Release Date

October 20th, 2021

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Marianne Williamson, presidential candidate, bestselling author, and spiritual teacher, shares what it means—and what it costs—to lead with love. From her work with the terminally ill to her desire to heal our politics, Marianne gets vulnerable and candid with Zainab, revealing the moments that have shaped her from childhood to the present day.

“Every moment we’re making a choice, whether to show up with our hearts open or to show up with our hearts closed.”

INSPIRATION

TRANSCRIPT

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Redefined is hosted by me, Zainab Salbi, and brought to you by FindCenter, a search engine for your soul. Part library, part temple, FindCenter presents a world of wisdom, organized. Check it out today at www.findcenter.com and please subscribe to Redefined for free on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

What’s most important about life? What is the essence of life? Is it what we do? How much we earn, how many social media followers we have? Or is it, do we live our lives in kindness to ourselves and to others? Do we live our lives in love to ourselves and to others? In nearly losing my life I was confronted with these questions, and it led me to the conversations that make up Redefined. About how we draw our inner maps and the pursuit of meaningful personal change.

My guest this time is a woman who has been relentless in her advocacy for love: Marianne Williamson. Marianne courageously prioritized love as a presidential candidate in the 2020 election. And she has done so in all of her writings, fourteen books, including most recently, A Politics of Love: A Handbook for a New American Revolution. She continues to talk about love with Transform, her Substack newsletter and podcast. You see, love for Marianne is not just a word. It is an action, one that she has embodied in all of her work, from ministering to AIDS patients in Los Angeles to founding Project Angel Food, a meal delivery service for the homebound and chronically ill.

Marianne has guts, and she has paid a price for her positions as she’s often misunderstood and misrepresented by the mainstream media. Still, Marianne shows up authentically and insists on doing so, soldiering on in the name of compassion and moving towards real transformation in all of our politics and all of our relationships: with each other, with ourselves, and with gods. In this conversation, you’ll hear all about transformative moments in Marianne’s life, where her convictions come from, and how they continue to evolve. Join me.

Thank you so, so, so much for joining in this conversation. And I want to give you a context for it because as you know, I’m an activist, I’m a humanitarian, I am a women’s rights activist all my life. And yet this podcast is actually not about that, believe it or not. The idea of it came out of a turning moment in my life that happened two years ago where I moved from my warrior self into the ICU, into thinking that I’m actually going to take . . . I was struggling for my last breath, for just breath. And in that struggle for breath, everything, everything about life changed for me.

Marianne Williamson:

You had something often referred to as a eureka experience. You had one event where everything became blazingly clear. That is one model of spiritual transformation, but there’s another model, which has to do with slow, steady, gradual maturation. One isn’t more important or more relevant than the other. And my experiences in life, while they have included some very difficult experiences, my path has been less about one eureka! and more about many situations that taught me—sometimes easily and sometimes with great difficulty—what is most important. Every moment we’re making a choice, whether to show up with our hearts opened or to show up with our hearts closed.

Now I think we also realize, most of us, that the reason we don’t show up with an open heart sometimes is because of accumulated layers of fear and trauma and abuse that have led us to the conclusion that life is not safe. And if I open my heart and the kind of universal kindness that you’re talking about, that I will be in danger. The exact opposite is true, of course, but the thinking that we’ve all been trained into would have us believe otherwise.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

It’s so true because I am a product of war, a child of war. And I grew up in war and I worked in war as you know, through my work at Women for Women International. And all my life I thought, “I am unsafe.” And the irony is, here I am, very vulnerable because of my eureka moment, as you said, and my physical health and everyone showed up in my life, right? All family and friends and people I don’t know very well and calling, everyone showed up. And I remember one moment in which a friend honestly just sent me fruits. It’s like, it’s not a big deal, just a basket of fruits. And I looked and I was like, “I am safe. I am safe.”

And like that [finger snapping] it just turned my perception of how I live life from a place of safety. But I have to say, I lived it from a place of unsafety for a long time. But I want to go back to your childhood if you don’t mind because I find it so fascinating. For various reasons, I will tell you about in the process of the conversation, but in your first book, A Return to Love—which I loved, loved—you said, “My grandfather was very religious, and sometimes I would go to synagogue with him on Saturday mornings. When the ark was open during the service he would bow and begin to cry. I would cry too, but I don’t know whether I was crying out of a budding religious fervor, or simply because he was.”

I’m curious, having now had thirty years after that experience or more, to reflect on that moment, what were the tears about? Have you figured that out? Do you know? Do you have a sense of what were these tears about?

Marianne Williamson:

I still cry easily. Religious and spiritual fervor still makes me cry long before the beauty of the world makes me cry. Witnessing the tragedies of the world makes me cry. I’ve cried over what’s going on in Afghanistan, but I’ve cried recently over something going on in a personal relationship in my life as well. I don’t think whether or not somebody actually sheds tears, though, is necessarily an indicator of the depth of feeling. I think many people feel very deeply that they just aren’t criers. But I think being a sensitive human being at whatever age makes you recognize the deeper meaning of it all, both in terms of the agony and the ecstasy. I’m also someone who will cry at weddings pretty easily, which is kind of difficult because I’ve been an officiant at many weddings. So often I have to like, make sure I stay buttoned up, but there’s something about it just makes me cry. So I see a newborn baby and I want to cry. I’m a crier.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

I have to say, I’m a crier too. And in my case, I feel people are judgmental of my crying. They’re sort of uncomfortable to what to do with the tears. Whether they are tears of awe or they’re tears of sadness. And they’re uncomfortable. I was like, “Don’t worry. I’m okay with my tears.” That they’re a healthy thing to express them.

Marianne Williamson:

Well, I’ve gotten to a point in my life where no matter what I do, no matter how I react and no matter what I say, there’s probably somebody out there who’s going to mock it, criticize it, to write it, or whatever. So that’s a whole different level of recognition that you can’t base your sense of how you’re doing on what other people say, particularly today. And I also think it’s a function of age. Somebody told me that turning fifty is the age past which you don’t care what other people think anymore. And I found turning sixty to be the age which not only do I not care that much how you react to what I say, I have to say it. And somebody said to me the other day, “Who’s your audience, Marianne?” I said, “People who are dreamers and people who are wise.”

And that’s why I often find myself in my most intense relationships with people who are young and people who are older. People who are young, who are still young enough to feel it all and dream about what’s possible. And people who are old enough to be wise and to not give a . . . don’t give a you-know-what anymore about how other people react. I think that right now, as we speak, is an intense moment where there is now a collective recognition on a level that I don’t think has ever happened in my lifetime time of the utter bankruptcy, moral bankruptcy, economic bankruptcy, political bankruptcy, cultural bankruptcy of the entire worldview, the entire establishment worldview that has brought us to where we are. And it turns out that those who have been crying, that those who have been feeling, that those who have been dreaming, that those who have been so sure that the way the world is doing it is in fact not how we’re on the earth to do it had been right all along.

I feel that strongly. And I think that it’s our job now to say it, as you’re doing. As you were recognizing that what you saw that it’s all about being kind, you didn’t come out of that experience and say, “Well, I’m not going to tell anybody I saw that.” You didn’t come out of that experience and say, “Oh, let’s cover that up.” You came out of that experience and said, “I’m going to proclaim what I saw.” And that’s where I think we all are. Not only that we have seen something that once countered to the thinking of the world, but that we are going to proclaim it because it is the only chance that the world has. And I don’t think it’s an accident that it’s women who are making that claim.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Oh, I absolutely agree. I really do believe that this century is going to be the feminine century. And if it doesn’t, we are all in trouble. Basically, our survival is at stake. Absolutely. And I call it feminine, but it is the feminine rising in all of us. And women have a unique access to that, but men are also part of accessing that feminine power within or knowledge or wisdom within. You talk about sort of what you refer to about all of us: there’s an awakening about the level of economic corruption and social corruption and all of that. And as you see around the world and in America, in the last few years, in the expression of that awakening also there’s anger. And I want to quote something that the New York Times said that you referred to.

You said you “have less time for people who think that anger is a productive emotion. ‘Anger,’ she said,” according to the New York Times, “‘is the white sugar of activism. It is a good rush, but it doesn’t provide nourishment.’” And yet, I ask that because we are living in a moment of anger and rage. A lot of people will say, we need more rage in the world—a lot of books about the power of rage, women’s rage, all of that—and I have to tell you, as a feminist myself, in my twenties, when someone asked me . . . because I started Women for Women when I was twenty-three years old, twenty-nine, the Women for Women was helping thousands of women and I was giving these speeches, and oh, and I’m an immigrant here, and someone said, “How did you do it? Like, how do you do it?” And I was like, “I’m pissed off at injustice.”

So I did lead with anger and even rage until it scared me because I realized, ah, this could consume me. This is dangerous. And so now I am still the same activist but have zero desire to lead with anger and rage. But yet I feel rage, and anger is the word of the moment, if you may, or the emotion of the moment. What do you have to say about that? Because we are going through that in the midst of that.

Marianne Williamson:

I say what I said in that article, anger is a motivation for political activism. It’s like the white sugar of social change. It’s an adrenaline rush and then you crash. Gandhi said, “The end is inherent in the means.” An angry generation will not produce peace on earth. Who we are is as important as what we do because everything we do is infused with the imprint of the consciousness with which we do it. That’s why you see on the internet so much left-wing anger. Left-wing anger is no more, no less debilitating to the moral fabric of the universe than is right-wing anger. What I see in my life, you know, it’s interesting because I get that in terms of social activism; where my anger issues still show up is in personal relationships. So there’s so much work done. We have so many different aspects of ourselves. Those darker energies show up in different places depending on our childhood, depending on the work we’ve done. I think each of us has a highly individualized, spiritual curriculum in this life. We all have the places where we know we’re still working it out.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

And how do you work on it when it comes? Because I can tell you for me, the anger, and for me, to be extremely honest, the anger was not only at injustice. I was working with women survivors of wars and seeing rape and a mass of blood. So I was angry at men, I have to say, right? So the anger got expressed in my personal relationships with all the men in my life—my father, and my brothers, my partners. They saw that end tail of it basically, that anger. And obviously, I love them, but still, I would express it to them. Now, I struggle with holding myself from that anger, and I have like some techniques—go for a walk until I calm myself down—so what are your techniques? What are your techniques when you deal with that anger and how do you put a leash on it?

Marianne Williamson:

That’s no joke. My mother used to say when I was a child, count to ten. We live in a world where it’s very difficult to have impulse control, mainly because of social media. It’s so easy to text. It’s so easy to tweet. It’s so easy to write an email. It’s so easy to pick up the phone. And these days, we get more social support for being angry than for being forgiving. And sometimes it’s the people who have the best intentions and love you the most who will support you in your anger: “You have every right to be angry!” Well, of course, you have the right to be whatever you want to be. But the issue is how do the laws of consciousness operate? If you attack someone, you will not get what you want out of this. You might feel better for about fifteen minutes of existential sources of pain, but then it will boomerang.

And so getting off that wheel of suffering through radical compassion is the only answer. Now, what’s the primary technique for me, is the difference in whether or not I meditated that morning. If I meditated that morning—mornings are so important because that’s when your mind is opening to the impressions of a basic worldview. Your nervous system is deeply impacted, and everybody’s nervous system is shattered by what’s happening in this world today. If you’ve meditated, my experience, it doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily be an enlightened master today, but it does, I believe, radically decrease the probability that I will really blow it. When you do physical exercise, you are developing your physical muscles so that you can move and powerfully react in the world. When you do spiritual exercise, you are honing your spiritual muscles to have the power of stillness and non-reactivity. The power to be non-reactive is one of the greatest powers.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Now you talked about your family, you made a couple of references to your family, and I want to go back to it because as an immigrant myself I’m always curious about immigrants in America and you are the daughter of a father who was an immigration lawyer. And I’m really fascinated by your father, I have to say. I mean, he took you to—

Marianne Williamson:

You would’ve loved my father.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

He took you to Vietnam in 1965. It was like, wow! I mean, I’m just so curious. Were you alone on that trip? You and him or your siblings came?

Marianne Williamson:

My mother, my father, my brother, my sister. I grew up in a very interesting family. So my father would be in Saigon. He’d say, “What are these kids?” And we’d say, “Bullet holes, Daddy?” “Damn right. Who put those bullet holes there?” “The US government, Daddy?” “Damn right. Goddamn US government. Say it after me, kids: war machine.” And he’d go on and on and on. And then my mother in effect would say, “Well, that was great. Can we go to Paris now, Sam? Can we go to Paris on the way home?”

Zainab Salbi (Host):

That’s hilarious.

Marianne Williamson:

“Okay. Your mother wants to go to Paris. We’ll go to Paris on the way home. But don’t forget, kids. It’s all a war machine, the CIA, Joe Kennedy. And I don’t want you to ever forget.” And my mother would just get the . . . we’d get the tickets and she’d make dinner nicely. And she’d make sure that your hair was brushed while you were tearing down the US war machine.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

That is really, really cool, and hilarious and funny. How were the dinner conversations? I mean, when he comes from Los Angeles?

Marianne Williamson:

It was a dinner conversation that caused the trip to Vietnam. I came home and I said at dinner, “My social studies teacher said today that if we don’t fight in Vietnam, then we will be fighting on the shores of Hawaii”—because that was called the domino effect; that’s how the Vietnam War was sold to people, that we had to stop the communists in Southeast Asia or we would be fighting on the shores of Hawaii—when I said that, my father jumped up, “That’s it, damn it. Sophie Ann, we’re going to Saigon. Get the visas.” And my mother would say, “Oh, Sam. Oh, Sam.” And she would say, “What will these children turn out like?” And I said to her many years later, “Mommy you used to say that if we listened to Daddy, who knew how we would turn out.” And she said, “Yeah.” But she got the visas and packed the bags in a very traditional kind of wifely way. And for all I know, I was wearing white gloves when we landed in Saigon.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Amazing. Amazing. You know what I noticed when like now in this conversation and in reading and hearing other interviews, you’re really funny. I don’t know if anybody talk about your sense of humor. You’re really funny.

Marianne Williamson:

People who know me from my lectures . . . Yeah.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Okay. So it’s a non-fact. Okay. Because I was like, “Why is no one talking about her sense of humor?”

Marianne Williamson:

Because so many of the people who are talking about me don’t know me and they’ll stereotype in an image.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Does that hurt you? I mean, especially as you went through the presidential election, does that hurt in like all the misunderstanding and the judgment of you?

Marianne Williamson:

Like an acid bath. You wake up every morning, every morning to see articles, to see things on computer, on television, you can’t turn on television that somebody’s not . . . And a lot of it, Zainab, was from women. There’s a whole mean girl set out there. And a lot of them are the ones who claim to be the most feminist, to have the most compassion for other women. But I came out of that experience knowing—there’s an old cliche: you get bitter, or you get better—and I knew that I had a lot . . . If you were talking about the situation that you went through with your near-death experience and how it took you a year or a year and a half to heal. And I had to take a year to clear—if I didn’t allow the emotions that had come from that—it could have really twisted my personality. Bitterness, defensiveness, chip on my shoulder.

But at the same time, I didn’t want to be someone who wasn’t going to tell the truth about what I saw. I don’t know if I’m 100% there, but I’m certainly on the right path. And I have only in the last six months or so realized in a way that I can’t quite articulate—and I said this recently to a friend of mine who lost a political campaign, very unfairly, she was done dirty. She was done wrong. And I did share with her, “The day will come when you will see the value of having been through this.”

I can’t quite put my finger on why. I think the prayer for every situation is, “Dear God, somehow may my suffering not have been in vain. May this in some way make me a better person.” And I reminded my friend, that’s something that has meant a lot to me. So I think anytime you’re hurt you also in the vast majority of cases—not all the cases, not all the cases, obviously, but in the vast majority of things we experience—even if other people did us wrong, what part did we play? How did we make it easy for them? What was our own participation? How did we sabotage ourselves? How did we undermine ourselves? So there’s value in every lesson.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

And can you share one lesson that you learned from that, that came from that pain? Yeah.

Marianne Williamson:

Well, one interesting one. In the Course in Miracles, it says, “In my defenselessness my safety lies.” So much of my spiritual work in my life for all the reasons that you and I have talked about today has been becoming less tough. When it came to running for president, I needed to be tougher. When I was ambushed by Anderson Cooper on TV, I realized what he was doing. And the thought that came into my head was, “In my defenselessness my safety lies.” Oh, I should have come right back at him. I had the statistics. I could have said a few things. And I didn’t. And somebody said to me later, “If you can’t take on Anderson Cooper, how do you expect people to think you could take on Xi or Putin?” So I learned—and this goes back to what you and I were talking—the fact that we’re being loving or even kind does not necessarily mean we’re being silent.

And I also, when lies were said, I see what the system does to get someone out of the conversation if it wants them out of the conversation. I’ve been told, ill-advised, although it’s my responsibility for not overriding this, “Don’t speak to it because that brings attention to it.” Well, if you’re running for president, the attention is there. Every day, a lie was told about me in an article or on television. I should have gotten on Facebook live and said, “Let me tell you . . . Let me read this to you. Let me tell you what’s really going on.” So I learned that you don’t sacrifice . . . There’s an old saying, “Honesty without compassion is brutality.” I get that. But I also get that compassion without honesty leads to further problems.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

You were talking about some of the advice of like, do not answer the attacks or all the lies. Did you follow your instinct about it, or did you follow the advice of professionals, of others? And how did that play—your instinct—play in that?

Marianne Williamson:

Well, first of all, I didn’t expect it. I naively expected to be criticized for my policies or for something that was true. Not for this narrative made up, that was completely counter to my thirty-seven-year career. So I think I was so hurt. And I secondly was hurt by the people who knew better and did not speak up. I saw one article by a fellow writer. He said, “I’ve worked with her, she’s not nutty;” but I feel that a lot of people put their finger in the wind. “Well, if they’re saying she’s crazy and I take up for her, they’re going to say, I’m crazy.” And that’s where I’ve become deeply sensitive to issues of loyalty, particularly to other women. Because to be a truth-teller, you’re not always going to be popular, but a meaningful life is not a popularity contest. And if you are loyal towards someone who the world is into attacking at the moment, you might not be popular. And especially these days where everybody is in such a reactive mode, somebody says one thing wrong and the mob is after them.

And sometimes it’s the people who are standing for righteousness today aren’t standing for right or left. They’re just saying, “Let’s give people the benefit of the doubt. Let’s give people the opportunity to change. Let’s give people the opportunity to express what they want.” So we’re living in a very mean-spirited time. We’re living in a j’accuse moment—anybody can accuse anybody for anything. So I understand why it’s very tempting to just say, “I’m out. I’m going to go live in this bubble of protection.” But given what’s happening in the world today, how could any of us die happy if we knew we sat out of the effort to change things before it’s too late.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Of all the lies, which one hurt you the most?

Marianne Williamson:

Well, the idea that I told AIDS patients not to take their medicine. That I told AIDS patients that they got it because they didn’t love enough. That they could just pray it away and don’t take your medicine. That one hurt the most because it’s the most deeply untrue and so counter, so counter to what I believe.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

And you were in service, actually, you were in service. You mentioned women. And interestingly enough, you have a book for women, A Woman’s Worth. In it you wrote, “When I told girlfriends I was writing a book about women most of them said something like this, ‘For us, women who have been through hell and back, how strange that we should belong to this club?’” Women who have been through hell and back. And my question here, is there a moment when you first came to grips with your worth as a woman, and what sort of hell have you yourself overcome that feels gender-specific?

Marianne Williamson:

Well, I grew up in that wave of feminism in the 1970s where we were all going to consciousness-raising groups and bowing at the feet of Gloria Steinem, which she deserved—well-deserved respect, admiration, and love. So I’ve always identified with the feminist struggle. That was nothing new for me. That book, A Woman’s Worth, was written when I was forty. It was, “Okay, I’m forty, and this is what I’ve learned.” But it’s interesting because that book kind of has a cult following now among women in their early twenties. So what in my generation was this like, “Oh my God, I’m forty now. And I see this.” Women now are like, “Oh my God, I’m twenty now. And I see this.”

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Excellent.

Marianne Williamson:

It’s amazing, actually.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Excellent. Excellent.

Marianne Williamson:

Yeah. Women are putting things together now at a much younger age than we did, but that’s true of every generation. You stand on the shoulders of the one before.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Absolutely.

Marianne Williamson:

I mean, that’s how it works.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

And we pass on the information to others. Absolutely. Was there a moment that you realized your worth as a woman and owned your voice as a woman?

Marianne Williamson:

Well, my path has almost been the opposite. My path has been Jung’s concept of the father’s daughter. I was raised in a generation where fathers—with the best of intent—were slapping their daughters on the back: “I’m so proud of you for this achievement or that.” Which led me to believe that if I achieved enough, I would be loved. And so I internalized what I think was a kind of a faux strain of feminism, where I was tempted to suppress the feminine in the name of feminism.

And so the pain I experienced from this did not have to do with being rejected publicly, not until my presidential campaign. Because in my career, as a spiritual teacher, it’s a comfortable fit. And I never felt that I was less embraced because I was a woman—during the presidential campaign on such a level. In my personal life, my problem was that I unconsciously didn’t know that the feminine is loved for who we are, not for what we do. So in my relationships with men, I paid the price of being too active, too masculine really, thinking that that would make me loved and learning very painfully that that sometimes was [inaudible 00:33:10].

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Hmm. Thank you. Thank you for that. I actually, want to talk about love because you ultimately stand for love. I mean, if I have to summarize for me—

Marianne Williamson:

Well not 24/7, but I try.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

No, but you stand for the power of love.

Marianne Williamson:

I do. Even if I’m not expressing it.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

And yet it seems that your love of course comes from different perspective. There’s romantic love and there’s political love and there’s all kind . . . colleagues’ love, and there’s love to kids. What’s the question? I wonder what has been the most profound experiences that taught you about the power of love?

Marianne Williamson:

Well, I have a daughter and I don’t think anything matches the kind of love that you feel for a child. But also my personal relationships, romantic relationships, intimate relationships have proven to me how important that fuel can be. That when you wake up happy in the morning, you can do so much more that day.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

That’s so true. And so many of us career women, driven women, we talk about our career and ambitions and all of that. And we sacrifice and—

Marianne Williamson:

That’s still you’re about thirty-five. Yeah.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

That we still sacrifice the need for like the softness and the romantic love and the care and the love in our intimate lives. And it took me a long journey to understand that this is important and needed. Yeah. And it seems that it’s the same with you.

Marianne Williamson:

Yeah. Because I was a generation that was almost made to feel guilty for feeling that way. That’s what I meant by faux feminism, a strain of faux feminism where that part of me, that drive, that yearning, that desire was . . . I internalized the very wrong false idea that that’s somehow less than. And that’s another thing I see in many young women that they don’t have that delusion. My daughter certainly didn’t have that. She wants the PhD and the husband. Good for her. It’s good for her.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

I want to go back to the HIV patients that you cared for in a time where no one wanted to talk about them or touch them or anything like that. You met with people who are in a very vulnerable moments in their lives, in a very raw, very intimate space that moment of life and death, and then in your foundation, you helped people in that space. What have you learned? Do you have an example where they just taught you about the essence of life as they were dealing with death?

Marianne Williamson:

As you yourself said, when you’re about to die, or you think you’re about to die, it all becomes so clear. I’ve never known so much love. I’ve never experienced so much communal love as I did around a community of sufferers in Los Angeles and also New York who knew that the great probability was that their days were numbered, but who were there for each other and were certainly there for me as I sought to be there for them. It was exactly what you said. It was, we all got . . . all we have here is to be kind to each other. That’s all we can do—is that I can’t promise that you won’t die from this, but I can promise you won’t die alone. And nobody was saying, “Don’t take medicine.” First of all, there wasn’t any medicine at that particular point. We were all praying for the medicine and Western medicine was trying. It wasn’t like it wasn’t like doctors weren’t trying. Doctors were trying.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

I understand you lost your sister as well. How has that death impacted you?

Marianne Williamson:

Well, that was at that same time. My sister died of breast cancer in 1989. So my initial work wanting to start a center to be there for people with life-challenging illnesses did not specifically come out of the fact that so many AIDS patients were at my lectures. It came from my personal experience of my sister’s sickness as well. However, when we did our first fundraiser and I saw all these men, and it wasn’t just men, the whole community in Los Angeles. So many people who contracted that virus were actors, directors, producers—Hollywood was saturated with the disease because so many talented gay men, particularly, are part of the creative communities in the United States and everywhere for that matter. And I remember at that first fundraiser, all these men in tuxedos, many of them covered by sarcosis.

I saw that when I put the word out to do this, that’s who had responded to my lectures, and I knew, wow, this belongs to them this project. Not that it wasn’t open to other people who were suffering from whatever they were suffering from. Something that my mother told me that I think you’ll find interesting that happened at that time. I was talking to my mother about the idea of starting this center, that we were going to start to give free non-medical support services to people with life-challenging illnesses. And I was telling my mother that I didn’t know whether or not I wanted to do this. And she said, “Well, what part of you wouldn’t want to do this?” And I said, “Well, you know, Mommy, if I take this on, I’m going to have to be in Los Angeles for at least five years. I mean, it would be wrong for me to leave because if I started it people will need me.” And she said, “I feel sorry for your generation, that you’re so afraid of being needed.”

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Wow. Wow. Your mama is wise. I like asking people things their mama told them.

Marianne Williamson:

Oh yeah. She told me sometimes it takes years to look back at what your mother said and go, “Oh my gosh, my mother was right.” Sometimes I think she was right for some wrong reasons given the cultural milieux of sex, and sexuality, and stuff—she did turn out to be right. Not for quite the reasons that . . . you know.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

What did she say about that? I’m so curious.

Marianne Williamson:

Well, my generation was definitely . . . we initiated the whole casual sex, sexual revolution. And my mother’s very traditional admonition against sex, well, for her it’s sex that wasn’t in marriage. I came around to a lot of what my mother said, not in terms of marriage necessarily, but in terms of commitment, in terms of a sacred container, in terms of not-casual. I got there. Probably a little late actually. But I did.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

It’s so interesting. My mom . . . I grew up a Muslim in Iraq, a traditional society. And you’re not supposed to have sex whatsoever except during marriage. I mean, so your mom would approve of that. And my mom told me, she said, “Sex is beautiful, honey. It is to be enjoyed. It is part of the beauty of life. And if it doesn’t feel joyful and beautiful, you should never allow it.” And so I always grew up in a household where I knew, no, not only . . . my siblings knew when my parents having sex just because they closed the door in the middle of the afternoon—

Marianne Williamson:

And locked it. I would hear the little click on the door.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Yeah. Exactly.

Marianne Williamson:

Yeah. And I was raised the same way. Absolutely the same.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

And then when they get out, I would ask them, so how was it? Was it good? And my mom’s like—

Marianne Williamson:

We didn’t go that far. We just looked at each other.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

My mother told me, “Honey, it was really good.” And my dad would just be uncomfortable with it. But I love—

Marianne Williamson:

Well, that’s really cute.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

I love households that talk about sex in a beautiful way. Because I think it’s whatever the message is but to talk about it rather than be ashamed.

Marianne Williamson:

There were times when my daughter, I would go on and on with my daughter and she’d go, “Mom—mom.” Like she didn’t . . . She, she, “Stop.” She didn’t want to have as much conversation about her sex life with her mother. She didn’t really want to go there. I respect that.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

So here we are. We talked about sex, family, politics, women. I have some rapid questions to ask you about things that impacted you the most. But before I go there, if I am to say, it’s a year after the election, almost a year, right? Yeah. How are you now and who is Marianne Williamson now? Like who are you now? And do you think you’re going to run again for any other election perhaps?

Marianne Williamson:

I will run for office again if every part of me says yes because every part of me said to do it before. I think the thing to avoid will be any part of me that wants to do it only out of this kind of ego-based, “I want to do it right the way I did it wrong.” You know what I’m saying? Running for president was equal parts exhilarating and brutal. There are many ways to serve besides running for office. On the other hand, it’s a very important way to serve. We’ll see. Today I do understand the Sermon on the Mount, “Be not anxious for tomorrow. For tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” I have plenty to do right now. And I think the more you live seeking to inhabit the present as best you can, the more the future will take care of itself.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

That’s so beautiful. It’s so beautiful. And I really, I have to say, admire your courage, because a lot of us separate between our political brain and our hearts’ language as I call it. I can talk about myself—I separated my own love for God for a long time because I was so embarrassed to talk about it. And I really admire, because here you are standing for very clear political values and conducting it and conveying it with very clear presence of love also, and with vulnerability and authenticity, and that combination is a very courageous one.

Marianne Williamson:

Thank you.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

So thank you. No thank you for being, just for being who you are. Thank you. Now, before we go, I do have rapid questions for you. Are there any songs that make you feel empowered and brave that you always go to?

Marianne Williamson:

“Miracles” by Jefferson Starship.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

All right. Is there a prayer, a poem, a piece of art that lifts your spirits?

Marianne Williamson:

Gosh, so many. Art, great art. John Lennon was once asked, “What kind of music do you like?” He said, “Great music, good music.” On my Substack, I’m using this sort of visual strategy-is-painting. So I’m spending a lot of time right now on the internet. Just looking at great paintings. Only Matisse comes to mind . . . Edward Munch comes to mind . . . Picasso comes to mind.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Beautiful. How about movies that you go for either a good cry or renew your spirit or like the movie that you always watch?

Marianne Williamson:

The one? Well, there are two things. The one that blew my mind was The Mission.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Oh, love it.

Marianne Williamson:

Yeah. The Mission just says it all, doesn’t it?

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Oh my gosh.

Marianne Williamson:

Says it all. And the one that’s my sort of romantic favorite is a movie made by Henry Jaglom called Déjà Vu from several years ago.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Are there mentors or teachers who have inspired you? I’m sure there are lots but ones that you can share.

Marianne Williamson:

Absolutely. Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Buber, Tillich. The book I’m writing right now is about Jesus. The publisher called me and said, “We need somebody to write a book about Jesus for non-Christians.” I said, “I’m your girl.”

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Is there a book, your favorite book that you go to for solace or strength?

Marianne Williamson:

Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke. Letters to a Young Poet always just seems to me to have infinite wisdom. And I’m into really reading all the old ones again. You know what I’m reading right now, again, I’m reading Anna Karenina again.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

I love it.

Marianne Williamson:

I know I’m reading a lot of old classics. You read them very differently at a later time in your life.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

So true. So true. I must tell you a Letters to a Young Poet is by my nightstand. I look to different pages between now and then you. Yeah. Beautiful.

Marianne Williamson:

And of course, Jane Austen never gets old.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

Absolutely. It’s an honor, honor to be in conversation with you. And I truly do look forward to staying in touch. Thank you very, very much.

Marianne Williamson:

Absolutely. All my best.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

My best to you. Thank you.

Marianne Williamson:

Thank you.

Zainab Salbi (Host):

That was Marianne Williamson. To subscribe to her newsletter, Transform, please visit mariannewilliamson.substack.com, and for transcripts and other resources from this episode, please go to www.findcenter.com/redefined. You can follow FindCenter on Instagram @find_center. You can follow me @ZainabSalbi. And you can email me questions about this podcast and your own transformative moments at redefined@findcenter.com. Thank you so much for listening. We’ll be back next week for another conversation about life’s turning points and lessons learned. My guest will be Movement Genius founder, Alyson Stoner. Redefined is produced by me, Zainab Salbi, along with Rob Corso, Casey Kahn, and Howie Kahn at FreeTime Media. Our music is by John Palmer. Special thanks to Lauren Selsky, Neal Goldman, Jenn Tardif, Elijah Townsend, Amanda Graber, Caroline Pincus, and Sherra Johnston. Looking forward to seeing you next time.