An inside look at her new book, ‘The Law of Divine Compensation’
Work, money and miracles are fodder for discussion when best-selling author Marianne Williamson hits Santa Cruz.
In late 2008, the economy began mood swinging worse than Lindsay Lohan. Emotional buttons were pushed. Concerns over money mounted. Values were questioned (more). Suddenly, in the midst of jobs lost, lives and livelihoods being turned completely upside down, and the fear of the unknown skyrocketing north, the stock market became even more of an ominous omnipresent figure. The micro-era also gave birth to new catchphrase: “In this economy …” Translation: “Things are bad.” On the outside, perhaps. On the flipside, for the awareness-hungry and/or spiritually-minded, it may have proven to be both a test of faith and possibly a time to strengthen one’s resolve—an opportunity to somehow not only move forward, but also put out some more good juju into the world. Enter Marianne Williamson. During this time, the internationally acclaimed lecturer and spiritual author—six of her 10 books hit the New York Times bestseller list—certainly found herself on the receiving end of new insights.
While the world surfed the unpredictable waves of economic uncertainty, Williamson, best known for writing “A Return to Love” and benefiting from the miracles Oprah Winfrey’s former book club produced— got busy penning “The Law of Divine Compensation—On Work, Money, and Miracles.” Here, on the eve of her March 2 Santa Cruz appearance at the Rio Theatre, the popular figure Newsweek dubbed “one of the 50 most influential Baby Boomers,” opens up to GT about her new endeavor—and the state of things inside and out.
Good Times: Take me back. What sparked the decision to create this work?
Marianne Williamson: There was a lecture I was giving in Los Angeles, where people were asking a lot of questions about work, money, joblessness—all of the issues that we tend to associate with the recession and slow economic recovery. And I realized how much stress, tension and fear people were experiencing about this issue. As a student of “A Course in Miracles,” I realized that the same spiritual principles that apply to one area, apply to every area—no matter what the problem, there is the same spiritual solution. I felt that this was an area that it would serve to expand on that and have a deeper conversation about how love, forgiveness, service, compassion and so forth, really do apply to our work lives as much as any other area. And how love does create miracles in that area of life as much as any other.
Why is it, do you think, that when it comes to things like value, money or work, that it tends to be such a sensitive subject for people?
Well, it’s an important subject because it has a lot to do with how we pay our bills, how we put food on the table and how we raise our children. So, of course, it is an important subject. And, when there is economic injustice, [or] when there is a slowdown in the economy, very real suffering results. It is completely understandable why people care about this issue and why we need to deepen the conversation around it.
How was the actual writing of the book? Was it something that that came naturally? Was it free-flowing or … ?
Writing a book is always hard. At least it is for me. But with this one particularly. I was excited to be getting the information down and to be getting it out. I have felt with this book, in a way that is very gratifying, that people are drinking in the information. Every writer hopes, and you know this because you are a writer, that something that they say, something that they write will make someone go, ‘Yes! Aha.’ That’s why you write, in the hopes of creating that ‘aha’ moment in somebody else’s mind. It’s an interesting process. You’re sitting in your room alone—it’s a solitary process writing a book. And yet you are imagining somebody else reading it, months or years down the line, and hopefully gaining from some insight that you express.
I do know that feeling well.
And some books seem to tap into a vein more than others do. It’s interesting being a writer because every book you write, it’s like having several children. You wrote them all—for different reasons. But some of them may be more popular with other people than some of your other children. This book seems to speak to what so many of us are going through. I’m hopeful that it serves whoever reads it.
In the book, you write … ‘With every thought we think, we either summon or block a miracle.’
Well … miracles appear naturally as an expression of love. So, whenever we think with love, we are summoning a miracle, because love activates the perfection of the harmony of the Universe. You know, let’s say you walk into a kitchen in the morning and you are upset with somebody, isn’t that more likely the time that you are more likely to stub your toe, or smash your finger in a cabinet? So, when you are angry, you literally send into chaos all the ethers around you, and that is expressed in your material world. Well, the same is true with love. If affects more than what is just happening inside of you. When you are more loving, you are more positive, you are more attractive—literally. You don’t just attract other people, you attract more harmonious situations. You are in a more loving place. So, in a way, it is common sense, that you are more likely to encounter the circumstances that behoove you. Because circumstances aren’t just something that happen to us. We conspire with circumstances and in many cases, we create circumstances. So, the idea that I am in a more loving, positive place, is, in a way, common sense, because we have all evolved past the old Newtonian perspective that, ‘my consciousness has nothing to do with the world around me.’ The consciousness has everything to do with the consciousness around me.
It’s all about the ‘thinking’ …
The issue here is how to meet limited circumstances with unlimited thinking. Most of the time we are tempted to meet limited circumstances with limited thinking. Situations are unfortunate and we go into ‘Ain’t it awful. It’s never going to get better. It’s going to take time for the economy to get back. Whatever jobs there are? They are not going to give them to people my age. My resume isn’t right. Damn the Republicans! Damn the Democrats!’ And then most of us, when it comes to finances, have files, one of which is called: ‘It was my own damn fault.’ Which leads us to all kinds of condemnation; ‘If only I hadn’t sold that stock. If only I hadn’t trusted that person I invested in.’ And then the other file many of us have is: ‘I don’t how I’ll be able to forgive those bastards.’ People we feel underminded by or whatever. Well, all of that anger delays and deflects the compensatory action of the Universe. That’s why the book is called ‘The Law of Divine Compensation.’ The Universe is both self-organizing and self-collecting, so whenever there is diminishment or lack on the material plane, within the infinity of spiritual substance there is the capacity to accommodate for whatever lack. So, in any given instance, the Universe is an endless opportunity machine. If there was a problem; if I lost something, the Universe is on it. But if my mind isn’t loving, the Universe can’t literally work through my mind to make things right. So, normally … You don’t think of your business coach as somebody who would say, ‘Who have you not forgiven?’ But forgiveness and love are as relevant to our work lives as to any other areas of our lives.
You have been doing this work for many years now. How do you remain focused? I mean, does Marianne Williamson have a bad day?
I have bad hours.
I love that.
You know, I always say my life works fine when I practice what I preach. We all go through disappointing circumstances. I am not an enlightened master so I haven’t transcended the human experience. And I am not looking to transcend the human experience. What I know, for myself, is what I say to other people. If I pray in the morning, if I meditate in the morning, if I recognize that in every situation forgiveness is my function … if I look at every situation as, ‘I am there to rise to the occasion and step up my old game,’ that in every situation my function is to love and be excellent to the best of my ability and to be present in that moment, and to not dwell on past or future … yes … when I practice those principles, which are impersonal principles, then they work for me. Now, within that … do I get shot down by the experiences of life? Sure, as much as anybody else does, but even the happiest life has sad days sometimes. That’s not something we need to run away from. Do those sad days defeat you? That’s the issue: Can you be sad and be peaceful? And can you dwell within the sadness with the level of serenity and peace of mind and faith that this, too, shall pass?
You say that this applies to the economy.
When it comes to work and money, most of us have had our valleys and our mountaintops. It’s one thing to process your pain, it’s another thing to wallow in your pain. And that’s what I try to remember—that there is a time to honor your sadness; to honor your feelings. There is a time to simply move through this and it’s a good thing to move through—to feel the disappointment; to burn through that. But then you can also feel in your gut when it’s time: OK, get over yourself. Get up, take a shower, put on something that is nice and remember that there are people in the world who have it a whole lot worse than you do today … and see what you can do for somebody else.
You are from Houston. What was the best thing about growing up there?
My beautiful family and friends. A lot of those family and friends were the mainstay of my existence as a child and, in many ways, they are the mainstay of my existence now.
What was one of your greatest inspirations growing up?
My father [Sam Williamson]. My mother is one of my greatest inspirations now, but it took me a lot of years to realize how inspiring she was. I had an extraordinary father. He was not only my inspiration but he was an inspiration to many other people. He was a magical character.
Who inspires you these days?
I was reading a book the other day about a woman named Molly Melching, who founded an organization called Tostan. Through this organization, female genital cutting has been practically obliterated in the nation of Senegal. People like that inspire me every day.
What about those who say, ‘I have done all the self-help. I have tried. I can’t seem to find my way out of my own mind,’ or they continue to feel frustrated?
Well, I don’t see my work as ‘self-help.’ You’re the problem; you’re not the answer. So, if you’re only looking to yourself for help, there is a limit because the mortal mind manufactures the problems and the mortal mind cannot deliver you from the realm of the problem. There is another realm of the consciousness—the divine. It’s described in religious terms and in secular terms. But it’s the idea of the higher mind; a power in us that can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. So, that is when you look to your ‘higher’ power for help. Now, when somebody says, ‘I have done it all and I am still depressed’ … it’s like physical exercise. You might have done physical exercise six months ago, and your body may have looked great, but if you’re not doing physical exercise now, then don’t expect your body to look great. You never get to stop. So, in any given situation, and I know this very well in my own life, I might have practiced everything I’ve preached and everything was great but if I am not practicing forgiveness today; if I am not practicing compassion today; if I am not practicing service today … then today won’t be so great. But you know, these principles work if you work on them. It’s like physical exercise—if you do it, it works. When somebody says, ‘I’ve done it all and I still can’t find my peace,’ my response is: ‘Really? Oh really? You have forgiven everybody? In every situation you’ve been given only to love? You are sure of that?’
But, you know, we need to understand each other; and to have compassion for each other’s pain but not coddle each other’s pain.
Yes. There’s a difference. So … I am going to throw out some words. Say the first thing that comes to mind. Chocolate or vanilla?
Chocolate. Dark chocolate!
Coffee or tea?
Slippers or socks?
That’s a hard one.
Really? How about cats or dogs?
When I say the word ‘miracles,’ what comes to mind?
What are you most excited about next?
This moment. Whatever moment follows this one.
What’s the most interesting thing you have been learning about yourself lately?
That … I limit myself in unnecessary ways.
And what’s some of the best advice you have been given about life?
Get over myself.
Marianne Williamson speaks at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 2 at The Rio Theatre, 205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-8209, riotheatre.com. (Doors open at 7 p.m.) For tickets ($28.50-$40), visit pulseproductions.com or call 423-7970 for more information.