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An Interview with Dr. Wayne Dyer

New Visions | September 2020

Miro Lipinski interviews Wayne Dyer.

Lipinski: How did you get involved in this film, The Shift?

Dyer: I was contacted by Hay House, my publisher, and they wanted to do a film with me, and I said, “I’d love to do a film but I have certain stipulations.” I wanted it to be a very professional job. I wanted it to be of exceptionally high quality, with the best actors and actresses one can get. And I don’t want it to look like so many of these movies coming out of the spiritual genre of somebody who has written a book and looks like an amateur actor trying to be a professional actor. I’m not a professional actor, but I can play myself and be myself, and can take direction. Those were my criteria. And they said absolutely. I knew the director, Michael Goorjian, from the movie he did with Louise Hay, You Can Heal Your Life, and I really respect him as a director. So they gave me the script, or the potential for the script, and the setting and all that. And I said I’ll do it. I’m sixty-eight years old and I’ll take on a new career, and suspend all of my concerns, my fears, and I just turned myself over to these highly skilled people. I think we created a really beautiful film.

Lipinski: Did you work on the screenplay with Kristen Lazarian, the scriptwriter? Your words are so well integrated into the screenplay and the dialogue. Did you work that out with her?

Dyer: No, not at all. She wrote the screenplay. Michael and his crew came up to Maui, and they interviewed me for a whole day and taped the entire thing. Kristen was familiar with my work, and she listened to the tapes of what I wanted to do about making the shift from ego to meaning. I was a therapist for years, and this was the biggest issue that most people confront when they are going into counseling and therapy or trying to make changes: How do I get away from this whole idea of who I am is what I collect and what I accomplish and what other people think of me? And she put the screenplay together. Now we didn’t follow the script word for word, especially in the scenes that I was in. There was a lot of improvisation. The scenes where I am being actually interviewed—we only shot those once. Any scene that I have some dialogue with people, that’s movie time. That’s fifteen takes or so. For twenty seconds on the screen you might work six, seven hours. So they put a lot effort into it.

Lipinski: I was impressed with how natural all the actors were. Some of the spiritual genre films have a certain artificiality to them, but everyone here was very natural—and you were particularly so. How did you approach this film from an acting point of view?

Dyer: I was scared to death. I approached it with a lot of fear and total surrender, just letting go. When I took on this project, I said to myself and the executive producer, Reid Tracy, I’ve never done acting, aside from something I did in the eighth grade when I did a play. And it wasn’t until the fifth or sixth day that I finally began to realize that I could stop thinking about what we were suppose to say and what the scene was and all of that. There’s a lot of technicality involved in everything. Normally when I speak in front of an audience, I take the microphone and I just let go. I allow it all to come out. I always repeat what it says in A Course in Miracles – That if you knew who walks beside you at all times in this path you’ve chosen then you would never experience doubt or fear. But films aren’t made that way. There was a scene where it was almost dark, and I was with Michael DeLuise, and it finally hit me that I didn’t have to memorize words. That if I just understood the context of what they were doing here, I could just let go and stop worrying about the words. And from that moment on, I was at peace. The very first day I was filming, Michael pulled me aside and gave me one acting lesson. He came over and spent two hours with me. He said I’m going to give you the only acting lesson you are going to ever have because you’re a natural before the cameras, you just have to be yourself. And he went through it, and we just created the scene, and we went through the dialogue, and after that two hours, I knew that I could pull it off. Did you see the film on the big screen?

Lipinski: I saw it on a DVD.

Dyer: When you see it on the big screen, in a theater, it’s really astonishing to see. To see the closeups, to hear the sound and the music. We went to all the premieres. Chicago, New York, LA. Every time I watch the film, I get something new out of it. And I’m more impressed with Michael’s vision of taking words that I was speaking and being able to put those words exactly onto somebody. For example, the guy who had the wine thrown at him—

Lipinski: Yes, the businessman.

Dyer: Well, I’m telling the story of Ivan Ilych and when I come to the punchline of that story, which is off camera and a voice-over, it says what if my whole life is wrong, and then they focus on this guy. That was Michael’s vision to pull that off and do that. So I give an enormous amount of credit to him. And to the actors. These are very accomplished people.

Lipinski: Could you tell our readership about the meaning of “the shift” and how it relates to this film?

Dyer: I think there’s a major shift taking place on the planet, and at the completion of it there’s going to be a lot of talk about the Mayan Calendar and 2012. There’s a major shift taking place in the world politically, religiously, spiritually. Even the election of Obama is a very significant thing taking place. When Colin Powell said that he is a transformational figure, he is right. You can already see in a couple of weeks very, very different ways in which our country is going to be governed and seen. Here’s a man who has a black father and a white mother, and who do you hate when you grow up like that? Who was raised in a Moslem country with a Moslem name, but was raised as a Christian. Who do you hate? Worked in the inner city of Chicago, but was the president of the Harvard Law Review. He really brings together a lot of what previously was divisiveness. The fact that he went on Al-Jazeera and spoke to the Moslem world—I mean, can you imagine George Bush doing something like this? That’s a shift, a real shift, away from ego, away from ambition, away from the way that we are going to solve the problems of this planet, which is through power, and bombs, and war, which has been the way, especially for the last eight years, into a way of cooperation and reaching out. I think the line in Obama’s inaugural address, in which he said we will extend a hand to you if you’ll unclench your fist, I think that’ll be the line he will be remembered for. Not only that, but it’s being done. We are talking about moving to a place where we can leave this planet secure for our children and our grandchildren. I think the shift is going to be happening all over.

Lipinski: What are the plans for this film?

Dyer: I would like ten million people to see this film. Not to buy it necessarily. You make one film and a hundred people can see it. That’s the beauty of a film. It’s not like a book. But I think if ten million people, that represents three percent of the population of this country, if ten million can view it by 2012 I think we’ll reach what is called in quantum physics “phase transition.” It’s like the 100th monkey, once you hit that number, once you reach that critical mass, then the alignment begins to take place. All the predictions in the spiritual literature, particularly those familiar with the Mayan calendar, think that this is the end of the twenty-six thousand year cycle in 2012. Not only are we going to shift in our own lives—away from always trying to identify ourselves on the basis of what we have, what we do, and who we are better than, and so on—but shift into more reaching out, more service, more kindness, more living the virtues that Lao Tzu spoke about twenty-five hundred years ago.

Lipinski: We’re in an interesting time now, where people are revaluating everything. Though anxiety provoking, it’s an exciting time.

Dyer: Yes, it is. And it’s a cleaning out process. This is the toxicity that’s left over from eight years of losing our way. We lost our way in the last eight years, we really did, so this is like a cleansing process. But when I see the news, it’s Starbucks has lost seven thousand people, Macy’s has lost twenty thousand, but you never hear about anything positive. If you are working at Caterpillar and you lose your job, you don’t just go jump off a cliff. A job is going to change. You’ll do something else. We don’t talk about the found jobs, the opportunities. Everybody who works in the computer industry is in an industry that didn’t exist twenty-five years ago. We are talking on cell phones, and there were no such things. All the people who work for Nextel and so on, those are lost jobs that became found jobs. We are in a constant state of changing, and there are numerous opportunities in a time like this, but people are still going back to the fear.

Lipinski: What about the people who may not be receptive to change or who are not presented with opportunities to hear the message? Is it necessary for them to change or will things change when we get to the number where things will dramatically shift?

Dyer: It’s like when you go into an atom and start to artificially align the electrons and you get to a certain number, all the ones that don’t want to align, when you hit that phase transition, when you hit that critical mass, the rest of them automatically come along. That kind of thing will take place. That’s the beauty. That’s why doing a film was so enticing to me. Because at the same time when I was offered an opportunity to do this film, I was also offered an opportunity to have my own television daily talk show. It was not something I was willing to do, but it was an opportunity to get on television on a regular basis, like a Dr. Phil or an Oprah. But I turned that down in favor of the film. Only ten percent of the population ever buy a book when they become adults, whereas they all go to movies. And that’s what’s happening with this film. A lot of people who were skeptical change their view. Wives will have their husbands sit down, and the reaction is they stay with the film, they see that this is not a lot of bullshit, it’s not just about some tree huggers out there. That this has something to do with me, that I am the guy on the cellphone, I am the guy who is inconsiderate, and my life is passing me by in the name of stuff. And they begin to see that. A movie can make that happen.

Lipinski: Movies are a very powerful medium.

Dyer: They are. And they reach people who don’t read and people who wouldn’t go to a seminar or listen to tapes. That’s the beauty of it. That’s why my goal is to get ten million people to watch this film. I’ve seen this work before. I saw it happen with a book I wrote in 1976 called Your Erroneous Zones, and I saw it when I started with PBS ten years ago. You just go out there, and you don’t worry about how much you sell or what it costs, and you get off the ambition and goals; you just detach from outcome. I’m not doing this because of anything that’s going to come to me, I’m doing this to create the 100th monkey phase transition. And I think this kind of a thing can create a shift. First in individual lives, and then if enough individuals really get this, it’ll be effective in their communities and their businesses, and ultimately in politics and in our world.

Reprinted with permission