Manifesting Spiritual Change
An Interview with Wayne Dyer
By Mary NurrieStearns
Wayne Dyer's book, Wisdom of the Ages, contains a wonderful collection of prose and poetry from sixty ancestral masters. Just compiling the words of these extraordinary people of the past twenty-five centuries in one volume is reason enough for the book. However, each teaching, on some aspect of personal and spiritual growth, is followed by an essay. In the essays, Dyer applies the insights of these wise people to our lives today. He also offers a social and historical context for each writer's life and work. These sages come to life in these pages, touching our hearts and beckoning us to bring their wisdom into our contemporary lives.
Since Dyer is such a popular author and lecturer, we were interested in what he had to say about effecting deep spiritual change, the underlying focus of this book and his life's work. We talked by phone one morning while he was at his home in southern Florida. He is a dynamic speaker, and although he was focused and thoughtful in responding to the questions, his enthusiasm was not apparent during the interview.
Personal Transformation: In this book, you talk about working with our thoughts in order to create deep inner change. Do we effect spiritual change by working with our mind?
Wayne Dyer: That's the place we start, certainly. The way to effect deep spiritual change is to work at allowing the highest part of you, the invisible part of you, the divine part of you, to be the more dominant force in your life. That's done through getting quiet and becoming peaceful. You use the mind to lose the mind. In the process of losing it, you make conscious contact with what I think of as God. That's really the process of personal transformation. In the word transformation, trans means to go beyond. Transformation translates to the experience of going beyond form. The mind is not in the world of form. That which houses it is, perhaps, but we don't even know if it is housed in the brain. Certainly, it's beyond the world of the physical. Using the mind to lose the mind is the process of getting quiet, of shutting down the inner dialogue, of letting go of the chatter that fills our lives every day.
PT: You discuss the Bible quote, "As you think, so shall you be." How do you interpret that?
Dyer: Thinking is a major part of our lives. It defines our relationships, our health and our level of prosperity. We become what we think about all day long. It's the first law of the universe. You have to ask yourself, "Why am I thinking the way that I'm thinking," rather than "Why am I attracting what I am attracting into my life?" People aren't good at attracting into their life what they want because the reverse is also true. What you really, really don't want, you will also get. If your mind is on what you don't want, you will continue to manifest and attract that into your life. For example, you can't manifest prosperity from "I despise being poor." If you despise being poor, if that's what you think, you have to create more despising being poor. It's true of everything in our lives. We have to become really conscious of what we think about, and put our attention on what we want rather than what we don't want. Let's look at relationships. If your thoughts and energy are on what you don't like about the person, if you pay attention primarily to their flaws and to what they do that upsets you, that will characterize the nature of your relationship. You will continue to see the flaws and the things that upset you being manifested. Robert Frost said, "We love the things we love for what they are"not for what they ought to be or used to be or what we think they should be, but what they are. Everything gets defined by the way we process it. Everything. Looking out the window at a sunny day can be seen as beautiful for one person and horrible for someone else who thinks the temperature isn't right or worries that it might rain. What you think about is what you create in your life.
PT: Given the power of thinking, what is the best place in ourselves for making decisions? What do we turn our thoughts to?
Dyer: The best place is one of peace, which is enlightenment. Enlightenment is to be immersed in and surrounded by peace at all moments in our lives. Before you act, you can ask yourself if what you are about to do or what you are about to say is going to bring peace. For example, often you have a choice to be right or to be kind. By being right, making somebody else wrong, you create turmoil; but by being kind, you always create peace. Enlightenment is about being kind, about being at peace. The Course of Miracles says, "I can choose peace rather than this." It's a great affirmation. We don't get rid of ego this part of us that needs to be right, that's into pleasure and that evaluates itself on the basis of what it has, who it's better than, and what everybody else thinks of "me." We just make ego the least important part of our decision-making. We try to be conscious of choosing peace.
PT: You discuss the importance of being yourself, of being self-directed enough to maintain balance and dignity. How do we know our true self, so that we're directing ourselves with something other than ego?
Dyer: The truest part of us feels divine and knows peace; not believes in it, but knows it. It knows tranquility and harmony and feels in balance. It's not anything you can intellectualize about; it's something you absolutely know. If I'm able to serve in some way, that is, to bring peace to somebody, or to make someone else's life better, if I'm able to do that, then of course, I'm doing it for myself as well.
PT: I'll quote you here. You encourage us "to wish for anything we want. We are entitled to share the abundance of the world. We're divine creatures of God, and as such, we're as entitled to health, prosperity and love as anyone who lives on earth." How do we relate to the principles of manifestation in a way that we're serving the betterment of humanity and not feeding some hungry ego which may have something to prove or feels entitled?
Dyer: I know the question. When you attract into your life the things you desire, whether it's a new Mercedes, jewelry from Sak's, a job, or feeding a homeless person, as long as it's consistent with those nine principles I wrote about in Manifest Your Destiny, it's based on love. When your desires are based on love, you create abundance for everyone else on the planet. It's a myth to think people are hungry or dying or starving or in poverty because you attract prosperity into your life. It's a guilt myth. I'll use myself as an example. When I have a book idea in my head, I go away and I write a book. As a result, great abundance flows into my life money, accolades, and lots of wonderful things. In a way it feeds my ego, but the process of actualizing what I feel is my purpose, putting it down on paper and letting the world read it, involves millions of people. Somebody has to edit the book, somebody has to deliver the book, somebody has to build the cars that deliver the book, somebody has to feed the people who get up in the morning to get in the cars. None of those people go to work without any clothes on. Somebody has to inspect the clothes, grow the cotton, and design the garment. It's an endless progression.
No man is an island unto himself. We are all part of the main. Mystical consciousness is an awareness that none of us is alone. We accomplish nothing alone. Everything is done in relationship. When I create and when I attract into my life, I afford opportunity to everyone else in the whole world to work together in order to bring that about, and in the process of doing so, abundance is created for them as well. It's when I do nothing that I stop that flow of abundance and prosperity. If you have a desire to attract something into your life, whatever that might be, you should act on it as long as it's not going to hurt anyone else in the process. There are two ways to have the tallest building in town, you know. One is to knock down everyone else's building, but before long, you're going to be at war, because people won't stand for that. Secondly, you can work on your own building. In the process of working on your own building, you allow everyone else to have a building, as well. When you stop, you stop other people as well.
PT: So prosperity and abundance come out of our inner-connectedness.
Dyer: Absolutely. People say to me, "You drive a nice car and you have a nice home and there are people starving in Somalia." I respond with "People aren't starving in Somalia because I drive a nice car." I do all that I can to help. I work with the hunger projects to help people improve their lives, but denying myself the things that I want and that I can create for myself won't decrease world hunger.
PT: You talk about dignity in the book. How do you define dignity?
Dyer: If we talk about dignity in terms of how we feel about ourselves, we might be able to define dignity as being in harmony with our higher self. If we talk about dignity in terms of comparing people on some scale, we get into prejudice. My father, who spent years in prison and who abandoned us, would have been labeled a very undignified man, and yet, he was the greatest teacher in my life. He taught me about forgiveness and how to get on the spiritual path. I remember being told a story about a man who had signed up to come to this planet to live to sit and beg at a corner in front of a certain building every day, to stand there with his hand out, just to teach one person compassion. His was a life of dignity.
PT: What's your understanding of humility?
Dyer: It's not projecting your ego onto others. It's a wonderful trait to cultivate. I am not talking about false humility, which is pretending. I am talking about not always having to draw attention to yourself. I listened, on a call-in radio show, to this father who had given up his child for adoption and now, thirty years later, his child is famous. His son took his real name back five years ago. The father now wants to reconnect with the son he hasn't seen since he gave him up for adoption. The father told this story on the radio. Everybody who called in talked about how they disliked this man and what he was doing, accusing him of only wanting contact with his famous son because he wanted money. Then callers said, "Let me tell you about what happened to me, with my father." Everyone who called in projected their own story onto this person's desire to reconnect with his son. We have to learn humility to see the world the way it is, not the way we are, and to see people the way they are, and not the way we are, and not to use ourselves and our stories as a justification or a rationale for the way everyone else ought to behave.
PT: Do we have to be humbled to develop humility?
Dyer: It's not a question of being humbled. It's a question of losing some of your self-importance, your self-absorption. It's making the decision to be free. Freedom means an absence of thinking about yourself. You're never free until you're free from thinking about yourself, and that's what all transformational work is about. It's about losing your self-absorption, reaching a level of impeccability, and reaching levels of higher consciousness.
PT: In ways, freedom and humility are the same.
Dyer: Yes. They are egolessness, losing ego, or not having it be such a dominant force in your life.
PT: In that sense, is there strength in humility?
Dyer: There is strength in humility, but that isn't the reason to become humble. The reason to grow in humility is because doing so raises you to a higher level of consciousness. You are only strong because other people perceive you to be that way. Strength is a relative term.
PT: One of the themes throughout your book is that we are naturally purposeful. If we are inherently purposeful, are we naturally powerful, and if so, what's the source of that power?
Dyer: We are all naturally much more powerful than our egos, our minds and our personalities have convinced us. We have incredible power which comes from our source. We become powerless because we disconnect ourselves from our source. When you disconnect from the source, you lose the power of the source, like the drop of water in the ocean. When the water is away from the ocean, it shrivels and can't create and sustain life. But, reconnect it to its source and it regains all of the power of its source. Our egos are like these drops of water. We've come to believe that we are separate from our source separate from each other, separate from God, and separate from what we'd like to attract into our lives. This concept of separation is where we lose our power. When you reconnect to your source, you regain the power of your source the power to create and sustain life, which is as powerful as it gets.
PT: Is there a difference between power and strength?
Dyer: Strength is often perceived as a comparison to others how much more I can lift or how much faster I can run or how influential I am. Power is often interpreted as having influence beyond your own boundaries. But I'm not speaking about that kind of power, which is a dominating kind of power. I'm talking about the power in the inner strength, to be able to create and sustain life, to heal, and to attract prosperity into our lives.
PT: What about the heart in transformation?
Dyer: I see the heart as the center of the body; not the brain, not the head, but the heart. The heart is a symbol, of course, of coming from the place inside of you that knows that you and God are one. It's something that you can only feel and experience. Your heart beating is like the waves hitting upon the ocean. Jackson Browne sang, "I hear your heart beating everywhere." It is God's voice inside of you, coming from that place in your center where you radiate out into the world what it is that you are and want. It's only when you can get to that center place, that place of the heart, that you'll really come to know peace. The mind won't give it to you.
PT: You talk about a rich life being filled with enthusiasm. What generates enthusiasm?
Dyer: The word enthusiasm means "God within." Enthios is God and asm means within. Enthusiasm is being authentic. It's allowing God to reside inside of you.
PT: Is the heart the source of enthusiasm?
Dyer: Yes, that's the God within. When people ask, "How do you get to be a great speaker?" I say, "Be authentic and be enthusiastic, and anything else, he'll forgive you for." If you can't remember, if you stumble, it won't make any difference.
PT: You say there is no such thing as failure. What do you mean by that?
Dyer: If you swing at a golf ball and the ball dribbles off to the side, you haven't really failed, you've produced a result. The question in life isn't whether you fail, the question is, what do you do with the results you've produced? Do you say I can never hit a golf ball, I'm not athletic, or do you pick up the ball and swing at it again? The moment you label yourself a failure, you become the label that you place on yourself. Failure is another judgmental term. One person's failure is someone else's enormous success.
PT: What about regrets? Are they real and do they serve our evolution?
Dyer: You don't regret what you do, you regret what you don't do. When you do something and don't like the result you produce, you have a choice. You can learn from the experience. You can make changes and in that sense, there's no regret. There's actually gratitude for the fall, because the falls provide you with the energy to propel yourself to higher and higher places in our lives. When you'd like to try something and you don't because you're afraid of failing or you're afraid of somebody else's opinion about it, then you can have regrets. You can go through your whole life wondering what would have happened if you had asked her to go out. There is also an aspect of regret after doing something harmful toward another person. When you feel regret, vow to change your behavior. In that sense, regret serves our evolution.