Thursday, January 27, 2005

Illuminata: A Return to Prayer by Marianne Williamson

A Book Review by Zinta Aistars

# Paperback: 300 pages
# Publisher: Riverhead Books; Reprint edition, 1995
# ISBN: 1573225207
# $12.00

She writes: "Ultimately, the choice to love each other is the only choice for a survivable future... every time we open our hearts, we create the space for a global alternative. The opening of the heart is an awesome personal politic, providing us with an internal strength greater than any worldly power. As we receive God's love and impart it to others, we are given the power to repair the world... Personal transformation can and does have global effects. As we go, so goes the world, for the world is us. The revolution that will save the world is ultimately a personal one..."

It is as if Williamson understands, and I suspect she does, how tired my own heart grows at times as it travels its lifelong spiritual journey. Is striving to better oneself really worth it? Is it a good thing to be a good person in a dog-eat-dog society? Or is the harsh reality that the one who plays in mud, who is willing to step on another's back, who plays hard to get, who is a master of manipulation, who never blinks at putting oneself first, is inevitably the one who wins the prize? Perhaps. More times than I care to know. And still.... the lifelong struggle to better oneself is, yes, worth it. If only for that final moment when one faces one's own image in the mirror of self-judgement.

"Illuminata" is a book of prayers. There are prayers to begin the new day - and to end it. There are prayers for strength, for health, for happiness, for the renewal of faith, for forgiveness. There are prayers for friends, for family, for lovers. There are prayers to heal nations. There are prayers to overcome addictions, betrayal, emptiness, obsession, loss, greed. There are prayers to mark moments of routine, of tradition, of ritual, of ceremony. The prayers are separated by Williamson's simple, but insightful meditations.

Like many of us, I don't pray nearly as often as I should. Many of my prayers are spoken not in words, but in the way that I touch someone I love, in the manner with which I greet my morning, in the silence I keep when my heart requires healing. But sometimes we need the words to pray. Although I have rarely used her exact words, Williamson's prayers have taught me... that to speak to God is to simultaneously speak to our deeper and higher selves. It is an exchange that is necessary. It is a part of that lifelong journey that we cannot, must not avoid. And, as Williamson writes, we do indeed change the world... one heart at a time.

No comments: