I recently heard that Marianne Williamson, the internationally acclaimed spiritual teacher was expected to be in Los Angeles and would lecture at a local venue. There was an incredible online buzz about this pending event as many of her followers’ blogged about the anticipated magic of being in her space. She has authored approximately 10 books, many of which have placed 1 or 2 on the New York Times Bestsellers. She has appeared on Oprah, Good Morning America, Larry King Live, Charlie Rose and other programs. According to Marianne, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” This quote was from her book A Return To Love: Reflections of the Principles of A Course in Miracles. I was convinced that I wanted to be there in person to hear her lecture. When I arrived, I saw people literally running and/or walking very fast from every direction to get into the theater. That night, she agreed to speak with me the following week so that Our Weekly readers would have an opportunity to know about the teachings. Her lectures are on Tuesdays, Regent Showcase Theatre, 614 N. La Brea Ave., LA, CA 90036, 7:30 p.m. See: www.marianne.com
Natalie Cole (Cole): You have such a strong following. There were so many people there who have been following you for 20-30 years. I haven’t necessarily seen any of your interviews on television, but somehow I have been aware of your work and teachings. I happen to live my life based on many of the principles that I heard you lecture on last month.
Marianne Williamson (Williamson): Well, they are universal principles of course so, you could have heard them in all different kinds of places.

Cole: Absolutely. Much of the teachings remind me of a recent time when many people were sharing and discussing “The Secret” and, as I recall, much of it was about the laws of attraction and my thinking was, “this is how I live.” So why all of the fuss?
Williamson: Yes, so that was not some new principle.

Cole: How do you define your teachings, is it religion, spirituality; is it metaphysics?
Williamson: A Course in Miracles (A spiritual thought system that teaches the way to Universal Love through Forgiveness) is not a religion. It calls itself a physiological minds training based on universal spiritual themes. I think that is important because students of A Course in Miracles come from all religions and no religions. The (information is) universal spiritual themes at the heart of all deep religious and spiritual source material. So it’s not coming from a place of theology or religious doctrine. A Course in Miracles says a universal theology is neither possible nor necessary, but a universal experience is. And that experience, of course, has to do with our capacity to love and forgive one another. So when I talk about the principles in A Course in Miracles are the same principles, when they are enunciated in other religious or spiritual text. Some people hear this and think of it in purely religious terms, and other people think of it in purely psychological terms. And ultimately it doesn’t matter. A Course in Miracles says, that religion and psycho-therapy, at their peak are the same thing. Because what we are talking about is the healing of the mind. Mahatma Ghandi once said that the problem of the world is that humanity is not in its right mind.

Cole: Wow that’s very interesting …Did you just give me an exhaustive perspective on the principles of A Course in Miracles?
Williamson: Well it’s certainly not an exhaustive perspective of anything. But a kind of overall view on its relationship to religion per say. But for an overview of what A Course in Miracles says, it is basically this: That love is real. It is eternal, it is the mind of God and everything else is an illusion manufactured by the human mind when it has become dissociated from God’s love. So we live in a three dimensional world which clearly does not always embody or reflect the love within us. That as we find the love within us and stand on the ground of that love and relay to other people from that place and extend that love, then the material world reflects that transformation in our thinking. The material world is, in effect, the cause of which is human consciousness. So as we change our thoughts, we literally change our world.

Cole: OK. How do you find that love? It sounds like it’s a deeper love than what the average person practices or is familiar with. We love our mother, we love our spouses, and we love our children. But the love you refer to seems like a deeper love and one that would require we love everyone just for the sake of love.
Williamson: I don’t think that the love that we are called to in order to transform and save the world is deeper than the love that we have for our parents or our children or our family and friends. It is not that it is a deeper love, it is that we more universally apply it. It is a love that seems to be more universally applicable. I don think I can get a deeper love than the love I have for my child. But what I can get to is a deeper love for other people’s children. And that is the love that will save the world. It is a love that is not selective. It is a love. Martin Luther King Jr. said ‘Thank God, God didn’t tell me that I have to love my enemies. He said I have to like them.’ It is our ability and that was such a moving example and that to me was a part of the process–that you are willing to hold a space to love people that do not like you. Well even people who you do not like, in fact the highest love is that you can love people who not only don’t like you, but hate you.

Cole: So you can love people who hate you or you can love people that you really don’t like.
Williamson: I think that the problem with the world now is not so much, if you actually look at the condition of the planet is less about, our inability to love people that we do not like and more about our willingness to ignore people that we do not know. When we can, one of these things we talked about at the lecture last month was that loving your own children is not enough. There were slave owners that loved their children, Nazi guards that loved their children. We must expand our capacity to love, where we care if there is a child suffering on the other side of town, on the other side of the world. Maybe on a personal level, I do not love that child as deeply on a personal level as I would love my own child. But as I evolve spiritually, my fierce concern for the child on the other side of town, for the child on the other side of the world, matches the concern that I have for my own child. We have become such a small world that ultimately you come to realize that the only way you can care deeply and appropriately for your own children is to care about the children on other side of the world, because more and more we truly are all in this together.

Cole: Yes we are. How does one go about practicing and living from such principles, as these are almost foreign principles to some people. So how do you get started?
Williamson: Well, they might be foreign principles to the mind but they are common sense to the heart. Love is not something that we have to find because it never went away. It is who we are; it is the truth of the heart. What the course in any serious path does, is removes the blocks to love’s presence. In A Course in Miracles, it says that this course does not aim to teach the meaning of love for that is beyond what can be taught. It does however aim to remove , the blocks to loves presence. There are times in life, let’s say a baby has been born, and there is the magic of that moment, and people are in the hospital and there is just magic in the air. There is also magic in the air, when people die. There are times in life, when we are reminded of the rock bottom truth. And in the moments when we are reminded of the rock bottom truth, we are living in the rock bottom place. So we are not talking about coming up with some new experience for humanity. What we are talking about is in our own individual lives, living more authentically from the truth of our being. If it is not the truth that you would say in your last breath then it is not your deepest truth.

Cole: That’s deep. But, when you talk about removing the blocks of awareness, is that to say that we all have similar blocks; which is much about the way the world is today and all the things that we are up against and life being such, you know the whole daily grind in which many of us find ourselves? What are the blocks?
Williamson: Well, there is one basic block, and that is the false belief that we are separate from one another and all the other blocks derive from that one fundamental error. That is the metaphysical meaning of original sin. That is the first misconception. If I believe that I am separate from you then, it will follow, that I find myself either superior to you or inferior to you. Usually a roller coaster, and in that place I have lost my conscious contact with our oneness and therefore our love for each other. A Course in Miracles says that love is to fear what light is to darkness. So when light is absent, darkness sets in and when love is absent, fear sets in. So once I lose my sense for our oneness, I lose contact with my love for you, fear sets in, and we are off to the races. Whether it is a casual disagreement or an all out war, the reflection of that will be felt.

Cole: OK. You mentioned in the lecture, something that I found to be very thought provoking, and I’m paraphrasing; you mentioned something about the fact that we continue to move beyond our physical selves so when I am in your space my body is like a suit, so to speak, but that my presence and my spirituality reaches beyond that physicalness. Tell my readers a little about that.
Williamson: Well, the reality of God is beyond time and space. Albert Einstein said that time and space are illusions of consciousness, and that is basically what the course says as well. So right now if you identify, if you base your sense of reality on the realm of time and space you are wherever you are. I don’t know if you’re in Los Angeles, but you are in some physical space different than where I am right?

Cole: Right.
Williamson: So within three dimensional reality you are over there, and I am over here.
And then the world view, that dominates the human consciousness at this time is such that it is very easy for me to conclude that you and I are separate. Because, after all, you are somewhere else, and you and I are just talking on the phone. But A Course in Miracles says that in the realm of the spirit, there is no place where one person stops and another person starts. We are joined on the level of mind which is one of the reasons why the technological level is so profound.
So, A Course in Miracles says that we are like sunbeams thinking we are separate from other sunbeams. We are like waves in the ocean thinking we are separate from other waves. But in fact, there is no place where one sunbeam stops and another starts. There is no place where one wave stops and the other starts.
Now think about this, if I am a wave, and I think that I am separate from the entirety of the ocean, then how powerful I can possibly feel? I feel like one tiny little wave surrounded by this huge ocean. I feel powerless, I feel like I could be overwhelmed by the rest of the ocean. It is not a powerful position. However, if I think of myself as one with the ocean because, in fact I am, then I do not identify myself as just one tiny little wave. I identify myself with the power of the ocean.
A Course in Miracles says that you are heir to the laws that rule the world you identify with. So most people think of themselves as tied to the world of limitation because, they think of themselves in limited terms. If you see yourself as only your body, you are identifying with limitation. If you’d rather identify with the oneness of spirit with everyone and everything, then you are lifted in your thinking and will therefore be lifted in your experience.
And that is what a miracle is. It is a shift in perception from me to we; a shift in perception from thoughts that keep you in my experience of you separate from me–which will always be any thought of judgment or blame–to a realm where I can experience my greater empowerment because, I in my own thinking have let go of the walls that separate me from you. That is why the point of the course, the goal of the course is the attainment of inner peace but the way we attain it is through the practice of forgiveness. Only if I am willing to let go my thoughts of separation from you i.e. (there will always be thoughts of judgment and thoughts of blame), and I love that A Course in Miracles says we become generous out of self interest.
I want to extend my thinking of you beyond your mistakes that my body perceives to the perfection and in innocence of you that my heart knows to be true. Why do I want to do this? No just for your sake, but I want to do it for mine. Because the only way I can experience my own innocence is if I am at least willing to see yours.

Cole: How do you forgive people? Like we all have had and some of us still do have people in our lives that we are still linked to. We have to be in their presence, they are going to be in our space at some point or another. Yet, there is something that occurred that you have not been able to forgive that person. It’s in the air. You know about it, and they know about it and yet, there is no meeting between the two. How do you forgive people?
Williamson: A Course in Miracles says that the good intentions are not enough but your willingness is everything. When we are willing to say I don’t like this person, I think this person betrayed me; I think this person has no integrity; I think this person is an awful jerk; I can not stand this person.
However, I understand that those thoughts will not hold me back. So I am willing, Dear God. This is where we need help. This is why we need help. This is a spiritual path. Your mortal minds can not get there, the circumstances are too intense. They stole money, they stole your husband, whatever. That is when you say, Dear God, of myself I can not do this. But I am willing to see the innocence in that person. Once you are willing, the Holy Spirit, in whatever name we give it is authorized by God to dwell within the world as we persevere it and make whatever shift is necessary in order for you to be willing to do that. There is a story I often tell, something that happened to me many years ago, when I was here in Los Angeles. Where I was at a woman’s house, and a friend and she had some girlfriends there. Just a few women, like three or four women were in the room, and they all knew each other for years. One of the women began talking, and there was something about the way she spoke that I found very off putting. I found it very grandiose. It was just like every time the woman opened her mouth it was, for me, like fingernails on a blackboar. But–I, at least, I am certain and I wasn’t then and I am not now a perfect being–you can get to the point where you can at least see that you are being insane.
That’s what you have to do: You have to be honest about your insanity and turn it over. So, I was noting the irony myself. Like “oh if these people only knew these judgmental thoughts that I was having.”
I think the woman who’s house I was at had attended my lectures, etc. In that moment, I prayed and I A Course in Miracles student, and I recognized that the insanity was in me.
The evil mind says that the problem is in the way that woman talks. A Course in Miracles says no, the problem is how you are judging her. This is not about her. So I said a little prayer, (because) once again the course says your willingness is everything.
Within about. I don’t know five minutes–it could not have been longer–one of the women, in a very casual way, because they were just talking among girlfriend–said to the woman whose language I found so grandiose “oh I hear your father is getting out of prison.”
Now, they were just talking casually among themselves, and what followed was a story that was one of those most awful. I don’t remember the specifics, but I think she and a sibling had been held in a dungeon throughout their childhood. And I realized she had zero (role) models and I mean zero. I mean it was one of those worst ones; she had no model of what an adult persona looked like, and she was, to the best of her ability, putting it together. And the same behavior, the same manner of speech that five minutes before aroused in me judgment, now aroused in me tremendous compassion and even admiration.
She had not changed. Now from A Course in Miracles perspective, when I had prayed and asked to see this differently, that is where the course said we ask to see this different, I am willing to see this different.
Then once again the universe, everything that we need will be given to us. God will not violate the principle of free will. He created it. Your experience will change, when you change your mind. But if you ask God’s help, he will help you change your mind. He will give you . . . it will be a song lyric; it will be a conversation; and sometimes with some people, it is a process that takes longer than we wish but we at least get to the point to realize this is ultimately not about them, but about me.
You know if your husband left you 20 years ago, and you are still living in anger and resentment, at a certain point who is the real enemy here–the husband who abandoned you or the part of your mind that has not been able to let this go for the last 20 years?

Cole: I thought about your recent lecture as I was sitting in the audience knowing that I have some atonements to make. That was one of my big take aways for the evening. Because, I was not accountable, and I was not showing up for some of the things that I know that I need to get pass and to think of differently, and I did not know how to get there. I sat there and realized, that was, if no other reason, why I was there. It was my big take-away. So I was able to see a situation I personally have to deal with differently going forward, and I have not done it yet, but I am thinking about it in a different way, and that is an incredibly huge step for me.
Williamson: Well that is an interesting thing that you say, because that is how learning works, whether it is an individual or a collective a nation, a civilization. We sometimes get it intellectually, and we have to sit with that a while before, we are able to experience the trickle down process where it goes from just something intellectually that we understand to something that we viscerally embrace.

Cole: I agree. What are internal powers?
Williamson: Love, compassion, forgiveness, empathy, imagination, respect kindness.

Cole: OK, that’s good. Give me an idea of what you would consider your greatest accomplishments? If I wanted to you to name three or four, what comes to mind?
Williamson: My first would be that I have a happy and productive child. I don’t think anything else that I have yet accomplished rises to that level.

Cole: OK.
Williamson: I would not call my self failure but neither do I yet feel like “OK you have done what you have come here to do?

Cole: Right, OK. What about defining moments. Do you subscribe to such thinking that there are “significant moments” in your life, which have defined your path.
Williamson: Yes, definitely the night I first saw A Course in Miracles sitting on someone’s coffee table in New York City in 1977. That was definitely a defining moment because I playfully shudder to think what would have happened in my life, if I would have not found that book. That was certainly a defining moment for me. Um . . . I think have been defining moments in my life, but I think it is less about defining moments than defining experiences.
My mother’s death was a defining experience for me, and certain relationships have been defining experiences for me. You know the normal process of growth that we . . . just the normal phase of life. I mean every moment is defining, if we dwell within the moment from a deep and meaningful place. I always say you have a choice to live life from a shallow place or from a deep place. Since God is everywhere and in all things, because God is in our mind then there is no moment (that is not) at least with the potential for depth and meaning.

Cole: Right, all of them have potential but not all of them will shake you and have you kind of see your life or the world differently or make a turn that you had not intended to make.
Williamson: Right, those would be things like my reading the course.

Cole: Wow, OK that is big. So let me do this. I would like to give you a word and ask that you respond to the word maybe using one to three words only. So limit you response and I just want to get your reaction to these words. Individualistic.
Williamson: Good to an extent.

Cole: Obama.
Williamson: Hopeful but concerned.

Cole: Authentic.
Williamson: The point of it all.

Cole: Power.
Williamson: Good or bad depending.

Cole: Katrina.
Williamson: There is a Yiddish word called “shanda” which means shame.

Cole: Wealthy.
Williamson: Not what it appears.

Cole: Last but not least Sarah Plain.
Williamson: A human being just like you, Ms. Williamson, and don’t forget that.

Cole: Tell me about Sister Giant. I love the name Sister Giant.
Williamson: Sister Giant. I have known a lot of people who have worked assiduously on their personal growth and transformation. But, have perhaps not tended as much as they would know like to issues of social transformation. The problem sometimes is that you were not watching the world for the last few years because you were so busy tending to your personal transformation that by the time you get to the point that you want to, you are sort of lacking some basic facts.

And then there are other people who have been so involved with external changes in themselves and in the world that they have not considered the internal dimensions of change. So I think that we are ready on the planet now for a sort of holistic activism.

Cole: hmmm . . .
Williamson: We realize that (there are) the changes that come about above internal and external. So that weekend we are going to be talking about where we have been as women and where we are going. We are going to watch a short film made by the Canadian Film Board about the inquisition and the burning of the witches. Now (for) an African American woman, the particular form of oppression was, of course, slavery.
For White women in America it goes back to the legacy of witch burning. Now, as we were saying before, there are only two emotions–love and fear–whether you are talking about burning witches at the stake or taking people into slavery, it is the same, they both derived from the same dark shadow.
But I think when it comes to African American culture there is a conscious understanding and recognition. For one thing it was moderate in historical terms compared to the witch burning, but there is an understanding of that history (and) an effort to dismantle that history and to dismantle the psychological and emotional and even spiritual legacy of slavery is a process that is well under way.

For the White women, so much of the original suppression is buried under the fogs of history. People don’t even know why they are disempowered. So I think that, what needs to be done for all of us is an understanding. How did we get so quiet? Why are we so quiet? One of the things in Sister Giant is a discussion of that particular legacy of suppression of forced quietude. Which, of course even if a woman, none of us were there–whether you are Black or White we all have a cellular level memory, and we are all (aware of the effect to some extent, no matter what our ethnicity, if we live in this society.
So, that is an example of what we will do. We will sit around in small groups and talk about that aspect of our history and talk about not only what we realize now about what happened in Western civilization that so formed the thought that women not only have no right to talk but, when they do talk with a certain power, they deserve to be punished. Now that is a powerful thought form. If you have centuries where, if a women did express her power, she was liable to be burned at the stake, then surely parents will naturally form the cultural habit of teaching their daughters to be quiet. Then (we will) go through not only understanding that it happened socially but all of us really investigating how that is modeled in my life. How was I told to sit down and shut up? Was it my family? Was it my school? Was it my culture or whatever it was?

Cole: Yes, I remember as a young girl my parents would say you are to be seen and not heard. And it was heard.
Williamson: That is exactly what we are talking about. And it was to be followed by an unseen “or else.” And then, as we move through, we are going to watch a little film about women’s suffrage. What was the power of a woman in this society, even White women. I mean, obviously it was not the evil of slavery. But, neither was the White woman empowered. Which is some fascinating history about Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, I don’t know. If you are into all that.

Cole: I am; that’s cool.
Williamson: Then we are moving all the way to . . . have you seen this extraordinary documentary called “Pray the Devil Back to Hell?”

Cole: No I have not . . . I have heard of it, but I have not seen it.
Williamson: It is absolutely phenomenal/

Cole: Yes, I believe it was shown at the Pan African American Film Festival last year.
Williamson: You watch that film and you go; wow that is what African women are doing. What are we doing? We’ll watch it together. The climatic sort of moment after that is, we will be meeting with Sam Daily Harris of Results organization, an anti-hunger, anti-poverty lobbyist here in the United States. He is the one who brought Muhammad Yunus to America.
So what we are doing is holding a space for a woman’s delegation to Kenya, Nairobi, from April 6-10, where there is the Mid East micro-credit conference. Some of the women there will be interested in the anti-hunger and anti-poverty work domestically, and some will be interested internationally.
Some will make the conference, and what they are there for in their hearts will not include that kind of external activism. But it will be an offering for any woman who feels so moved.
You know one of the common and anthropological characteristics all advanced mammalian species have in common is fierce behavior on the part of the adult female of the species, when she senses there is a threat to her cubs. And when you consider that there is 17,000 children on this earth who die of hunger everyday–that is one every five seconds. The relative quietude of the adult women, of the adult women of the human species really points a question as to whether we are really trying to survive.

Cole: Yes, wow.

Williamson: And I think a lot of women think “well I would like to change that,” but we are so disconnected internally and externally from our transformative powers sometimes that, we have not harnessed our collective ability to do so. The truth of the matter is that if America–women, not all Western women, but particularly there is something here about the extraordinary power of just our country–if we begin to harness our willingness, our dedication, our devotion to care for children everywhere and to care for our own. You know the adult female hyena encircles the cubs while they are feeding and will not let the adult males anywhere near the food until the babies have been fed. So I have asked myself: Surely the women of America can do better than the hyenas. If the hyena’s say you feed the babies feed first, I mean what if the American women said that, you feed the babies first, and then if you want to drop bombs wherever, (deep sigh), spend your billions on whatever, feed the babies first.

Cole: Right. Tell my readers about one of your recently published books, “Age of Miracles”
Williamson: Age of Miracles, came out in 2009 and Age of Miracles is about the process, it is about the changes that age brings. The basic thesis of the book is just as when we’re 13 or 14 years old, we experienced puberty, the menopausal years are a type of second puberty. When we are young, the persona of the child fades away, and the persona of the adolescent takes it place, and as we get older the persona of the young adult falls away and someone new takes its place. And that is very much a part of the Sister Giant conversation. It is like you get to an age where you are not willing to go along, or to acquiesce to a system that you know in your heart is unjust. I think this is a large part of the Sister Giant conversation.
We had to go through the anger; we had to go through whatever to sort of detox from the historical and personal reactions to all of this, and then, we moved to a place where we are not angry anymore, but you are just not playing anymore. And you are in a pretty serene place. So that book talks about holding a space from a spiritual perspective, because it’s any situation, it’s when you hold it from a spiritual perspective, that you find the power to make a change. That these years, there is no over the hill. There is no hill. If that makes sense?

Cole: Yes it does.
Williamson: The illusion of the hill is one of those suppressive thought forms but once again, whether you are talking about the external changes or the internal changes, something happens when we do them together. I talk about all that stuff pretty much in all my books but also the hill as well is society’s concept that a certain peak in our physical beauty is the high point. But the rose, when it begins to fade, when it is dying, is beautiful in a different way.

Cole: Right, OK. Are there any other thoughts that you care to share with us today?
Williamson: I think, the only thing that I might wish to share is I think 2010, we can all feel power in this year, and I-power manifestation year. It feels like a year that, if you get it right, there is extraordinary potential. But where you get it wrong, you will feel that slap.
So, I think whether it is books or seminars or lectures or congregations, religion, whatever it is, I think this year carries great potency and the power of this year provides genuine motivation to work on our impact ability. We all know so much. I was saying the other night; we know so much; very few of us are naïve anymore about what is going on in the outer world or the inner world. The issue now is to put the pieces together in a way that makes us, as individuals, effective agents of life.

Cole: That is a very powerful closing statement and I completely embrace 2010 as being a year that is going to be very powerful for us all; very impactful in a positive way.
Williamson: Well I join with you in that thought. A Course in Miracles says the most powerful force in the universe is an agreement between two people.

Cole: Thank you.