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The Wisdom of Taking Action

February 2020

"If you have a clue as to what changes one heart, you’re the one who has a clue as to what changes the world."

In conversation, Marianne Williamson sparks a mix of intrigue and inspiration, often honing in on such deeper questions as: how do we become our best selves? The longtime activist, former 2020 presidential hopeful and bestselling author of A Return To Love and A Politics of Love, joins leaders in business, mindfulness and social change at this year’s Wisdom 2.0. Founded by Esalen faculty Soren Gordhamer, the annual conference addresses how we can establish connection through technology in ways that are beneficial to our own well-being. Esalen faculty Byron Katie, Jack Kornfield, Dan Siegel and Russ Hudson, among others, are featured speakers at the event on March 5-8 in San Francisco. We caught up with Marianne, who spoke at Esalen during its 50th anniversary celebration in 2012, to discuss Esalen’s influence on her, Wisdom 2.0 and much more.

Esalen News: How has Esalen influenced the path you’ve taken?

Anyone who has had a career in the transformational field is a recipient of the foundational works at Esalen, whether they know it or not. I’m old enough that I do know it. And I’m very grateful for that. I come from a generation well aware of the pivotal role Esalen has played in the emergence of a more enlightened civilization. I have met co-founder Michael Murphy and there is no way to overstate Esalen’s importance on the path or its potential moving forward. In terms of the human potential movement and how that shaped the culture, in Esalen’s beginnings, it was a time when literally some of the most important thinkers in the world were gathered there to share ideas and feed new possibilities. In terms of its role today, I have an eternal loyalty toward its ongoing mission.

Esalen News: What do you hope people take away from Wisdom 2.0?

I have felt for a long time that people in the higher consciousness and transformational community should be the last people standing on the sidelines when it comes to the great social, economic and political questions of our day. If you have a clue as to what changes one heart, you’re the one who has a clue as to what changes the world. People of the higher consciousness community should not be dwelling on the outside. We should be the biggest grown-ups in the room. I have been saying that for years. I ran for president believing we can harness the extraordinary potential of the higher consciousness community on behalf of creative political change. I miscalculated, I believe, because the chronic political disengagement on the part of that community is more difficult to penetrate than I knew. But I like to think we moved the needle, even if only a few inches. I will use my time at Wisdom 2.0 to share some of the lessons I learned, beliefs I hold and hopes I hold onto.

Esalen News: What is the most exciting possibility that can emerge from a Wisdom 2.0 experience?

There was a time when the zeitgeist was about new ideas. I think we need to evolve now beyond just the embrace of new ideas to the courage and grit it will take to apply them. The transformational scene, overall, has become a bit too cushy, I think, and if we’re not careful, it will ultimately limit our capacity to fundamentally transform much of anything.

Esalen News: How do you remain grounded during uncertain times?

Meditate. Meditate. Meditate. You know, my life works really well when I practice what I preach. The truth is simple. It’s life that’s complicated. The principles of “Truth,” whether they are articulated in A Course of Miracles or any other spiritual path, are not difficult. What’s difficult is getting over our resistance to applying those principles. What’s difficult is our resistance to blessing rather than blaming, to forgiving rather than judging, to rising up rather than staying stuck in our dysfunction.

Esalen News: What are several ways to cultivate wisdom and grace?

We cultivate wisdom and truth first by learning the principles of forgiveness, but just knowing the principles doesn’t mean all that much. It’s learning to apply them where the rubber meets the road. And that simply comes from living life, from seeing every circumstance as part of our soul's curriculum. Knowing that every situation presents the lessons we can learn from. The more time goes by, the more I can see that this is true. Every interaction at every moment is an opportunity to either rise to the occasion, or sink into ego-based ways of thinking and behaving. The choice is always there.

Esalen News: What are you most excited about now?

I’m excited about the unlimited power of God. I am also deeply disturbed by the seemingly unlimited ability of humanity to fool itself.

Esalen News: What brings you a true sense of wonder and awe?

Love. Flowers. Babies.


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