I first saw Marianne Williamson speak when she had a profound conversation with Eckhart Tolle about what she called "midwifing the new consciousness," and she talked about all of the ways in which we can connect with presence in our everyday lives. In this interview, I was able to speak with Marianne about discovering our unity with and relatedness to others, and coming to accept the light of our true being so that we can find our true purpose in life.
You've spent many years founding and running non-profit and social enterprises. How did you find your own sense of purpose in serving the community around you?
I don't think of purpose as something we "find," I think of it as something we "are." Language is a limitation here, tempting us to think that our purpose is something separate from, somehow outside our being. As I see it, a human being is both a particle and a wave, both a noun and a verb.
I've tried, more and less successfully at different moments of my life, to simply be the highest manifestation of myself. And we're never at our highest manifestation if we're thinking only of ourselves. How can someone look at all the suffering in the world, then not give a damn, not get involved, and still go around trying to "find their purpose?" We all have the same purpose: to love and be loved, to be the light that casts out darkness, wherever we are in whatever way we can. It's not something given to us, but rather something we give the world. It's not something revealed to us; it's something revealed by us and through us.
When you spoke with Eckhart to share your teachings, it provided an opportunity for communities of like-minded people to come together. How can building connections to others contribute to finding inspiration?
No cell in the body is intended to exist on its own. Every cell is created to be part of a collaborative matrix, in which it is naturally guided to work with other cells to foster the health of the organ they're part of. The fullest actualization of any one cell is its relationship to other cells. A cell that has forgotten this -- that has been disconnected from its natural guidance system and simply goes off to do its own thing -- is called cancer. And that image, that pattern, is what has happened to the human race. We've contracted a spiritual malignancy: a forgetfulness that we're here to collaborate, a sick thought that we're just here to do whatever we want without regard to a larger whole. And of course that is a diseased condition, whether in the body or in a civilization.
It says in A Course in Miracles not to look to ourselves to find ourselves, because that's not where we are. Our true being lies not in the reality of our separated, isolated existence, but in our unity with and relatedness to others. So community is simply our natural state. We seek it not only to find others but to find our true selves.
Why do you think that we often repeat the same patterns of struggle in our lives?
Because the ego -- the loveless mind -- is powerful, insidious, and active within us.
In speaking with Eckhart, you said that "we are a perfect idea in the mind of God". Knowing this, how can we use this knowledge in our daily lives?
When I'm in a bad mood, I'm not being God's image of me. When I'm acting like a jerk, I'm not being God's image of me. When I'm negative or angry or defensive, I'm not being God's image of me. And knowing that God has a perfect image of me -- that my true being is a perfect idea in His mind -- enables me to more easily say to myself, "You know, Marianne. This is not who you are. This neurotic woman you're play acting right now is not the real you. You are lost right now, but God's image of you remains perfect and changeless behind the dark clouds of your confusion. If you will go into your heart right this second, for one Holy Instant, and pray to be returned to your true Self, you will be shown the path to forgiveness and love." That's not theory; it's a practical tool. And of course it's a miracle as well.
What practical tools or processes do you suggest to support the awakening process?
Morning practice. Most people get up in the morning and wash their bodies because they don't want to take yesterday's dirt with them into the new day. But it's just as important to wash yesterday's stress off our minds. A Course in Miracles says miracles are everyone's right, but purification is necessary first. We need to purify ourselves of the fear, the attack thoughts, the defensiveness fostered by our mortal experience, in order to be truly empowered. "Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love;" we need to release the fear in order to get to the love.
You have said that "Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us." Why do you think this is the case? Where does that fear come from?
The light of our true being is terrifying to the ego because it is the death of the ego. So whenever we're approaching the truth, the ego goes, "No! No!" It's simply trying to preserve itself. Yet it has to die in order for us to truly live.
It literally comes from nowhere, because it doesn't actually exist. It's just an illusion of who we are. It's simply the hallucination of a separate self, what A Course in Miracles calls our "detour into fear."
What can you recommend on the process of finding forgiveness for people who have brought negativity into one's life?
I try to remember that if I were in a perfect state myself, then they wouldn't bother me. That doesn't always get me right into a non-reactive, enlightened state, mind you - but it starts the process. The work is never about anyone else; it's always about ourselves. We weren't created to be at the effect of anyone else's negativity, so if we are, then it's not about them but about us.
What are your recommendations on how can people with restricted incomes strive to practice?
Spirituality is an inside job. Forgiveness does not cost money, meditation does not cost money, prayer does not cost money, and love does not cost money. And all of them, by the way, save time.
Where do you think that your spiritual path is taking you next?
Hopefully to greater inner peace on a more consistent basis. I get there, but I want to get there and always stay there.
Why did you decide to get more deeply involved in the political world? What was your inspiration?
A new paradigm, holistic perspective now saturates many areas of our society -- from education to business to medicine to spirituality -- but our politics seem to be outside its reach. And we can't afford to turn away from politics; we might not touch it, but it certainly touches us. The increasingly calcified thought forms that dominate it today -- based more on the past than the present, more on fear than on love, and more on economic than humanitarian values -- threaten to sabotage so much of what makes life beautiful.
I don't think electoral politics can be left out of the equation when it comes to a serious effort to transform the world. How can we talk about love as it applies to everything except politics? People say they're trying to be conscious and awake about everything else, but we can't be selective about what we're conscious about and still call ourselves conscious! I think that if you know how to transform one life then you know how to change the world, because the world is simply a huge group of people. And that's why our community should be the last people sitting out the political process. We're withholding our gifts if we withhold our conversation.
For more on Eckhart Tolle, please click here.
Marianne Williamson is an American spiritual teacher and author of several bestselling books. Her work has been inspired by A Course in Miracles, which aims to help people achieve spiritual transformation. Marianne is the instigator of Project Angel Food, a meals-on-wheels program that serves homebound people with AIDS, and she is a key force in a grass roots campaign to establish a United States Department of Peace. For more information on Marianne's work, please click here.