litter tracks on the stove and cat hair in the soup, we should beautify and harmonize things at cat level. "Small container plants close to the floor, along with mirrors and sacred objects, make them very happy," writes Sharon. "They respond immediately to this arranging on their behalf and consequently, they spend far less time on furniture."

To illustrate her point, Sharon tells the story of how she once created an altar of remembrance for her cat Shoji on the floor in a corner of her bedroom. "I decorated it with fresh flowers, shells, rocks and a small statue of St. Francis, the patron saint of animals. Shoji loved his altar and would spend happy times in front of it, lying on his back in a kitty yoga posture." How Shoji learned yoga, Sharon does not say. She does explain that Shoji knew this was his special place.

That got me to thinking about why Bruce was often so destructive, and why my current crop of cats are all so intent on displacing everything in their part of the house. Perhaps it's because I've never created a "special place" for them. And no doubt the Feng Shui was all wrong in that bedroom I locked Bruce in. He wasn't p.o.'d about being locked in; he was just upset because the place was unbalanced. Who knows, maybe that organic sculpture he deposited on my book cover was just what he felt was needed to restore balance.

I know that by now you’re saying, "Well gee, Cosmic Connie, this all sounds pretty plausible, but how do we know that Sharon is really communicating with animals? And just how does she do it?"

Let me let her tell you. This is from one of the bio pages on her web site:

Although I have worked and communicated with animals all of my life, after a near death experience many years ago, I was given the ability to commune with animals in a very unique way. When I attune to an animal, I experience an actual merging of myself and the animal. In this merged state, I am able to feel what the animal feels and experience what it experiences. So the animal is not actually "telling" me something in the way that we usually perceive of "telling," but it is more that the animal allows my soul to merge with its soul.

I hope that clears it up for you.

Communicating psychically with animals has become quite a thriving industry in recent years, and I’d say it has to be a pretty easy gig. All you have to do is like animals, have a reasonably active imagination, and be willing to take people's money. Piece o'cake. I might try it myself.

Journalist Emily Yoffe wrote a piece in Slate a couple of years ago about her experiences at a workshop with an animal communicator she calls Delphine. Wrapping up the first day of the workshop, Delphine reminded everyone who was going to the next day’s advanced workshop to bring photographs of their animals. The idea was that by looking at the photo of their beloved, they could communicate long distance with him or her. Apparently they would find it easier to receive an accurate message because they wouldn’t be limited by reading the pet’s body language. One woman asked if they could bring pictures of animals that had died, and Delphine said, "Absolutely."

"It didn't matter if the animal was asleep, in the room, or even alive," writes Yoffe. "Delphine implied the deader the animal, the better and more pure the communication."

Sharon Callahan certainly doesn’t seem to limit her readings to the live animals her clients bring to her. When describing the "merging" process by which she communicates with an animal, she says:

This merging gives me access not only to the animals current state of health and well being, but often allows me to view the entire "life stream" consciousness of that particular species. Life stream in the broadest sense is a morphic field or soul group energy associated with a particular life form such as Dog, Cat, Horse, Elephant. or Human. A life stream can extend throughout time and across many incarnations of a particular being or whole species of beings. Tapping into the animal's life stream consciousness allows access to information about karmic learning's being played out in the individual animal and its overall species.

Given all that, I’m sure that Sharon knows what she’s talking about when she writes about the importance of creating a balanced and harmonious home environment for our pets. But don’t just take her word for it. No less an authority than Andrew Harvey, author and "sacred activism" expert, said in a recent interview: "If your animal is happy, the house will smile. And if your house smiles, all your hopes will flourish."

Well, hey, I’m convinced. No longer will I get all worked up about my pointy-eared angels’ penchant for altering my carefully arranged clutter. I’m going to go out to the 99 cent Only Store, where I spend most of my discretionary income anyway, and I’ll pick up some plastic flowers, candles, mirrors and other stuff to decorate the cat-level area of the house, all in keeping with Feng Shui principles, of course. And just for good measure, I'll go ahead and Feng Shui the entire room. That should put an end to the Feline Rearrangement Compulsion Syndrome once and for all. I’ll make the table tigers so friggin' happy that the house will be grinning like, well, a Cheshire cat.

But I’ll still miss Bruce.

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