I’ve been a self-development junkie from the time I read “How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci” by Michael J Gelb over eight years ago. The book taught me the importance of keeping a journal which I have been doing consistently for at least 8 years now. From that springboard I dove into the self-growth ocean exploring all the flora and fauna with enthusiasm and delight.

I took a tough online course called Tools to Life and graduated much to my surprise about five months later...surprised because my history at completing projects was notoriously bad.

I started my own self growth blog focusing on inspiring others, and then I began a newsletter. I’m in the throes of developing my own self help tools and I have almost finished my first book.

I’ve done all this without really thinking about the self-development industry until the other night when I sat in on a call hosted by Rich German, a well known personal coach and someone I have began to pay more attention to because his message resonates with me.

During his call he suggested that the self-development industry was responsible, to a large degree for soft selling how difficult it is to create change in one’s life by making everything sound so easy. In a direct reference to Jerry and Esther Hick’s contention, through the teaching of Abraham, that everything you want is downstream, that nothing you want is up stream he asserted that anything you really want is upstream. He asked outright, “how many people in your life have it all?” and for most of us the answer is maybe one if you’re lucky.

Rich’s contention is that you have to paddle like mad to get upstream to what you want...that it takes hard work and dedication to create the life of your dreams.
So is the self development industry selling a new, modern form of snake oil promising much but delivering very little?
As Rich spoke about the industries’ propensity for selling easy solutions I really had to stop and ponder the issue.

After all “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne takes fire from many critics who contend that she mislead people about how easy it was to use the Law of Attraction in their life with just a little visualization, a little wishful thinking, a few affirmations and untold wealth would be yours.

Her book sparked a revolution and a whole new industry and made her a very wealthy woman indeed. Millions and millions of people the world over where swept up with the euphoria of her vision. Yet when instant wealth didn`t arrive immediately people dismissed the whole topic as unworkable.

Then came Eckhart Tolle with his book, A New Earth which again stormed around the reaches of the world and into the studio`s of Oprah Winfrey. I was one of millions who tuned into the live events clutching my tattered and post-it flagged pages, spell bound by a riveting discourse between Oprah and Eckhart.

Was that all just a delicious dream or like Eckhart Tolle asks in the introduction to his book, “Is humanity ready for a transformation of consciousness, an inner flowering so radical and profound that compared to it the flowering of plants, no matter how beautiful, is only a pale reflection?”

I think part of the problem in all of this is a semantic one. What is easy and what is hard?

Take the metaphor of rowing a boat either upstream or downstream to get to what you want. To go downstream is about letting go, surrendering to the current and letting it carry you to the shore of plenty. But! , and it’s a pretty damn big BUT, surrendering or letting go is one of the hardest things you will ever have to do in the spiritual sense. Yes it’s easy, all you have to do is let go. Like a desperate man hanging onto a rope over a roiling river, the physical act of letting go is as simple as opening your hands,. You’ve done it untold times before with unthinking ease but now you are like the proverbial blind man grasping at straws. You will hang on in a death’s grip because to let go is to plunge to certain death.

In meditation I have been successful over time, in letting go, more and more...but that final step, the one that will send me over the precipice is still waiting for me to master because I cling onto that last bit of ego, screaming and kicking with all my might.

Rowing upstream however, appears hard, you are battling the current, and you are fighting the forces of nature with the sheer tenacity of your human spirit. Our natural instinct, groomed over a millennia of struggling to survive, is to fight, to claw to grasp for every step, every inch. We applaud it, we are inspired by it...yet in essence it is the easy way because we are bred to do it, we are just fulfilling our genetic code.

When we look around, as Rich German asked us to do, to see who among our friends and family have it all...who among them are doing what we are doing to change the outcome of their lives, and you answer, with disappointment...none, or maybe one, remember this: you have sacrificed to get up earlier in the morning to meditate, you have exercised hard to stay fit, you have worked consistently on a morning practice, writing in your journal, giving up s to go to seminars in stuffy hotel rooms for what? For the joy that comes from finding that special presence in your life that lights up the world with brilliant light, that fills you with love to busting and brings tears of profound emotion to your eyes. To shine as one with the universe, to dance among the stars, to feel the power of oneness within your tiny body and your infinite soul, this is your birth right, your destiny.
To get there, it’s very hard all you have to master is the simple act of opening your hands and letting go.

Rhonda Byrne with “The Secret” awakened a slumbering planet to the possibility of a different path. They might grumble now that it was all nonsense, that there really isn’t anything in “that law of attraction” stuff. Yet...the secret is out of the bag. There is no way back.

The simplicity of the concept hides the complexity of simply applying the Law.
When Eckhart Tolle held out the possibility of enlightenment for millions of excited people all over the planet, he stirred us all to a new vision of a new earth. That his promise did not materialize in the bright morning that followed does not diminish the impact his words have had on a planet struggling to consciousness.

So is it snake oil, or healing elixir? Is it upstream or down? Is it easy or is it hard? Deliciously, and mischievously, it is both, which brings us full circle to that wonderful, mystical duality in which we all, as human beings, live.

Nick Grimshawe

Author's Bio: 

Nick Grimshawe has written hundreds of articles ranging from food and wine to self development and spirituality. He is the editor and publisher of http://beautifulsummermorning.com and the Beautiful Summer Morning Newsletter. You can subscribe for free here: http://beautifulsummermorning.com/subscribe-today He is currently at work on his first book and an e-book about his experiences getting off diabetic medication. He is also developing a course on how to find your life purpose.