The Vault: Thank You-niverse

12 June 2013 Sophie Quick

The Vault: Thank You-niverse

Illustration by Eirian Chapman

Sophie Quick, Ed#410, April 2012

For 28 days, Sophie Quick counts her blessings.

Six years after divulging The Secret, it seems Australian self-help guru Rhonda Byrne forgot to mention some important stuff in her bestselling, Oprah-endorsed guide to making your wildest dreams come true. Specifically, she left out two more books’ worth of instructions. The most recent – after The Power (2010) – is The Magic, released this year, which promises readers a “truly dazzling” life if they follow a 28-day program of gratitude towards the universe.

As Byrne explains in the introduction: “When you have a strong magnetic force of gratitude…you will automatically magnetise everything you want and need to you!” She calls this “the law of attraction”. Why not give it a shot? If Byrne is right, I will soon be sucking piles of cash right out of the sky - and directly to my person - thanks to the magnetic powers of the universe. If she’s wrong, I will have spent 28 days counting my blessings, and that’s no bad thing.

DAY 1 For the first Magic Practice, I have to list 10 blessings in my life and explain why I’m grateful for each. Then I must read it back to myself, saying the magic words “thank you, thank you, thank you” at the end of each item. I’ll have to do this every day for the rest of the program. The more sincerely grateful I feel, the more the universe will reward me. So I get down to work straight away:

“I am grateful for my health, which allows me to live a good quality of life; I’m grateful for my job, which means I can pay my rent.” I continue with parents, sister, boyfriend, friends, education, roof over head, etc etc. Easy-peasy. And while the exercise is kind of lame, it does cause me to reflect that life has been kind to me. Not everyone can rattle off all those items.

DAY 2 I begin talking to rocks. Today’s Magical Practice is to find a ‘gratitude rock’ and keep it on my bedside table. At the end of each day, I will hold the rock in my hand, close my eyes and say the magic words, thank you, for the best thing that has happened to me all day. First, however, I have to find the Gratitude Rock. So, late at night, I duck out to the street and head to a house a few doors down that has a pebble garden. Squatting on the footpath, I furtively scan the garden’s edge for large and auspicious-looking pebbles. But not for long. While crouching there – one rock in each hand, trying to gauge which exudes more cosmic pizzazz – a young man and his German Shepherd walk past on the opposite side of the street. Man and dog look across and frown. The dog barks. I drop the rock in my left hand and sprint off into the night. It seems the universe has chosen my Gratitude Rock for me.

Later, I crawl into bed, clench my eyes shut and whisper to my Gratitude Rock: “Thank you for the delicious cheesecake Lisa baked and brought to work today.”

DAY 3 I have to carry around photos of three important people in my life (I’ve chosen my boyfriend, my best pal and my mum). I must look at their photos regularly and thank the universe for the many ways in which each has enriched my life. “Even if all of your relationships are currently good,” Byrne explains, “they will increase with more magnificence through this practice”. During my lunch hour, I call Mum to tell her to stand by for more magnificence in all our future dealings. Mum makes a gagging noise down the line from Adelaide: “What a load of bullshit.” But I’m nothing if not diligent: I reflect that it’s a blessing to have a no-bullshit mother. She’s a star.

DAYS 4–6 These days pass in a whirl of weird gratitude practices. I write ‘THE GIFT OF HEALTH IS KEEPING ME ALIVE’ on a piece of paper and stick it on my fridge. Daily 10-point gratitude lists and nightly consultations with rocks continue.

DAY 7 I’m learning ‘The Magical Way Out of Negativity’. The chapter begins on a stern note. “Whether it’s a relationship in turmoil, financial pressure, a lack of health, or problems in a job, negative situations arise because of a lack of gratitude over a long period of time.” After all, Byrne continues, “When you complain, by the laws of attraction, you must bring more things into your life to complain about!” I’m grateful the universe manifested Rhonda Byrne after the civil rights movement.

DAY 8 Strange day of sprinkling invisible magic dust over everything I eat and drink.

DAY 9 ‘Magic Money’ Day. Byrne is preaching gratitude to telecommunications companies, landlords and lending institutions. “To have a rich life, you must be grateful for everything to do with money, and begrudging your bills is not being grateful. You must…be grateful for the goods or services you’ve received from those who billed you.” If I can attain this mindset of serf-like indebtedness, I will “literally become a money magnet!” So I print out an unpaid internet bill and write thank you for the money across it.

DAYS 10–12 My daily gratitude lists are getting weird. It was easy at first, but my list is now more than 100 items long. At around 70, I resorted to addressing individual bodily organs, (thank you, pancreas, for secreting enzymes that aid digestive processes.)

But I’m getting on well with my Gratitude Rock. It’s good for the soul (even if it is pretty cheesy) to reflect on the best thing that’s happened every day. Sometimes, it’s worthwhile to think about day-to-day stuff instead of ‘the bigger picture’. After all, as the poet Philip Larkin said, Days are where we live. Yikes – deep thoughts about poetry at bedtime? Perhaps I am undergoing some sort of dazzling transformation.

DAY 13 Now I’m ready to start requesting some stuff back from the universe. “Gratitude is something you must have before you can receive,” counsels Byrne. “Through the act of being sincerely grateful for receiving your desire beforehand, you immediately form an image in your mind that you have it... If you continue to hold to that image and feeling, you will magically receive your desire.” So I list two of my top-10 desires. I want $5000 and the mould on my bathroom walls to disappear. (I’ll figure out the rest later.)

Byrne’s next instruction calls for some advanced cognitive dissonance. I have to visualise the outcomes and pre-credit the universe with granting my wishes. I try to imagine myself showering in mould-free surrounds – it’s just insanely far-fetched. But Byrne is not one for whys and hows: “You won’t know how you’ll receive it, and it is not your job to figure it out.”

DAYS 14–16 I petition the universe for a Contoured Support Tranquillow Pillow and a pianola.

DAY 17 Today I learn how the universe can ‘increase’ my money. “Your money can increase when you’re about to purchase an item and you discover it has been discounted.” I should also high-five the universe, Byrne says, “if you’re planning to travel and you hear about a discounted special that you end up taking or if your lending institution lowers their interest rate”. And more. The Magic has a blank cheque from the ‘Gratitude Bank of the Universe’. I must photocopy the cheque and fill it out for my desired amount of money. I make it out for $5000 and stick it on the wall at work.

DAYS 18–24 I practise Magic Footsteps, experiment with Heart Magic and inhale some Magical Air. On a magnanimous whim, I order a general cancer vaccine from the cosmos.

DAY 25 I fall asleep clutching my Gratitude Rock (“Thank you for the hilarious email I received today from Laura”) and wake up with it poking into my side. “Fucking rock,” I growl, sweeping it out onto the floor.  Oops – late-night outburst of negativity. Sure to delay delivery of my cancer vaccine.

DAY 26 Tonight, I can’t find my Gratitude Rock and spend a grumpy five minutes trying to figure out where it’s gone. Eventually I find it perched, triumphantly, on a long-lost sock under a chair in a dusty corner of the bedroom. Is the breathtaking magic of gratitude finally starting to work?

DAY 27 I gaze at my reflection in the Magic Mirror and repeatedly mouth the words, “thank you”, “thank you”, “thank you”, “thank you”.

DAY 28 It’s a relief to type out the last item on my 279-item gratitude list: “Thank you for giving me so many blessings that I’m not vulnerable to this sinister little book.” But the program has had benefits. I did experience some fuzzy feelings, thanks to my Gratitude Rock, and, looking back over the first 10 items on my gratitude list from Day 1, I figure if you’ve got all that stuff, you probably don't have the right to ask the universe for anything else anyway.

POSTSCRIPT Over a month has passed since I completed the 28-day program. The bathroom mould has spread. I still don’t have a pianola or a Contoured Support Tranquillow Pillow. The Gratitude Bank of the Universe has not come through with my $5000. The world awaits a general cancer vaccine. After a reminder notice and a threatening text message, I gave up on the universe and paid the internet bill myself. On the upside, the universe gave me one lost  sock and I did take advantage of a shampoo discount at Woolworths.  It saved me $1.19

Sophie Quick is The Big Issue's staff writer/editor. Follow her on Twitter @squickens.