Wayne Dyer, who holds a doctorate in educational counseling, was an associate professor at St. John’s University in New York City and had a successful counseling practice when his first commercial book, Your Erroneous Zones, came out in 1976. It became a best-seller—the first of many—and Dyer changed his career path to concentrate on speaking and writing first about self-development and later, spirituality. Dyer has now lectured internationally, written more than 40 books, and hosted 10 PBS specials. Below, he talks with Unity Magazine editor Katy Koontz about his book I Can See Clearly Now, published in February, and the benefits of reflection.
Katy Koontz: You’ve written more than 40 books so far. What made you decide to write a memoir?
Wayne Dyer: I would never call this a memoir, although lots of people will think it is. I don’t even like the concept—it seems so ego-based, and for so long I’ve talked about not letting the ego be the dominant force in your life. I just had an insight one day that there’s something bigger than me moving all the checkers around in this great big checkerboard that we call our lives. That’s what the book is really about.
KK: Can you give an example?
WD: When I was 36, I was teaching at St. John’s University. Your Erroneous Zones had just come out, and I was driving down the Long Island Expressway when I had what psychologist Abraham Maslow called a peak experience—an ecstatic state with a mystical or spiritual quality. I pulled over onto the side of the road with tears running down my face, and I just had this overwhelming sense that something was directing my life at that moment—and that I had to do something.
I was just about to get tenure, but the idea of continuing to do the same thing that I was doing was more terrifying than the excitement of knowing that I could stay there for the rest of my life if I chose to. Something was saying, “You’ve got another destiny, another dharma.” It was the strangest experience. So I drove to the university, went to the dean, and resigned. I took off across the country to promote my book, not knowing if I would ever be employed again.
KK: Clearly, it worked out well!
WD: When I was telling that story to Reid Tracy, my closest friend and the president and CEO of Hay House, he said, “You know, I’ve heard you tell a lot of stories like that in your life. Why don’t you write about that?”
So I was trying to think of what the title and the focus of such a book might be, but I couldn’t grasp it. I went swimming in the ocean here on Maui where I live, and when I came back I was humming a song I couldn’t get out of my head: “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way.” I’ve learned that when that happens, there’s a message in it. It’s just another way that our Source has for reaching us—there’s not always a big flash of light or a message written in the sky.
KK: Messages are often delivered with a great sense of humor, don’t you think?
WD: They are, and it’s all very subtle. So that decided it—the format would be: “These are the stories that I recall from my life, and I can see clearly now why I made this decision or why I was pulled in that direction.” I started writing on the 27th of June, and I wrote for about 90 consecutive days, seven or eight hours a day. (I don’t use a typewriter or a computer, by the way; I write all my books by hand.) It just kept flowing, all 144,000 words. I just couldn’t stop.
KK: You present the stories like a string of pearls—maybe I should say prayer beads—explaining the connections and revealing the big picture behind each event. But even if we never figure out the purpose of our challenges, they’re still part of a divine plan—wouldn’t you agree?
WD: Absolutely. There are no accidents in this universe. There’s an intelligence behind every single thing. Our lives are not actually being directed by these egos of ours—they’re directed by the great Tao, or the Great Spirit, or the Divine Mind—and it’s all perfect, even the stuff that doesn’t smell good. In the grander scheme, it’s all part of the perfection of the universe.
KK: So what do we do with that stuff that doesn’t smell good?
WD: I remember talking to my friend Ram Dass years ago about starvation in the world and how hard it is to wrap our minds around the idea that this could be part of the perfection of the universe. He said something I have never forgotten:
“But so is your desire to end part of the perfection of the universe. Stay with that, with the invincible force in you that tells you that you can do something about it, and make something really great come of this.”
So I decided to start processing my life from that place rather than from the place of worrying about why terrible things happen. One time in 1967, I was blessed to be with Mother Teresa when someone asked her if she would march against the war in Vietnam. She said, “No, I will not. But when you have a march for peace, I will be there.”
KK: She made a great point there.
WD: Everything that you are against weakens you, and then you just become more of that. If you hate the people who hate, you just multiply the amount of hate in the world. If you are depressed about the people who are depressed, then you just add to the depression. But if you bring love … It’s like they said of Jesus—when he would enter a village, just his presence and nothing more would elevate the consciousness of everyone in the village. I aspire to be that person who, when I walk into a room or when I sit down to write, can elevate the consciousness of those people around me rather than join them in their darkness.
I just did a seminar that included Scarlett Lewis, the mother of one of the children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. She founded the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation and wrote the book Nurturing Healing Love. She believes that Adam Lanza, the young man who killed all those children, was also a victim and that we can’t solve this problem of people killing people indiscriminately if we just get angry. We have to solve it through love. Immaculée Ilibagiza was also there—do you know who she is?
KK: Absolutely—the author of Left to Tell.
WD: She forgave the people who slaughtered her mother, all of her siblings, and everyone she knew in the three-month holocaust that claimed nearly 1 million lives in Rwanda in 1994. Anita Moorjani was there too. She wrote Dying to Be Me, about how she came back from end-stage cancer after having a near-death experience. She now teaches people how to get rid of fear, which she believes is the biggest cause of cancer on our planet today.
These people faced huge difficulties and were able to go to their soul and send love where most of us are used to sending anger, judgment, fear, condemnation, or criticism. If we just let those situations go and become the observer, we will see that even the things that seem horrible and difficult become gifts.
KK: You’ve turned your own cancer diagnosis—chronic lymphocytic leukemia—into a blessing, too, haven’t you?
WD: Yes, and because of that I was able to encounter [faith healer] John of God in Brazil. What an amazing experience that was! He basically sent that leukemia out of my life by removing fear and replacing it with love. As Jesus and all the greatest spiritual teachers have said, everything that is fear can’t be love and everything that is love can’t be fear.
So in 2011, I became an emissary of divine love, which is very different from human love or even spiritual love. Those types of love vary, depending upon circumstances. But divine love never changes. I often quote the great poet Hafiz, who said, “Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, ‘You owe me.’ Look what happens with a love like that. It lights up the whole sky.”
KK: Was it difficult to look back on some of these stories, even if you see them now as blessings?
WD: Oh, no—it was pure joy. I couldn’t have written that book and we couldn’t be having this conversation today had I not spent 10 years in an orphanage, or had my wife and I not separated in that painful experience 13 years ago, or without the leukemia, or without the endless difficulties and struggles that have shown up in my life. They are all blessings to me now.
Time isn’t just this horizontal, cause-and-effect chronology. There’s also a vertical line that describes divine or eternal time, when everything happens at once. When chronological time intersects with eternal time, that’s the moment when I realize that yes, I am making choices, but they’re also all being made for me—as long as I stay aligned with my Source. That’s what the book is all about—staying in alignment with God.
KK: And that alignment allows synchronicity to happen.
WD: Absolutely. It’s what I call a collaboration with fate. I can just step back and allow all of this to take place, and wherever I am directed is perfect. It’s happening right now. In fact, there’s some reason for us doing this interview today, and we might not ever know what it is. Maybe somebody is going to read this article 10 years from now and his life will totally shift. He’s going to hear exactly what he needs to hear in that moment. It could happen. We just don’t know. As Maslow said, you have to detach yourself from outcome. I didn’t agree to do this interview because of how many books it would sell or how much publicity I’d get. Something just said, “Yes, do this. Unity has been such an important part of your life.” I have spoken at so many Unity churches across the country—hundreds of them. And I even like the word unity, because it means coming together.
KK: We’re kind of partial to it too! You’ve shared so many lessons in this memoir. So what lessons do you think lie ahead for Wayne Dyer?
WD: Right now, what I feel such passion about is how we are contaminating our food supply. I’ve gone gluten-free after reading the book Wheat Belly by cardiologist William Davis. I believe so many of the radical shifts we are experiencing—including the dramatic increases in the rates of obesity, depression, and autism—are tied to the greed of the big food industry and the fact that we are genetically modifying so much of our food without doing long-term testing. So that’s one thing I want to learn more about.
But mostly, I think what lies ahead for me is really the taming of my ego to the point where none of my activities are based on what’s in it for me. My inner mantra is
“How may I serve?” rather than the mantra of the ego, which is “What’s in it for me?” It’s really all about how can I serve in the biggest way possible. I think that’s what I am called to do.
KK: And you do it beautifully, I might add.
WD: Well, thank you. I appreciate that. But I won’t take any credit for it!