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Behind Wayne Dyer’s Extraordinary Career

A chat with the late motivational leader reveals intimate life moments


(To remember the late Wayne Dyer, who died August 29, Next Avenue is republishing our 2014 interview with him.)

Fans of Wayne Dyer will be thrilled to know that the spiritual and motivational leader is back with another inspirational PBS program, debuting in early March (check local listings). I recently spoke with him about it.

The 73-year-old self-help author of more than 30 inspirational and “self-actualization” books (including the top-selling book of the 1970s, Your Erroneous Zones) is a familiar and beloved figure, thanks to decades of appearances on The Tonight Show, Oprah, Ellen and, of course, PBS.

Sharing its title with his just-released memoir, I Can See Clearly Now, the show is Dyer’s most personal yet and, he says, his favorite.

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Dyer has always shared stories from his own life — of the abusive alcoholic father who abandoned the family, his difficult childhood in foster homes in Detroit and a lifetime of mystifying synchronicities that led to his extraordinary career. In this program, however, he achieves a new level of intimacy, including the first public acknowledgement of his separation from his wife of many decades.

The top of the ladder is living from a place of divine love, which is where we emanated from and where we all shall return.

— Wayne Dyer

But Dyer being Dyer, this isn’t just storytelling. He uses the tales as a springboard for a deeper discussion of the power and insidiousness of ego.

Longtime fans will not be disappointed and the uninitiated will likely come away with profound new insights about life and possibly a new mentor.

Dyer’s Messages

I Can See Clearly Now covers familiar ground: that there are no accidents or mistakes in life; that we are divine beings who have free will but whose lives are also preprogrammed. This time, however, Dyer offers a new framework for his message that our lives have a purpose.

In the 90-minute show, Dyer presents a metaphoric ladder that everyone is presented with at birth. There are five rungs we need to climb to reach the top to actualization: the willingness to see clearly, the determination, the fearlessness, the compassion and the love. He speaks engagingly about each, weaving in personal anecdotes, quotes and wisdom from his own teachers, plus practical guidance for how everyone can integrate the insights into their own lives.

Casually attired in slacks, a long-sleeved T-shirt with “love.” on it and his signature beret, Dyer delivers his message from a sofa in a cozy living room setting. Three of his eight children make appearances; there are frequent crowd reaction shots and a monitor illustrating some of his points. But it’s a low-tech affair: This masterful speaker doesn’t need any bells and whistles to hold an audience’s attention.

The Secret To Dyer’s Appeal

I asked Dyer what he considered the secret to his appeal. “I learned many years ago that if I was enthusiastic and excited about my message, and if I was authentic in what I was saying, people would embrace my teaching,” he says. “I love what I speak about — the idea of empowering people to reach their highest potential — and rather than selling my audience my books and related products, I sell them the love.”

Dyer further says that if he can get people to relate to him as they might their next-door neighbor, “they will want to know more. I am everyone’s next-door neighbor, albeit one with a powerful message.”

And while indeed potent, that message is also simple.

“What I am saying to the audience is that each person is a divine being and that the intelligence that is behind all of life is inherent in each and every creation of that intelligence. All they need do is discover it for themselves to live a transformed life,” says Dyer.

“Everyone has a secret desire to live a fully functioning self-actualized life,” he adds. “I provide a blueprint for achieving such an exalted state. The top of the ladder is living from a place of divine love, which is where we emanated from and where we all shall return when we shed these egos and the bodies that house them.”

Aligning Yourself With God

After watching the program, I asked Dyer a final question: If people take away only one thing from this show, what would he want that to be?

His answer: “The knowing that when we are truly aligned with our source of being, and when we live in a way in which we are just like God, Buddha, Allah or Universal Love — whatever name someone wants to use — then I believe that all things are possible. And that leaves nothing out.”

Dyer ends the show with a poem from the Persian mystic and poet Rumi, but just before that is my favorite moment of the evening. His daughter Serena reads a letter she wrote to him two years ago, after listening to a talk he gave in Ephesus, Turkey. A family friend adapted it into a song, and another daughter, Skye, sings it.

No spoilers here: I will only say that the song made me reflect on my own skills and failings as a parent. While she was reading it, Serena and her father were clearly on the verge of tears, but not me. I couldn’t hold mine back. Watch this show if only for that. But there’s so much more.

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