Dr. Wayne W. Dyer is a fixture in many of those who consider their lives spiritual. His new book, The Shift: Taking Your Life from Ambition to Meaning, based on the movie he co-created, is a lively map for those who ask,"Is this all there is?" [Full disclosure: I have not seen the movie although I've been receiving their emails for months; this review is about the post-film book.]
From Ambition to Meaning was the original title of the film. Upon seeing an early audience screen it, Dr. Dyer suggested a title change to The Shift because that is the word that appeared most in the film. The producer ran with it. Voila!
Dr. Dyer starts with that ephemeral concept known as non-being. He says we all arise from non-being; that's our first shift. Then we shift into being, also known as birth. Or, from "energy into form." Once birth occurs, we have a choice: to be like where we came from -- the Divine -- or ego development -- false self -- which begin to acquire Ambition. Some of us get stuck there. Ego's mantra is "more."
Based on six false premises, the ego trip through life is fraught. Ego maintains that "who I am is what I have," and "who I am is what I do," and "who I am is what others think of me," and "I am separate from everyone else," and "I am separate from what's missing in my life," and "I am separate from God." Whew, and ouch. Ego can be a rough-and-tumble taskmaster.
For what it's worth, some of the solution to an ego-driven life is a decision about what constitutes enough. It's an individual decision. Two pairs of shoes, fifty pairs? Twelve plates, or four? Five good friends, or a hundred acquaintances? Enough solves a lot of that.
Dr. Dyer says that ego stands for "edging God out." I first heard that expression in a recovery context. In truth, it can mean that, or it can mean something else entirely. I'm not a fan of demonizing the ego. Ego can be a true help on the spiritual path as long as it doesn't run the show. I prefer the take of Albert Clayton Gaulden: ego is to be befriended, and led by Spirit.
In the four dense chapters of this small book, the first two are titled "From" and "Ambition." The final two are "To" and "Meaning." "To" is a delight. It is the place where a soul makes a U-turn away from Ambition and toward our Fromness, our original, Divine nature. It's when we ask: "Is this all there is?" We start to ask questions about the quality of our lives. We feel less need to control and more desire for compassion.
If we are patiently consistent with our U-turning, eventually we arrive, ironically, back at the place where we started -- with being and not doing. We let go and let God. The purpose of the U-turn is to restore us to Authentic Self--Spirit-based beings who come here with a purpose and a reason for being. (N.B. Not a reason for doing.) Dr. Dyer calls it a "radical ego-ectomy." I wouldn't really recommend that. Instead, I'd suggest that you let the Spirit of you lead the ego. It's like bumpersticker: God is my Co-pilot. I always want to stop those cars and tell the drivers: Move over. Let God be your Pilot!
The Authentic Self wonders "how may I serve?" in lieu of the ego's "gimme, gimme, gimme." It's definitely an improvement over the ambitious way of life. We ask ourselves what will make us feel more alive. Dr. Dyer is right: "more than anything else, the world needs men and women who have come alive."
What happens, as you live a life of service over time, is that contentment replaces grasping. Others are fellow journeyers in life. A belief in the benevolence of the Universe sustains us. We shift from "Entitlement to Humility," "Control to Trust," and "Trust in ourselves, others, and our Creator." Life becomes easier.
"Once what you are doing has for you meaning, it is irrelevant whether you're happy or unhappy. You are content -- you are not alone in your Spirit -- you belong. These lovely words of Sir Laurens van der Post close this deep and guiding book. Do read it for it will help you change.