A best-selling author for decades, Wayne Dyer was one of the most popular teachers in the self-help, mind/body/spirit, and New Age communities.
This interview was my first with Wayne. At the time I was editor in chief of New Age Retailer (now Retailing Insight), the main industry trade magazine for the category, and this piece originally ran in that magazine. As a result, some of my questions are directed especially toward that demographic — retailers of mind/body/spirit books, giftware, and music —but I think the interview easily translates with powerful lessons for us all.
Dr. Dyer died on August 30, 2015.
Ray Hemachandra: What is the Wayne Dyer mission or vision statement? What overarching goals or sensibilities guide your work?
Dr. Wayne W. Dyer: I don’t have a mission statement, Ray. I don’t have much of an organization at all. I listen to my heart.
I was asked on a radio interview what my mission is, and I immediately blurted out, “God realization.” God realization is the place where in your heart you take your thoughts and ask yourself, “Are they in harmony with the source I originated from?”
Everyone and everything that shows up in the world of form in this universe originates not from a particle, as quantum physics teaches us, but from an energy field. That energy field can be called God, soul, spirit, or consciousness. It looks a certain way, sounds a certain way, and feels a certain way. I try to stay in harmony with what I believe it sounds and feels like.
The source that creates worlds always is creating and loving, and it excludes no one.
It is a source of unlimited abundance. It is a source that has no judgment.
Anytime we have a thought that excludes others — a thought of unkindness, for example, or a thought of non-love toward ourselves or anyone else — we lose the power of intention. The power of intention is the power to manifest, to create, to live a life of unlimited abundance, and to attract into your life the right people at the right moments.
Perhaps as a mission statement I would cite Patanjali, a great scholar and divine avatar who lived back in India a couple of thousand years ago.
Patanjali said that when you are steadfast in your abstention of thoughts of harm directed toward yourself and others, all living creatures will cease to feel fear in your presence. Steadfast means you never slip.
I think my mission is to support people in being steadfast in not having thoughts of harm — thoughts of judgment, worry, or hatred — directed toward themselves or others.
Ray: One of your recent books is titled The Power of Intention. Let’s talk about intention. How important should goal setting and clarity of purpose be for retailers?
Wayne: I don’t think goal setting is an important basis for a retail business — or for anyone. Most of the time goal setting puts too much energy and attention on being someplace else, instead of helping you appreciate where you are.
If I ran a retail store, which I have done in my life, I would go into it from a place of “I am thrilled to be here, and I am honored to be able to serve other people.” I would not be telling myself constantly that I have to double my sales in order for me to be happy. I would tell myself, “I am content to be here in this moment, and I love this work.”
Ray: I’m a little surprised goal setting doesn’t have more positive associations for you as an expression or declaration of intention.
Wayne: Goal setting is fine if you want to be the warrior archetype. These people are setting goals constantly and trying to get someplace else. They say, “If you don’t know where you are going, then you won’t know when you get there.”
When you get to a higher level of consciousness, though, when you get into a spiritual approach to life, you are not trying to get someplace else, because you never can get it done. You never are going to get there.
Instead, what you want to do is get to a place where you are at peace.
You are connected to God.
You are enjoying every single day you have.
Then, the growth of you — and your store, if you have one — will take care of themselves.
Ray: How does this approach manifest in your own life, Wayne?
Wayne: When I sit down to write a book, I don’t ask myself, “How many am I going to sell?” When I get on the dance floor, my purpose in being on the dance floor is not to end up at another spot when the music stops. The purpose of the dance is to enjoy every step along the way.
When I go to a music concert, I don’t say, “My purpose is to get to the end and enjoy the finale.” If that were the purpose, everybody would write finales and nothing more. The purpose of the concert is to enjoy each note as you go along.
In the retail business, many people are too consumed with the bottom line. How much am I going to be selling? Am I going to be able to do all the things I need to get done? Instead, if they are at peace and feeling good about themselves — if they are treating customers with love and acting as statesmen and stateswomen and as people who are connected to God in a spiritual sense — then every day is a real joy.
I have been in many, many of the stores that receive your magazine. These retailers, by and large, are people who are doing their work because of love. It brings them joy to handle the books, gifts, crystals, and other things designed to make other people feel good in their lives.
Ray: Is feeling good a significant spiritual goal?
Wayne: The No. 1 principle in the universe is “I intend to feel good.”
Feeling good is what you should be doing every day of your life.
A friend of mine visited Swami Muktananda back in the 1970s in India. As my friend was going into the ashram, Muktananda stopped him and said, “Do you know the difference between good and God?” and my friend said, “Zero.”
Muktananda held up a zero and said, “That’s right. When you look at God and good, the only difference between them is one little zero.”
So, when you are saying you want to feel good, what you really are saying is you want to feel God: I want my thoughts to be the same as the source from which I emanated.
I want to have thoughts that exclude no one.
I want to have thoughts of abundance.
I want to have thoughts of love, of kindness, of beauty.
I want to be on a rampage of appreciation every single day.
People should not be filling their minds with all the things that are wrong, with how the economy is going, or with trying to get someplace in the world. They should enjoy being in this moment and in this day and serving the people they meet.
Ray: What are ways retailers can enroll their employees in that approach and motivate and inspire them to serve?
Wayne: It is very hard to enroll people in anything. And there is a very big difference between the words motivate and inspire.
Motivation means we have an idea and we are going to carry through on that idea. We work hard at it, and we are disciplined. A highly motivated person takes an idea, goes out there, and won’t let anybody interfere with them.
Inspiration is exactly the opposite. If motivation is when you get hold of an idea and carry it through to its conclusion, inspiration is the reverse. An idea gets hold of you and carries you where you are intended to go.
Arthur Miller, one of our greatest playwrights, once was asked, “Are you writing another play?” His answer really intrigued me. He said, “I don’t know, but I probably am.” This brilliant man was saying, in a sense, that it really was not up to him.
The word inspired comes from being in spirit, accessing a force out there. Patanjali said when you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds. Your mind transcends limitations. Your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, wonderful world.
Patanjali also said dormant forces, faculties, and talents — things you thought were inaccessible and unavailable to you — come alive when you are inspired.
You discover yourself to be a far greater person than you ever dreamed yourself to be.
Ray: Can you encourage inspiration in others?
Wayne: When you are connected in that way, everyone around you is inspired.
What it takes to reach this place I’m speaking about is to be in spirit. You shift who you are away from what you have, what you do, what your reputation is, what people think of you, and all of that ego-based thinking.
You shift into the understanding that who you are is a piece of God — who you are is a piece of the source — and when you stay connected to that in your thoughts you inspire others to do the same.
So, it’s really about modeling it and letting people know you are an inspired person, a person who is in spirit, and then those forces that Carl Jung called synchronicity begin to show up and, lo and behold, the universe provides for you.
Ray: You mentioned you worked in retail. Would you talk about your retail experience?
Wayne: I worked in retail stores from the time I was 12. I was a bag boy in a grocery store, and then I was a manager of a small grocery in Detroit.
Then I went into the Navy, and even in the Navy for part of the time I ran a little hamburger joint.
When I got out of the Navy, I went to college and then graduate school and worked in Kroger’s, a grocery store in Detroit. First I was a produce manager, then I was a cashier, and then I was the manager of the store.
So, I have been in the retail business a good chunk of my life.
Ray: What are the strong guiding principles for businesspeople who want to do good work and be successful? By successful, I mean a business is profitable, employees earn a good living, bills are paid, and customers are well-served.
Wayne: The most important thing people can do is refuse to have any resistance to staying connected to their source.
People resist being able to attract abundance into their lives. They take on an attitude that says it can’t be done, it isn’t working, the economy is bringing me down, it’s those damn Republicans or damn Democrats.
I have a sign on my door. I look at it every single day of the week. The sign says, “Attitude is everything, so pick a good one.”
You need a very strong internal knowing. For instance, when I sat down to write the book The Power of Intention, I had a very strong internal knowing that I call thinking from the end.
See what it is you would like to attract into your life. See how you would like your business to go, your relationships to go, and even your body to go in terms of overcoming addictions and dealing with weight and health issues.
All of us emanate from a source of well-being. If you do not have well-being in your life, physically or emotionally, then you have to look at what kind of energies, thoughts, and spirituality you have chosen that have taken you away from your source.
One of the ways to get back to it is to think from the end.
Ray: Can you give some examples of thinking from the end?
Wayne: Thomas Troward, who wrote beautiful lectures on mental science, said that the law of flotation was not discovered by contemplating the sinking of things. Rather, it was discovered by thinking about things that float naturally.
One of the important principles I live by is the idea that you have to contemplate yourself as surrounded by the conditions you intend to produce.
The difference between highly functioning people — the people Maslow called self-actualizers — and people who live with ordinary levels of consciousness is that the self-actualizers never put their intention on what they don’t want. They know that what you think about is what expands.
If you are thinking about, talking about, and spending energy on what is missing in your life, what is wrong, what you don’t like, or what always has been, then you are going to continue to attract those things into your life.
We become what we think about.
Self-actualizing people — highly functioning people who live at extraordinary levels of awareness — train their minds to focus on what they intend to create and what they intend to manifest, and they won’t let anybody change their mind.
I always think of the Wright brothers heading out to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, about 100 years ago. I don’t think Orville and Wilbur said to each other, “This thing is heavier than air, so how will it get off the ground? That’s an absolute impossibility.” The law of flying was not discovered by the contemplation of things staying on the ground.
So, you have to contemplate yourself surrounded by the conditions you wish to produce and know you can attract divine energy to help you.
Dormant forces come alive when you put your attention on what you intend to manifest and when you stay connected to your source of well-being, your source of kindness, and your source that excludes no one.
Ray: Some people see a spiritual path as at odds with making money. But making money can also be seen as a necessary condition of doing the work successfully and being able to help others. Do you feel a tension between financial success and doing good work?
Wayne: No. Money always has come to me, because I always have seen myself as endlessly abundant.
I was interviewed on TV in Chicago not too long ago, and the interviewer gave me a little zinger. She said, “There may be people out there who say you really are making a lot of money off these ideas.”
I said, “Well, they would be right.”
She asked, “Don’t you feel a little bit guilty about that?”
And I said, “I would, but it’s not my fault, because money always has been something that has attracted itself to me.”
When Francis of Assisi was looking for peace, he didn’t say, “Please give me some peace. I don’t have any peace. I’ve got to have peace.”
What he said was, “Make me an instrument of thy peace.”
What I say to my source, what I say to God, always is, “Make me an instrument of the abundance that I came from, make me an instrument of thy well-being, and make me an instrument of thy love.”
I don’t go to the source and ask for money, any more than Francis went to the source and asked for peace.
Ray: Customers sometimes come into mind/body/spirit retail stores feeling lost, looking for a starting place, a foothold, perhaps not exactly sure what they are trying to get a foothold in. They depend on retailers’ recommendations. How would you coach a customer beginning the spiritual journey?
Wayne: As a retailer, I would ask the customer, “What is it you want in life?” Whatever answer they give, I would help them to say the correct answer, or the most effective answer, for anyone — feeling good.
So, I would try to teach them the importance of feeling good. Again, it always boils down to energy. Every thought you have affects everything in your body.
I would model well-being by presenting myself as a high-energy person who loves what I am doing and who is thrilled to be able to offer books, tapes, and products designed to make people feel good. I would explain that they are in a store filled with this kind of energy and that creating such a space is exactly why I got into the business in the first place. If you want to feel good, then my store is the place you should visit on a regular basis.
I would stay very informed about what’s out there and make sure I carry many things with very high energy.
Ray: Who are the writers and thinkers you would recommend? Whose books would form your core, lasting inventory?
Wayne: Those questions are difficult, Ray, because when you include you exclude, and there are so many valuable works.
When I sit down to write a book, I surround myself with 500 or 600 books. I constantly pull at them, look at them, and read excerpts, so I don’t limit myself. The amount of material available to us today is endless.
Carl Jung’s work has been terrifically important to me. Abraham Maslow’s psychology work has been very influential in my life. Then, I would emphasize the work of many contemporary people out there: Louise Hay, Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, Gregg Braden — people who are involved in this same kind of energy.
I like to listen to tapes that make me laugh. That’s one of the reasons I love Ram Dass so much. Stuart Wilde, Marianne Williamson, and Anthony de Mello, who passed away in 1987, bring great energy to their tapes and books. I have tried to model myself after some of these people. They make material come alive, make it seem like common sense, and also make it entertaining and compelling.
But even technical work filled with formulas can be valuable and important. Einstein offered a lot of technical work on quantum physics, which mostly eludes me. I refer to his work, and I have studied it, but I am not a physicist. But look at Einstein’s simple statement that the most important decision you ever will make is the decision whether you live in a friendly universe or a hostile universe.
To me, that alone is a life-saving thing. When I look at the news and all the things that are hostile out there, I remind myself that for every act of evil in the world, there are a million acts of kindness.
Ray: Wayne, in what ways do you think your approaches have matured during the time you have been doing your work?
Wayne: Readers who have followed my books since the mid ’70s will realize they have shifted very dramatically. In Modern Man in Search of a Soul, Carl Jung said that as we grow throughout our lives, we mature through developmental stages.
An infant becomes a pre-toddler and then a toddler, and these stages are accompanied by things like crawling, walking, talking, getting larger, and so on.
When we become adults, we still are developing.
Jung said there are four archetypes adults go through, and these archetypes are reflected in the development of my work.
The first archetype is the archetype of the athlete, reflecting the time in our adult life when our primary emphasis is on our body — what it looks like, how beautiful it is, how strong it is, and so on. We identify ourselves with our body. We are our body.
Growing adults next move to what Jung called the archetype of the warrior. We take our physical bodies out there to do what warriors do.
What do warriors do? They are in competition with everyone else. They measure their success and their value on the basis of who they are better than, how much they get, and so on. So, this is the time in your adult life when your primary emphasis is on goal setting, on getting someplace else, and on defeating other people.
If you still are growing, you go through the archetype of the statesman or stateswoman. You stop asking “What are my quotas?” and stop saying “What is in it for me?” and “How much can I get?” You begin to say, instead, “What are your quotas?” and, “How may I serve?”
Providing for others becomes much more important in your life than what you can get for yourself.
Finally, if you still are growing, you reach the highest archetype, the archetype of the spirit. This is the time when you finally realize what Jesus meant when he said, “You are in this world, but you are not of this world.”
You are not here as a human being having a spiritual experience, but the reverse is true: All of us here are spiritual beings having a human experience.
I think my writing starting 25 books ago really reflects my traversing through these various archetypes, and I also have done it with microphones and in print media and so on across the country.
I have moved through these archetypes until now I write from a perspective of trying to teach the joys, the unlimited abundance, and the bliss of living as a spiritual being and being on the active side of infinity, rather than the inactive side.
Ray: You are phenomenally successful, and when you started out doing this work you were phenomenally persistent. You have worked very hard to create the success you have achieved. What do you think are the personal characteristics that inform professional business success?
Wayne: I didn’t work hard for success. I worked hard because that’s what is in me.
I showed up in this world somehow knowing that you have to work hard. You can’t just have a thought. You have to follow the thought through.
But everything starts with the thought.
I always had the thought I could attract abundance. When I wrote the book Your Erroneous Zones back in the ’70s, I absolutely knew the book was going to do well, but it wasn’t a goal at all. I just went out there and started doing something I really loved.
My great definition of success comes from Thoreau: “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
That always has defined my road to what you call phenomenal success. I have advanced confidently in the direction of my dreams. I have lived the life I imagined, and I have had a ball doing it.
Money, success, and the external trappings have chased after me wherever I have gone. These things show up in my life, and I just keep passing them on. I don’t hang onto them myself at all. I have very few needs like that.
Ray: What makes your work unique? Does your background in psychology differentiate you from some of your contemporaries?
Wayne: I really think I am where I am in spite of my training, not because of it.
I don’t know how unique my work is, because I never compare it. I really believe that God builds all the bridges, writes all the books, and delivers all the speeches. When I say God, again, I mean that source we all come from, we all are pieces of, and we all are connected to.
I wrote a book called Ten Secrets for Success and Inner Peace. One of the secrets is to treasure your divinity and to see yourself as a divine creation. I always have seen myself as possessing that divine energy, as connected to that source.
My purpose really has been to get closer and closer to that source — to be more steadfast.
I do not concern myself with being unique. I do not concern myself with success. I feel I just do and say what I am supposed to, even during this interview. I do not know where it comes from. I go where I am told, and I just allow whatever it is to come out.
Likewise, when I sit down to write a book, I do not know where the energy and the words come from. I just sit down, and soon it is flowing through my hand and onto the paper. Then, I just go out and talk about and share it.
I do what I love, and I love what I do. I think we all were intended out of a field of energy called love, so you must be love in order to intend.
Ray, there’s not a day I live that doesn’t start with me getting up and first saying, “What can I do for somebody else?” Whether that means sending something to one of my children or picking up the phone and calling a stranger who is in the hospital, I start every day by wanting more for others than I do for myself.
I think that is how God works, and that is how I think we have to work.
Ray: What is the biggest question you are trying to answer right now, Wayne?
Wayne: The biggest questions that always have perplexed me are “Where do I come from?” and “Where am I going?”
The “Where do I come from?” question, which I think I largely am answering now, is about what quantum physics teaches us. If you try to find your source, you are not going to find it in a tiny little particle that began with your parents commingling.
Take that particle back to its ultimate source. In quantum physics, the study of material at the subatomic level, you get down to the tiniest levels. When they take these subatomic particles, put them in particle accelerators and collide them, quantum physicists discover there’s nothing there.
There’s no one home — no ghost in the machine.
I sit here right now and say, “OK, I am going to wiggle my finger,” and then I wiggle my finger. If you go inside me to try to find out what it is that allows me to translate that thought into action, you find there is no ghost in the machine. You can go into the brain and carve it all up, and there’s nothing there.
The ghost is not in us. Yet there is something allowing all of us to do these things all the time.
I believe we came from nowhere. We show up, and we are now here. It’s all the same. It just is a question of spacing. While we are in the “now here,“ we all contemplate where we are going.
Where we are going is back to the “nowhere.” We are going to rejoin the spirit from which all things emanate.
These are the big questions for me — always.
Ray: What are the implications of these big questions for people’s daily lives?
Wayne: Enjoy the moment, because that is all you have. You never are going to arrive someplace else. You are in a constant state of living in this moment, and that is the only arrival there is.
In fact, you will arrive when you stop trying to get someplace else.
Even if you are loaded down with guilt about everything you did in the past, you still are experiencing the guilt in the moment. Even if you are planning everything for the future, you still are doing the planning in the moment.
The moment is all there is now. All there is is now.
That’s what God is, too. God is only now.
So live purely in the moment on a rampage of appreciation.
Rumi, the great Persian poet, said, “Sell your cleverness, and purchase bewilderment.” Get into a state where you are in awe of everything. Certainly you have to plan, but don’t be so concerned about where you are going to be or where you have been.
When you stop traveling, you finally will arrive.
Ray Hemachandra has been privileged to know and interview many leading spiritual teachers, including Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, Louise Hay, Eckhart Tolle, Marianne Williamson, Doreen Virtue, Chan Khong, Sakyong Mipham, and Byron Katie, as well as mind/body/spirit musicians, artists, and retailers. Read some of these interviews, as well as his writing about autism and his son, on this blog www.rayhemachandra.com. This interview with Wayne is among the ones selected to be featured on Dr. Dyer’s website at http://www.drwaynedyer.com/press/interview-new-age-retailer/.