The Set Point
In 1982 Dr. William Bennett and Joel Gurin were looking for an explanation as to why repeated dieting is unsuccessful in producing long-term change in body weight or shape. What they came up with is called “set point theory.” According to this theory, there is a control system built into every person dictating how much fat he or she should carry—a kind of thermostat for body fat. Some individuals have a high setting, whereas others have a low one. Whatever attempts at Nhout em">
Though Bennett and Gurin were speaking about a physiological process related to weight, psychologically speaking, we have all have set points relating to a wide range of things. For instance, most of us have a surprisingly firm set point regarding our station in life. We get programmed to expect certain things and no matter what we say we want, we tend to gravitate to those expectations. This field of gravity is more difficult to escape than you might think. No matter what we may want, somewhere deep in the mind is a nagging thought of what we are “supposed to have” or what we “deserve.”
When you realize the truth of this and take a look at your own set points, you realize that the power of these points is immense. If we do not work directly on these set points, their gravity will keep all our sorcery circling in tight orbits around them.
Let’s take a look at set points in various areas and how they can hold us back or propel us forward through life.
We all say that we want to be wealthy, but that is just at the surface level of conscious thought. The subconscious mind tends to have a lot more sway in these matters and, unfortunately, no matter what you say you want, this part of the mind usually has a different idea of what you should have.
Nowhere is the action of the set point more visible than in high school. For many of us, other than the occasional present-day trip to the DMV, high school was the last place where we were exposed, day in and day out, to a cross-section of society.
Remember the kids from rich families who lived in the houses up on the hill, and whose parents were all doctors, lawyers, or bankers? Even if in college they thought they might like to be artists, chances are their set point overtook them and they gravitated toward being doctors, lawyers, or bankers. They accumulate assets just as their parents did, save and invest similarly to the way their parents did, and are generally progressing down the same road.
Down a societal notch are the middle-class students from average suburban homes. Their parents were white-collar workers with mid-level jobs, or were perhaps even small-business owners. Chances are that those kids make the same, or even a little less than their parents did because of the poor economy. The lure of comfort and the illusion of security helped reinforce their set point. For the most part, no matter what they say they aspire to, what they actually aspire to is the same level of suburban comfort and security their parents have. They avoid most financial risks and thus reap no rewards thereof. If they lose a job and fall beneath the level of comfort, they work hard to get back to it, but once they get back to the level of equilibrium they are comfortable with, they more or less just work to keep the status quo.
There are also the middle-class, blue-collar families. These kids maybe went to vocational school and became electricians, plumbers, or mechanics. On one hand they will talk about the desire for wealth just as often as anyone else. On the other hand they take extreme pride in being “blue collar,” and in some cases take pride in their lack of education, which some see as elitist. You see this play out in modern politics again and again, especially on the right. The Ivy League grad with advanced degrees is seen as being out of touch with reality, and the less-educated person is seen as being a better candidate because he or she is “someone you can have a beer with.”
At the lower economic strata are the kids whose parents just did not give a crap or were overtaken by problems such as alcoholism, drug abuse, or simply terrible poverty. Sadly, there are entire school district Shoom">Dows where this is the norm, and a child in this situation may never even come into contact with a friend from an upper economic stratum. Although there are plenty of examples of people who have risen above their situation, more often than not people don’t. Here too there is a certain pride that can manifest either positively or negatively.
On the positive side, pride can reinforce the idea that no matter where you are from there is beauty to your culture, good things happen, and all people have worth. For many it can be this pride that forces you to move your set point, and fire up the determination to manifest better things for yourself and your family. This is why some parents will sacrifice and save and go to extreme measures just to move out of a bad neighborhood. Even if they never got an education or a high-paying job, they know that just being raised among others who have that as an expectation will be good for their kids and will move their set point beyond what it otherwise would be.
On the other side pride can manifest negatively. I know kids from inner city schools who were beaten up for “talking white,” and kids from poor white neighborhoods who were beaten for doing their homework and trying to be a college boy. In this case, pride in one’s culture manifests as reinforcing poverty and punishing education.
Of course this mistrust of education and status doesn’t only exist in America. I remember being at a restaurant in Kathmandu and talking to a friend about a recent scandal with the king of Nepal. The waiter overheard us and reminded us that “We Nepalese love our king. Only the educated don’t like the king.”
In all these cases, sociological and psychological factors impact the set point and set a baseline where you will more or less emotionally feel that everything is okay financially. For most of us, if we are in debt or lose a job, we work night and day to better our situation and get back to where our set point says we should be. If, however, we are making the average wage for someone in our peer group, but would like to be earning 6 or 7 figures, we tend not to work all that hard at it and leave our dreams as dreams. That is the power of the set point.
If you show an investment to someone from a wealthy background, they will take a look at it and see how they might make money with it because that is what their set point tells them is possible. If you show the same investment to someone from the middle-class, white-collar group, they will see all the ways that they might lose money with it because that is what their set point tells them to expect.
This may seem obvious to some of you, but you should spend some time mapping your set points so that you can eventually move past them.
The set point exists for other things as well.
My parents and grandparents are all overweight. Not terribly overweight, but enough that it is not healthy. Where am I? Surprise! I am also overweight. I am thin enough to go to the gym, run around with the kids, ride a bike for a few miles, and swim a few laps, but I carry enough extra baggage that I get winded faster than I would like, suffer from occasional acid reflux, and am putting myself at risk for heart disease and all kinds of other problems. I have been between 40 and 80 pounds overweight since I was about 23.
I would like to be back to my ideal weight, but my set point is comfortable being overweight, so weight loss doesn’t get prioritized. Sad but true. At the beginning of the year I started a project to lose the weight, and I lost 25 pounds pretty quickly. That put me right at the outer rim of my set point’s field of gravity, at which point I became complacent and yielded to temptation more often, prioritized other workings, and so on, and so on. S, aed. Sad As soon as time allows, I will begin to move my weight set point using the same methods that I used to move my wealth set point—the same methods that I will be teaching you at the end of this lesson.
Ever hear someone say, “She’s out of my league”? She wasn’t. He just thought she was because his set point was dictating what he thought he could and couldn’t attain. Ever see Dennis and Elizabeth Kucinich? That, my friends, is a man who did not let his set point dictate what was possible. Of course it works both ways: Men or women who know that they are a 10 in the looks department may not allow themselves to date someone who isn’t, even though they secretly find the person attractive.
Other than looks, though, our set point can still make us think that someone is too good for us. We get into a good relationship, but we sabotage it because we are just waiting for our partner to realize that we do not deserve him or her. You may say you want a partner who puts you on a pedestal, yet find yourself always with a controlling and abusive person. Again, there is a disconnect between what you want and what your set point is.
There is a story about the great Tibetan Master Milarepa being questioned by his students about his former lives. Milarepa was known to manifest many different magical powers that defied explanation. Because of his magical and spiritual attainments, his students figured that he must have been someone important in a previous life. They insisted he tell them what Siddha or powerful Buddha he was in his past lives, or what Yidam or spiritual power he was an emanation of. Milarepa scolded them for not having faith in the path, for if they did, they would realize that you do not have to be someone special from birth; anyone who followed the path could attain Buddhahood in this very life.
Milarepa’s students had a set point that told them that only very special people marked at birth could attain high spiritual states. Some of us have the same attitude. It is true that we are all gifted differently and that some people have natural advantages, maybe from past lives, family lineage or a special environment, but these only get you so far. I know a few very important and famous tulkus (reincarnations) who honestly are not spiritually fit to shine the shoes of other lamas who have no special birth and were raised in American suburbs.
The message is this: You can attain any level of wealth, health, love, or spirituality that you aspire to. It just takes work and a little adjustment of expectation.
Moving Your Set Point
There are many different ways you can move your set point, including pure force of will. Following is a method that I have found particularly effective, and with which my students have reported success.
Step 1: Releasing the Point
Your set point is largely the work of your past: how you were raised, your genetics, the neighborhood you grew up in, the school you went to, the friends you kept, the college you went to, the people you dated, the food you ate growing up, and so on and so forth. At a deep level, almost every action and reaction that you have is the result of patterning that stems from this list. The work of escaping these patterns entirely and living solely according to our own naked, un-patterned awareness is the work of enlightenment itself.
At the moment, we are only concerned with breaking free from negative patterns and self-sabotaging actions so we can move our set points. Begin by looking back at the past—not for what you think may be the causes of your set point, but for examples of yo Sxam we are au giving in to your set point. The time you were going to buy that rental property but chickened out. The time when you were considering getting an advanced degree but backed out because it seemed like too much work. The time when you were going to go for a promotion at work but did it halfheartedly, thinking that it really did not matter all that much. Think of any situation in which you chose comfort over progress.
These events happen to all of us. You should come up with at least three and as many as nine examples of real-life regrets. Once you have your list, perform the following ritual.
Perform a zone rite of your choice. This can be an LBRP, circle casting, or any kind of ritual that sets up sacred space.
Within that space perform the pillars and spheres exercise from Chapter 3 and imagine a blazing fire in front of you. This fire burns with such intensity that when something is consumed by it, not even the name of the thing remains.
Call to mind an image of the first event on your list. You should see it clearly in your mind, but because of your meditation, you should feel somewhat more distant and dispassionate about it. When you are ready, fold that image mentally into a cube and cast it into the fire. As you do so, say something along the lines of:
I release myself from the bondage of the past.
I cast my failure and my feelings about that failure into the razor fire.
In the space of spontaneous awareness not even name of obstruction exists.
Repeat this process for everything on your list.
When you are done, you should again quickly perform the pillars and spheres ritual to rebalance the elements within the body.
Lastly, turn your attention upward through the central channel to the Star Center above the body, which is like a chakra that is located above the crown center and above the physical head. Sound this syllable:
It is pronounced just like the word hue but stretched out over several seconds.
Feel the energy of this center, which is connected to all stars everywhere, unlock and descend through the body, sealing the work done.
This syllable is part of a system of syllables for what I call “Facets of the Flow.” In this case the syllable represents the primordial flow of spirit’s constant descent into matter, which is relevant here because we are filling the energetic void left by our releasing of the past.
You should perform this ritual for nine consecutive days. You may feel very free after the first performance, but that is just the beginner’s high. These are very difficult psychic programs to remove, and one session will never cut it. It may bring you into a mind state where you think you have got it, but it will not bring you to the next stage unless you have made it concrete through repeated performance followed and reinforced by real-life actions.
Step 2: Moving the Point
We have dealt with the past; now we must deal with the present. I am not going to suggest a ritual here because once you release your past and decide to move the set point, the only thing that really can move it is an all-consuming passion for attainment. You can work this into a ritual of your own design, but it is vital that that ritual only be part of an overall working that interpenetrates all parts of your life.
It has been said that we are what we think about all day, and your task here is to build a natural resonance between your current self and the self that you wish to be. Your actions can and should include the following four things.
Role model study: When Neil Strauss wanted to become the world’s best pickup artist, he shut himself up in his house so that he could read the biographies of famous ladies’ men, watch movies of the all-time greatest leading men, listen to tapes of people who had gone where he was headed, and generally immerse himself in models from which he could draw. In our case there are numerous biographies and collections of wisdom from the financially skilled. Read a book by Warren Buffet or Bill Gates. You can and should read a few books about personal finance, but the goal here is to immerse yourself in the wisdom of people who do it, and do it well—not necessarily those who are writing books about how to get rich.
Surround yourself with those who already have their set points on target: Many magic traditions utilize vows not to surround yourself with heretics and disbelievers. The usefulness of this has nothing to do thinking that heretics are evil, but the simple truth that the people you hang out with rub off on you. If you want to be a Buddha, it works against your goal to surround yourself with people who do not believe in Buddhism or think that spirituality is dumb.
You may think it’s callous to find friends based upon things like money, love, attraction, and the like, but the simple truth is that if you want to get rich, you should try to develop friendships with people who actually are rich. Not to ask them for money, mind you, but just to learn some of the things they know about it, and to have people to talk with. If you tell your poor friends that you are buying a rental property near the beach, they will tell you all the reasons that you will lose your shirt and how people never get rich from “schemes.” If you tell your rich friends that you are buying a rental property, they will ask you about whether you are using the right tax loophole, what property manager you are using, and other things to make sure that you do not lose your shirt.
When I tell friends who are overweight that I want to lose weight, they share all the times they tried and failed, and then make sure to ask me out for a burger. My changing is actually a threat to their comfort with being overweight. When I tell the same thing to healthy friends, they ask questions about my diet and make sure that I am getting good advice about nutrition and overall well-being.
I am not advising you to abandon old friends, but just to find some new ones to add to the mix. It’s not that your other friends are not being true; they just lack the knowledge and perspective to do anything different.
Thought management: Spend time every morning projecting your success, every afternoon killing excuses, and every evening replaying the day in a better light.
Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a powerful tool for moving self-perspective and releasing habits. I do recommend self-hypnosis, but only after an initial session with a hypnotist. I use some hypnotic methods in my work, but because I am not a licensed hypnotist, I have chosen not to share them. There is plenty of material out there and I urge you to investigate it for yourself.
Step 3: Re-Setting the Point
Again, no ritual alone is going to do this. No spirit is going to make this happen. Rituals and spirits may put you into a mind state that is helpful, but it takes your hard work to actually reach the stage that you want. Magical workings can be part of this process, but always remember: “First comes the working, then comes the work.”
So what actually does the trick? Success does. You must go out and apply all the knowledge and perspective that you gained in the last step. You must go out and apply it…and fail. Then you must go out again and again until you suc Suntpectceed. There is no other way to do this. People claim that there is, but there isn’t.
Read the remaining chapters in this book and apply them according to your needs. Get out of debt, find a better job, get promoted, start a business, invest, purchase assets. Success is the only way to reset the point.
The moment that you start getting results, your set point will be re-set. You will no longer look at a job as the only way to make money. You will no longer think that you are just “supposed to” be making $30,000—60,000 a year. You will have released yourself from the past, learned the necessary skills, shifted the necessary perspectives, and actually succeeded in the first step of your new venture. You will not have to believe you can—you will know.