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A Conversation with Dr. Wayne Dyer: Living What He Teaches
SUMMER 2009 | Matt Laughlin interviews Wayne Dyer.
Laughlin: Thanks in advance for your time, Dr. Dyer. It’s a pleasure to be talking with you.
Dyer: You’re welcome.
Laughlin: I thought we might focus our interview on your latest book, Excuses Begone! How to Change Lifelong Self–Defeating Thinking Habits… how does that sound?
Dyer: You can focus on anything in this world you want to talk about, Matt! I am going to give you whatever answer comes out of my crazy head. Have you seen the new movie?
Laughlin: Not yet…. a lot of friends have seen it and spoke really well about it.
Dyer: Well, I’ll have one sent to you…
Laughlin: That would be great, thanks! I noticed in your new book you refer to the film as The Shift – did you change the name?
Dyer: We did. Originally it was called Ambition to Meaning, but it’s now called The Shift. It’s a great film. I am very proud of it. It’s a life–changing movie and it’s got some very, very good people and ideas in it.
Laughlin: I enjoyed reading in your book Excuses Begone! how you went about discerning whether or not to take on the film project on to begin with.
Dyer: Yeah… you feel something in your body and it’s like you start to trust your feelings rather than trusting your head. Most of us use our heads way too much and don’t listen to our hearts. And your heart will almost always tell you the right thing to do. You’ll know when you’re off course; you might feel tight, or get worked up, or your blood pressure goes up, you might feel sick to your stomach, get cramps, break out or any number of things… Your publication is focused on health, so you know it’s about listening to your feelings.
Laughlin: Absolutely. A couple things really struck me about this latest book; it seems like one of the most personal books you’ve written, and also, at least at a distance, it really seems to reflect a major change or shift in your own consciousness.
Dyer: Yes. You know, I’m now 69, but a few years ago when I turned 65, I gave up everything I had, everything physical; all my possessions, all my clothes, all my books, all my everything. I just left it all and donated it all. Even my home; I just gave it all away.
Dyer: Yeah, I decided to spend a year living and practicing the Tao Te Ching. I don’t know if you have read the Tao or not, but it was written 2500 years ago by Lao Tzu and some call it the wisest book ever written. In the process of doing that, and living that, I began to find that when you really start to live your life on purpose and less focused on yourself, and your own ego, and outcome, and if or how things are going to show up and all of that, you begin to live your life from a very knowing place within you; that’s the only way I can describe it. You get all the help you need, all the assistance, all the guidance, the right people, finances; everything just starts to show up. I started to really trust in that. And something I wrote about in Excuses Begone! is that all excuses are just misalignments.
It is quite an accomplishment to really devour the Tao like that for an entire year, and to write about the experience and to give people advice on how to live it and so on, especially from such a great historical text like that. But it didn’t really tell you how to go about changing lifetime thinking habits. So, I began to listen directly to Lao Tzu. You can call it channeling, you can call it whatever you want, but I think everything is channeled in a sense. I mean here we are sitting here talking and I have no idea where these words are coming from! There is no screen in front of me, no teleprompter; it’s just coming.
Laughlin: Sure… just like that!
Dyer: As you begin to trust in that, you begin to access higher and higher support – and higher and higher just means closer and closer aligned with God. Or, closer and closer aligned with Source, the place from which everything originates. That’s how I wrote this entire book, Excuses Begone! It was one of the sweetest, easiest, most peaceful experiences I have ever had in my life of writing. I didn’t have an outline at all. I had no idea what I was going to say, how I was going to say it, or what examples I was going to use. I just totally surrendered and really let it flow through me.
Laughlin: While reading the book I picked up a different kind of carrier wave you could say, as though the personal experiential you’re talking about really brought a kind of energy or inspiration to it. There really is something unique about it.
Dyer: Yeah, I know there is. I am very aware of it, and I know what it can do, because I continue to put it into practice for myself. How old are you?
Laughlin: I am 34.
Dyer: You probably notice that in men around the age of 40 or 50 the body starts to make some shifts and you just look thicker. People just look thicker. I just saw a picture of Tom Hanks, a very popular actor, of course, and I noticed this guy is a lot bigger than he was not long ago, just thicker. You know what I mean?
Dyer: And I just decided that I didn’t want to be thick! I am heading towards 70. I can’t even hardly say those words it just doesn’t make sense to me (Laughter). I have been an exerciser and an athlete my whole life. I have run marathons, I exercise every day. I swim. I do yoga. But what happens is you start putting weight on around the middle of your body. So I put this Excuses Begone! paradigm to work for myself and decided that I was going change that. As with all my writing, I have got to be able to know that this thing really works and will help people to change before I share it. Sure enough, within a week I had an interview with a guy named Jorge Cruise, who has written a book about belly fat. I had an interview with him, and he talked to me about sugar. He said in the 19th century that the average amount of sugar consumed by Americans was around 13 grams a day and today its 285 grams. That’s like a 500% increase in the amount of sugar consumed! He told me if you just get your sugar consumption down to under 15 grams a day…
Well, a banana has 11 grams of sugar! An eight ounce glass of orange juice has 35 grams of sugar in it. So it’s a pretty radical shift. Sugar is in everything! If you start looking at what’s on the packaging you’ll see huge amounts of it; in some cases its 100 grams in one serving of something you would consume. So, Jorge said if you get it down below 15 grams a day, or even just below 40 grams a day, you’ll take off between 15–17 pounds, which is about what I wanted to take off. I am not overweight. But I am thicker and I just decided to look at the excuses I have used to stay this way and put this paradigm to work. Sure enough, in less than 30 days I have taken off 17 pounds all the way around the middle. So, you can really make these kinds of shifts. I always challenge myself. If I am going to write about it, I have to be able to walk the talk.
Laughlin: That really comes through in this book. To give the reader a sense of this Excuses Begone! paradigm you’re referring to, would you comment on the essence of each of the three parts of this book?
Dyer: Sure. The first part of the book is like the wow factor in realizing that there are things built into us from the time that we were little boys and little girls, belief systems that we carry around that are called memes, or mind viruses. We carry these mind viruses around with us and we begin to believe them. Not only do we believe them but we act upon them as truths. I referred to Richard Brodie’s work, who discusses this in his book, Virus of the Mind: The New Science of Meme. Memes are just these ideas that have been planted into us about what is possible or not for us, about what we can do and what we can’t do, what human beings are capable of and all of that kind of thing. We carry these memes around with us; they become viruses which just duplicate, infiltrate and spread wherever they go until we act upon them as if they were truth.
For instance, we really don’t believe that we can change things like our genetic structure. I mean, these are your genes – how do you change your genetics? These were handed to you by your parents. But then you begin to discover as you examine this more closely that genetic expression is shaped by the environment and by our thoughts. There is research, for example, in which they take MRIs of people with depression and assess their brain chemistry. They take pictures of the brain while they’re thinking depressed thoughts and then they teach them how to change that thought from one of I am depressed to That isn’t me, that’s just my brain misfiring, it isn’t really me. When they take a picture of the same brain they see the chemistry of the brain has just changed. So, when you look at the genetics you find that you literally have within you – based on the environment and how you process events – the capacity to change the genetic inclinations you might have towards anything. So that’s the wow factor. Do you recall reading the experiment about the patients who underwent fake knee surgeries but still recovered?
Laughlin: Yes, that really struck me!
Dyer: That just blows you away, doesn’t it? They interviewed a man whose knee was healed because of a placebo.
Laughlin: He believed he had a ‘real’ surgery and even played on it and did all kinds of sports for two years before he found out it he didn’t even undergo surgery!
Dyer: Yes, for two years. And he and many others were part of a documented study and so on. So, we know the power of the mind but to have it really demonstrated like that is powerful. And Bruce Lipton does such a great job of that.
Laughlin: That’s right. We had a chance to interview him about his work some time ago.
Dyer: Wonderful. He’s a great guy and his book, The Biology of Belief is going to be part of my P.B.S special. That and Virus of the Mind. So in the first part of the book, we look at how every excuse that you use in life as nothing more than a virus – a meme – a set of beliefs that have been handed to you. I cover in great detail eighteen of the most common excuses or memes that hold us back. If you stay with the book and you stay with the paradigm, at the end you will see how to put these and any other excuses to the test of whether they are true or not. Very much like, how many times have I heard that as you get older you get thicker?
Laughlin: Sure, that’s a meme I’ve probably said hundreds of times. You know, man weight! (Laughter)
Dyer: Sure, that’s right. And I’ve even said it myself, well you just get thicker. And we see people in the culture and on television like Tom Hanks, who is certainly still a handsome guy, but thicker. And that’s just one example.
Laughlin: What can you say about some of the principles you cover in the second part of the book?
Dyer: The principles covered in the second part of the book are the tools you can use to think differently. You have to learn to think with the principle of awareness, for example. In teaching this process I want to teach people to think like God. Your goal is to think like God thinks. God doesn’t think with excuses. How could the Creator, how could that which is the Source of all things, that which is creating every breath that we take, and the air that we have, and the universe and all of that ever use an excuse and still continue to function? It’s just not possible.
You come to see that excuses are all just misalignments. In other words, whenever you have something that happens to you, you can either think oh my God this is going to get worse, or with God all things are possible. I chose to think with God all things are possible. Shift your thinking away from excuse mentality of what I can’t have and what I can’t do and what is not possible, into what I intend to manifest and what I intend to create. That’s what each of the seven principles of the book cover.
Laughlin: Among those principles, I was especially struck with your contextualization of the principle of now, which is something fairly well–known by a lot of people and something I usually glance over. But reading about your personal experience of that principle brought it to light in a new way.
Dyer: That’s what I do when I write. I just don’t write. I live it. I always figure if it is true for me, if I can prove it for myself, it will be helpful to others. The same thing is true about the principle of contemplation. If our life isn’t working it is because we have been contemplating ideas that don’t work rather than contemplating ideas that do work. So when you start thinking like God, you start gaining the power of God. And as for the principle of now, just the idea that if you just suspend yourself for a few minutes and be there…things change. I did it this morning when I woke up after an all–night flight last night.
Laughlin: I recall in the chapter on contemplation that you referred to Maslow’s commentary that self–actualized people only think about or contemplate what they want to create, and that is all they will hold in mind.
Dyer: Right. And that’s what all great spiritual masters do. They don’t think about what they can’t do or what can’t be done. I used to give examples of Jesus walking in amongst the thieves and the prostitutes. He’s not thinking I can’t go among the thieves, they’re going to steal my clothes, there going to take my robe they’re going to take my sandals. He didn’t do that. He would walk in amongst them and because of his presence they would not want to steal anymore. Be like that.
Laughlin: Let’s jump to the third part of the book.
Dyer: Well, that’s really the core or essence of the book. What did you think about it? You’re among the first people to have read the book.
Laughlin: Well, I really appreciated the context you established in the first two sections of the book. The eighteen most common excuses and the principles you covered were very inspiring to read. All of which really seemed to make the seven questions at the end of the book much more powerful. The first question really seemed central – to ask, is it true?
Dyer: It is. That question and the fourth question, which is what would my life look like if I couldn’t think this thought?
Laughlin: Maybe you could elaborate on those.
Dyer: Well, I learned a lot about this from my friend Byron Katie who does something called The Work; she is a brilliant woman. I love her dearly. I give her credit because she helped me a lot with this and got me thinking about it and then I applied it to this excuse pattern. The display quote for this book is “Don’t believe everything you think.” The fact is, there is hardly any thought that we can ever have, if any at all, that we can be 100% certain will be true 100% of the time. So now we have a choice. On the one hand, you know that a thought you have may or may not be true, and you know that if you think this particular thought it’s going to take you away from where you would like to be, such as with an excuse – I can’t do this, it’s going take too long, it’s going to be too difficult… I’m too old, I’m too scared, I’m too fat – I am too… whatever it might be. And then you have the other choice, to think the opposite thought, which may be, it’s going to be easy, it’s not going to be risky, I can afford it. And again, while this thought may or may not be true, you know it will at least give you the opportunity to align with something that may help you to achieve what you want. Why would you pick the first one rather than the second one? It’s just a simple, logical thing when put into this context.
I have been a therapist for years and have written 34 books; I have never seen the clarity that I had when I wrote the chapter on the question is it true? Then I put it to work with a woman over on Maui who was a binger and purger for 22 years; every single day for 22 years. She was close to death, maybe going to live another six months, she was so fragile. In less than 45 minutes I got her to examine the thoughts about changing that and thinking the thoughts that were going to lead her to toward what she wants. It’s entirely up to you which thought you align with. Accepting the first thought is going to keep you from overcoming it and aligning with the second thought, which may or may not be true, at least has the possibility of leading you to where you want to be. She’s now 17 months free of it. She hasn’t gone back once.
Laughlin: That’s a powerful example.
Dyer: It is. Let’s say I am working with you and I can get you to examine the idea or question – what would your life look like if you couldn’t think that thought? Everyone has the same conclusion. When I have really pushed them to the limit with that question, the answer is I would be free. I would be free. Perhaps for the first time. I would be free. And being free… what could be any better than that?
While there are other questions we could cover, that’s basically the essence. That’s what the paradigm is. I have seen people make some pretty radical changes and I did it again myself by limiting my sugar intake to 15 grams per day for a month. That means you look for cereal that has only 1 gram of sugar in it for a cup of cereal, versus almost all of them that have between 15 and 20. It means looking at something like skim milk and realizing there’s 13 grams of sugar in that cup; so, you don’t take that. You take almond milk, which has no sugar in it and you pour that on your cereal with 1 g of sugar and you’re just as full. You’ve gone from 30–50 grams of sugar before you’re hardly out of bed to just 2 g. And then just watch what happens. Now none of my clothes fit!
Laughlin: That’s your new problem!
Dyer: Yes! (Laughter)… and I just put myself to the test; that’s basically the essence of it…
Laughlin: Reading about all of your personal applications of this work brings to mind the phrase leaving no rock unturned…
Dyer: Yes. It’s like, how willing am I? What level of willingness do I have?
Laughlin: Thanks so much for your time, Dr. Dyer. I have always been a fan of your work and the way in which you serve others… so I especially appreciate this chance to speak with you.
Dyer: You are very welcome, and God Bless you my friend.
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Reprinted with permission