Women with Wings: Part 4
An Interview with
Marianne Williamson Spiritual Leader and Author
By Maryel McKinley, Ph.D.(c) C.AD.C
As part of a continuing series featuring outstanding women, Awareness Magazine has selected Marianne Williamson for our relationships issue. Ms. Williamson is the spiritual leader of the Church of Today in Detroit, Michigan, and has written several best sellers, including her most recent focusing on the mystical power of intimate relationships “Enchanted Love”.
Maryel: It is an honor for me to interview you, and I want to thank you for all the work you have done; you have really helped change my life as well as the lives of many of my friends and colleagues. You have been selected for the Women with Wings series, joining Mary Ellen Angelscribe, Dr. Caroline Myss and Dr. Judith Orloff, M.D.
Marianne: Oh, Dr. Orloff is speaking at the church where I work tonight!
Maryel: Wow, what a coincidence, she is very dear to me — tell her I said Hello!
Marianne: I will!
Maryel: How long have you been the spiritual leader of the Unity Church of Today?
Marianne: Two years.
Maryel: Do you ever experience intuitive dreams or experiences?
Marianne: I think everyone does. I don’t believe there are any powers, which in the larger sense, are unnatural or even supernatural. I think we just do not yet scientifically understand all of the powers inherent in the human consciousness, and the more attuned we are to the realm of spirit, the more our conscious mind is available to subconscious, spiritual prompting.
Maryel: What does your spiritual practice look like on a daily basis?
Marianne: A Course in Miracles, transcendental meditation, and probably most important of all, my efforts to practice the principles on a deeper basis every day. To expand my awareness in the areas where I am doing well, and to heal in those areas where I am still lagging behind.
Maryel: So do you actually do the Course of Miracles exercises, or do you read from the book?
Marianne: The workbook exercises.
Maryel: According to the Course of Miracles, there is no devil, so how do we account for evil, or darkness.
Marianne: There is the ego, remember.
Maryel: So how do we get rid of fear?
Marianne: The Course of Miracles says that fear is to darkness what love is to light. So when you go into a dark room, you don’t get rid of darkness by hitting it with a baseball bat. You get rid of the darkness by turning on the light. Same with Love and Fear. Where enough love is present, fear is cast out.
Maryel: What is the best way for people to create lasting change? I know that as a therapist I often see clients who are like the phoenix. They will do really well for three months, then go into a deep depression.
Marianne: The human mind cannot create lasting change. The lasting change comes form a Divine source. And we can only contact a Divine source on a moment-by-moment basis.
Maryel: So it is being in the present then?
Marianne: It is daily meditation and daily prayer, and yes, that moment-by-moment being in the present. First of all, remember lasting change by definition keeps you tied to a perception of time. Time doesn’t exist. Only the present moment exists. So, if you want lasting, real lasting means an eternity. The only place eternity intercepts time is in the present. So it is literally a moment-by-moment thing. Grace is given moment by moment. The metaphysical tradition doesn’t believe the ‘fall on the road to Damascus thing’ where you are struck by lightning and foreverafter you are a perfect enlightened master. I think that is probably a dangerous concept. I believe we have moments, where we are at the top of the mountain with a clear vision of things, and we are centered in our noble possibilities within ourselves. But at the same time, just as you said about that three-month period, the top of one mountain tends to be the bottom of the next. Until we are enlightened Masters, we will always be in phases of growth. So the fact that you are now happy, and in the next period of your life you have challenges, doesn’t really mean there is an absence of lasting change. Look at nature, it never stops changing. One of the aspects of lasting change is constant change!
Maryel: I love that answer, it is very enlightening. How can people prevent repeating patterns?
Marianne: At this point in development of the consciousness, people know the answers to these questions. Asking the question is, at this point, a technique to avoid practicing what we already know to be true. If you have a pattern that is not changing, we all know this from recovery work — a patter that doesn’t change is called an addiction. We have to look to the Power in us, but not of us, that can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
Maryel: Kind of like a 12-step thing.
Maryel: What is your experience with 12-step work?
Marianne: Certainly, it is one of the serious spiritual source materials of which I am aware.
Maryel: Are you ever planning to run for political office?
Marianne: I am very much into politics, but what interests me is sacred principles applied to that area. You know, many people are interested in alternative health who are never going to become doctors, or practitioners. That is how I am about politics. I am interested in the intersection of the Spiritual and the political — how spiritual principles apply to the social and political issues of our day. For me, the spiritual realm, is a more powerful place to speak from on those issues. So no, I am not planning to run for office.
Maryel: I loved your children’s book, “Emma and Mommy Talk to God”. Are you planning to write any more books for children or teenagers?
Marianne: I don’t have any particular inspiration right now, but I might write something of value to teenagers in the future.
Maryel: Are you doing any television ministries?
Marianne: the Church of Today tapes are broadcast throughout Michigan and several other states.
Maryel: We don’t get it in California, I really wish we could.
Marianne: You can order them on the web at Churchoftoday.com or www.marianne.com.
Maryel: What do you believe is the key to successful relationships?
Marianne: In my experience it is kindness and forbearance. I think relationship, by definition, means you are really getting close to each other. In “Enchanted Love” I talk about if we are really going to get intimate with each other we are going to touch each other’s wounds. Let’s say you are in a car accident, God forbid. You will have all these bruises and cuts and bumps on your body. That is what life is like, over time. The nurses in the hospital approach you very tenderly; I think we need to approach each other very tenderly. Regarding forbearance, when our wounds are exposed, they show up in our behavior and that is not always easy to accept in another person. I think we have to forbear, because the closer we get to someone, the more we realize that love is big work. And it takes some guts to stay with that work.
Maryel: In “Enchanted Love”, you identify romantic love as our newest spiritual frontier and spirituality as our next relationship frontier; can you explain in more depth for our readers?
Marianne: In pursuing personal growth, there are issues where we can advance just so far by ourselves. At some point, our continued progress and improvement can only come about through relationships with others. Romantic love is an intense and intimate exposure to another person; if we can be who we want to be, even in that context, then our spiritual growth is exponentially expanded.
Maryel: What do you mean by relationship frontier?
Marianne: As far as the relationship frontier is concerned, spirituality is the next step because we’ve basically done all we can do from the level of personality.
Maryel: What is the next phase for our species?
Marianne: The next phase for the species, and thus for relationships, is to move into our spiritual center and live from there. Nothing can fundamentally improve any more without a spiritual overhaul.
Maryel: How does society currently reflect this new attitude? Are people yearning for a spiritual overhaul?
Marianne: People are tired of violence. We are tired of fighting. There is a yearning for peace and a profound new peace between men and women would go a long way toward healing the entire culture. It would help set our families right and ultimately our whole society.
Maryel: How does society currently reflect this new attitude towards love?
Marianne: Several years ago people who didn’t think they would ever pray or meditate, started to do so. Now, it is something couples are sharing. It is the smart thing to do, old-fashioned, but very powerful. The family that prays together stays together on some level.
Maryel: That is for sure. Old fashioned doesn’t have to mean it doesn’t work! Why reinvent the wheel! I know my husband and I pray together, but do you think it is really possible for a couple to maintain and live in what you describe as the ‘sacred dimension of romance’?
Marianne: Why wouldn’t we? It is just choice. The sacred dimension doesn’t mean there is no struggle going on in a relationship. It simply means there is a context of healing and conscious growth that wasn’t there before, a turning to a Higher Power for help in carrying the couple through hard times. It means making love a sacred adventure.
Maryel: In your opinion, what do you see as common obstacles to achieving romantic attachment?
Marianne: That he’s selfish, that she’s clingy, that he’s distracted, that she’s narcissistic, that he’s judgmental, that she’s irresponsible, need I go on?
Maryel: As a therapist I have seen a similar pattern. It seems people will nitpick in an effort to avoid true intimacy. When this is pointed out to struggling couples, many times it sheds light on the fact that the person is actually afraid of what they long for — intimacy! I love in your book where you said a key to enchanted love is making forgiveness a fundamental commitment.
Marianne: Forgiveness is key to enchanted love because it is key to living right, period. It is the capacity to see beyond the veil of personality and worldly illusions. No one is perfect or attractive every day. Forgiveness means we are capable of relating to someone on a deeper level than the ordinary self. And that we are committed to doing so no matter what the appearances are, no matter what the situation is. It takes mystical insight to see the beauty and innocence in each other, even when that is not what we are showing to the world. That is why God is needed in intimate relationships, to move us beyond the perceptions that can so often poison love.
Maryel: Another favorite part of the book was where you wrote: “So often the issue is not learning how to attract love, but rather, how to recognize love.”
Marianne: So often what we’ve prayed for is right before our eyes, but we are too busy defending against it. Every time we focus on someone else’s darkness, we are blocking our own view of the light. We think the person we are involved with has attacked us or has withheld love from us, when they really haven’t. We focus on their guilt instead of their innocence. Frequently people are just being themselves and we start projecting our own childhood dramas onto them, pushing away the very love we want so much. Then we wonder when our soulmate is going to show up, and the answer to that, of course, is when we stop running from them.
Maryel: As you know, I have read all of your previous books, and your work has been fundamental in my own spiritual growth. With “Enchanted Love”, I see how you have built upon your former books, such as bestsellers: “Illuminata”, “Return to Love”, and “A Woman’s Worth”.
Marianne: All of those other books have dealt with relationships and all of them have touched on the subject of intimacy. In “Enchanted Love”, (see review on page 7) however, intimate love is the whole ball of wax. It is the entire context of the book. Whether you are in a relationship, or just thinking about it, getting clear with God on the subject can go a long way toward making it right. At least that has been my experience!
Maryel: Will you be coming to Southern California again soon?
Marianne: I don’t know right now, but if I do, I will definitely let you know!
Maryel McKinley is a certified therapist and a doctoral candidate in Psychology. She is a nationally syndicated columnist and book reviewer and can be reached at email@example.com or (714) 396-4314.
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