Be careful what you ask for. Not just because you might get exactly what you want and few things are more heartbreaking than that, but you may not actually know what it is you’re asking for. That’s the heartbreak bit.
I drive like a bit of an asshole. I don’t drive like I own the road but I definitely treat it with less respect than it deserves. I woke up one morning last week, got on my motorbike to pick up my friend Manos for a drive up the mountain and I thought, I wonder if today is the day that I crash. The law of motorbike driving is that everyone has a number. Fate is not concerned with IF, only WHEN. I thought about how it might happen and what injuries I might sustain. I don’t consider this a morbid thought, only a quick little reminder to pay attention to the road (which, ironically, is not at all what I’m doing if I am daydreaming about motorbike accidents). But on I went.
So as it turned out, I did have an accident that day but it really wasn’t a big deal at all. Even when bad things happen in Chiang Mai they’re not really all that bad. I had to brake hard because the guy in front of me did, and we went down. To be fair, some of it had to do with the fact that I’d rented a shitty little tin can with tires like the skin of a grapefruit. But we experienced the strangest sensation. We went down like feathers. We landed on bouncy pavement. And with outstretched arms we slid forward on the hot asphalt like naked flesh across silk sheets. The road was totally open and that particular road is almost never free of vehicles so we slid into wide open space instead of under a truck. The motorbike trapped my leg as we slid to a stop but I felt nothing, no weight, no pain or discomfort. We both wore helmets but our heads never came into contact with the ground.
I lifted the bike and moved it out of the road whilst a couple of people stared but no one offered help–rather unusual for Thailand. Manos was okay with some scratches on his hand and knee. My knees took a bit of a beating but nothing more serious than the playground scrapes of a five year old kid. We had the tremors though. It could have been so much worse. We could have been scraps of torn flesh and broken bone stuck to the pavement or the windshield of a car. We could have been beneath the wheels of a truck. We could have been dead. We relinquished our plan to drive the winding mountain road up to the temple. Instead, we eased ourselves down onto a curb, inspected our injuries and reeled in the after sensations of disbelief and gratitude. I told him of my morning thoughts and wondered if I’d somehow willed the accident to happen.
Chiang Mai has this strange lesson about the Law of Attraction, which essentially names the universal law that “like attracts like”. I love this law because of how beautifully science and spirituality overlap. At the most basic level, the Law of Attraction posits that what we perceive as objects, sound, or people are all vibrations and similar vibrations are drawn together. To get what we want in life we must first know what we want. Then we must learn to control our own vibrations in order to attract vibrations of a similar frequency, instead of relying on external things to work in our favour, or as sometimes happens, to our detriment. It means that we control our own reality merely by how we think about and approach life.
The Buddha said, “with our thoughts we make the world.” Life doesn’t happen to us, we happen to life. But what an odd and confusing contrast when I think about all the little fucking things that happen on a given day that require a mental response. Everything it seems! And what’s chicken-and-egging here then? My thought about what happened or what happened because I thought it?
When you focus your attention on a thought or indulge in an emotion, that energy showers across the universe and touches people on the other side of the world. Vibrations are far reaching. It’s a bizarre phenomenon I’ve noticed lately and I’ve heard other people speak of it too. Those days I wake up feeling amazing, in awe of the world, are the days all kinds of wonderful things happen. I hear from long lost friends. I find money on the ground. I receive an offer of work. Someone comments on one of my articles. Butterflies and dragonflies perch on my toes. Colours are brighter and I experience beauty with all my senses. I meet somebody amazing because like attracts like. But the most important thing is that I think differently and that thinking affects how I see, breathe, smell, taste, hear, feel and interact with my environment. Am I actually willing such wonderful things to happen or am I merely noticing and appreciating what is always there?
Much of what I read about the Law of Attraction focuses on positive thought and good outcomes so I wonder about negative thoughts and bad outcomes, like my accident. It’s a bit like the Law of Gravity in that sometimes I wish it didn’t have to involve my aging body in its business but I’m certainly happy it keeps spiders from floating around in the air. Absolutely every phenomenon has two sides, a yin and a yang, an essential balance. I believe the Law of Attraction works to our detriment as well. We don’t just get what we continuously desire but we also get that which we are averse to because aversion is bred from fear and fear is so closely related to desire. We all fear losing what we have or just never attaining that which we desire. And fear requires energy so when we deliver it that by focusing our thoughts on the “what if”, possible in every single situation in life, then we actually will it to happen, even if we don’t want it, because we conduct ourselves accordingly without even realizing it. Either way the law works, we get some degree of necessary learning.
So I thought about crashing and it happened, maybe because I’d created an energy and thus manifested it to happen. There are rational reasons for that of course, such that allowing my mind to wander instead of focus on driving creates a situation ideal for such events to occur. But I believe it is less tangible than that. It’s really about intuitively recognizing when something is slightly amiss in certain situations, moments or entire months. If a seemingly random thought continually scampers through your brain, is the Universe is trying to alert you of something or is there something you desire or fear of which you are not fully aware?
Much of what I get in in life results from what I am asking for, whether I know I’m asking for it or not, but I can certainly trace back and make those connections later. If I want good things to happen, I have to consciously ask for good things, not just through gratitude and explicit prayer, but through my actions, through the company I keep, through my daily habits. Most importantly, by how I select my thoughts everyday, like I choose the best looking cherries. ’Be careful what you ask for’ is wise advice but I think it’s more accurate to say, ‘be careful what you think about.’