The Self-Love Book Club Reads 'A Return to Love'

"Miracles mean that at any moment we can begin again."

I've been meaning to read A Return to Love for a while now and The Self-Love Book Club afforded the perfect opportunity. But from the outset, although I really connected to the message of Marianne's writing, I had a lot of resistance to the way it was worded, which made it difficult to get through. The Christian terminology of surrendering to God or cultivating a "Christ mind" doesn't jive with my beliefs about spirituality. I found Gabrielle Bernstein, whose work is also based on A Course In Miracles, offered helpful advice: She suggests mentally crossing out these words and replacing them with "spirit," "intuition," "the universe," or whatever makes the most sense to you.

There were still concepts that I had difficulty reconciling with my own beliefs. For example, although I believe the mind is a powerful thing, the idea that we can reach a level of consciousness that allows for instantaneous healing doesn't fit in with what I think is possible. But I kept an open mind while reading and still gained a lot from Marianne's wisdom. Because essentially it's a text about love. About recognizing love as our natural state of being and becoming more loving towards ourselves and everyone else.

Marianne is a beautiful example of someone who transformed her life through finding a more loving perspective. The book follows her journey from a person who was full of self-loathing to the inspiring figure she is today. It distills the teachings of A Course In Miracles by documenting how she applied them to her own life and the lessons she learned.

A Return to Love is a dense text and one that I know will warrant multiple readings. Sometimes I felt like I was underlining half of the book (and I shared many of my favourite passages on Twitter). There's so much insight to be gained, but I've distilled my thoughts to five major takeaways from the biggest themes Marianne discusses.

  • Miracles are a shift in perception. They're the manifestation of our opportunity in every moment to choose a loving thought over a fearful one. This is a powerful thing to remember when it comes to how we think about ourselves and other people. When you recognize a judgment forming in your mind, pause and think, "How can I see love instead of this?" It shifts how we react in a situation and that is a miracle.
  • In relationships, many of us project our pasts onto our partners and find ways to blame them for our insecurities. We need to claim our emotional baggage and recognize the opportunities relationships provide for healing those old wounds by recognizing that they're there and letting them go. When we take responsibility for our own issues and choose to see our partners only with love, relationships become an opportunity for two people to be more together than they would be alone.
  • Any career, whether it's that of a famous actress or a hair stylist, can be centred on love. Do what you love and do it to spread love.
  • Usually we identify as a body, rather than as an individual (or spirit) who has a body. Our thoughts have a powerful impact on the way our bodies operate. We make ourselves sick with anxiety and can gain weight when emotionally we want to put walls up betweens ourselves and the rest of the world. We improve our health by cultivating loving relationships with ourselves and everyone else.
  • Most of us defer our happiness to the future. We believe that if we achieve this or acquire that, then we'll be happy. But happiness can only happen in the present and it's a choice we must make by turning our thoughts back to love.

Even though I found it difficult, I really enjoyed reading A Return to Love and would recommend it to anyone working on their own self-love journey. It's important to read things that challenge our own beliefs and even if we don't agree with everything that's sad, there's often a lot that can be learned.

This month the Self-Love Book Club is reading Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It by Kamal Ravikant, which I'm really looking forward to. After August we'll be going on hiatus for an undetermined amount of time. The book club has been operating for a whole year now. I've learned so much and it's been so wonderful to watch our little online group grow. But I've struggled to find the best format for encouraging engagement so for now, I think it's best to take a break. I'll be posting a list of what I'm currently reading in my sidebar and I'll include reading recommendations in my weekly Adventures in Self-Love post.

Images by Cate Parr.