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Life on Your Terms
Interview with Tony Wrighton
When you meet someone at a dinner party and they say, “What do you do,” how do you answer?
Well, I talk about peace—and that’s been my endeavor since I was nine years of age; I’ve been talking to people about peace. Because I think that’s an important ingredient that we’re missing.
You know, there’s nothing in the world that sets us up to really recognize ourselves, who we are. Socrates talked about this, “Know thyself.” And yet, what is in this world...? Once in a while, you might come across Socrates, and by—only by mistake.
And then, what is the value of that? You know, what reflects in our social media; what reflects in our world that we go about every single day—that says, “Oh, by the way, did you, today, know yourself? Do you know yourself today; do you understand who you are? Do you...?”
You see the whole world in a way that you have been trained to see. “Yeah, I’ve got to wear clothes; I’ve got to wear this kind of clothing; I’ve got to do this; I’ve got to do that; I’ve got to take this with me; I’ve got to do this; I’ve got to contact this person....” But what about contacting you, you as a human being?
And a lot of times we say, “Okay, why is my world so strange sometimes?” Well, could it be that you’re looking at a map, and you’re saying, “Well, the map is good. [Tony: Ummm.] I love the map. And I’ve got where I want to be on this map marked in a big X.”
But the big question is, “Where are you on the map?” Because if you don’t know where you are in the map, that map is useless to you—because how are you going to plan your navigation to where you want to be?
So, everybody is going around on their map marking the X’s, “I want to be here; I want to be here; I want to be here!” But where are you? And who are you?
And so this is the message. Because I think that that can profoundly change the world. Because I see that change happen in people’s lives who are in prisons! Just imagine the viewpoint that they have; they’re seeing the worst of the worst of the worst of the worst, every day, every day.
And yet there is some goodness in this humanity, and each one of us. And we have to do something to bring it out. We have created a society in which, literally, the worst of us comes out without a problem—but we haven’t really created a society in which the best of us comes out.
You meet someone at a dinner party and you say, “I talk about peace.” [Prem: Yes.] And they say, “Well, well, how? And how did you arrive at this place when you talk about peace,” yeah?
Well, it’s been going on for a really long time. My first speech that I gave was when I was four. And I felt that—okay, there was a huge gathering of people... [Tony: And you were four years old?]
I was four years of age—and it was an event that my father had pulled together. And I realized that everybody was just really fragmented. Everybody was going about their own business and nobody was there. And I felt that my father’s message, (again, about peace), was very important.
So, I went out there—and I just said, “Listen, guys, you know, but we need to be all focused, because here is an opportunity that we have. We have—we are alive. And we don’t see our life....” (And I’m paraphrasing.)
“We don’t see our life from the context of birth and death, that there’s a limited amount of time that we have on the face of this earth—but there is peace inside of each one of us, and aren’t you interested in that peace; don’t you want that peace in your life?”
And then it began—so I would address a lot of audiences. And then, people got very interested. This is—and it worked for them. You know, and this is the thing; it’s building upon what works, not what doesn’t work.
So, it just has been doing that. And people have been coming—and there are no strings attached. There are no strings attached—you like it, fine; you don’t like it, fine. Even peace in your life, you don’t like it, fine. You know, you want to be out there in the war, and that’s how you see yourself, fine.
But then people do recognize—and realize. And it builds and it builds, and more people get interested, and more people get interested.
And then, I know you spoke at the first—as you started to become more established, the first Glastonbury Faire. [Prem: Yes!] Didn’t you—that was—was that 1971?
Yes, that’s—but that, that was an amazing thing. Because I—you don’t know the story behind that—I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to go, because I felt, “You know, they already have their agenda all set.”
But people just kept saying, you know, “Please go; please go; please go.” So, I started going for a drive—I just asked the person; I said, “Take me for a drive.” [Tony: Hmm.]
And I’m thinking, and I’m thinking and I’m going, “Well, you know, what am I going to say to them? They’re there to listen to music. I can’t sing—and I’m not going to play a guitar; I can’t play a guitar—so, what do I do?”
And then I realized, “Well, what you’ve always done. Put your message out—maybe somebody’s life will change. Maybe you will never know them, but their life will change. Isn’t that why you do it?”
So, I arrived there, and everybody was there: “Okay, the next song”—and all of a sudden, there was no next song. [Tony: Ah.] They brought out a chair; I sat down on it and I started addressing these people. And amazingly enough, pin-drop silence; people were actually listening.
And I am like, “Oh, okay. I’ll keep this brief. I know you want your music, but here it is. That, one, what you’re looking for is inside of you. Then there is peace, possible; peace is possible.”
And I spoke for a few minutes—I don’t even remember how long I spoke for—I was off the stage; things could begin. And for me, (and I know, for a lot of people), everything changed.
Everything—for me, it changed; it’s like, “Well, listen. You don’t have to have only those people in the audience that have absolutely said, ‘Okay, I want to listen about peace.’ [Tony: Yeah.] You know, you can have anybody.” And it’s a message that really, truly can touch people in a very beautiful way: “Keep it simple; keep it real.”
My instinct is, it’s quite hard to argue with the message—yeah, we all want more peace. It’d be quite nice, wouldn’t it? [Prem: Yeah.] So, why don’t we have more?
Well, because we are, again, we’ve got our map—and it takes a long time to come up with that map. Because everybody gives you an input, “This is what you want on this map, and this is where you want to go visit.”
And of course, once you start traversing, you realize, “Well, I’m not getting to where I’m going.” I mean, do you realize how real that is for people? You know, they go and they do this, and they do this, and they graduate, and then they find a job and everything else, and all of a sudden they’re realizing, “Is this it?”
You know, and in everything. I mean, like, dieting, for instance—I mean, I guess a lot of people can relate to the dieting. So, you start with your dieting, and you, you know, things are going really good. And then all of a sudden, the next thing you know, one, it’s not working for you—or two, you’re losing interest in it.
And you’re not following it exactly the way you should be—and somebody else is having an ice cream cone and you want one too. And things just fall apart. And so people go on one diet, to another diet, to another diet, to another diet.
Well, it’s very easy to understand it in the relationship to diets—but if that’s happening to diets, guess what else is happening in our life that’s very much like that? That we have set out, you know, made our resolution for the first of New Year and here we go.... [Tony: Umm-hmm.] And, arrrrrut, it falls apart, and it falls apart, and it falls apart.
The quest for peace also falls apart. And a lot of people start then saying.... And it’s kind of like the sour grapes, the story of the fox, you know, that couldn’t reach those grapes as the.... For a lot of people, it’s like, “Well, peace is not going to happen.” And this is the first reaction I get. [Tony: Umm.]
When I say—oh, I, you know, I was going through customs once and the guy asked me; he says, “What do you do?” I said, “I talk about peace.” He goes, “That’s not going to happen. That’s not going to happen. [Tony: Hah.] There’s so much problems in this world, there’s so much greed in this world—that the peace isn’t going to happen.”
And so I really started thinking about that. And it’s like, “Well, how did greed come about? Does it grow on trees? Does it—you know, is it naturally found in rivers or icebergs, or what?” And it’s human-created. Greed is a, very much a thing that is exercised by human beings.
So, if human beings can do it, that means they can reverse it too. And maybe there is an incentive that needs to be given.
And that’s where this message comes in. “Look, in the midst of all of your war that you are fighting (at any given time), there is something else that’s going on. There is a clock ticking—and you can do nothing about it; you can’t rewind it; you can’t pause it. And there’s a quest for peace from your heart—but you need to know yourself to find that.”
When you do big events (like you’re doing this weekend, for example), how do you encourage people to find their purpose more? Or maybe they know their purpose but it’s not actually happening for them. Are there—I mean, is there a—what format is there to the day, that you help people to kind of find that inner purpose and kind of, live their best lives?
It’s very simple, really. We just need to be reminded. Our power to forget is exceptional—and we forget. We get so caught up in this world that we forget, “Hey, by the way, you’re alive! You know?” And the being alive becomes a second-grade thing; it’s like, “Yeah, so what—and well, what have you told me, by the way, that I didn’t already know?”
Yeah, and go tell that same statement to a person who’s lying on the hospital bed taking their last breath. And they will have a totally different appreciation. I’ve done it. I’ve seen it. They’ll have a totally different appreciation—than that person, you know, whose agenda is to go to this fancy football game or fancy dinner game, or fancy something, or fancy dress party. [Tony: Umm.]
And it’s like, “Wait a minute. We do need to be reminded—especially in this world which is so confusing.” And just so much attraction out there that it’s distracting us from these fundamental things—that we need to be reminded, need to be reminded.
You know, and that’s so important. That’s so important that “peace is possible”—we need to be told every single day. [Tony: Ummm.] Whatever you practice most, you get good at it. And if that’s the way things are.... Because that’s how it happens. We, whatever we practice the most, we get good at it.
And so, look around your life—how long does it take you to get upset? So, is that what you’re practicing, getting upset? You know, and how long does it take you to just relax? Well, it’s like, “Huh-eah, ‘breathe deeply, sit down....’”
But getting anger? Getting mad? You don’t need to sit down to get mad. [Tony: Umm-hmm.] You don’t need to breathe deeply to get mad. You can get mad just like that. So, we’re practicing that. You’ve got to break the bad habits. If you don’t break the bad habits in your life, those will perpetuate, and they will shape your life and your future.