A few weeks ago, I found myself standing in front of Marianne Williamson, whom I have now admired and followed for half a decade. She had just delivered a powerful talk about our obligation and responsibility to speak up and be involved in changing the disturbing current events of our time. She’d rallied us to not stay on the sidelines any longer, that the world needs a new conversation; a new voice must be heard. She’d urged us to become informed and involved in the political arena, where we have real possibilities of making change.
Her talk had been passionate and inspirational, and I imagined my not-so-distant future self in her shiny silver shoes, speaking to an awe-struck crowd, reminding them of their responsibility to be and to practice fierce love.
Reflecting back, I realize I was a very different person from when I first learned of her work in 2011. At that time, I was just starting my coaching program with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. In our materials was included this quote from Marianne’s best-selling book, A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles:
“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.”
The quote was provided for us to share with our future coaching clients. However, when I first read those words, it was as if someone had climbed inside my soul and was whispering to me in a language only I could understand. Those words were for ME. And now, on this day, I finally had the opportunity to meet the woman who wrote them.
I finally had the opportunity to share with her just how much those words – in fact, the entire A Return to Love book –had meant to me over the past several years. Her moving exposition on practicing love to find inner peace and make the world a better place for all beings had felt like a new concept for me at the time, yet it resonated on a deep level, as if I had known it all along (and of course I had, because Love is who we are). It was the beginning for me of a journey that would take me deep into profoundly painful areas which I had carefully protected and actively avoided for years. It would eventually lead me to reclaim a voice I didn’t know I’d lost.
However on this day, despite the lingering inspiration and excitement from her talk, I found myself feeling nervous. What should I say to someone who doesn’t know me, yet who has been like a friend through the darkness? Whose words and willingness not to play small, have been the catalyst for my own liberation? Whose mission of love have inspired me to fight my own fear, keep pushing forward, and publish a book of my own? Whose beingness gave me permission to let my own light shine so now my own work and my own words are giving others permission to do the same?
Soon it was it my turn. My big moment had come. Time to meet Marianne, to speak the words of my heart, using my enlightened voice, pushing out from a place of healing and light, inspired by her.
I walked up with the two books I brought to be signed. I handed them to her. And then….
I stood there, silent. She asked if both books were for me, I said yes, and then returned to my awkwardness. Feeling like I should say something after all the mental build-up, I mumbled that I forgot my original copy of A Return to Love at home. She smiled graciously and finished signing the two books. I moved on to meet my group.
I was still floating from the whole experience and the reality of what happened didn’t set in immediately. Over the next 24 hours, though, a light sadness settled around me. I had not spoken one word about how much her words meant to me and inspired me. Nothing about my own accomplishments as a result of that inspiration. Not even a word of gratitude for her work in the world.
For all my liberation, all my efforts at moving through fear, all my work to let my own light shine, in the face of my opportunity to finally meet someone who had been so integral in my path, I chose, once again, to play small.
Before A Return to Love, I would likely have allowed my inner critic to use this experience as a reminder of my place in this world – being small, timid, quiet, and not bothering anyone with my voice. That was the path I had worked so hard to traverse, the one I thought I had overcome.
However, all my work, sparked by that one quote, allowed me to see something different instead:
- All the best healers are wounded and those wounds still need to be healed, sometimes over and over again as we spiral around the path. Perfection is not guaranteed. It’s not even the goal. A few years back, I may not even have been able to see the lesson right in front of me at this time. That’s how far I’ve come. At this time, in this place, I didn’t achieve the outcome I wanted, but I can clearly look back over the spiral of my life, observe where I’ve been, and celebrate my successes. It’s progress, not perfection.
- Fierce love is not a one and done. It’s not single book or speech or article or conversation or self-care practice. Rather, it’s a consistent effort at loving ourselves over and over again until love reaches the places that still need work. And then we keep on loving, keep on moving deeper, until we’re so filled with love that it spills out for others. And we’re not done there. We keep on loving the parts that still need it, until we’re loved back to health. Until the world is loved back to health.
Although our meeting didn’t go as I‘d imagined, for now I’ll use this opportunity to say what I wanted – needed—to say when I actually had the chance:
Marianne, thank you for those words you wrote years ago, which continue to inspire me to do the same. Thank you for the words you continue to write and speak today. Thank you for sparking a movement to love the world back to health and for caring so much for all beings that you liberate yourself from fear, and bring others (like me) with you. And know that the next time we meet in person, I’ll tell you this myself.