and your work has been a tremendous source of solace and inspiration during the course of my journey through life! It is a delight to share this hour with you. And that is actually a nice place to start… Is there someone who is dear to your own heart? Perhaps someone who showed up for you, or who you would cite as highly influential on your own spiritual path?
Wayne Dyer: One person who showed up in my life was a man who lived back in the 13th century and is now known as Saint Francis of Assisi. I wasn’t raised in any particular religious faith, probably because of being moved around to different foster homes during my childhood. I had no knowledge of Catholicism and was never exposed to any of the saints or their teachings. But for some mysterious (but much less mysterious today) reason, this monk who lived such an inspiring, Christ-conscious life was to be one of the truly most portentous and impactful beings to ever cross my life path.
Awaken: When did you first become aware of Saint Francis?
Wayne Dyer: Saint Francis’s influence first appeared in my life in a large, beautifully framed print of the entire “prayer of Saint Francis,“ which was given to me by someone at a lecture more than 25 years ago. The messages of the prayer resonated with me profoundly and I loved how it appeared, so I hung it in a hallway that led to my children’s bedrooms. I must’ve walked by that prayer at least 10,000 times in the decade that it hung there. Often I’d pause, read a few lines, and contemplate the magic of the words: “Where there is hatred, let me sow love and, where there is darkness, let me bring light.”
Awaken: What was it about those lines that moved you so much?
Wayne Dyer: These words seemed more like a technology than a prayer. I loved thinking that hatred could grow into love, and darkness could be illuminated — not by asking God to do it, but by being love and light. It seemed to promise that we humans had the ability to literally change suffering and pain by transforming ourselves, and I enjoyed contemplating that achievement.
Awaken: I love that your most influential teacher is in the form of spirit. I would like to talk more about this metaphysical dimension of existence… Or perhaps it would be more accurate and consistent with what you teach to say that the spirit form is actually the true form of who we are. Who are we, really?
Wayne Dyer: Who is the “I” that continues to leave one body behind and then enter another? You know for certain that you — the person that you call I, the one attempting to figure out who you are — started out in a little baby body weighing somewhere between five and 10 pounds. The “I” that is you fully entered and occupied that little baby body. Gradually you began to discard that baby body and move into a small toddler body that crawled, then walked, then ran, and took on an entirely new appearance. Your two-year-old self would find it difficult to recognize the baby body that you’d now completely abandoned. You lived in this toddler body for a while and then discarded it, too, including every cell that was in your body at birth. The subsequent body you entered was a prepubescent body that bore a similarity to your toddler body but was completely different.
The “I” in the question still hasn’t been discovered, but it’s become absolutely clear that you are obviously not your body. Why? Because the “I” has remained, though it continuously sheds the body that it occupies. This strange phenomenon of you being an “I” that continuously enters, discards, and re-enters a new body has proceeded right up until this very moment.
I am currently in a 70 year old body that’s nothing like the body I occupied 50 years ago. I remember well what that 20 year old body I occupied looked like, what it could do, and what it knew and didn’t know, but I can’t find it anywhere — it’s simply an illusion. It is gone from this physical world, as is everybody that both you and I have occupied in our lifetime. The “I” that I use to describe myself is not so obsessed that he insists upon staying only in one body. In fact, that “I” that is me finally recognizes the ancient spiritual truth spoken by Divine masters since antiquity: None of us are really doing anything, rather we (our bodies) are merely being done.
Awaken: What do you mean by being done… Who is doing the doing? Are we talking about God?
Wayne Dyer: What is your body being done by? An invisible organizing intelligence that takes the cells of your body, changes them into new cells, and discards the old cells. The “I” that you think you are observes the entire process — for the most part, helplessly. The physical body that you think of as you is rearranged in a pattern designed by a formless intelligence independent of your opinions. This “I” that you use to describe yourself isn’t the physical form that you occupy and take with you everywhere. Quantum physics states that the body we’re occupying, which is reading this paragraph right now, is completely different from the body you were in when you read the previous paragraph. Such is the nature of the physical world in which we all live.
Awaken: We are not this changing body… What the yogis have been saying all along… But there has to be something that is changeless, right?
Wayne Dyer: If it is changing, it is not real. The “I” in the question Who am I? isn’t anything that involves the physical you, since that continuously changes and disappears. Therefore, to answer the question Who am I? With any reference to your body and its various talents, accomplishments, accumulations, or physical prowess is to define yourself as unreal. Who you are, then, must be changeless, and therefore birthless as well as deathless. Who you are is a formless energy — a spirit, if you will — with the capacity to be unchanged, and at the same time occupy an infinity of bodies.
Awaken: So then, the “real” us is that which is formless and timeless?
Wayne Dyer: Think about this — it is truly a bewildering phenomenon. You are changeless and therefore real. What you’ve believed were facts explaining who you are, are simply illusions — or what metaphysicians call unreal. You were convinced by some well intentioned relatives, teachers, and cultural influences that you were really this ego of yours, when in fact everything that the ego uses to define you is disappearing as fast as you can assess it. Your possessions, achievements, reputations, trophies, bank accounts — even your family members, including your children — are all aspects of a world that is changing, dissolving to nothingness… all unreal.
Awaken: So, everything that we believed was “us,” just turns to dust? And the only thing that is real is beyond this physical form… But we can’t see it and we don’t know what to call it?
Wayne Dyer: All ceases and turns to dust — everything you may have believed was the real you, including the body and all of its accomplishments, and even its laughing and sighing. But the real I is… you can smile at all of those lower–self, ego–identified proceedings. Your higher self exists beyond that lower, false self. It is in fact higher than all of your earthbound identities.
You have a self that can look down from a more exalted position upon that lower, ego-dominated self. So begin to know yourself as something far greater than the ever-changing, ever-dying aspects that have dominated your picture of who you are.
Awaken: And so, we have summed up the age old metaphysical question of Who Am I…
Wayne Dyer: Who am I? is then answered with, I am an infinite being who originated not from my parents, but from a Source that is itself breathless, deathless, and changeless.
Awaken: And to be quite forthright about it, what does it do for us to re-conceive of ourselves in this way? In other words, how does it change our lives, in a practical way, to redefine what and who we are?
Wayne Dyer: You are connected in a profoundly spiritual way to all that you see and do. You begin to treat all your tasks, even the most mundane, as opportunities to know God. You bring peace to everything since in your own mind, you are everything and everyone. You become less preoccupied with labeling the flowers and trees and more involved in experiencing them.
Awaken: You’ve said so much there… We are talking about what the Buddhists call interconnectedness… but also, the idea that the realization of this interconnectedness brings a profound shift to inner peace. I am Source. And everything is Source. And I am everything! Like the Beatles lyrics, I am he as you are he as you are me
And we are all together… This awareness of interconnectedness… Is that enlightenment?
Wayne Dyer: The state of being enlightened, for me, involves a very basic idea of being immersed in and surrounded by peace at all moments in my life. If I am anxious, stressed, fearful, or tense, I am not realizing the potential I have for enlightenment right in that moment. I believe that becoming aware of these non-peaceful moments is one of the ways to being an enlightened person.
Awaken: Yes, if enlightenment isn’t about living in peace, then it makes no sense… Then it just becomes some abstract notion. Like a useless ideology…
Wayne Dyer: In general, enlightenment will not change your outer world, but you will change your way of processing the world.
Awaken: Can you give us an example of how living a more enlightened life has brought more peace to your day to day existence?
Wayne Dyer: For instance, as I go about the business of parenting, I see my children with an absence of ownership and attachment, whereas previously their behavior could rule my emotional life. Now I see my eight year old’s tantrum as what she has to do right now to get attention. I don’t feel compelled to join her in her emotionally juvenile conduct. I also see the successes that all my children experience from this more detached perspective.
Awaken: And to be clear, this does not mean you don’t care. It’s a healthy kind of detachment…
Wayne Dyer: My realization of detachment is not an attitude of indifference. It is one of knowing that I have the power to choose peace for myself in all moments, and that I will still have all the same activities, problems, and events cropping up each day. As long as I am in a physical body I will have some chopping and carrying to do. But the way of approaching it is what constitutes enlightenment.
Awaken: I recognize the Zen metaphor there… of chopping wood and carrying water…
Wayne Dyer: Before enlightenment, chopping wood carrying water. After enlightenment, chopping wood carrying water.
This proverb about chopping wood and caring water says to me that enlightenment does not begin in a lotus position in a cave high atop the Himalayas. It is not some thing that you will get from a guru or a book or a course of study. Enlightenment is an attitude toward everything that you do.
Awaken: Indeed, the work doesn’t change, but our way of looking at it does. And it’s not like our problems suddenly go away when we begin a spiritual practice or when some life crisis jars us into becoming conscious!
Wayne Dyer: I still chop wood and carry water as I did when I was a teenager. Every day I still do the work that will pay the bills, even though the work has changed. Each day I exercise to stay healthy, eat properly, brush my teeth, and wipe my own behind… I continue to chop wood and carry water as a family member concerned with their lives. Enlightenment is not a means to eliminate life‘s daily tasks.
Awaken: Enlightenment then, is simply an attitude…
Wayne Dyer: Enlightenment is not something that will set you free, rather you become freedom itself. You do not become an eagle in the sky; you become the sky itself. You no longer define yourself by the boundaries of your body; the universe itself becomes your body.
Awaken: And by freedom, you mean, not at the mercy of life‘s blows, but rather more in control of how we want to feel?
Wayne Dyer: I love this affirmation from A Course in Miracles: “I can choose peace rather than this!” To me, that one affirmation sums up this whole business of enlightenment: Being able to choose peace while carrying, chopping, cleaning, delivering, hammering, or any of a zillion “ings” you could add to this list.
Awaken: So, with the carrying and the chopping, we come full circle to the old Zen proverb!
Wayne Dyer: This simple little Zen proverb, which has been handed down to seekers of enlightenment for thousands of years, is a great gift. Inside or outside yourself you never have to change what you see, only the way you see it. That is enlightenment!
Awaken: Could you give us some practical pointers… some methods or practices that would be easy to implement on a daily basis, so as to live a more enlightened life?
Wayne Dyer: To put the simple Zen proverb to work in your life, here are a few equally simple strategies to practice:
1. Become aware of your “ignorance“ as it reveals itself each day when you have allowed yourself to slip away from being at peace. Note who you blamed for your moments of despair, what the occasion was, and how frequently you fell into this trap. The recognition of your unenlightened moments is the way to begin turning them around. Remember that those who are ignorant are generally unaware of their ignorance. Become aware.
2. Let go of your inclination to see enlightenment as something that you will achieve at some future time when your life circumstances change for the better. You will always have some form of chopping and carrying to do. Your choice is in how you elect to see it.
3. Practice making specific changes in your personal approach to things that take you away from your peace. For example, if you find yourself being excessively annoyed in heavy traffic, or in long lines, use these ordinary circumstances of modern life to shift around your inner world. Reserve a space within yourself for enlightenment to appear in the moments when you typically opt for anguish.
4. And finally, never make announcements about being enlightened. The person who says, “I’m enlightened“ is definitely not. Choose not to engage in conversation about your enlightenment. One Zen teaching says that only after a sincere seeker has asked you more than three times should you respond. The sages are silent on the subject of their own level of God realization.
Awaken: I love the practical nature of these pointers, especially where you relate them to life‘s every day annoyances. It almost makes the lofty business of enlightenment seem like a simple matter of patience!
Wayne Dyer: I have this quote from the ancient Chinese teacher and philosopher Confucius pasted above my typewriter as a gentle daily reminder not to do anything that will prevent “great affairs“ from being accomplished.
Do not be desirous of having things done quickly. Do not look at small advantages. Desire to have things done quickly prevents their being done thoroughly. Looking at small advantages prevents great affairs from being accomplished. ~ Confucius
Awaken: Such a graceful way of speaking about the virtue of patience, without actually saying the word! And how we mess up our lives without it!
Wayne Dyer: It seems to me that we have a great deal to learn from our nature about how we hinder our greatness. Yet it is our nature that we often ignore in favor of what our mind tells us is the way things are to be.
Awaken: We are silly creatures…
Wayne Dyer: Patience is a key ingredient in the process of the natural world and in our personal world. For instance, if I scrape my arm or break a bone, the healing process proceeds precisely at its own pace independent of any opinion I may have about it. That is the natural world at work. My desire to have it fixed quickly is of absolutely no consequence. If I apply that impatience to my personal world, I will prevent it from healing thoroughly, as Confucius advised over twenty-five centuries ago. Shakespeare matched the wisdom of this ancient Chinese predecessor when he wrote, “How poor are they that have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degree?“
Awaken: Amazing how timeless the wisdom is… It makes the difference between being peaceful in my day-to-day life and being absolutely miserable!
Wayne Dyer: There is a line in A Course in Miracles that perplexes anyone who is imprisoned by ego because it appears to be a contradiction. The line reads, “Infinite patience produces immediate results,” and it echoes that 2500 year old advice… Infinite patience describes the condition of faith or absolute knowing. If you know with a complete absence of doubt that what you are doing is consistent with your own purpose and that you are involved in accomplishing a great affair, then you are at peace with yourself and in harmony with your own heroic mission. The sense of peace is your immediate result and is a state of enlightened bliss. That infinite patience takes you to a level of faith where doing things quickly is of no interest. You shift out of the need to see the results right now, just as when you know that your cuts, scrapes, and injuries will heal as your nature dictates, rather than as your impatient self dictates.
Awaken: Can you share another example from your own personal life, where this kind of “knowing” has helped you?
Wayne Dyer: This kind of knowing has aided me immensely in my writing and in all of my life work. With my children, I am not always overly concerned with a test score or a subpar performance as it registers in this moment because I can see the bigger picture in their lives.
Awaken: There’s a kind of fear around impatience, isn’t there?
Wayne Dyer: Impatience breeds fear, stress, and discouragement. Patience manifests in confidence, decisiveness, and a feeling of peaceful satisfaction. As you look at your own life, examine how frequently you demand an immediate indicator of success for yourself and others and attempt instead to see the larger picture. When you are on purpose and see the larger picture, you are able to let go of an inclination to seek validation in the form of merit badges and immediate applause.
Awaken: I really relate to this, as when I was younger, I was always so impatient to see my achievements actualized and especially, recognized… as if I was in a race to get done with every single thing I had to do in my life!
Wayne Dyer: My experience with addictions and overcoming them may parallel some of your life situations. While still being addicted, I would think about quitting the addictive substance, such as caffeine or alcohol. Then I would look for a small advantage, such as no drinking for one day, and when that was accomplished, I would let up on my vigilance and go back to a cola or a beer to celebrate. By looking at my small victories I was preventing the job from being done thoroughly. When I developed infinite patience with myself I turned the whole thing over to God and remembered how perfect God had always been with me, even in my lowest moments. By being infinitely patient I could see that the toxic substances interfered with my highest purpose and life mission, and I left those addictive ways behind me.
Awaken: But it was all part of the process…
Wayne Dyer: Make no mistake about it, all my thoughts about quitting, all my trials and failures — those “small advantages“ as Confucius calls them — were part of the process of purification. By being patient with myself I could stay patient even with those small victories, and thus they did not deter me from my greater accomplishment. I allowed the process to move at its own pace, and today I can see clearly how getting rid of impatience gave me the ability to move to a level that I never imagined when I kept congratulating myself for my little victories and then retreating back to defeat. If you are appreciating the paradox in this situation, you will enjoy these two paradoxical sayings: “infinite patience produces immediate results” and “one day at a time produces eternal results.”
Awaken: I would like to return for a moment, to this idea of patience as “knowing,” as you were speaking of it above. I believe you are referring to a deeply felt kind of assuredness that lives in the heart… where there is no room for doubt?
Wayne Dyer: When I think of the parables of Jesus Christ as a great healer, I can’t conjure any doubt. When Christ approached a leper he wouldn’t say, “We haven’t been having a great deal of success with leprosy lately. But if you follow my advice you’ll have a thirty percent chance of survival over the next five years.” You can see all the doubt that is present in such a stance. Rather, he would say from an absolute state of knowing, “You are healed.” This is the same state of conscious contact with knowing from which St. Francis performed his healing miracles as well. In fact, all miracles come from shifting out of doubt and into knowing.
Yet the persuasiveness of tribal influences is exceedingly powerful. You are constantly being reminded of what you should or shouldn’t believe, and what all our tribal members have always believed, and what will happen to you if you ignore these beliefs. Fear becomes the constant companion of your beliefs, and despite the doubts that you may be feeling inside, you often adopt these beliefs and make them crutches in your life, while you hobble through your days looking for a way out of the traps that have been carefully set by the generations of believers before you.
Awaken: Yet some sages, like the Buddha himself, have always reminded us to trust our own experience…
Wayne Dyer: The Buddha offers you some great advice, and you can see that his conclusion is devoid of the word “believe.” He says when it agrees with reason — that is, when you know it to be true based on your own observation and experience — and it is beneficial to one and all, then and only then, live by it!
The world’s greatest teachers can teach you absolutely nothing unless you are willing to apply what they have to offer based on your knowing.
Awaken: From reading so much of your work, I know that you embrace all of the beautiful teachings from the different spiritual traditions of the east and the west, from Christianity to Taoism… What would you say to someone who would like to explore their own beliefs in a richer way and experience this kind of true inner knowing?
Wayne Dyer: Expose yourself to belief systems that are in opposition to those you are familiar with. Experience what it is like to walk in the shoes of those who are different from you. The more of these “Contrary” experiences you allow yourself, the more you will know your truth.
Awaken: Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
Wayne Dyer: Be honest about how many of your firmly held beliefs are the result of your own life experiences, and how many have been handed to you. Make an effort to open your mind to experiencing things directly before proclaiming them as true and living by them.
Awaken: Wayne Dyer, I want to thank you profoundly for spending this time with us today and for sharing your own experiences for the benefit of our collective awakening!