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Called the “Father of Motivation,” Wayne Dyer, Ph.D., has written 31 books, including the bestsellers Your Erroneous Zones and The Power of Intention. His most recent book, Change Your Thoughts—Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao, focuses on principles that can help to make change easier and life more fulfilling. Here, Dyer shared his view of change and the Tao.
What is the Tao? And how it can help us make changes in our own lives?
“Tao” in ancient Chinese means “the way, the great way.” “Te” means “the application of” and “Ching” means “book,” so the “Tao Te Ching” is the application of the principles for living the great way. “The great way” is a very amorphous kind of thing. The closest word you can come to in English would be “God” without the human qualities. It is the source of everything—that which animates all of life; it is the invisible, divine, organizing intelligence that allows mosquitoes to become mosquitoes, humans to become humans and mountains to be mountains. It’s the world of non-being from which all things emanate and are created. Lau-tzu is the supposed writer of the Tao Te Ching, which has 81 verses. Each one of these verses is a guide for how to live a sensible, moral, purposeful, divine life without antagonisms, worries, fears and hatred. It’s been called the wisest book ever written, so I decided to take one year and live each one of these principles, put them into practice and write about the experience. It changed my life in a multitude of ways. I am now much more at peace without all of the stress that used to occupy my life so much.
Is there a specific principle in the Tao that talks about change, or is the entire Tao about change?
The entire Tao is really about change. I opened Change Your Thoughts—Change Your Life with a quote from George Bernard Shaw, who said, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” That was the one quote that I used that wasn’t from the Tao. The most important decision that a person has to make is to decide what kind of a universe they live in: “Do I live in a universe that is friendly and supports me? Or do I live in a universe that is working against me and is antagonistic and is hateful or painful?”
Once you’ve made the decision about what kind of a universe you live in, you understand that when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. In quantum physics, that is literally a fact. The sub particles that make up all of life literally change depending on how you observe them. Deepak Chopra once said, “It’s not only stranger than you think it is, it is stranger than you think.” Literally the way you look at something determines what you are seeing. The observer becomes very important. When you want your life to change, it basically boils down to changing the way you look at your life—making that change is really changing that awareness of yourself. The Tao is about that throughout the 81 verses.
Most of the people I meet say one of three things: They hate change, change is hard or they feel alone when they are going through change. It has always fascinated me how unprepared we are for change. Have you found this to be true?
I really think it’s the way that we’ve been taught to think, because change is taking place in every second and every nanosecond that we are alive. Everything in the physical world is in a constant state of shifting. Einstein said, “Nothing happens until something moves.” What appears to be solid is constantly in movement and changing all the time. As “you can never step in the same river twice,” you can’t breathe in the same breath twice.
I sit and watch the beach every morning, and some mornings the ocean comes in from the left, and it takes the sand all away and there’s no beach two days later. Then I’ll look up there and for some reason the currents have changed, and they take the sand and move it back. Now I’ve got 200 yards of beach. That really symbolizes, and as Lau-tzu says in the Tao, that you learn almost everything from nature, and nature that is the physical world is such that it can’t keep anything the same. Nature cannot even create a storm that lasts forever. No matter how powerful the storm is, you know that deep within that storm is something called “calmness.” When we have something called good fortune, bad fortune is hidden within it and when we have bad fortune, good fortune is hidden within it. The cyclical nature of the world is really about accepting and understanding change, and there’s not a damn thing any of us can do about it. It’s something you have to accept as part of your incarnation in living in this body that you are in for the period of time that you have on this planet.
During change, I have seen people get stuck on things like fear, blame and guilt. How do we shift some of those emotions and feelings to things that are more constructive?
Writing this book and living these principles has helped me with this idea more than anything. There is really nothing to fear. Once you get your ego out of it—who you are is not what you do, what you have, what you look like, what you accumulate or what your reputation is—and recognize that this is not who you are and that you are an infinite divine being and a product of love, then as A Course in Miracles says, there are only two emotions to look at: fear and love. That which is fear cannot be love and that which is love cannot be fear. If your primary relationship in this world is not to your parents, not to your lover, not to your church and not to your business, but if your number one primary relationship is to the Tao, to Source or to God, things like fear, anxiety, worry and hatred can no longer exist. This is the major shift that people have to make. This is what was so good about taking my 66th year just to live and practice the Tao. What it did for me was remove my identification with this body that I’m in, this stuff that I’ve accumulated, and this reputation that I have. It removed that and my primary source became this invisible, divine intelligence that is always there for me. And then fear just went out the window. And so did anger and anxiety—all of it.
For people who might have experienced the loss of a child, a terrible divorce, an accident or a challenging health diagnosis, how do we help bring them to a sense of inner peace where they are not stuck on why this happened? How do we help people through that period of intense emotion and change?
That’s a question that doesn’t really have an answer. There is no how on that. I have a radio show and I deal with questions like that for an hour every week. I know that when people lose someone close to them, or when they get the diagnosis of a disease and so on, it becomes devastating for them. But there are some who step back and say, “What do I have to gain from this right now? What am I going to learn from this?” That’s the change in thinking that you have to have.
If you’re talking about enlightenment here, being enlightened and being at peace, living a Tao-centered life, it works like this: The first, earliest stages are called Enlightenment through Suffering. You go through a long period of time in which you feel victimized, and you feel like you were put upon. Someone may have abandoned you or you get cancer, whatever it might be, and you go through this long period of mourning. For me, it was when I used to use drugs and drink. I spent ten years in an orphanage, and I spent ten years really learning how to be addiction-free, and I’ve had divorces, and struggles and things like that in my life. If you want to know the first thing you have to do in changing something traumatic in the first 30 days or the first 30 seconds, it’s to really shift around the belief that this is something that shouldn’t be happening to you. Instead, say, “What do I have to gain from this?” That’s the second step on this three-rung ladder. You begin to move from a place that says, “Oh my God, do I have to go through another 10-year period of suffering? Or are you going to shift your thoughts to right here in this moment and say to yourself, “Why did I attract this into my life? Why did it show up? What do I have to learn from this? What am I going to gain from this experience right now, right here in this moment?” Without guilt, without feeling like you have been persecuted, you think, “It’s just here, and my thought that it shouldn’t be here is an erroneous thought. There is no truth in the fact that I shouldn’t have this, that my husband shouldn’t have died or my daughter shouldn’t have had that accident.” You shift into this mold, and ultimately you get to the third place where instead of having suffering you actually get to the mysterious place where you gain admission to another dimension, and that other dimension senses that these things are going to occur.
How do you recommend people get started on this path? I am reading a principle a day. And I meditate on it every day. Is that the best way for people to start getting familiar with the wisdom and knowledge that is available in the Tao?
I think the best thing to do is to open yourself up to the idea that there are endless possibilities for what you want to create, and anything that you think about with passion you have the ability to manifest. Then it’s a quiet, soft decision you are going to live your life in peace, without judging and without being judged. For me, it’s like having a peaceful look at the supportive, intelligent, helpful, divine universe that I live in, knowing that I am supported by it at all times. I never have to doubt it, even if I get run over by a truck. I know that that’s all part of that divinity. But there’s also part of me that knows I can’t be run over by a truck.
What questions do you ask yourself that are in line with the Tao?
I really ask myself questions like, “Can I get to another dimension?” And when I do yoga and so on, I challenge myself in my own individual ways, asking, “Can I make my body do these kinds of things?” And I ask, “Can I attract the right person? Can I start over?” Which is what I did two years ago. I just locked the door and got rid of everything that I had.
Do you think that’s the best change you ever made?
I think the best change I ever made happened when I was 34. It really turned my life around when I went to my father’s grave. I was able to change from being filled with hatred and revenge and anger toward my father to loving this man who walked out on us when I was just a baby and abused my mother. When I got rid of all of that hatred and anger, everything aligned for me.
What is the belief you personally go to during times of change?
I am a piece of God. I am a spiritual being having a human experience. I am a divine creation.
The best thing about change is…
... it puts you in touch with reality because everything is change. Change teaches us how to live in the world. Change also brings excitement and newness—it brings you to a new place.
What is the best change you have ever made?
Deciding not to put alcohol and drugs into my body anymore, and to treat my body like the exquisite divine creation that it is by finally giving up my addictions.
For more information on Dr. Wayne Dyer, visit www.drwaynedyer.com.
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