I was reminded of an important mystical lesson the other weekend. I was on the racetrack, one of six drivers in a low-budget endurance race. At one point I was in a large pack of other cars, all accelerating hard in a tight left-hand corner, when a car right in front of me spun. I saw it, and placed my focus on the open road away from the spinning car's trajectory. My car changed direction to follow, and narrowly avoided what would have been a nasty crash.
One of the first lessons in any driving school is really a core lesson of mysticism:
You go where you look, so look where you want to go.
The driving instructor teaches it this way:
Every corner has an ideal line, the fastest way for that particular vehicle to take that particular corner at the highest overall speed. Rather than try to consciously work that out as you enter the corner, see it before hand - visualize, imagine it, and drive it before even getting into the car. At the corner, look at the place you want the car to go -- not at the wall, not at the dirt, not at the car you're afraid of hitting, but exactly at the point you want to go. Trust the car and your knowledge of its capabilities, and it will follow your focus.
The mystic teaches it like this:
Visualize your desire, form it in your mind and actualize it with your will. Once it is formed, using the traditions and techniques you choose, direct your focus onto actualizing it. Do not waste that will by focusing on the distractions and obstacles that could stand in the way, but keep your focus on achieving and realizing that desire.
It speaks to a better truth than the oft oversimplified concept often summarized as the "law of attraction" by popular new-age texts (see: The Secret). Simplified that way, it allows victim blaming in many of the same ways it allows empowerment. The lesson is not to be mindless of the obstacles and distractions, just as the driver does not forget the wall that sits beyond the road's edge and does not ignore the other cars. Rather, adapt and work with the obstacles that appear, but do not forget the greater goal.
The secret, and here I mean the real one, is a little more nuanced: Develop your will and direct your focus so that, without ignoring obstacles and difficulties, you can direct that focus toward desired goals. You go where you look, so look where you want to go.
Fred Jennings, Catland co-owner, is an enigma hidden in a puzzle wrapped in a three-piece suit and a crash helmet. He believes in the power of chaos and that the best truth comes from a syncretic, mindfully multidisciplinary approach.