A Return to Love
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A Return to Love

Marianne Williamson

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📖 eBook - ePub

A Return to Love

Marianne Williamson

About This Book

Back by popular demand -- and newly updated by the author -- the mega-bestselling spiritual guide in which Marianne Williamson shares her reflections on A Course in Miracles and her insights on the application of love in the search for inner peace.

Williamson reveals how we each can become a miracle worker by accepting God and by the expression of love in our daily lives. Whether psychic pain is in the area of relationships, career, or health, she shows us how love is a potent force, the key to inner peace, and how by practicing love we can make our own lives more fulfilling while creating a more peaceful and loving world for our children.

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“There is no place for hell in a world whose loveliness can yet be so intense and so inclusive it is but a step from there to Heaven.”

Those passages with double quotation marks are quoted directly from A Course in Miracles. Those passages with single quotation marks are paraphrased interpretations of that book. A complete listing of citations to A Course in Miracles appears beginning on p. 301.
“The journey into darkness has been long and cruel, and you have gone deep into it.”
Many of us know in our hearts that we never really grew up. The problem isn’t that we’re lost or apathetic, narcissistic or materialistic. The problem is we’re terrified.
A lot of us know we have what it takes—the looks, the education, the talent, the credentials. But in certain areas, we’re paralyzed. We’re not being stopped by something on the outside, but by something on the inside. Our oppression is internal. The government isn’t holding us back, or hunger or poverty. We’re not afraid we’ll get sent to Siberia. We’re just afraid, period. Our fear is free-floating. We’re afraid this isn’t the right relationship or we’re afraid it is. We’re afraid they won’t like us or we’re afraid they will. We’re afraid of failure or we’re afraid of success. We’re afraid of dying young or we’re afraid of growing old. We’re more afraid of life than we are of death.
You’d think we’d have some compassion for ourselves, bound up in emotional chains the way we are, but we don’t. We’re just disgusted with ourselves, because we think we should be better by now. Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking other people don’t have as much fear as we do, which only makes us more afraid. Maybe they know something we don’t know. Maybe we’re missing a chromosome.
It’s become popular these days to blame practically everything on our parents. We figure it’s because of them that our self-esteem is so low. If only they’d been different, we’d be brimming with self-love. But if you take a close look at how our parents treated us, whatever abuse they gave us was often mild compared to the way we abuse ourselves today. It’s true that your mother might have said repeatedly, “You’ll never be able to do that, dear.” But now you say to yourself, “You’re a jerk. You never do it right. You blew it. I hate you.” They might have been mean, but we’re vicious.
Many of us have slipped into a barely camouflaged vortex of self-loathing. And we’re always, even desperately, seeking a way out, through growth or through escape. Maybe this degree will do it, or this job, this seminar, this therapist, this relationship, this diet, or this project. But too often the medicine falls short of a cure, and the chains just keep getting thicker and tighter. The same soap operas develop with different people in different cities. We begin to realize that we ourselves are somehow the problem, but we don’t know what to do about it. We’re not powerful enough to overrule ourselves. We sabotage, abort everything: our careers, our relationships, even our children. We drink. We do drugs. We control. We obsess. We code-pend. We overeat. We hide. We attack. The form of the dysfunction is irrelevant. We can find a lot of different ways to express how much we hate ourselves.
But express it we will. Emotional energy has got to go somewhere, and self-loathing is a powerful emotion. Turned inward, it becomes our personal hells: addiction, obsession, compulsion, depression, violent relationships, illness. Projected outward, it becomes our collective hells: violence, war, crime, oppression. But it’s all the same thing: hell has many mansions, too.
I remember, years ago, having an image in my mind that frightened me terribly. I would see a sweet, innocent little girl in a perfect white organdy apron, pinned screaming with her back against a wall. A vicious, hysterical woman was repeatedly stabbing her through the heart with a knife. I suspected that both characters were me, that they lived as psychic forces inside my mind. With every passing year, I grew more scared of that woman with the knife. She was active in my system. She was totally out of control, and I felt like she wanted to kill me.
When I was most desperate, I looked for a lot of ways out of my personal hell. I read books about how our minds create our experience, how the brain is like a bio-computer that manufactures whatever we feed into it with our thoughts. “Think success and you’ll get it, ”Expect to fail and you will,” I read. But no matter how much I worked at changing my thoughts, I kept going back to the painful ones. Temporary breakthroughs would occur: I would work on having a more positive attitude, get myself together and meet a new man or get a new job. But I would always revert to the patterns of self-betrayal: I’d eventually turn into a bitch with the man, or screw up at the job. I would lose ten pounds, and then put them back on in five minutes, terrified by how it felt to look beautiful. The only thing more frightening than not getting male attention, was getting lots of it. The groove of sabotage ran deep and automatic. Sure, I could change my thoughts, but not permanently. And there’s only one despair worse than “God, I blew it.”—and that’s, “God, I blew it again.”
My painful thoughts were my demons. Demons are insidious. Through various therapeutic techniques, I’d become very smart about my own neuroses, but that didn’t necessarily exorcise them. The garbage didn’t go away; it just became more sophisticated. I used to tell a person what my weaknesses were, using such conscious language that they would think, “Well, obviously she knows what her patterns are, so she won’t do that again.”
But oh yes, I would. Acknowledging my patterns was just a way of diverting someone’s attention. Then I’d go into a rampage or other outrageous behavior so quickly and smoothly that no one, least of all myself, could do anything to stop me before I’d ruined a situation completely. I would say the exact words that would make the man leave, or make someone fire me, or worse. In those days, it never occurred to me to ask for a miracle.
For one thing, I wouldn’t have known what a miracle was. I put them in the pseudo-mystical-religious garbage category. I didn’t know, until reading A Course in Miracles, that a miracle is a reasonable thing to ask for. I didn’t know that a miracle is just a shift in perception.
I once attended a twelve-step meeting where people were asking God to take away their desire to drink. I had never gone overboard with any one particular dysfunctional behavior. It wasn’t drinking or drugs that was doing me in; it was my personality in general, that hysterical woman inside my head. My negativity was as destructive to me as alcohol is to the alcoholic. I was an artist at finding my own jugular. It was as though I was addicted to my own pain. Could I ask God to help me with that? It occurred to me that, just as with any other addictive behavior, maybe a power greater than myself could turn things around. Neither my intellect nor my willpower had been able to do that. Understanding what occurred when I was three years old hadn’t been enough to free me. Problems I kept thinking would eventually go away, kept getting worse every year. I hadn’t emotionally developed the way I should have, and I knew it. Somehow, somewhere, it was as though wires deep inside my brain had gotten crossed. Like a lot of other people in my generation and culture, I had gotten off track many years before, and in certain ways just never grew up. We’ve had the longest postadolescence in the history of the world. Like emotional stroke victims, we need to go back a few steps in order to go forward. We need someone to teach us the basics.
For me, no matter what hot water I had gotten into, I had always thought that I could get myself out of it. I was cute enough, or smart enough, or talented enough, or clever enough—and if nothing else worked, I could call my father and ask for money. But finally I got myself into so much trouble, that I knew I needed more help than I could muster up myself. At twelve-step meetings, I kept hearing it said that a power greater than I could do for me what I couldn’t do for myself. There was nothing else to do and there was no one left to call. My fear finally became so great, that I wasn’t too hip to say “God, please help me.”
“The light is in you.”
So I went through this grandiose, dramatic moment where I invited God into my life. It was terrifying at first, but then I kind of got off on the idea.
After that, nothing really felt the way I expected it to. I had thought that things would improve. It’s as though my life was a house, and I thought God would give it a wonderful paint job—new shutters perhaps, a pretty portico, new roof. Instead, it felt as though, as soon as I gave the house to God, He hit it with a giant wrecking ball. “Sorry, honey,” He seemed to say, “There were cracks in the foundation, not to mention all the rats in the bedroom. I thought we better just start all over.”
I had read about people surrendering to God and then feeling this profound sense of peace descend like a mantle over their shoulders. I did get that feeling, but only for about a minute and a half. After that, I just felt like I’d been busted. This didn’t turn me off to God so much as it made me respect His intelligence. It implied He understood the situation better than I would have expected. If I was God, I’d have busted me too. I felt more grateful than resentful. I was desperate for help.
A certain amount of desperation is usually necessary before we’re ready for God. When it came to spiritual surrender, I didn’t get serious, not really, until I was down on my knees completely. The mess got so thick that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t make Marianne function again. The hysterical woman inside me was in a maniacal rage, and the innocent child was pinned to the wall. I fell apart. I crossed the line between in-pain-but-still-able-to-function-normally, and the realm of the total basket case. I had what is commonly called a nervous breakdown.
Nervous breakdowns can be highly underrated methods of spiritual transformation. They certainly get your attention. I have seen people have little mini-breakdowns year after year, each time stopping just short of getting the point. I think I was lucky to get mine over with in one fell swoop. The things I learned here, I will not forget. As painful as this experience was, I now see it as an important, perhaps necessary step in my breakthrough to a happier life.
For one thing, I was profoundly humbled. I saw very clearly that, ‘of myself, I am nothing.’ Until this happens, you keep trying all your old tricks, the ones that never did work but that you keep thinking might work this time. Once you’ve had enough and you can’t do it anymore, you consider the possibility that there might be a better way. That’s when your head cracks open and God comes in.
I felt during those years as though my skull had exploded. It seemed as though thousands of little pieces of it had shot into outer space. Very slowly, they began to come together again. But while my emotional brain was so exposed, it seemed to be rewired, like I’d had some kind of psychic surgery. I felt like I became a different person.
More people have felt their heads crack open in some way, than have admitted it to their friends. These days it’s not an uncommon phenomenon. People are crashing into walls today—socially, biologically, psychologically and emotionally. But this isn’t bad news. In a way, it’s good. Until your knees finally hit the floor, you’re just playing at life, and on some level you’re scared because you know you’re just playing. The moment of surrender is not when life is over. It’s when it begins.
Not that that moment of eureka—that calling out to God—is it, and it’s all Paradise from then on. You’ve simply started the climb. But you know you’re not running around in circles at the bottom of the mountain anymore, never really getting anywhere, dreaming of the top and having no idea how to get there. For many people, things have to get very bad before there’s a shift. When you truly bottom out, there comes an exhilarating release. You recognize there’s a power in the universe bigger than you are, who can do for you what you can’t do for yourself. All of a sudden, your last resort sounds like a very good idea.
How ironic. You spend your whole life resisting the notion that there’s someone out there smarter than you are, and then all of a sudden you’re so relieved to know it’s true. All of a sudden, you’re not too proud to ask for help.
That’s what it means to surrender to God.
You are in God.”
There is no time, no place, no state where God is absent.”
There have been times in my life—and they still happen today, though they’re more the exception now than the rule—when I have felt as though sadness would overwhelm me. Something didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, or I was in conflict with someone, or I was afraid of what might or might not happen in the future. Life in those moments can be difficult to bear, and the mind begins an endless search for its escape from pain.
What I learned from A Course in Miracles is that the change we’re really looking for is inside our heads. Events are always in flux. One day people love you; the next day you’re their target. One day a situation is running smoothly; the next day chaos reigns. One day you feel like you’re an okay person; the next day you feel like you’re an utter failure. These changes in life are always going to happen; they’re part of the human experience. What we can change, however, is how we perceive them. And that shift in our perception is a miracle.
There’s a biblical story where Jesus says we can build our house on sand or we can build it on rock. Our house is our emotional stability. When it is built on sand, then the winds and rain can tear it down. One disappointing phone call and we crumble; one storm and the house falls down.
When our house is built on rock, then it is sturdy and strong and the storms can’t destroy it. We are not so vulnerable to life’s passing dramas. Our stability rests on something more enduring than the current weather, something permanent and strong. We’re depending on God.
I had never realized that depending on God meant depending on love. I had heard it said that God was love, but it had never kicked in for me exactly what that meant.
As I began to study A Course in Miracles, I discovered the following things:
God is the love within us.

Whether we “follow Him,” or think with love, is entirely up to us.

When we choose to love, or to allow our minds to be one with God, then life is peaceful. When we turn away from love, the pain sets in.
And whether we love, or close our hearts to love, is a mental choice we make, every moment of every day.
Love does not conquer all things, but it does set all things right.”
Love taken seriously is a radical outlook,...

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Citation styles for A Return to LoveHow to cite A Return to Love for your reference list or bibliography: select your referencing style from the list below and hit 'copy' to generate a citation. If your style isn't in the list, you can start a free trial to access over 20 additional styles from the Perlego eReader.
APA 6 Citation
Williamson, M. (2009). A Return to Love ([edition unavailable]). HarperCollins. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/583755/a-return-to-love-pdf (Original work published 2009)
Chicago Citation
Williamson, Marianne. (2009) 2009. A Return to Love. [Edition unavailable]. HarperCollins. https://www.perlego.com/book/583755/a-return-to-love-pdf.
Harvard Citation
Williamson, M. (2009) A Return to Love. [edition unavailable]. HarperCollins. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/583755/a-return-to-love-pdf (Accessed: 14 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Williamson, Marianne. A Return to Love. [edition unavailable]. HarperCollins, 2009. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.