Native Houstonian on her New York Times best seller
Native Houstonian Marianne Williamson, author, international lecturer, spiritual guru and activist, is back. Her ninth book, “The Age of Miracles: Embracing the New Midlife,” has just climbed to No. 2 on the New York Times Best Sellers list.
She has a very busy life. While her 17-year-old daughter is her top priority, she currently hosts a daily radio show on “Oprah &Friends” XM radio channel, leads monthly tele-classes and has speaking engagements all over the world.
Williamson said she always had an interest in esoteric and philosophical issues, but when she found “A Course in Miracles” in 1977, her life changed. “A Course in Miracles,” written by Jewish psychologist Dr. Helen Schucman, is a three book series based on forgiveness. It is not a religion, but a self-study program of spiritual psychotherapy based on universal spiritual themes. Williamson defines it as “a practical goal for the attainment of inner peace through the practice of forgiveness — a method for choosing love over fear.” Williamson’s books, lectures and radio show are based on “A Course in Miracles.”
Williamson was raised by her Jewish parents in Houston. She attended Pershing Junior High and Bellaire High School before going to Pomona College in Claremont, California, where she worked “at just about everything,” including cocktail waitress and jazz singer. She says like most people in their 20s, her life was full of “so much fun and misery.”
She began teaching from “A Course in Miracles” at the Los Angeles Philosophical Research Society. She taught for free while supporting herself with temp work. Finally, after two years of volunteering, she began to receive a paycheck for her lectures. During the next 12 years she became a minister in the Unity Church. Her lectures developed a following and she gained celebrity friends including Elizabeth Taylor and Oprah Winfrey. People talked about her, and she soon experienced success with her cassette tapes, books and seminars on both coasts.
In her new book, Williamson admits it was hard turning 50 and facing the fact that youth was irrevocably over. “It’s still a shock!” she says. “Youth is so much a part of your identity, and we don’t have an exact definition for the years that come after — like a second puberty — switching from one persona to another. Life is not less fascinating and fabulous; just different. It’s a new season. We need a new conversation, a new reference, a new way to think and talk about age.”
Williamson says the dilemma confronting those who are older is what to do with the time they have left. “It’s the power of thought that determines whether we give up or finally get going. What we’ve called ‘middle age’ need not be a turning point toward death,” she says. “It can be a turning point toward life — life as we’ve never known it.”
Another challenge is to avoid negative thoughts like “I’m over the hill,” “No one will hire me,” or “I’ve missed my chance.” She says spiritual work trains the mind to counter the dominant thoughts of the world. “At any point, life will be what we program it to be,” she says. “Our very cells respond to the thoughts we think. With every word, silent or spoken, we participate in the body’s functioning. We participate in the functioning of the universe itself. If our consciousness grows lighter, then so does everything with and around us. This means, of course, that with every thought, we can start to re-create our life.”
Williamson believes the physical self ages; the spiritual self does not. “No matter who you are, no matter how old you are, in the present, all things are possible.” She also feels we have a huge impact on others through simple actions — a smile, a kind word, a courteous gesture. “These small things can make such a difference in someone’s day, in someone’s life, in our own life!”
The main theme in Williamson’s work is forgiveness. “Forgiveness involves faith in a love that is greater than hatred and a willingness to see the light, the innocence in someone’s soul even when his or her personality has harbored darkness. Forgiveness does not mean that someone did not act horribly; it means that we choose not to focus on their guilt. In doing so, we not only free them from the weight of our condemnation, but we free ourselves as well. That is the miracle of forgiveness!”
Outside of her professional life she is involved in charitable work throughout the country. In 1989, she founded Project Angel Food, a meals-on-wheels program that serves homebound people with AIDS, which now serves over 1,000 people daily. In recent years she founded and serves as president of The Peace Alliance, a grassroots campaign supporting legislation currently before Congress to establish a U. S. Department of Peace.
In December 2006, a Newsweek poll named Williamson one of the 50 most influential baby boomers. Four of her books have held the No. 1 spot on the New York Times Best Sellers list: “A Return to Love,” “The Healing of America,” “A Woman’s Worth” and “Illuminata: A Return to Prayer.” She has been described as a gifted writer and brilliant speaker. When asked to describe herself she said, “Woman!” without hesitation. “‘A Course in Miracles’ poses the question, ‘What do labels mean?’ But I would say that I am a teacher, lecturer, political activist.”
Marianne Williamson is not only back on the best sellers list, she is back in Houston. You can hear her radio show on XM156 and can submit questions through www.oprah.com.