Last of a two-part interview with spiritual teacher Lynn Woodland
Lynn Woodland, an award-winning author, international teacher, and human potential expert with a 35-year career in transpersonal psychology, human motivation, and mind-body psychology — says there is more to manifestation than affirmations or envisioning can ever bring forth. Much more. In her new book, Holding a Butterfly: An Experiment in Miracle Making, which will be released in mid-January, she writes:
“Popular movies like What the Bleep Do We Know?! and The Secret make ‘the Law of Attraction’ look like an easy way to have everything we want. And it really is that easy…except, of course, when it’s not, when no amount of affirmations or visualization techniques will budge life circumstances that feel hopelessly out of our control.”
In an interview I conducted with Lynn from her home in Minneapolis, she offered a glimpse into a process of miracle making that on the surface seemed downright complex — and paradoxically, as simple as letting go.
What inspired you to write this book?
Lynn Woodland: (Laughs) The real story? My work tends to be very sprawling. I tend to look at the big picture and see how everything’s connected, and my first book was about everything.
Books about everything are hard to sell and hard to get out there. One day I was listening to an acquaintance of mine, Pat Samples, on the radio talk about her latest book. She just cranks out one after another. She is great at writing little books on a particular subject. I happened to be in the shower with the radio playing and I was thinking, “Okay, God, give me my little subject. What is it? What is it?”
And it was almost like God said, “Duh, stupid, it’s miracles.”
I thought, “Oh, you’re right, of course!”
That has been a real focus of my work, forever. My expertise is in how to create an immediate experience. I am a group person, and I wondered how I could share such an immediate experience that I create in groups and put it into words. That’s what I set out to do. It was so much fun writing this book. I just had the greatest of times.
Holding a Butterfly is filled with experiential practices and meditations that seemingly take readers to a different place than when they first picked up the book. Is that whatÂ you were trying to create?
LW: Yes. It starts small with a combination of exercises that give people something to practice as they go about their day. There also are experiments that bring all readers together with all other readers across time and space to create something here and now. The excitement grows during the course of the book, because we build toward bigger and bigger experiences, touching upon things like instantaneous, spontaneous healing, how to manifest our heart’s desires, and how we can step into the role of miracle maker and have a miraculous effect on the world.
You write that calling forth a miracle is a bit like coaxing some beautiful, wild things out of the woods. When told that you can create a miracle, some people may say, “Well, where do I begin?” They may try to do it and then they wonder, “What am I doing wrong, because it’s not manifesting for me?” And then they begin to doubt whether or not they are blocking the process or don’t believe in it enough. What is your advice for somebody who is just starting out in this whole process?
LW: Don’t take it so seriously. Play with it. The whole metaphor of holding a butterfly is one that I use to describe the perfect state for manifesting.
Just imagine that you are in this beautiful garden. You are outside. It is a perfect day. A little butterfly lights in your hand, and suddenly you are totally present. You are not straining or trying. You are in a state of wonder. And you’re still. The past and future are gone. When it flies away, you let it go, but it leaves you full probably for the rest of your day, like, “Wow! That was magical!”
That’s what manifesting is truly about. It’s not trying to focus, like “Okay, I’m going to visualize this until I get a headache,” or “I’m going to write my affirmations until I get carpal tunnel syndrome. If I do it enough it will happen.” That’s when it doesn’t work.
I wrote this book because I feel like the real secret is even left out of books like The Secret. This whole process is a non-linear, paradoxical process. To really master these spiritual laws, we have to be willing to do this big journey into our Selves, which can be a lot of work. It means looking at the payoffs of stepping into our true power, which we don’t usually look at.
We think, “Well, I want my power, I want my stuff, I want it right now!” We don’t think about how having it now will change us. The more we engage, and embark upon this journey of self, the more the manifestations just happen easily — but suddenly they become less important. It’s no longer about aiming just for the result, the result, the result — “I just want what I want.”
Somebody wrote to me not long ago saying, “I did my vision board and I got the little stuff. Now, how do I make the big stuff show up?” And that’s really typical. People can have these incredible results instantly, and yet they will still come away feeling, “Well, how do I change the overall quality of my life to match this result?”
That’s more about what I touch upon in this book. How can we have miraculous lives. Where I go in the book breaks the standard rules around affirmation work and Law of Attraction teachings, because you don’t have to believe. You just have to be able to imagine. You don’t even have to focus only on the positive. I have seen people manifest incredible results by just dreaming about what is too impossible to manifest, essentially tricking themselves to get out of the way just for an instant so that something can manifest.
Pure intention, that pure vision, can just — Boom! — show up in front of them when they have given up the attachment to having it. They are telling themselves, “Oh, this is too impossible, I can’t have this,” but they are envisioning it anyway, and they’re dreaming it, and then it shows up, sometimes instantly.
You say that imagining our heart’s desire is not all that is needed, but we also need to surrender and let go. What are we surrendering and how do we know we’ve let it go?
LW: It’s when we are enjoying life in the moment and not waiting for something to happen in order to feel at peace, to feel joy, to feel content.
So living in the present moment is part of the whole process.
LW: Yes. We hear this so much, with books about The Power of Now and living in the present, but it is way easier said than done. This is where the paradox upon paradox happens. We start out because we want something we don’t have, and then we have to somehow not think, but really know and experience that the path to that is in being full right now.
To achieve your heart’s desire, you have to let go of your desires?
LW: It’s important to let go of the attachment to the results. We can hold the excitement, because excitement is rooted in love. That’s a very expansive energy. But the moment when that excitement turns into attachment is when it turns into fear, which is very contracting and tends to even repel what we want. Attachment is when we stop being present, when we’re focused on the outcome — and we’ve pinned our happiness on getting that outcome.
In a sense, we are micromanaging God. We’re saying, “Okay, God, this and only this will do, and it has to be this way.” And we’re really focused and controlling the process. The surrender piece is about letting go of our small, egoic self’s idea that we can possibly control God.
I like the story you share in the book about the housefly trapped by the screen.
LW: I share that from another author, Price Pritchett, who wrote about watching a housefly bash itself to death trying to get out of the screen window. All of its little housefly senses told it that straight ahead through the screen was where outside was, so it kept bashing, bashing. The harder it exerted, the more it bashed itself nearly to death. We often go about life that way. We get really focused on the linear route.
But what we can’t see, as the housefly could have, is that if we turn 180 degrees around in the direction that doesn’t make any sense at all, we could just fly easily out through an open door. Sometimes that’s how our personality’s perceptions limit us.
Let’s talk a little bit about the idea that we create our own reality. That is not a new idea, but oftentimes people reject that idea because they look at turmoil and crisis in their lives and they say, “Well, I must have created this for myself, too, so in some respect I am a bad person or I’m not really the person I thought I was because all this bad stuff is happening.”
LW: This idea that we create our reality is one that has been horribly abused — just wretchedly abused — and I don’t recommend it for everyone. It is never a perspective that we can impose on somebody else.
I knew someone who actually did this to his friend who was about to get surgery for a brain tumor. On the eve of surgery, he said, “Have you considered what you did to create your brain tumor? Have you taken responsibility for it?” That friendship was over.
It’s not something we can ever impose on someone else. It’s damaging even to use it for our own information, unless we strip out all of the blame and shame that comes with it, looking at it as information rather than, “Oh, my God, if I breathed every breath right, and thought every thought right, and ate every food right, I would never have a bad day.” That’s not how it works.
There is also an element of paradox here, because it’s totally true that sometimes we are victims of circumstances beyond our control. We can look at life from one perspective that is totally true and, at the same time, quantum science tells us that there can be multiple realities that seem mutually exclusive, yet co-exist. This coffee table looks solid from this perspective, yet from a different perspective, at the energetic level, it’s something totally different.
We can look at everything out there as a reflection of something emanating from us, and that’s not something we’re doing wrong. It might be an expectation of life that we were taught as children early on. We can explore those perspectives and consider, “Well, this is something I want to keep,” and it can help us unearth some of those hidden agendas that often just stay very stubbornly unconscious.
Also, there is this really sticky, icky, part of creating our own reality that even the best of us don’t want to venture into, which is that if we truly give up the notion that we are ever victims, then we lose all of our excuses. We can’t just say, “I’m sorry, I’m late because of traffic,” or “I couldn’t because of this or that.” We may not realize what part of us is participating in creating the experience, but it’s a very interesting journey to look at things from that perspective.
Once when I was part of an organization, a group of us were on our way to a board meeting and none of us wanted to go. We all ended up being late. We talked about what we would say before we got there,”Okay, here’s our excuse, we just kind of had to finish this.” But I actually went into the meeting and said, “You know, I’m late because some part of me just did not want to show up here,” and it started a really interesting dialogue in that meeting.
To become truly masterful with spiritual principles, we have to be impeccable at that level — and not everyone wants to go there. Not everyone is quite ready to go there, because if we can’t give up the whole notion of blame and shame, we will victimize ourselves and perhaps our friends as well, by using this as a way to bludgeon ourselves and other people.
When you describe in your book the idea of “Our Power Together,” that seems akin to the whole idea of the power of prayer, “When two or more are gathered….” Is prayer a way that we manifest miracles for ourselves and each other?
LW: Oh, absolutely! I think of prayer as communication with God, communication with that something greater. It can be about listening, and it can be about putting out our request. The more we are in conversation with God, the more we open that pathway between the small perception of our personality and the greater intelligence that is all that is.
Ultimately, I see prayer as making itself obsolete, because what begins with communication ends in communion, where we recognize, “Oh, there is no separation!” That we are God.
Some people suggest that our unseen guides and angels play a role in the prayer process. Do you think that takes place, and does it apply even if you don’t believe in the process or believe in God at all?
LW: I personally believe that we are never alone. It seems presumptuous of us to assume that the physical beings that we can see are the only ones that exist. I think that we are always being helped. I believe that those non-physical beings are very respectful and they will not intrude into where we’re not ready to go or not ready to receive. The more we ask and say, “Yes, I’m available for help,” the more we get it.
I keep thinking back to something my mom started me on — the whole idea of asking your guides for a parking spot. It seems as if I’ve been doing it forever, and now it happens instantaneously.
LW: That’s funny, I was just going to share that example. I often tell people, “Just start with something little like that.”
It really does work.
LW: Sometimes I hear people say that they don’t want to impose on God with the little stuff, and that personalizes God in a way that I think is limited. God will show up however we expect it to. The more we ask for those little things, the more we have faith that God is there when it’s time to ask for the big things.
Instead of asking from a place of desperation, which doesn’t work any better with God than it does with our friends, offer your faith, trust and certainty that everything is all right by cultivating that within. Offer that as an inner experience and then really let go and trust that whatever evolves is a piece of our prayer being offered.
Is what you are sharing with us an awakening to the workings of consciousness or is it part of the evolution of consciousness?
LW: I believe that consciousness is evolving, so I would say the latter. I’ve been leading groups for close to 40 years and have noticed that just in my own personal experience that people are coming to groups for different reasons. First it was to heal something and to learn something. Then people came and they realized, “Oh, there is community here.” And now I think people are beginning to realize that we just have more power when we come together. It’s just easier to come together with a group and change ourselves and the world and to call in the things we want in life.
I think things like the internet are just such amazing physical manifestations of what’s happening in more of an etheric consciousness way, that we are just way more connected than we know.
It seems as if our interconnectedness is taking a quantum leap. The internet was created, then AOL chat was created, Facebook was created, Twitter was created, and now exponentially more and more things that are connecting us, such as Skype and iPad applications. We seem to be making an exponential leap right now.
LW: And that’s why, even though some of the premises I’ve put out in my book seem really far-fetched — even with the validity of science to all of them — the next natural step that is going to start feeling commonplace in maybe three more decades or so is that we can connect consciousness without using the machinery.
Without the technology.
One of my final thoughts in looking through your book was that this process you share is bigger than just making miracles. It’s a primer for self-awakening and stepping into your personal power, becoming the spiritual being that you truly are.
LW: The last chapter of the book is about the ultimate “big step” into self-awakening. There is something kind of scary about that. Not everybody has to go there, because there is something about that that put us on the fast track. Things fall apart that are not serving us anymore. I’ve seen this happen in my workshops when people start with just the intention of, “I want a whole new life,” and suddenly they get fired from their job, their relationship falls apart, and you name it. For that person, it just feels like, “I went for a better life and everything is just falling to shit! I don’t believe in all this crap anymore.” A year later, you’ll just see everything has been rebuilt.
The old has to fall away so the new can come in.
LW: New and unenvisioned way. A funny story involves a guy who started out with an intention, a healing focus, in an event I did. He wanted to heal the plantar wart on his foot. And then I gave the instruction, “Think of something bigger.”
“Okay, I want a better relationship with Kathy.”
Immediately the plantar wart disappeared and the healing circle is gone. His relationship with Kathy fell apart, and they got divorced. He was talking about it like several years later in another group circle about how spontaneously he healed that plantar wart. What did he take from that experience? “Well, I should have stopped with the wart. It just went way too far.”
And then he had this “a ha” experience, because in the circle he was sitting next to his new girlfriend who was named Cathy, with whom he had a great relationship and still does.
He realized, “Oh, my God, I asked for a better relationship with Cathy,” but it was just not the same Cathy.”
A lot of what happens with miracle making is not the same as manifesting what we envision, because when we open it up — “I want my best life and I trust you, God, I trust in the process” — then what we get might not bear any resemblance to what we thought we wanted. But once we have it, we realize, “Wow, that’s so much better,” and yet the process can feel terrible.
In your introduction to your book, you write that there are no guarantees in terms of this miracle process.
LW: I often get this question in regard to healing work I’ve done. People will have some specific request, and they will say, “Will my symptom heal?” Well, I’ve seen every kind of symptom heal spontaneously, miraculously, and I’ve never been able to guarantee that any individual will have a particular experience.
There is something very mysterious that happens. It’s about what the person is ready for, what will truly serve their highest good, and their openness — and we can’t micromanage the process. Sometimes people need some big bang of an experience to just awaken them and show them that life can be different, and something shiny and huge will happen. Sometimes people need to grow into a new life experience slowly, because if it happened too quickly it would be so scary they would just shut it down. We don’t realize this about ourselves until it happens. So what we perceive as “that didn’t work” might actually be working in a way that we’ll best be able to accept it.