One of those insomniacal wee-hour whims had me
perusing the registration page for the Hay House “I Can Do It” Ignite conference. The slate was chock full of potentially inspiring speakers, but mostly I was excited to see Anita Moorjani talk about her near-death-experience (NDE). She was on the featured double bill with Dr. Wayne Dyer, and Louise Hay herself would also be there, so I figured “why not?”
Okay, so it’s not really a cult—I was just being facetious and paying subtle homage to a certain band. (One might argue that the whole Law of Attraction industry itself is, however, a sort of pyramid scheme. . . but that’s a topic for another day.) Hay House is definitely a major chip-holder at the woowoo blackjack table, and it represents a semi-distinct subculture. For one thing, it’s mostly for, by, and about women. Sure, there were dudes attending the conference (maybe 10%?), and some male speakers, but by and large it was a bonafide estrogen-fest.
I hadn’t heard of most of the speakers before, but the lesser-knowns (at least to me) turned out to be my favorites. Like Nick Ortner reminding me how powerful and ridiculously simple a tool EFT can be. That’s the Emotional Freedom Technique—definitely worth trying if something’s ailing you because it’s free and easy and the only risk is in looking silly if someone happens to catch you in the act. (I’ve had some remarkable success with EFT myself and you can read about it here.)
Included in the speaker rolls were a few uber-powerful hippie-goddess mamas (always welcome in my world)—most notably Denise Linn and Doreen Virtue. I dug some of the young’ns too: Jessica Ortner (yes, sister of the EFT guy) and Michael Eisen were adorably passionate. Dave Carroll with his “United Breaks Guitars” video (demonstrating the power of social media) was highly entertaining. I loved sassy Agapi Stassinopoulos, BarbaraCarrellas’s electric presence, and sweet endearing Michael Chase, with his dedication to random acts of kindness and his hilarious anecdotes. The wildcard was a delightfully approachable supermodel named Sarah Deanna who was keeping it real, dispelling myths, and cheering on women of all sizes and shapes. Hoorah
Mainly it was the spiritual-rags-to-riches stories that garnered my attention and affections—as opposed to the people who were born to ready-made tuned-in parental stock. Anyone who’s come through the fire, then wised up and lightened up as a result is my kind of inspirational speaker.
Anita Moorjani is certainly one of those amazing storytellers, though she is so unpretentious in the spotlight that I’m drawn in all the more. She had been living a rather normal and presumably un-woowoo life before “dying” of cancer and emerging into an ecstatic, omniscient, transcendent state of consciousness. Like most NDE-ers, she did not want to return to her body, but obviously had some unfinished business that includes explaining to the rest of us how fear was the real reason she had developed cancer. Just when things were getting really interesting, Dr. Dyer interrupted, saying she was almost out of time. This was a mere ten minutes into her talk!
Dyer and Moorjani together were allotted three hours (whereas most speakers had only 20 minutes each) but it was far from an equal footing. After all, the good doctor had “discovered” Anita in the first place—never mind that she just might have something far more fresh and important than he to convey. He whiled away most of that time slot with an assortment of quips, quotes, anecdotes, book promotions, old-man jokes, a rant about how we must “fight obesity” (huh?—that was puzzling to say the least, not only because Law of Attraction students know that fighting something only gives it more momentum, but also because the man looked like he was about to give birth to a basketball), and, yes, occasionally an inspiring sentiment, though nowhere near the caliber of some of his old PBS specials I’d watched. He seemed to me a man riding on the coattails of his former self.
Weirdest of all was the inclusion of his disturbingly perky and fearless daughter singing, a cappella—it was like stadium-scale karaoke without the music track. Bizarro. What in tarnation has that got to do with this conference, you ask? Good question. The answer lies in the intersection of current events with Wayne’s apparently fragile ego. He had her sing a Whitney Houston song after telling us how he “just knew” that something was up with Whitney a few months before she died. He also divulged that he’s in “Ascended Master Training” and that is why he was wearing all white. Really, Wayne? Aren’t all of us here in Earth School undergoing some sort of masterful training? I saw on stage before me a man in decline, in dire need of reassurance.
Now I know that some people may take offense to my observations, because it’s pretty blasphemous to insinuate such things when it comes to New Age Royalty (and if it really were a cult, I’d be in for a huge backlash). But consider this, if my words offend you: is it possible you’ve been indulging in black-and-white thinking and this is an opportunity for expansion? Allow me to explain. Perhaps you’ve been storing Mr. Dyer in a crate labeled “good guy” and now it appears I’m implying that there’s been a misfile on your part (I’m not). Of course, there’s no need for us to agree. Reality is subjective, after all. But we can also allow things to be this AND that, rather than this OR that. Or hell, why not just chuck the boxes out the window altogether?
Furthermore, I’m not actually working with concepts of “good” and “bad” at all. I’m just describing and sharing and giggling here. I think that judgmentality is a sort of vibrational resistance in wanting things to be different from the way they are, but I’m perfectly okay with things as is, really I am! I just call ’em like I sees ’em, people.
Seeing Louise Hay, as a matter of fact, was a real treat. She was vivacious and fun as can be. I saw her up close in the hallway a few times and man, does that dame look good at age 85! Her headlining engagement was a co-creation with Cheryl Richardson, her pal and fellow Hay House author. It was kind of a cute, homey set-up, with the two of them chatting away like some Saturday Night Live spoof of an NPR radio show. Our lovable New Age matriarch didn’t actually have much to say; really, it’s all been said and written thousands of times before. But her very presence was instructive. The more personal quirkiness she revealed, the more endearing she became in my eyes. If a wealthy well-loved octogenarian can’t get away with squirreling away food in her bra, I don’t know who can. At one point she provided the best quote of the entire shindig: “when I turned 80, I said this is going to be the best fucking decade ever!” Now that’s some straight up inspiration.
Unbeknownst to her, Louise Hay had loomed large in my life since the mid-’80s when an extraordinary high school friend turned me on to her books and the larger premise that thoughts are very powerful. Over the years, I’ve gone through numerous copies of “You Can Heal Your Body” (a potent little A-Z guide to the emotional root causes of physical ailments) because I’d often hand it to someone and if they “clicked” with it, I’d tell them to keep it. One friend who had long suffered arthritic pain cracked it open to “Arthritis,” read Louise’s sentiments, got quiet, closed the book, and said “holy shit.” She did the affirmations, the pain went away, and she never looked back. It’s powerful stuff for the right person.
So naturally, I found it ironic and slightly baffling that some of the “I Can Do It” speakers were espousing conventional limiting ideas about physical body stuff. One gal who had cancer was on a vegan diet soapbox; another showed us scientific charts of hormonal patterns that most women experience. To me, this was the exact opposite of empowerment via commandeering your mind-terrain; it was pulling us right back into the helpless sea of consensus reality, floundering with our little blue Louise Hay books as ineffective life preservers. It was as if they were saying, “Here are the keys to your ignition. We’ve taken the liberty of installing a governor.”
Hay House certainly is more mainstream and topically broad than I would have guessed. When it comes down to it, theirs is a profitable enterprise (incidentally, what’s up with them peddling beauty products?) and they wouldn’t want to miss out on any cha-ching for the sake of philosophical consistency, now would they? Okay, that’s a cynical take. Another angle is that mainstream but slightly alternative ideas may be an effective gateway drug for someone on the road to discovering full empowerment. It’s like Baskin Robbins—31 flavors, and something for everyone (like sorbet for the vegans). Okay, I’ve given you a topic—talk amongst yourselves.
Your partner in Independent Thinking crimes,
Cult-like behavior is more common than you think (and funnier than you'd imagine!)
MEDITATION BOOT CAMP is a true account of a 10-day silent Vippassana meditation retreat. It explores issues of control and conformity within a spiritual organization, and it's sprinkled liberally with Debbianne's colorful humor. Read it for FREE via instant download. Enjoy!