Q&A with Jane Wyker, author of Soul Selfish

What does it mean to be “soul selfish?” Isn’t selfish a derogatory word?

Yes, the common meaning of the word “selfish” is going for what you want without considering the effects on others, concerned only with your own pleasure, benefit or profit. I call this “ego selfish.”

“Soul selfish” is the opposite, for at a soul level we are all connected. What we want for ourselves is good for us AND good for others. The soul expresses our authentic self. To live from our souls requires examining where our egos are out of alignment with it.

What does it mean to be a “people pleaser” or a “good girl” in our culture?

“Good girl” is a role taken on in early childhood while seeking love and approval from our parents. She obediently serves their wants, needs and expectations, but in so doing, loses connection with her own. Since this role is unconscious, she continues the pattern into adulthood, usually creating similar relationships where she is the “giver,” receiving little emotional or physical support. In addition to unbalanced relationships, she either loses touch with her own desires or lacks the energy to fulfill them. Men sometimes take on this role too and they become “people pleasers.”

You have a rather varied and unusual path to your spirituality. Can you tell us about that?

I was born into an irreligious family where there was little support of spiritual awareness. When I was 36, two years into my inner journey, I became interested in spirituality, having accomplished considerable emotional clearance and attitudinal correction.

My therapist introduced me to a medium who channeled wise, moving messages that encouraged my interest in meditation. I wanted to connect with my soul and perhaps even receive guidance. I found a teacher who instructed me to choose a quiet place and simply sit for as long as I was comfortable. I chose the sauna that my husband had designed in our basement, added some candles and sat for a few minutes daily, smelling the candles and the cedar-scented wood, enjoying the outer quiet and letting go of the constancy of my mind chatter. It felt like medicine!

Some months later, I began to hear simple voiceless messages: Jane, slow down and rest.” or “Sometimes it is wise to say no.” Little by little I heard more complex thoughts, yet in language unlike mine. Each word became etched in my mind, so I wrote them down word for word. I named the source my Guides, and still listen to them almost daily.

Another place of my spiritual nourishment is Unity Church. Instinctively reaching for spiritual support in the ‘70s, I saw an ad in the New York Times: Tuesday lectures by Eric Butterworth at lunchtime.  I had never heard of him or of Unity, but was drawn to attend, made possible since my children were in school. I took a train to the city each week and was inspired by his ecumenical message. He taught that spirit lives in each of us, that we are intrinsically connected to a formless, loving energy called God, and that we live in a benevolent Universe connected to everyone and everything. I attend Unity services to this day.

In the early 80’s I went to Oregon to be in the presence of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Although he was a most controversial spiritual teacher, I found him to be hugely moving, and had my deepest spiritual experience there. He was silent at that time, yet his energy brought me to deeper connection to my soul than I have ever been. So much so, that as I walked along the road passing a stand of sunflowers, I instinctively put my face into the center of a flower for many minutes, feeling at one with it, and skipped down the road afterwards in unparalleled joy.

I have heard deeply disturbing stories about Rajneesh years after my experience there, yet I will treasure that experience forever. I believe that the moments when we feel connected to our spirit and the Universe are our greatest blessings.

You say that spirituality opens us to our peace, joy and creativity?  Please explain how.

Spirituality transcends the limitations of the ego and connects us to our souls — to our creativity and love, which brings us joy.

We have two levels within: ego and soul.

Ego is important since it contains our intellect and memory which teach us how to function in the world — allowing us to read, learn language and function as physical beings. The ego contains our conditioning: the teachings of our parents, and generations before them. Many of those teachings are limiting and dividing, passed on from generation to generation. It is the belief in separation that creates prejudice, which in turn creates unhappiness and conflict. Even war.

In contrast, soul connects us to our hearts, to Infinite love. I believe that love is the greatest unifier and source of peace. When our intellects are guided by our souls, we experience connection, creativity, peace, and joy. 

It seems everyone is talking about how to be their authentic self, each with a different definition. What do you mean by this?

An authentic person is in touch with who they truly are and lives in alignment with that awareness.

We are each born with specific personality traits, abilities, talents, tastes and preferences. That became very clear to me as I raised my four children, each so different. Why was one so extroverted, another so shy? One so focused, another so imaginative?

As we mature, our personalities become more defined. We develop values. What do I stand for? Who and what is important to me? What feels good to me? Interests me? What do I like to do? What am I willing to put energy towards? What ideas engage me? What draws me? What make me happy? What are the traits that I enjoy in others? Where do I want to live, the city or the country? What colors, foods, music, art, fashion do I like most? What doesn’t interest me? How much am I willing to give to others?  To myself?

An authentic person lives life in alignment with their answers to these questions. Their yes is honest, as is their no. They have the courage to disagree, even with people who matter greatly to them. They give to others and to themselves. They stand for their values. An authentic person is a happy person, at one with their true self. They can give fully, for their energy is aligned with their purpose.

What stands in the way of authenticity?

I believe that there are two major reasons that people are inauthentic.

First, when very young, most children unconsciously take on roles to get the love, attention and recognition they want. That becomes who they think they are. They continue living these roles until sufficient unhappiness and/or dissatisfaction urges them to look inward, gradually release their role and become authentic. In my case it was “good girl.” Yet in my almost 30-year counseling practice I came across “bad boys,” “clowns,” “brains,” “drama queens,” “jocks” and “artsy” types. Living these roles is limiting and inauthentic, and it is not until these patterns are discovered that authenticity is possible.

The second reason is fear of emotional pain. Going within takes courage. We have created roles, beliefs and attitudes and have made life decisions based on them that contribute to the pain held deep within. Yet it is necessary to slowly and gently let go of that pain to become authentic.

How can we create sustained happiness rather than short-lived happiness dependent on external events?

Most people live in emotional reaction to events. When they buy a new car or go on a trip, they are happy. When they lose a job, they are sad. Understandable, of course. Yet these emotions are short-lived. The process of going for what we authentically desire and believe in engages our creative energy, bringing sustained happiness.

My divorce taught me that in spades. After negotiations broke down, I agreed to an unfair and punishing financial settlement rather than fight court battles for years. Since I chose divorce in the belief that I would be happier, I took responsibility for building a work life. That decision opened the way to designing my Parents School, an original concept in the 70’s, leading to my 29-year family counseling practice — experiences and contributions that I might never have given myselfhad the settlement been equitable.

In your book, you offer several steps on how to become Soul Selfish. Will you share some with us?

First, understand that life is an inside out process. Your life is governed by your thoughts, which create your feelings, choices and actions. Here are a few ideas:

  • Start each day with gratitude.
  • Connect with someone you love.
  • Experience 20 minutes of quiet time — meditating, listening to music or being in nature.
  • Listen to your deepest desires — they come from your soul
  • Prioritize pleasure
  • Exercise your creativity
  •  Create support in your life
  • Do internal house cleaning. Imagine how your home would look if you never cleaned it! Keep your emotions flowing: happiness, sadness, fear and anger. They inform you of what feels good or bad

What are some of your tips for aging gracefully while maintaining your beauty?

Our culture worships youth and often disregards, disrespects and diminishes age, which makes being soul selfish even more important! I am not defined by the culture. Now 83, I am often acknowledged for my youthfulness, and asked “How do you do it?”I take exquisite care of my health and beauty. I look to my inner self for guidance. In addition, I suggest others:

Live in the present, conscious of who you are and what you value.

Notice what lights you up, turns you on, and makes you happy.

Stay connected to your sensual pleasure.

Associate with all ages, younger people as well as peers.

Keep learning.

In our 70’s, my husband and I started ballroom dancing, and we take weekly lessons in Argentine Tango, Rumba, Salsa and Swing.

You say in Soul Selfish, “There’s no more time to waste. No more doing the right thing,’ putting up with undesirable behavior from others or putting off what is important to me. My journey is not for me alone.” What do you mean by “…my journey is not for me alone?”

On a soul level we are all connected. The more soul selfish I become, the more connected I am to my heart and spirit. The more love I feel and share, the happier I am, and the more I contribute my energy, skills and knowledge to benefit others. The most any of us can offer is who we are authentically — our love, knowledge, wisdom, and integrity.

Where can people find out more about you, and where can they order a copy of Soul Selfish?

I would be pleased for you to go to janewyker.com, where there is much information about me and Soul Selfish, many blogs on a wide variety of topics, and a Press page with links to radio, TV and written interviews. Soul Selfish can be purchased on Amazon in either hard cover or e-book. I post inspirational quotes, news and links to my events on my Jane Wyker Author Facebook page and LinkedIn and Twitter.

Thank you, Matt. I’ve really enjoyed our time together here.