Dr. Allen Lycka, the #1 Expert on Living A Fantastic Life, interviews Don Joseph Goewey on stress, Zen and Living a Fantastic Life

Dr. Allen Lycka, the #1 Expert on Living A Fantastic Life, interviews Don Joseph Goewey on stress, Zen and Living a Fantastic Life

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a very special guest today. His name is Don Joseph Goewey. And he’s the executive director for the nonprofit Center for Spiritual Exchange, the official archive for works of Anthony De Mello. Now, you might not have heard about Anthony De Mello but he is one of the prominent minds that are out there or was one of the prominent minds out there about things that that fix yourself, you know, he’s a prototype of people like Eckhart Tolle, and Thomas Moore. Now, Anthony De Mello was a very prominent figure and he wrote a really interesting book called Stop Fixing Yourself/Wake Up, All is Well. Now, why is that such an important thing and how was Don involved? Well, Don was the editor for this book, and he knows more about the book than just about anybody. Welcome, Don.

Don Joseph Goewey

Hello, thank you very much for having me, Doctor.

Dr. Allen Lycka

What sort of insights does this unique work of art really have for everybody in this day and age?

Don Joseph Goewey

Well, I think that it’s for all of us who struggle with finding happiness, you know, it’s really hard to find a completely happy person. When you do the social data, you look at the social data, it’s only about 4% of the population that say that they’re completely happy. And the irony is, we were born happy, you know, we were born free. But we’ve become trapped, and with limited thinking we’re born with an open heart, that stress and fear so easily close. We were born gifted, gifted beings have a measurable worth, but we often feel that we’re not good enough. And yet, all the while, there’s this divinity of joy within us surrounding us that connects us with our higher nature, that would make our lives meaningful and beautiful and rich, but we’ve become blocked from seeing it. And what Anthony De Mello says it’s as if we’ve all been hypnotized, you know, dragged up on stage by a magician, and hypnotized to see what is not there and not see what is there, right in front of our, our nose. And so, you know, the question arises, well, how did this happen? Who hypnotized us?

Dr. Allen Lycka

And actually, that was what I was gonna ask Don, where did it all go wrong, I mean, we were given these gifts and all of a sudden that changed.

Don Joseph Goewey

Most people think they’re to blame, that they’re nuts, they’re crazy, there’s something wrong with me. But the fact is its society, the way in which society program does they program, that divinity of joy, that kingdom of joy as Jesus called it that we’re living in unsuspectingly. But they programmed us into having blinders to it stamping into us the belief that, you know, happiness and self-worth are found out there in the world. And if we, you know, work long and hard enough, success will come and out of that happiness and fulfillment will follow. And almost everybody I know has swallowed that formula. And you know, 10 years later, for the younger people, it happens even sooner they come to realize that success has come to whatever degree that has come but it’s lacking this feeling of fulfillment. With you know, Tony, says that that’s failing at living, you know, waking up is the realization that, contrary to what society has taught us, is kind of pounded into us, nothing, but absolutely nothing of the world can make us happy. And it’s not that success is not important, of course, it is. But success is not the same as fulfillment. So, fulfillment doesn’t come from the world. You know, De Mello says Happiness doesn’t come from the world, either not the radiant happiness, you’ve seen a child that’s constant that makes a person smile for no reason, you know, it radiates out of their heart, that happiness comes from within us. And the truth is, there’s not a single moment in our lives, where we don’t have everything, we need to be unconditionally happy. And the only reason wherever unhappy is that we’re focusing on what we don’t have, rather than what we have right here, right now. And this new book that I edited of Tony De Mello’s work, it’s called, Stop Fixing Yourself. It helps you rediscover that truth about yourself about what’s already in you.

Dr. Allen Lycka

And I think that’s important. And I think that’s a key message that it’s not about your broken in some way. It’s not about that you need to be fixed. I think what you have to realize is, that you have to be happy with what you are, and happy with the things that maybe don’t work, right, and things that work right as well.

Don Joseph Goewey

Exactly. And it doesn’t, you know, I like that statement you made that it doesn’t, you know, it doesn’t mean that we’re broken, you know, we’re not broken, we’re not some problem to be solved, we’re okay. And if there’s a problem, it’s the way we’ve been programmed to believe that without this thing, or this person, or this outcome, we can’t be happy and it’s a false belief. We don’t acquire or earn happiness or peace, we have it already. So, you just drop the false belief, and the struggle with the world drops, and that terrible fear of failure drops.

And what you notice, when you surrender to that quietly, surrender to that moment when it passes, when your fears pass, when your self-condemnation passes, what arises in its place is this feeling of peace, this feeling that all is well, because you are, even if everything remains a mess, you know, you don’t have to get all the ducks lined up perfectly before you’re happy. You just lean into it, relax into it, let go to it, and it will arise.

Dr. Allen Lycka

You know, another big area that you focus on, sir is stress, and how to deal with stress. I think it would really help our audiences in these stressful days to get a better understanding of that because I think stress is with us every day. And it’s something that is ubiquitous and people really need to get a better handle bought on that new has a pretty neat four-step process on helping to deal with that.

Don Joseph Goewey

Yes, you know, most people think stress is happening to them, you look at the epidemic. But stress is actually happening in you, it’s not in reality, it’s in the way you’re relating to reality. Viktor Frankl in his wonderful book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he said, when you are confronted with something you can’t change, then the challenge is to change yourself. And the first step is becoming aware of how you’re blocked, becoming aware of how you’ve been programmed to upset yourself, to stress yourself, if you look at the way that you’ve been put together, and if you do, if you do look at the way you’ve been put together and the way you’ve functioned, you’ll find it inside your brain, inside the whole neurocircuitry of the brain, there’s a whole program, that society indoctrinated into you that wired you for that, consistent set of demands about how the world should be, how you should be and what you should want. And it’s imperiously insisting that his demands be met by life, by people by you, and if the demands are met, you know, your brain allows you feel some elation about that some self-satisfaction, but of course, you know, it’s short-lived.

If they’re not met, if these demands that we’re imposing on ourselves in the world, and the people around us if they’re not met, even though it’s no fault of yours, your brain generates negative emotions that cause you to suffer. So, in short, you’re trained to upset yourself that stress, and for instance, when other people don’t live up to your, your brains, your program expectation it torments you with frustration, anger, bitterness, all very stressful emotions when things are not under your control, or the future looks uncertain, looks dreary, your computer brain, it insists that you’re if you experience anxiety, you experienced tension, you get worried, and then you expand a whole lot of energy, coping with these negative motions by extending even more energy, trying to rearrange the world around you so that the demands of your programming that have wired your brain will be met. And if that happens, again, you’ll be granted some measure of precarious peace, but it’s not real peace because at any moment, you know, some trifle plane delay, a smartphone or device it doesn’t work, and email you’ve been waiting for it, it hasn’t come, a spot on your tie.

You know, it’s gonna be out of conformity with your brain's programming. And your brain is going, particularly the fear center of your brain, the amygdala is going to insist that you become upset. And the way that it does that is it dumps stress hormones into your system. And all of this depends on the criteria society has established that you have bought hook, line, and sinker. We’ve all bought hook, line, and sinker. In other words, the way in which we stress all depends on the way we’ve been conditioned, it’s actually called fear conditioning in neuroscience.

And it becomes a way of life it’s a preset pathetic existence in that you know constantly at the mercy of things and people as you try to make life conform to the way your brain is demanding it conformed so that you can enjoy the only piece that you’ll ever know, which is just a temporary respite from negative emotions, a temporary respite from stress before the whole thing starts all over again.

Dr. Allen Lycka

So, how do we get control of all this process, Don? How do we begin to get control of it? Because you know, Anthony De Mello has one path you have some other paths, but let’s give our audience some useful tips on how to get control of it.

Don Joseph Goewey

Well, the way we get control of it is we have to rewire our brain and in the last 20 years, neuroscience has discovered that we’re able to do that, that actually a change in experience, brought on by a change in attitude actually changes the brain, the brain that set on autopilot for stress changes to one that moves to the quieter place where you come into choice.

You can begin to choose your own way, choose your own attitude, choose to be a piece while everybody else is flailing. And how do you do that? How do you rewire? How does your brain how get deprogrammed in other words? And the answer is awareness. It’s one thing all the mystics, all the great saints, all the great psychologists are unanimous about is that change comes from awareness. Because what you’re aware of you control and what you’re unaware of controls you. So, again, it’s enough for you to simply be watchful and aware.

And through all that, all these neurotic impulses that are running your life will drop, and you’ll begin to wake up. Awareness allows you to see and feel what’s going on inside you that sabotages your happiness. You don’t need to seek happiness, you just need to seek the ways in which you’ve been programmed to block it. You don’t need to seek love, you need to seek the ways in which you’ve been programmed to block the presence of love in your life. The negativity, the upsets, the pessimism, the aggression, the competitiveness, the shame, the worthlessness, you need to bring those into awareness.

Most people want to push them away, most people want to repress them. So, as you make these unconscious patterns conscious, they actually dissolve, all psychotherapies based upon that, that assumption, it’s not even an assumption anymore, it’s definitive. So, the first thing you need to do is to step out of your comfort zone.

You know, take the sheets that you’ve pulled over your head away, and get in touch with negative feelings that you’re usually not aware of. Or, as I said, that you tend to push away or repress and you know, hurt feelings, feeling nervous, tense, stressed, maybe even self-hatred, you know, you feel that life is pointless, that it makes no sense. You just get in touch with those feelings, allow them, embrace them, instead of resisting them. Observe the thoughts that you’re thinking that produce the upsets that you’re having and then step back from it as if you were actually watching another person, get some objectivity, step back into this nonjudgmental way of viewing it. But at the same time, allow yourself to feel upset and acknowledge the second step in the awareness process is just to acknowledge that this negative feeling it’s in you. It’s not in reality, you know if you planned a picnic all week, and on the day of the picnic, it rains and you get angry.

Is the rain to blame you for your anger? No, it’s you who are reacting angrily. So, get in touch with that this is this upsets in me not, in reality, I’m not to blame for it. It’s my programming work, you know, operating here. And so, the third step is not to identify with that negative feeling. Don’t judge it. That’s your mistake. Don’t say that I am depressed your brain takes that literally and it will produce that experience for you or I am afraid, your brain will deliver that for you instead just say, look, depression is there right now, anxiety is there right now, but not I am afraid you’re defining yourself in terms of that emotion. And you’re far more than a single emotion. It’s your illusion that’s your mistake and no way does that feeling affect your sense. essential self you know, it’s almost as if like, if you threw black paint into the air, does the air become contaminated?

No that comes to the ground. You never color the air black. So, no matter what happens inside you and what’s going on in you emotionally, your essential self remains uncontaminated. So, there’s depression there right now, there is worry right now, but let it be, leave it alone, just watch it, own it. You know it’s in me not in reality and it will pass as you observe this negativity nonjudgmentally without condemning yourself.

What you notice is that it does pass you might even not notice immediately that this thing that was about to torment you is now gone. But when you do notice it, you’ll notice you’re free. You’re in a space of consciousness, it feels absolutely free. And the prescription at that point is to relax, be quiet, be silent, be present here. And now in this moment, let everything go. And then watch what happens and what will happen is this natural quality of happiness, and peace and self-love will emerge in and of itself, all by itself without any effort on your part, the Zen Buddhists call it effortless effort.

Dr. Allen Lycka

Yes. And I think that is a state also where they are trying or have referred to as a state of Zen where a person gets into complete peace and being with everything around them.

Don Joseph Goewey

That’s right. And, you know, you take somebody, like, Thích Nhất Hạnh, his beautiful books about how we attain peace and his motto is, make peace every step. Well, how do you do that, the first thing you have to do is you have to make awareness, every step. So, people, you know, often asked me, How much during the day do I need to do this awareness thing, you know, and then for how long, how many months, weeks, whatever.

And I say, you need to do it every day, all day long, you need to do it for the rest of your life. But what you will find it’s not something you’re actually doing, it’s a way of being in the world, it’s a way of being with yourself, that is moving you in a direction of freedom, instead of being enslaved by the stress and worry and fear and depression that we’ve been programmed to, to experience when the world doesn’t, you know, bend in our direction kind of thing. And so, it becomes your way of life. And but I do tell people that if you do this, you do this, for two weeks you get started, you’ll quickly see results, you know, in a very short period of time, the quality of your, your life will change, you’ll see it, you’ll see that you’re different, you’re responding to life differently, you are, you’re much more alive, you’re less subject to being pulled down, by this old programming and your eyes open to the truth that everyone everywhere is searching for.

Namely, that fountainhead of peace and joy that hides in every human heart, it’s not hiding anymore it’s your experience. And you know, of course, the upsets will still keep coming, you know, it gets wired into your brain, your brain hangs on to, but it’s not so reactive, you know, it’s been down. So, depending on the depth of your programming, you know, the upsets will come, but I can assure you that I haven’t known a single person who gave time to be aware in the way that we just talked about that didn’t experience greater and greater freedom, increasing freedom, as they worked with this process with this practice.

Dr. Allen Lycka

You know, you’ve been a person that searches go to a lot of meaning in life, and you’ve lied, you know, as head of the department of psychiatry and things like now, you’ve obviously done some things to help others and help yourself along the way. So, I’m going to turn the chair on to you for a minute more spotlight on you, and ask you, how do you have a fantastic life? How do you use these principles to have a fantastic life yourself, sir?

Don Joseph Goewey

Well, you know, like, so many people, I came to this awakening, if I could call it that, you know, awakening is something that people think that’s once and for all kind of thing. It’s a here-and-now kind of thing. You know, you awaken here now, and then you know, next thing you know, you’re dragging the past into it in the future into it and then you get yourself free from it. And now you’re, you’re waking up.

And when you wake up, when you’re in the present moment, it becomes obvious to you that all as well. But I came into this work in this field that I call psycho spirituality, that’s what it is called, the hard way. You know, I came to this work because of a brain tumor. Years ago, I experienced what you might call a perfect storm of stress. I lost an executive-level job at Stanford University Medical School that I devoted a decade to climbing the career ladder to reach and nine days after that I was diagnosed with this brain tumor, that the doctors warned was going to leave me disabled and potentially unable to work again and I was married, I had four children, and my marriage was in trouble because I had devoted myself stressfully to my career, more to my career and my family.

So, suddenly my life was coming apart at the seams, and it seemed there was nothing I could do to stop the impending catastrophe. Well, I had to wait six weeks for the surgery and the first two weeks were just really emotionally painful, you know, with the rumination every night, I would wake up to three in the morning, and stare out that window, looking out into the cold, dark night terrified of what was going to happen to me and my family, you know, we were headed for homelessness. And then one night, I reached a point where I seriously question which was worse, the, you know, the dire problems of doctors predict that you know, could be my fate, or the abject fear that was happening in me every day, every second of every day, over that last two weeks.

And the answer was clear to me, the fear I was in was worse. That was happening. This bone-chilling here I experienced it was consuming, it was depleting my strength, I knew I needed to get through this thing. And so, for the next half hour, I used a process very similar to the awareness process that I just gave your audience, which was to diligently be aware of every fearful, painful thing I thought, and in a way not to be afraid of being afraid, willing to feel and observe the thoughts driving my emotional reactions and seeing them in me, not necessarily in reality.

And to my amazement, what I saw was that when I embraced the pain, the fear, the worry, it passed, when I embraced it and owned it in that way it passed, and I experienced relief like I had no experience at all in not just in the last few weeks but in years and I recognized that I’d been afraid for a long, long time. So, I made up my mind right in there that I was going to be aware in this way. And right up to the point that I had surgery, I didn’t really believe one fearful thought that I was thinking I certainly had them but I brought them into awareness, I let them pass.

And when I showed up for surgery, I was kind of in a state of bliss. You know, I was in a state of just almost infinite trust in myself in life in God. And the surgery was a complete success. They actually made medical history. And, and I stayed at Stanford, I even got my job back at Stanford. One guy in the Department of Psychiatry heard about this guy with this tremendous attitude. And he said, I want this guy on my team, I want him we need his attitude. And about five years later, I shifted and I went to work at the Center for attitudinal healing.

And we worked with people facing catastrophic life events. It was an incredible staff of people, they eventually ended up winning the American Medical Association’s Excellence in Medicine Award for the things that they did and I’ve been on this path ever since.

Dr. Allen Lycka

I think you epitomize one of my statements that I say over and over again. You know, it’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do with what happens. It’s how you live your life, and how you really allow yourself to live the life that’s there. And that’s why I had invited you on the show today, Don, because I think you can enhance people’s lives through the things that you’ve gone through, and the path that you’ve taken along the way.

Don Joseph Goewey

Thank you very much. You know, we’re all students and teachers to each other. This morning, my wife read me something I just got in an email, I guess, about a woman who is paralyzed and needs a lot of supportive care from other people. And one day she had nobody was there to take care of her. And she began to have panic attacks because she had a need. I don’t remember what her need was, but she had some kind of need that needed to be addressed and she couldn’t address it because of paralysis and she began to have a panic attacks.

And she just allowed it. She used this process. She’s a Buddhist. So, she uses a process in her own Buddhist way of being aware of allowing it, of breathing with it, of understanding this is a reaction that I’m not necessarily threatened in any life-threatening way and it will pass, and it passed. And she said it fortified her inner strength, the power of her own inner strength even though she can’t move her body and she said it gave her a great deal of joy.

Well, just reading that was tremendous teaching for me, it was a reinforcement of that teaching. And I think you know, the truth is, is what Ram Dass says, We’re all just walking each other home. You know, one day, you’re the teacher, and I’m the student because I need to listen the next day, I’m the teacher, you’re the student. And as we go along like that, we help each other get home.

Dr. Allen Lycka

Yes, and I think that’s rather important cuz I think what you’re saying is what people have to take the message. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Don Joseph Goewey, a truly amazing individual. Don how can get people to get in touch with your book or get in touch with you if they’d like to.

Don Joseph Goewey

The name of the book is Stop Fixing Yourself, it’s by Anthony De Mello. You can get it on Amazon. It’s been out now for more than six months. It’s sold very well. But they’ve dropped the price, you know, they usually drop the price so now’s a good time to buy it. It’s a great gift. It’s a beautifully published book. By the way, it’s hardback and lovely paper, the publisher really did a lovely job. So, it’s a great gift, a Christmas gift. And if you want to know more about De Mello and these things that we were talking about today, you can go to demellocenter.com. There are videos of Tony De Mello speaking to groups, there are blogs, there are podcasts, and there’s all kinds of material there. There’s also a thing you can sign up for to get the thought of the day from Anthony de Mello emailed to you every day, and they’re wonderful thoughts.

Dr. Allen Lycka

Excellent. Thank you, sir. Well, ladies and gentlemen, if you’d like this episode today, could you please like it and pass it along to your friends and that way we can get more followers and make this a bigger splash. Thank you, sir. Have a fantastic day.

Don Joseph Goewey

You do the same thank you.

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