So you say the news is getting you down. All this talk about economic depression has you depressed. Stories from Wall Street feel like they're in a foreign language, being reported by Chicken Little with a constant refrain that the sky is falling. Everyone around you is stressed, even more than usual.
You say you wish there were some way to just make it all go away.
Well, there is.
Dr. Wayne Dyer
Just use your imagination.
That's the word from one of Maui's favorite sources of inspiration - the best-selling author and TV personality sometimes described as "the father of motivation," Dr. Wayne Dyer.
Wayne will be sharing his message when his new movie, "Ambition to Meaning," screens March 5 in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater. The movie will play from 7 to 9 p.m. and he will speak for about a half hour afterwards.
The appearance is a benefit for Unity Church. It marks the 26th year Wayne has appeared in benefits for Unity of Maui. He describes the religion as "Christian-oriented, but where you're as liable to hear a lesson from Emerson or Thoreau as from the New Testament. It's a sort of philosophy of well-being or higher consciousness."
The 68-year-old author's own consciousness has evolved through some 30 books, 18 of them national best-sellers. They began in the realm of psychology, success and self-actualization with "Your Erroneous Zones" and then moved in a more spiritual direction. His most-recent best-seller considered the ancient wisdom of Chinese philosopher Lao Tsu's "Te-Tao Ching," bringing it into the present tense in "Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life."
The messages in the books are similar, regardless of what's on the cover.
"There's great truth in all spiritual teachings," he said during a phone interview earlier this week from his home on the island's west side.
"I just have problems with the religious part of it. That's why we have so many wars. What's that old saying? A truth is a truth until you organize it."
On the phone, the voice is familiar, reassuring, comforting. The tone is part wisdom of the ages, part childlike enthusiasm. He writes, he travels the world as a motivational speaker, he makes frequent TV appearances and is the go-to guy for PBS pledge drives, having raised some $150 million for public television.
But his newest project put him in a new role. Literally.
It was last summer, he recalled. He had finished work on his newest book, "Excuses Be Gone," and was back on the Mainland to make one of his frequent appearances on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." While he was there, he performed a wedding ceremony for the show's host and her partner, Portia de Rossi.
During the trip, Dyer was offered the opportunity to do a daily TV show of his own. It was tempting, he admitted. He thought about it until realizing it would entail meetings, wearing a tie, and all the other things that accompany "success."
"It would mean giving up swimming, giving up Maui, giving up everything I had spent my life
doing to get here."
The other offer was to do a movie.
It was to be based on his writings, but it would be scripted by someone else. No talking heads, it would be a drama with a cast of characters intertwined in its story. He would be playing the character named Dr. Wayne Dyer.
The new challenge of being an actor "was something I had never done before." Surrounded by professional actors (de Rossi plays a key role in the movie), with veteran Michael Goorjian directing, "I wanted to see what that felt like. I was willing to surrender, to put myself in someone else's hands."
Shot at the Asilomar Conference Center with gnarly cypress trees and the beautiful windswept beaches of California's Monterey Bay for a backdrop, the script revolves around characters who have come to the center for a variety of reasons. Dyer is there as an interview subject for a documentary film crew. Some people have come for a wedding; others for a conference.
They've come seeking something, without realizing they were looking for anything at all. It's like that old bumper sticker: Wherever you go, there you are.
The various dramas illustrate the points Wayne makes in the movie within the movie. A central metaphor is making "the shift" - rebalancing one's life in a more meaningful way.
Wayne went into the movie seeing it as a way of reaching new audiences who don't pick up his books. He came out of it with a new understanding of the hurry-up-and-wait, the vagaries of lighting, the tedious retakes and everything else it takes to make a movie.
Between his words, his attractive co-stars and the rugged beauty of the surroundings, the lessons resonate in ways they don't when he's just speaking at a podium. The shifts happen. They feel good.
"All the synchronicities the movie is talking about were actually happening during the filming," he recalled. While Wayne and his collaborators were going for a cinematic look and level of professionalism often lacking from films on these themes, the movie isn't headed for the neighborhood megaplex.
"We opened in New York, Chicago and had a premiere in LA with the stars," he reports. "The goal was never to have it in theaters. By and large, we're hoping to get 10 million people to see the movie. If you can get people talking about it, then you reach a critical mass."
Reaching a ratio of people roughly equivalent to the numerical pi, "if you can get them to make a shift, it will affect the whole population," he claims.
But the warm, fuzzy feelings the film leaves with its audience aren't limited to the movie itself. Wayne sees lots of parallels to the emotional climate of the society on the whole.
Referring to "A Course in Miracles," a staple of Unity Church beliefs, he explains, "There are only two emotions: fear and love. We've been getting fed a very steady diet of fear lately, and have now created a whole consciousness around it."
The news reports mortgage foreclosures across the country, job layoffs in the hundreds of thousands.
"But we forget that we have 300 million people in this country, who have to be fed. They drive their cars. Their life goes on. When 100,000 people lose their jobs, they're not all going to go jump off a cliff."
In other words, things change.
"Technology is endlessly changing," he points out. "Everything in the material world is in a constant state of change."
There used to be industries creating rotary phones. Or cassette tapes. For sure, losing a job can be hugely disruptive to everything you've known in your life. But it's also an opportunity to do something brand new, he points out.
The current economic downturn started in August, and has gotten worse ever since.
"If you start listening to fear messages, you will adopt them yourself, and start conveying them to people around you."
He takes a different stance, seeing current conditions as "a restructuring, a cleansing process, cleaning out a lot of filth, sediment, that was taking us down catastrophic path.
"There's so much reason to be hopeful," he adds.
On a personal level, he advocates changing one's mindset away from fantasizing worst-case scenarios. He calls that "catastrophizing." Instead, he advocates thinking about what you want, imagining what it would feel like.
"Go in your mind to the outcome you want, then use your imagination to get that outcome. Then go to the feeling state. How does it feel to have that future dream become real?
"The last five minutes before you go to sleep, you especially don't want to review everything that can go wrong," he continues. All those worries "will marinate" for the next eight hours. The subconscious can't differentiate between what's real and what's not.
"Start aligning yourself with feeling good," he advises. "There's no difference between that and feeling God."
A good place to start is to stop focusing on yourself, and start focusing instead on service, gentleness and love.
"The other things you can do is to turn the TV off and stop looking at the news."
When reminded that positive thinking might come easier to best-selling authors than to people in more dire circumstances, Wayne points out that his childhood was spent in orphanages. He was a teacher before he became a successful writer. Before that, he worked in a supermarket as a checker.
"If this whole thing collapses, if a tsunami comes rolling through, I'm going to survive it, he promises. "I'll get to high ground and move on."
His suggestions are there for the taking.
"During a recession, people go out and buy my books to feel better," he laughs. "I can't afford for it to go away."
But you can.
* Contact Rick Chatenever at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Unity Church of Maui will present An Evening with Wayne Dyer featuring a screening of his new film, "Ambition to Meaning," beginning at 6:30 p.m. March 5 in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater. Tickets are $20 plus applicable fees available from the MACC box office, 242-7469 or www.mauiarts.org.