Life Beyond the Presidential Election:
by Randy Peyser
Known for her ability to articulate spiritual concepts that motivate individuals to discover their innate worthiness and deepen their connection to the Divine, Marianne Williamson is the author of "A Return to Love," as well as seven other highly acclaimed books, four of which have been #1 New York Times bestsellers.
She is the co-founder of the Global Renaissance Alliance, a worldwide network of peace activists whose mission is to harness the power of non-violence as a social force for good, and "The Miracle Matrix," where individuals can learn about a new political consciousness based upon the non-violent principles of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., and also be part of a grass roots effort to establish a Cabinet-level Department of Peace within the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government.
In this interview, she discusses her feelings about life after the presidential election and her new book, "The Gift of Change: Spiritual Guidance for a Radically New Life."
Randy Peyser: I met a woman recently who said that right after the presidential election, she called her doctor because she just had to get some Xanax. The doctor told her that his phone was ringing off the wall with others who were calling for the same reason. Depression is rampant and many people feel powerless. Where can go from here?
Marianne Williamson: The value of knowing the great religious stories is that they are coded messages. Whether you are talking about the Crucifixion of Jesus followed by the Resurrection, or the Passover story where the Israelites were being chased by the Egyptian soldiers, and so God parted the Red Sea to save them, the point is that faith gives us the power to stand strong during times of darkness - not only waiting for the light, but invoking the light. The last thing, by the way, that we want to do during such times is to numb ourselves inappropriately, because anything that masks or blocks the pain too much also blocks the wisdom that comes with it.
RP: In order to not numb the pain, are you then saying that we need to feel the pain?
MW: Absolutely. It was a very depressing time for many of us, in the aftermath of this presidential election. There were - and are continuing to be - lingering doubts about our democratic process and whether it is even still working. Any conscious person has plenty to be sad about today. We have to feel that sadness in order to move into the deeper spaces of ourselves where hope lies.
RP: You say that to be peacemakers, we have to let go of our judgments. In A Gift of Change, you share the story about a dream you had involving a car accident. Can you please tell that story?
MW: At the time, I was asking God to heal me of my judgments of just about everybody who had any connection to the Bush administration. During my meditation one day, I envisioned a terrible car accident where I was scrambling to save a man's life. This man was trapped inside the car. Once I pulled him out of the car, I realized he was Donald Rumsfeld. When that happened, I felt as though God was trying to show me that Donald Rumsfeld is just another human being and that when I get to that rock bottom realization, I will not only be a more advanced, spiritual student, but probably more effective politically as well.
RP: You refer to those of us who endeavor to walk a spiritual path as "miracle workers," and you say that we are asked to do two things: "see forgiveness as our function, and relinquish all other goals we have invented for ourselves." I imagine that when we are judging, our next step is to work on forgiveness. How do we do this? How do we unlock this sense of unforgiveness that we have when our judgments are so strong?
MW: I don't think that we can do it without God's help. Attack and defense are built into the mental fabric of the world in which we live. Escaping that toxicity, first within ourselves, and then in the world, takes a bit of Divine intervention, and that is what a true spiritual path offers - Divine help in shifting our thought patterns from fear and blame to love and blessings. A true spiritual path is a mind training in which we build the mental musculature to think in a different, more loving and more forgiving way.
RP: If our function is to practice forgiveness, then will we constantly attract opportunities where we will need to forgive?
MW: I wish that I could say 'no', but my experience would tell me 'yes.'
RP: Each time we have an opportunity to forgive, what happens for us?
MW: You either learn the lesson and become even better at it than you were before, or you postpone the lesson and it comes back around in a different form. One of the things that my new book deals with is how I see these principles now, as opposed to how I saw them when I wrote my first book, A Return to Love, 12 years ago. In A Return to Love, an example I used of how hard it can be to forgive someone is that I had to forgive a man for standing me up on a date.
At this point in my life, I can hardly believe that that was ever in my mind as an example of extreme ego cruelty. On the other hand, I wasn't alone. Many people shared with me how much that story meant to them at the time. The truth is a lot of us were more innocent a decade ago. So much has happened to change that.
RP: You talk about the power of ritual as being important for developing our sense of spirituality. You say that "ritual is an outer event that realigns internal forces, lifting them back up to where they came from and where they belong." You further state that when things are going well, we should "perform rituals to praise God," and when things are going badly, "perform rituals to call on your angels to help you endure." What kind of rituals do you like to do when you are in praise?
MW: Prayer itself is the center of all ritual. In my own life, most of my rituals are very simple and personal moments in which I take an action that only God and I would realize represents a moment of praise.
RP: I loved when you said that "God is not the Fed Ex man," or your "Gofer," and that "we talk to God as though we're giving him a shopping list. Please do this for me, and that. Amen." What you believe is that we should be asking God for what He wants, instead of handing him our shopping list. Can you expand upon that?
MW: Most of us, when we think of prayer and our relationship to God, think of an entreaty where we are asking God for this or that. The highest level of prayer is not where we are asking God for anything, but more where we are devoting ourselves to Him and asking Him what we can do for Him.
RP: You advise us to let go of whatever our personal agenda is and be available to hear what God has in store for us. How can we determine the difference between a goal that we've set for ourselves that is coming from our ego consciousness, versus doing what God is empowering us to do?
MW: The goal that I think is most important is that God's will be done in a situation. The goal that is important is that we become the people He would have us be. It is a natural law that when we are dwelling within the fullness of ourselves, we are a conduit for the highest possibilities to come forth. So as long as I have asked, than I am taking the most powerful position in favor of great things happening. It's not, "Dear God, may I have a great career." It's more like, "Dear God, may I be the person whose thoughts are so aligned with Yours that a great career, and everything else for that matter, will naturally unfold."
RP: You offer a beautiful prayer from A Course In Miracles: "Where would you have me go? What would you have me do? And what would you have me say, and to who?" I believe that says it very simply, and in fact, the truths that you are talking about are simple. From your book, I've learned that our interactions with God are not meant to be complicated.
MW: Life on earth is complicated; life in heaven is very simple. Our job is to bring the two together.
RP: You say that "God has a blueprint for creating peace on Earth," and that "pieces of it are ready to be downloaded by anyone who asks to receive his or her part." I think that in regards to bringing heaven and earth together, by quieting ourselves, we get to be part of this blueprint.
MW: Absolutely. The blueprint is not a rational plan; it is more a spiritual illumination that is downloaded into the mortal mind when we are open to receive it. When we are still and at peace in the arms of God, we are in a receptive mode and the plan can then come into us and through us.
RP: You also make a very valid point that most of us are not meditating anymore. Our lives are sped up and everybody is busy. You encourage us to prioritize our time for spiritual work.
MW: We always have excuses and we resist so often the things that are best for us. Whether it's physical exercise or spiritual exercise, there's a part of us that resists doing the things that would make our lives better.
RP: I heard a quote from Rev. Deborah Johnson in Santa Cruz, California, who said, "Everybody wants transformation; nobody wants to change."
MW: That's a great quote.
RP: I believe that you offer a recipe for personal transformation where you say: "1) name your character defect; 2) surrender it to God, and 3) ask him to remove it."
MW: So many times we don't want to look at our own character defects. We don't want to look at the part that we're playing in keeping our lives stuck or creating this or that disaster. As A Course In Miracles says, "Only when you see the part you've played in creating a problem do you see that you can change it." Taking a good and honest look at ourselves is an important part of the true spiritual journey.
RP: You talk about our generation as being "spiritually lazy;" and how "we're the only generation in the history of the world that wants to reinvent society over white wine and brie." When people say, "We've tried so hard," your reply is, "No we haven't. Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, and Susan B. Anthony made the supreme and noble effort. Most of us are making little effort to change, but are feeling frustrated that the world's not changing..."
MW: It's significant to remember that abolitionists didn't have faxes or cell phones, or even typewriters. The odds against them were seemingly surmountable, but they had on their side, a true and righteous idea that all people should be free. They were bolstered and aided by that idea. The same is true today because an eternal principle is at work there. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "No lie can last forever."
RP: You also make the point that Susan B. Anthony did not live to see the results of her efforts, which gave women the right to vote. Can we ever know what our role will produce? I think that we just have to do the best we can.
MW: As they say, "You need to be fully invested in an effort, while being detached from the outcome."
RP: That sounds easier said than done. How can we detach from the outcome? Does that mean to just surrender to God?
MW: Most of this is easier said than done. A spiritual path is about an overall detachment from the material plane in a way. The miraculous shift in our lives is a shift from body identification to spirit identification.
RP: Realizing that we are not children of the world, so much as creators in Spiritů
MW: Children of God. A Course In Miracles says that "we are heir to the laws of whichever world we identify with."
RP: Can you talk about the power of the Holy Instant?
MW: In terms of A Course In Miracles, the Holy Instant is the building block of enlightenment. It is any given moment when we allow our minds to dwell fully in the love of God, detaching from the fear-based thought forms that dominate our world. An enlightened master is someone who has moved into that space in every moment and every day. With practice, most of us make it one moment at a time. The moment when we succeed is a Holy Instant.
RP: You say, "Live in continuous communion with God. Surrender every perception for His blessing and review." You further state that "when we are radically available to Him, we will find Him radically available to us." To me, that is being in the Holy Instant.
RP: I noticed that you repeated one quote a number of times, which is: "Only what we are not giving can be lacking in any situation."
MW: That is the line from A Course In Miracles that does more for me than any other. We're constantly in situations where something isn't working the way we wish. We instinctively blame someone else, or at least some factor outside ourselves. Yet, A Course In Miracles says, "Only what we are not giving can be lacking in any situation." So to train your mind to think along those lines - "What am I not giving here?" "Who am I not forgiving?" "What am I not contributing?" "What is the goodwill that I am withholding?" - radically transforms where we dwell within a situation. And where we will dwell within a situation determines whether or not we have any transformative power there.
RP: You state that the illusion that we are separate is the source of all our pain. To shift from separation to relationship, you encourage us to visualize "a golden light radiating from our hearts, which extends beyond our bodies and casts a light unto the entire world." Then you invite us to "imagine a friend or foe standing next to us and see the same light in them," and "let their light merge with ours." Have you ever done this with someone who you consider to be a foe?
MW: Yes, of course. I think it would be a very good idea for all of us to do this with the Moslem world in general.
RP: There are a number of places where you talk about all minds being joined. For example you say, "Since all minds are joined, conflict between any two of us contributes to war, and reconciliation between any two of us takes us to peace. Our smallest judgment adds to war, and our smallest forgiveness adds to peace." I like the concept that all minds are joined, but I don't understand how this is so. Can you please explain this?
MW: The Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, posited the notion of the collective unconscious. That is the idea that if you go deep enough into your mind and deep enough into mine, there are mental images, or archetypes, that we all share. A Course In Miracles takes that concept one step further. "If you go deep enough into your mind, and deep enough into mine, we share the same mind." It's like the aspen trees in Colorado; they are actually all part of one root system.
RP: Do you believe that everything is in Divine Right Order in the world, even if it might not appear to be?
MW: No, I do not. Slavery is not Divine Right Order; a holocaust is not Divine Right Order. But I do believe that every situation has the potential for Divine Right Order, because no matter where we go, God goes with us. The philosophy of A Course In Miracles is that, while we have freewill and can direct our minds away from Divine Order, God has placed the Holy Spirit in our minds to turn us back to the Divine when we ask Him to. In that sense, all things contain the seeds of Divine Right Order.
RP: So, it is up to us to pray for that.
MW: Yes. Now, A Course In Miracles says that this world in which things are not in Divine Right Order is itself a vast mortal hallucination because, in fact, only love exists as an eternal and ultimate reality. But that doesn't mean that we are to avoid the world or ignore it, or claim that it's in Divine Right Order. It's absolutely not in Divine Right Order and our mission on this earth is to claim it for that realm.
RP: Regarding our role as being "miracle workers," you encourage us "to think with so much love that fear begins to lose the false authority by which it rules the world."
MW: That is exactly my point.
RP: Then you invite people to "think of a world in which there is only love and hold that thought for several minutes each day." You further state, "Our thinking will lead to our acting to make it so."
MW: Thank you.
RP: In the book, you tell the story about three people who lost their loved ones at the World Trade Center. They were being interviewed by a journalist who asked each one of them if they wanted revenge. None of them wanted revenge. All of them wanted the violence to stop. The only one who wanted revenge was the journalist! Why do you think that is?
MW: I think that heartbreak has a way of taking us back to our "right minds," and our realization of our oneness with other people. When war is theoretical - when someone else is fighting it, or when you can distance yourself emotionally from the horror of it - it's easier to commit to it. The closer violence comes to you, the more committed you become to try to transform it.
RP: You say that "we believe more in the limitations of the world than in the limitlessness of God. If we were to open up more to the limitlessness of God then any manner of miracles could be possible."
MW: Absolutely. That's such an important point right now because, as you said at the beginning of this conversation, so many people are depressed, which is understandable. I've been depressed myself over things that have been going on, but we need to remember the first sentence in A Course In Miracles: "there is no order of difficulty in miracles."
RP: That's a very powerful statement. You say that "each of us has the opportunity to grow into the fullness of our potential in order to take our place in God's plan." You also state that "our primary function is to stand in the light of who we are and become the people we are capable of being," and that "one of the most important things we can do is to support the greatness in each other."
MW: Very few of us become our best without someone around us cheering us on.
RP: You talk about three different levels of relationship that we engage in with people, and you call these relationships, "teaching assignments." You identify the "casual relationship," which might involve a moment when you smile at someone on an elevator; "fairly intense learning experiences," such as an ongoing interaction with someone until you move from an area), and "lifelong assignments," such as with one's family. Your cheering team could be any of those. Correct?
MW: Absolutely. It's amazing how sometimes somebody who doesn't even know you just says something, and it creates the breakthrough that you were looking for.
RP: You state that "all who meet will someday meet again until their relationship becomes holy." I'm wondering, how holy do our relationships have to become?
MW: I think that a holy relationship is one in which we are able to
find peace with each other because we radically accept each other as
we are. I suppose that is a line from A Course In Miracles. I don't
think that it necessarily means that you will meet the other person
in this lifetime, although perhaps you will, but it does open the mind
to patience. If you didn't get it right with someone, pray about it,
forgive, process the relationship in a more spiritual direction and
just know this will come around again. For further information, visit
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