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|Interview with Dr. Wayne Dyer
On Meditation, Spirituality, and Consciousness
Wayne Dyer, Ph.D. is the best-selling author of such books as Your Erroneous Zones, Manifest Your Destiny, Wisdom of the Ages and many other titles. He is a renowned speaker and teacher in the field of self-development and human potential.
Interview by Janice Hughes and Dennis Hughes, Share Guide Publishers
The Share Guide: I've been playing your tape set, The Wisdom of the Ages and reading the book that goes with it. It's a collection of your writings based upon the teachings of some of the greatest spiritual thinkers of the last 25 centuries. My first question is, how did you get the idea for this project?
Wayne Dyer: I originally was going to call this book 60 Days to Enlightenment. Abraham Maslov--who always impressed me and who was a great teacher of mine before he passed away in 1970--always talked about highly functioning, Self-actualizing people. I wrote a book dedicated to him back in the 1980's called The Sky is the Limit. I later became much more intrigued with this idea of enlightenment and higher consciousness and higher awareness, and I began to look at some of the themes that are in this concept of enlightenment. Themes like agelessness, and balance, and imagination, and independence, and power, knowing and leadership, patience and inspiration. . .these kinds of ideas…and I just kept a file on them. Then I thought, if somebody could read an essay based upon these enduring kinds of lines or quotes, it would really make a nice collection. I was going to call it 60 Days to Enlightenment--the idea being here are the 60 themes, here are what people who lived at this level of enlightenment are like, and here are some ideas for you, in a short essay, to go out and practice each and every day. So this is how I started writing about it. As I began the project, it sort of unfolded in a really sweet and wonderful way.
The Share Guide: Didn't you take 60 days yourself to write it? And Spend one day studying each particular master?
Wayne Dyer: Right, I would get up early in the morning and start by having a look at what their lives were like, read their biographies, find information in encyclopedias and so on. Then in the afternoon I would immerse myself in all of their writings. Some of them were artists, some of them were freedom fighters, and some of them were poets and novelists, and I would immerse myself in their work and their message. Later in the evening, I would just look at a picture of them or an engraving of some kind, a rendering (some of them were very old), and then I would just get very quiet. I would listen, and allow them to speak to me, and I would say "What would you say to the people here today who are walking among us about these ideas that you've written about?" And the writing was done with a ball point pen and a legal pad. Everyone was telling me that I couldn't write a book in 60 days, especially with this kind of research that's involved. I remembered what Patanjali said about inspiration--how when you're inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all of your thoughts break their bonds--your mind transcends limitations and your consciousness expands in every direction. Dormant forces, faculties and talents come alive and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be. And I was inspired. I was literally in the world of spirit. As they say: "When the student is ready, the teachers appear." Whenever I even got mildly stuck, the right person would telephone, or something would show up in the mail. It would always just be perfect.
The Share Guide: It's kind of like running a marathon?
Wayne Dyer: It is similar to that...very similar, and I've done that on several occasions. It's a process called surrendering. Ultimately you just realize that it's not your body that's going to get you through this thing. There's something in there called a spirit. It's like looking at a great painting and you say, "What painted that painting?" What in the physical world painted it, and when you look at it, you say, "Well the brush did, and the paint." But that's not the source of the painting. The source of the painting is in the spirit of the person who holds the brush and who dips it into the paint--so actually the source is something different.
The Share Guide: I know you've written quite a number of books, part of which I've read but this one is unique in the way it's put together. How did you feel on the 60th day when you were done?
Wayne Dyer: It felt like I wanted to keep it going; I wanted to do 61, 62, etc. It was like being back in school, back in college and reading and immersing yourself in the great poets and philosophers and thinkers, but not being graded. That's a nice feeling, because very often when you're in college, you're more concerned about what's going to appear on your transcripts, or what you're going to get on your paper. There was none of that. I was doing it for the right reasons, finally. I also was a teacher for many years, and my students often would say to me, "What somebody said or lived five hundred years ago, what's that got to do with me today?" I thought this book might answer that.
The Share Guide: I like the book a great deal. If I have a particular emotion that's bugging me, there's essays for all these different thoughts.
Wayne Dyer: That is the idea behind it...We've got a public television special based upon it.
The Share Guide: On book cover, it says "A modern master brings eternal truths into everyday life." and I'm thinking to myself, "What is Wayne's definition of a spiritual master?"
Wayne Dyer: Yes, that's an interesting word. Somebody else wrote that on the cover of the book. I don't consider myself a modern master by any means. I think I'm working and heading in that direction, but I'm certainly not at an arrival point. I talk about mastery in one of the essays in the book. There are four pathways to mastery. The first, the lowest pathway, is what is called the pathway of Discipline. This is the time in our lives when we train our body. We think of ourselves as having to go to practice; we have to really work hard at whatever it is we want to learn, just get some discipline.
The second pathway is the pathway of Wisdom, which is the application of the mind to the discipline of the body. When we send our kids off to school, most of the time we want them to get through these first two pathways. We tell them to get some discipline and use your head, and then you'll be educated. And that's true--that's basically what education is--it's a practice of getting some discipline and using your head. But it's not mastery.
The third pathway is called the pathway of Unconditional Love. You have to reach a stage or place in your life where what you are doing is something that is consistent with your sense of love for it. If you're not doing that, then you're stuck at the first or second pathway. An example is someone who's absolutely at the top of their game--when you watch Pavarotti singing, for instance, he has great discipline. Obviously he's been to practice. And he has great wisdom; he's obviously studied. But he's not the greatest tenor on the planet because he's been to practice and because he studies more than anybody else. He conveys a great sense of love for what he is doing every time he sings. You see the bliss, you see the joy. I think you have to get to that place. But that's still not mastery; that's approaching mastery.
The highest place is called Surrender. This is when you ultimately reach mastery--when you let go and let God. When you surrender the little mind to the Big Mind, and allow for the idea that it's not you who's doing this. You are not what you have, you are not what you do, you are not your reputation. You are the Divine, you are connected to God, and you have reconnected to your Source in such a way that it is really God working through you, or you working with God. I think that's ultimately what mastery is. I've been able to get there on occasion in my writing and also in my speaking, when I really just let go. I've also been there in marathons, in tennis matches and so on, when you absolutely just let go.
The Share Guide: That's your moment of satori?
Wayne Dyer: Yes, it's an awakening.
The Share Guide: Can you talk a little bit about putting spiritual thoughts into action in the world?
Wayne Dyer: The word "spiritual" gets tossed around a lot. It's almost like a buzz word now. I think you have to define it. Patanjali said 2300 years ago that spirit, reaching that higher place within, has certain qualities or characteristics. He said that ignorance is not being ill-informed, but ignorance is false identification--identification with the lower self, with the Ego, with the false Self and with the physical world. When you move into the world of spirituality, he said, what you are doing is you are becoming more informed in the sense that you are no longer identifying as a human being having a spiritual existence, but the other way around, as a spiritual being having a human experience. It's a new sense of identification. You begin to rewrite your agreement with your reality, with who you are and what you're here for. You see yourself as connected.
I think spirituality implies more of a sense of cheerfulness. One of the ways you're getting there is when you're more blissful on a regular basis. Most of the yogis, the gurus, the great spiritual teachers that I've read about or that I know, almost all of them are in a constant state of bliss. They can find bliss in almost anything. Also, effecting great spiritual change means not making your own quotas the source of your existence. Asking the questions, "What are your needs? How may I serve?" becomes much more important than "What's in it for me?"
In one of my books, Manifest Your Destiny, I talk about the Four Archetypes that Jung spoke about that we progress through in our life. It's very much like the four pathways to Mastery. He said the Archetype of the Athlete is first, which is identification with our bodies, and what we can do. Next is the Archetype of the Warrior, which is when you're in your adult life and you start saying what warriors say: "How much can I get? Who can I defeat? Who am I better than and how much stuff do I have? Then you move along to the Archetype of the Statesman or Stateswoman, which is the time when we stop asking what's in it for me, and begin to say what can I do for you? Service becomes much more important than serving self. I wrote about it in the Prayer of St. Francis. Ultimately, the Archetype of the Spirit is where you begin to see your Self, where you begin to realize that this is not your home. I think it's that recognition that this body is not who I am, this personality is not who I am, this Earth is not my home…the telling question of our existence is whether or not we have a relationship to the Infinite. If you see yourself as an infinite soul, an infinite being, sort of disguised as a person in the 21st century. I remember when they asked Mother Teresa what she did everyday she said, "Every day I see Jesus Christ in all of his distressing disguises." She would tend to the people, the Untouchables, in the streets of Calcutta. I think that's a beautiful way of phrasing it; that's sort of my take on spirituality.
The Share Guide: That really is beautiful. I noticed that you led off your book with a section on meditation, and that it was the only one that had two quotes. Can you talk a little about meditation?
Wayne Dyer: I can't imagine my life without it. I couldn't have imagined myself with it a while back! Most people think meditation is something to do to get rid of the stress of your life, something to do to make yourself less tired, to be more energizing and so on. I think Pascal's statement "All of man's trouble stems from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone" is very significant. Most people don't know how to meditate. They don't take the time, because they don't understand the value of it. In my opinion, it's the only way you can come to make conscious contact with God. God is that which is indivisible. You can't divide it. God is One. There's no place that God is not. So when you read about people like Gandhi and Maharaj, and Jesus, and people like Ramana Maharshi and Ramakrishna, Mohammed and so on, they're called non-dual beings, people who have "transcended." Like it says in the Bhagavad Gita, "they've gone beyond the duality of the physical plane," so that there's no up and down, right and wrong, beginning and end, rich and poor--there's none of that. There's just this ONE.
Meditation is a way of coming to know that Oneness. Meditation is done in silence, and in silence that's the only part of you that can't be divided. Everything else is duality. You've never seen a person with a front that doesn't have a back, with an outside that doesn't have an inside. There's this duality to the physical plane; it's always there. It's only dark because there's something called light. If it was always light there'd be no such thing as dark.
The Share Guide: So the unity is in the stillness?
Wayne Dyer: Right. Stillness is indivisible, and as Melville said, "God's one and only voice is silence." That's the power of meditation: it gives you an opportunity to make conscious contact with your Source and to regain the power of your Source. The power of your Source is the power to sustain and create life; it's the power to perform miracles. It's the power to live at a level of awareness that goes beyond just ordinary human consciousness or ordinary human awareness. Patanjali speaks a great deal on that, in his original Yoga Sutras. When you begin to go to that stillness and it becomes your regular way of being, you can start to heal people by being in their presence. You can start to read minds. You can even impact natural forces just with your consciousness--that's the power of meditation to me.
The Share Guide: I know a lot of people don't meditate regularly because their mind wanders and they get fidgety. I know you recommend Japa meditation. Is there any particular mantra or method that you recommend?
Wayne Dyer: My japa has a mantra. It's the repetition of the sound of the Names for the Divine.
The Share Guide: So any Name of the Divine, any mantra, will have the same effect?
Wayne Dyer: Yes. Usually it has the sound "AH" in it somewhere--whether it's Yahweh, or God, or Krishna, or Allah or Ra or Kali or Durga. I list 30 of them in Manifest Your Destiny. In the New Testament it says "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." So the repetition of God is a powerful mantra. You do it outwardly at first and then inwardly.
The Share Guide: There's one other subject in your book I wanted to address, and that's Patience--probably because it's the one I have the hardest time with. How do you deal with tension that comes up when you're in situations you can't avoid?
Wayne Dyer: Let me use an example to answer this. My oldest son, who's 25, was telling me that he takes a shower every morning, but when he comes out of the shower and he dries off, two minutes later he's sweating just as much as before he went into the shower. And he was saying to me, "I just don't understand that." And I said, "Your mind is not at rest when you're taking a shower. During the entire time that you're in the shower, you're in a rush and you're thinking 'I have to get through this, and I have to hurry up, and I have to towel off and get dressed and I got deadlines'…Then your body is reacting just as if it were still running or exercising, because the mind controls the body. It's not the other way around." So what I said to him is this: "What I recommend is that you meditate while you shower, or just get very, very quiet. Even if you only have one minute to shower, even if your deadline is such that it's very short, treat that one minute the same way. Get very, very peaceful."
And he told me the next day it was the very first time that he's come out of the shower, dried off and he wasn't sweating again. Now I do this in traffic, when I'm at a red light. Try this: When you're at a red light, recognize the fact that you have to sit there for a minute or two whether you like it or not. Now you have a choice in that two minutes--you can either sit there and fret and look at your watch and stomp and be all upset while you wait for the light to change, or you can sit there for the same two minutes and you can meditate. You can get very quiet, you can close your eyes and so on. The reality hasn't changed, nothing's changed, except you process the experience in a relaxed, and peaceful and blissful way rather than in a hurried and harried and raising up the blood pressure way.
You can do this at every red light you hit for the rest of your life. You can do this in every shower; you can do this with every deadline. You can choose to deal with the deadline from the perspective that the deadline is what's causing you to be stressed, or you can remind yourself that there's no such thing as stress--there are only people thinking stressful thoughts. You can process it anyway you want to--stressfully or unstressfully.
The Share Guide: I like that. What key books do you recommend for people interested in your work? If one were to read 2 or 3 to start with, besides this newest one, what would they be?
Wayne Dyer: It's sort of like asking me which one of my children do I like the best! I started with Erroneous Zones and just progressed up through. Someone wrote me today and said they thought my book Your Sacred Self is the spiritual book of the millennium. That might be a good starting place. I guess it would depend on where they were. If they were looking to perform miracles and manifest it and so on I would suggest Manifest Your Destiny. Or if they want to understand a basic philosophy that moves away from psychology and into spirituality, I would suggest You'll See It When You Believe It. If you'd like to learn how to manage your own emotions and not be victimized by other people, if that's a problem for you in your life, then I would suggest Your Erroneous Zones and Pulling Your Own Strings and The Sky's the Limit. If you want to raise your kids in a way that embraces these principles I'd suggest What You Really Want For Your Children. I don't really know how to answer other than like that.
The Share Guide: That helps. Do you have upcoming projects that you want to mention?
Wayne Dyer: I'm working on a book tentatively called There's a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem. I really believe that's true in any area of our lives, so I'd really like to help define these three words: Spiritual, Solution and Problem. That's what I'm doing now.
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