Powerful pioneer in new thought and spirituality, bestselling author Meditation, Mistakes, Emotional Pain and Vulnerability
Maranda Pleasant: What are the things that make you come most alive?
Marianne Williamson: I can’t say that there are “things” that make me come alive. There are thoughts that make me come alive. Those are thoughts that take me beyond myself; that remind me that there’s a bigger game going on on this planet than simply my own existence; that love works miracles, and how much we need them now.
MP: What are things or thoughts that make you feel vulnerable?
MW: Intimacy. I think that’s true for everyone. Both the gift and the burden of real closeness with another human being.
MP: How do you handle emotional pain when it comes in?
MW: I surrender it to God, knowing that the pain itself is a product or a reflection of how I am interpreting whatever it is that is causing me pain. Some pain is simply the normal grief of human existence. That is pain that I try to make room for. I honor my grief. I try to be kinder to myself. I give myself time to move through and to process whatever is making me sad.
There are other kinds of emotional pain that emerge from our own mistaken thinking. As we surrender that pain, we are inviting into our thought system a guide who will lead us to different thoughts. It’s like the song “Amazing Grace”: I was blind and now I see. Often on a journey of spiritual transformation, that is ultimately what heals the pain: the veil is removed from in front of our own eyes and we see where we had been thinking thoughts that would inevitably lead to pain. Until we change those thoughts, the pain will remain.
MP: Is there a practice that you have for maintaining your center, for maintaining balance in the middle of chaos?
MW: I’m a student of A Course in Miracles, so I do the workbook every day. I also do Transcendental Meditation. If I am disciplined about either of those on any given day, I have a far greater probability of remaining peaceful, at least until dinner.
MP: [laughing] It seems like every person I’m talking to is doing TM now.
MW: I’ve had a TM mantra since 1973.
MP: I need to start. Let’s talk about your book, The Law of Divine Compensation. It talks about money and work and love. What is special about this book?
MW: That was born of circumstances that are anything but special; it was born of circumstances that are quite distressing. And that’s that this last recession really pummeled people. A level of anxiety and tension and outright fear that so many people have felt, not only during the recession but during this slow economic recovery since. This made me very much want to up the conversation about how miracle-minded thinking applies to that area of life. In A Course in Miracles, it says you think you have many different problems, but you really only have one, and that is your separation from God, which means your separation from loving thought. We are dominated on this planet by a fear-based rather than a love-based thought system. Enlightenment involves relinquishing the thought system based on fear and instead accepting a thought system based on love.
In the area of work and money, we have one of the most intense gaps between fear-based and love-based thought. It’s not that a miracle mindset applies to work and money any more than it applies to anything else; rather, it applies there no less than anywhere else. The world we live in pictures a pie with only so many pieces, and if other people have more you have less, and you have to compete with other people in order to try to get ahead. You have to sell yourself at every available opportunity. The shift, the enlightened shift, has to do with a movement from competition to collaboration, from sales to service, from ambition to inspiration, and to a belief in scarcity to a belief in abundance as an eternal spiritual quality.
The Law of Divine Compensation posits that this is a self-organizing and self-correcting universe: the embryo becomes a baby, the bud becomes a blossom, the acorn becomes an oak tree. Clearly, there is some invisible force that is moving every aspect of reality to its next best expression. And the universe is not only self-organizing, it is also self-correcting. The embryo becomes a baby; the baby is born; its lungs continue to breathe—not only were they created but then they continue to breathe. The heart is not only created but it continues to breathe. If there is injury and disease that becomes present within the body, the body is also equipped with an immune system to correct that.
The metaphysical notion here is that that self-organizing and self-correcting imprint is on all aspects of reality. So not only was your body formed by this invisible hand, not only does your body continue to work by this invisible hand, but every aspect of your life—emotionally, physiologically, and spiritually—is also programmed to thrive, is also programmed for self-organization and self-correction. Now, if we only identify with the mortal world, then we identify with a level of scarcity and lack and brokenness, and that will be our experience. But if we shift our experience of self-identification—and this is what enlightenment is—from the body-self to the spiritual-self, then we place ourselves under an entirely different set of possibilities and probabilities. And we can invoke spiritual compensation when we find ourselves in situations of material lack. In other words, what happens for most of us is that we are tempted and we are taught, we are trained as it were, to meet limited circumstances with limited thought. If we lose a job, we are easily tempted into thoughts like, “Ain’t it awful? There aren’t any jobs out there. This is terrible. It’ll be awhile before the economy comes back. Even if they’re hiring someone, they’re not hiring someone my age with my resume.” And that’s really what causes the crash and burn. The fact is, there are Fortune 500 companies that have been founded during recessions.
The issue of spiritual power is to meet the limited mortal circumstance with unlimited thought. As in, “Yes, this is a temporary deviation from love’s flow, but it is only happening on the mortal plane; love itself compensates for any diminishment. Much like a GPS, love re-calibrates itself if you’ve made a wrong turn.” As long as you identify with the universe—which is perfect and can correct material conditions to bring them back into alignment with that Divine perfection—as long as that is where your mind is aligned, it’s as though there were two parallel universes. You decide with every thought you think which one you’re going to inhabit. Two parallel universes of experience, as it were. I think with the economy having moved into the dark tunnels of our current situation, this is information which is helpful for a lot of people.
MP: What is your biggest struggle that is reflected in the book?
MW: I wouldn’t say it’s my biggest struggle, but my biggest past mistakes have been when I made decisions out of ego rather than spirit. When I acted too quickly. When I wasn’t contemplative or reflective or prayerful enough, and I ended up making what I would only later see to be unwise decisions. That’s what the journey is about—the thinking of the world leads us to think shallowly and act too quickly. The spiritual journey has to do with learning to think more deeply and take as long a time as we need. That’s the path to wisdom.
When it comes to our money and work lives, most of us have had our challenges, our valleys. Most of us have a couple of files in our head. One, I name “It was my own damn fault.” And the other one I name, “I don’t know how I will ever forgive those bastards.” Forgiving ourselves for all the woulda-shoulda-couldas in life, and sometimes forgiving others for actions that we feel undercut or undermine our good, can be very challenging. But forgiveness of the past and mistakes, our own mistakes as well as the mistakes of others, is imperative if we are to dwell fully in the present and experience the miracles that are only available to the forgiving and loving mind.
MP: I want to ask you with your time with Oprah and “Super Soul Sunday.” Is there anything particularly special to you about that exchange?
MW: It was special because that particular interview was about my book, Return to Love, which came out twenty years ago. Oprah having the book on her program when it first came out catapulted it to success in a way that would absolutely not have occurred otherwise. She opened up fields of possibility and experience for me, professionally, that I will be eternally grateful for. She reran a couple of interviews from twenty years ago, and we both had a good laugh about the hairdos and shoulder pads. It was very fun and very funny.
MP: Aww, the shoulder pads. Love you both. Really excited about your new book.