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What was it like to grow up with Wayne Dyer as your father?
Growing up, my seven siblings and I were exposed to a lot of ideas that were different than what my friends were hearing. We were taught that within each of us is a purpose, a passion that we call dharma, and that dharma is what we incarnated here to do. We were taught that the most important thing you could do in your life was to follow that dharma, and in doing so, you would be serving God. I often joke that my childhood was filled with unconditional love and security, but also a lot of weirdness too! Not many kids learn transcendental meditation at the age of five and count monks as friends.
Were there any downsides to being raised with spiritual parents?
I like to think that while there aren’t any real downsides to being raised with spiritual parents, there are certainly challenges. For example, in a more traditional household when someone gets the flu, their parents probably tell them that it’s flu season and it’s just going around. In my household, when one of us would get the flu we were told that we aligned with it and allowed it in. In other words, part of the challenge of having very spiritually progressive parents is that they make sure you are aware that you are responsible for everything happening in your life. Sometimes, when you have the flu, you just want to blame it on your classmate for getting you sick!
What is the greatest lesson you learned from your parents?
The greatest lesson I have learned thus far is the knowing that we are the creators of our destiny - the masters of our fate. I wholeheartedly believe that we sign up for the experiences we have in this lifetime as they are part of our soul’s desire to grow and expand. When we make the choice to view life as not happening to us, but responding to us, we become more consciously aware of how much our thoughts affect our daily experience. I am so grateful my parents taught me this at a young age because I have learned to choose my thoughts carefully.
What is the greatest gift your parents have given you?
The greatest gift my parents have given me is not in something that they did for me, it was in how they lived their lives in front of me. My parents did not encourage me to follow my dreams and then sacrifice theirs in order to raise me, my parents followed their dreams and in watching them do so, I felt safe to go after mine as well. My parents taught me that there is no honor in sacrificing yourself or your dreams for anyone else, and they demonstrated that the only time you have to make your life the way you want it is now. I am so grateful to them for living their lives this way and in doing so, allowing me to feel safe living my life this way as well.
What advice would you give to people who wish they were raised in a more spiritual manner?
I like to tell people who wish they were raised with parents like mine, that it doesn’t really matter what kind of parents you had, it matters how you feel about yourself. Everything in life starts with the self. If you don’t have love and acceptance and forgiveness for yourself, you won’t have these things to give away to other people either. I was taught that we can’t give away what we don’t have, and if we don’t learn to love and treasure every part of ourselves, we won’t have love to give to others either.
The following is an excerpt from Don’t Die with Your Music Still in You by Serena Dyer, published by Hay House (June 16, 2014) available in bookstores or online at www.HayHouse.com.
Showing Us the Way
I think my parents knew that the best way to teach their children how to be true to themselves was to model it—and that’s exactly what they did. For example, my dad never dressed the way other fathers did. People used to send him T-shirts in the mail with all kinds of sayings on them, and he wore those T-shirts every day of my childhood. I remember I begged my parents to let me take cotillion (an etiquette and dance school for kids), and when it came time for the father/daughter dance, all the fathers showed up in tuxedos. My dad, on the other hand, wore khaki pants, Birkenstocks, and a T-shirt that said Imagine all the people living life in peace. It wasn’t that he was trying to be rebellious; he just didn’t own a suit!
Mom and Dad also followed their own path in terms of their relationship. They didn’t get married until they were pregnant with me—and I’m the sixth out of eight children! I asked my mom why they got married at that point, and she said it was because that’s when they both felt inclined to do so. (Personally, I think it was God’s way of preparing them for the child who was on the way—me. If they hadn’t been married before I was born, surely one of them would have run for the hills after!)
One of the early memories I have of dancing to my own beat took place when I was very young, in first or second grade. We were being taught in religion class that only those who have been baptized and believe in Jesus as their savior make it to heaven. I raised my hand and asked, “But what if they live somewhere really far away where no one knows about Jesus? How could it be their fault? How could God not take them to heaven if it wasn’t their fault?”
My teacher gave a vague answer that didn’t really address my growing concern for these souls who weren’t going to get to heaven. I kept pressing it, insisting that God would surely allow a little child who had never met any Christians or heard about Jesus into heaven. It seemed obvious to me that someone so young couldn’t be to blame for their lack of knowledge about Jesus. When my teacher rigidly responded that she believed you had to be baptized and accept Jesus as your savior in order to go to heaven, I recall feeling so bad for her that she thought God’s love was insensitive and, even worse, intolerant.
A few years later, a similar thing happened. We were studying current events in sixth grade, and the topic of the week was immigration. To my surprise, the majority of my class believed that people who were not born in American should be “sent back to their own countries.” I remember saying something like, “But what if these people were brought here when they were babies and America is all they know? What if they work really hard and contribute to our society? Shouldn’t they have a chance to stay? Aren’t we all children of immigrants in this country?” I went to a Christian school, and was incredibly upset that my classmates had so little compassion. I was so distraught that I actually started to cry—really hard—in front of the whole class. Even though it would have been easier to sit quietly and “go with the herd,” I just couldn’t keep quiet.
When I got home from school and told my parents about these distressing experiences, they told me how proud they were of me. They congratulated me for being curious and not backing down when a teacher told me an answer that felt unacceptable to me.
Typical parental instructions like, “Be like everybody else,” “Try to be normal,” and “Just try fitting in” were never spoken in my home. Instead, Mom and Dad were the weirdos who were always telling my brothers and sisters and me that fitting in was unnecessary, and that some rules are meant to be broken.
My parents taught me to trust my own desires, listen to my heart, and follow what I knew to be right for me. (They also made it clear that if fitting in was important to me, they were okay with that, too.) They encouraged me to abandon any beliefs on religion that didn’t feel right to me, and to let go of any beliefs about society that didn’t resonate with me. They clearly agreed with Albert Einstein, who reportedly one said that “common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age 18.” They felt that sometimes it was best not to use common sense, but to use intuition instead.
Whenever my siblings and I argued, Dad would repeat the Native American saying, “No tree has branches so foolish as to fight amongst themselves.” He would say that we are all branches on the tree of humanity, so fighting was pointless. For a while I thought he was insane, but today it makes sense. I find that this saying can also apply to our relationships with ourselves.
When we hide who we really are in order to fit in or belong, we are suffocating our souls. Our true calling may pass us by while we’re trying make other people happy. And if we don’t love our bodies, it’s because we don’t understand that the body is just a vessel to contain the soul. Eckhart Tolle says, “You are the universe, expressing itself as a human for a little while.” Having an internal battle where we hate our bodies or reject who we really are has the same effect as two branches of a tree fighting amongst themselves. We cannot experience peace if our inner dialogue is always at war with itself. Over time I have learned that a mind at war with itself—which is another way of saying a mind that rejects its true calling, its own nature and body—is a mind that cannot experience eternal gentleness.
If your inner dialogue is constantly telling you what is wrong with you or your life, I suggest observing that little voice without attachment to what it is saying. For me, I am able to quiet my own inner dialogue by meditating. For others, going for a run, listening to their favorite music, or doing yoga is effective. Do whatever works for you!