10 Questions Series: Marci Shimoff

August 31, 2013 by Chris Grosso

Marci Shimoff

NAME: Marci Shimoff

BIO: Marci Shimoff is a #1 NY Times bestselling author, a celebrated transformational leader, and one of the nation’s leading experts on happiness, success, and unconditional love. She is the author of the runaway bestsellers Love for No Reason and Happy for No Reason, which offer revolutionary approaches to experiencing deep and lasting love and happiness. These books soared to the top of many national bestseller lists including The New York Times, Amazon, and the Wall Street Journal and have been translated into 31 languages. 


Q: Who and or what, do you attribute the person you are today to?


A: I’ve had amazing mentors and spiritual teachers, starting with my parents who were two of the most amazing parents on the planet. They were loving and deeply good people. I was also very blessed to have spiritual teachers early on, the first of which was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi when I was 16 years old. I learned Transcendental Meditation and then became a teacher of TM at 19. I continued to have many great spiritual teachers as well as fabulous business mentors including Jack Canfield who created the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. So it’s really a combination of these remarkable people and my souls calling, which I believe I’ve listened to and has ultimately led my life’s unfolding the way in which it has.


Perhaps the biggest influence on my life however was my father. I came out of the womb with existential angst. I was not a happy kid. I had great parents, and circumstances, but there was a dark cloud around me, a heaviness in my heart. My father however was the happiest person I ever knew in my life. He passed away at the age of ninety-one but every morning until then, he woke up with a smile on his face and was just so full of love. I remember one day when I was nineteen and we were driving down the road together I asked him, “Dad, what’s your best advice for life?” and he looked at me and said four words, “Honey, just be happy”. I threw my arms in the air in frustration and said, “Dad, that’s easy for you to say, you were born that way but I wasn’t, so what do I do?” and he looked at me and he said four more words, “Honey, I don’t know”. It was at that moment I realized some people are born happier than other’s and I wasn’t one of them, so from that point on I dedicated my life to what I, and others could do to be happier, to raise what science now calls your happiness set point. I’ve devoted my career to that exploration and fortunately I think I’ve come up with some answers. I’d say I went from a D+ in happiness to an A-, but it was having my father as that reference point which showed me what’s possible in life.


Q: What are some of the musical albums or musicians/bands that have impacted your life and in what way?


A: I absolutely love chanting to Deva Premal. I can be in the biggest funk, but when she comes on my heart just melts. I’ve been blessed to know her and consider her a dear friend. The music she sings comes from such a deep, beautiful, soulful place, a place of love and a connection to God and being-ness. I just love Deva Premal.


I also love Krishna Das for the same reason but perhaps the more masculine and active form of the chant.


The Beatles are certainly a favorite. They are at top of Western music spiritually speaking, as far as I’m concerned. If I had one theme song in my life it would be, “Let It Be”. The words to that song touch me deeply. When I find myself in times of trouble, “Mother Mary comes to me speaking words of wisdom, let it be” and that’s my life.


Another piece of music that truly moves me is “Amazing Grace”. Whenever I hear it, I’m inspired. I’m reminded of the Amazing Grace that is in every moment which I sometimes lose sight of.


The album Connections by Steve Halpern is also very important to me. When I was first writing Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul I was working with a man named Dr. Jerry Teplitz who does muscle testing on things to measure their energetic vibration. I sent Jerry the manuscript for Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul and there were certain stories that didn’t muscle test at a high vibration. His remedy was for me to retype the story while listening to the Connections album. He said that music creates a specific energetic pattern that would change the stories or peoples responses to the stories. So I went back and did that while rewriting the entire manuscript and all of the stories tested strongly afterwards. I thought well gosh, on the next book I’ll avoid this whole process and just work on it while listening to Connections from the very start, and that’s what I’ve done with each manuscript since.


Q: What is one of the most shocking experiences you’ve ever had?


A: I remember it vividly as it was only a year and a half ago. I was in San Diego working on my book Love for No Reason with my co-author Carol Kline. We were deeply immersed in writing and my boyfriend at the time was there visiting me as well. One evening when I was going to sleep, about halfway into the process of falling asleep, the following words came out of my mouth, “My Mom is dying”. Now I was half-asleep and didn’t think these words, I just blurted them out and it completely shocked me. I tried to forget about it, I reasoned, “She’s fine, she just had a physical”. She was thriving. She was 88 and walked twice a day around the block. When I awoke the next morning, I had the same thought, “My Mom is going to die today” and I thought that was just crazy, but I decided I’d give her a call later that morning, however, I forgot. Somehow, the thought just completely left my head. A couple of hours later I went to a church service at Yogananda’s Self Realization Fellowship. The sermon happened to be about what happens to people when they leave the body and how they’re met with unconditional love, which was the love I was writing about in my book. So once again I thought, “Oh Mom, I need to call her when I get out of church” but again, the thought completely left my mind. Four hours later my sister called and I picked up the phone and said, “Linda, don’t say a word, please just hold on a moment.” I went over to my co-author Carol and said, “I need you to hold my hand because I know what’s happened.” Sure enough, my sister told me that my Mother had just passed away. She had been sitting in her chair, watching a little TV while waiting for someone to pick her up. While waiting, she closed her eyes and they never reopened. I was devastated and yet I knew there was great perfection in it. I’d received such a beautiful gift of warning in advance to know this was all in divine order.


Q: What is one of the most beautiful experiences you’ve ever had?


A: I grew up Jewish but I’ve always had a deep resonance with the truth of every religion, a feeling of deep connection with them all. Growing up however, and being of the Jewish faith, my family didn’t have much connection with the idea of Jesus or Mother Mary. About six years ago, I was traveling with a group on a spiritual pilgrimage through France. During that trip, we went to Lourdes, which turned out to be a profound and beautiful experience for me. I loved the energy of actually being in Lourdes, not the town itself necessarily, as it was a little like Disneyland, but once you actually got into the shrine it vibrated with a deeply exquisite energy. It happened to be Italian week while we were visiting, which meant we were there with about ten thousand Italians. My ex-husband, who I was married to at the time, was there and he’s from Italy with Italian being his first language. So all of these Italian folks were saying Hail Mary in their native language and I just fell in love with the sound of it. I begged my husband to teach it to me because everyone was saying it repeatedly and it began resonating deeply within me. So Sergio, my ex-husband taught it to me and I began saying it over and over, each time my heart opening more and more. We were in line approaching the water in Lourdes with hundreds of Italians, all who were saying Hail Mary in Italian. With each passing step, my heart felt like it was bursting open, and when I was finally immersed into the water, I burst into tears and saw the most exquisite vision of Mother Mary. She was very, very real to me. I felt her presence holding and loving me, pouring her compassion on my entire essence of being. I’d never had an experience like that before in my life and ever since then I’ve had the deepest bond with Mother Mary. She is who I invite everyday into my life.


Q: What is one of the most defining moments in your life and why?


A: There’s actually two early defining moments out of many that I’ll share with you. I was a spiritual seeker from the get go. I remember in my younger years, when I was six, seven, eight years old, I’d ask my parents questions about God, and while they always tried their best to answer them, it didn’t satisfy my yearning. I felt fairly troubled by this yearning because it seemed like nobody understood. I lived in California at the time and while I was spiritual on one hand, I was a California girl on the other and I would go out into the back yard to sun tan. So one day while I was in the sixth grade I gathered up my baby oil, because that’s what we use back then, and went into my twelve-year-old sisters bedroom to borrow a book. She had many sophisticated books and I wanted to borrow the skinniest one I could find, because I was a slow reader at the time. That book turned out to be Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. I took it out to the back yard, applied my baby oil and started reading it. Within ten minutes, I was in tears. I was crying because I realized I was not alone on this search. Here was this story of Siddhartha, and the realization that there were others on this search with me. I felt so moved and relieved. I’d say that was the beginning of my formal search on the spiritual path.


Two years later, in the eighth grade, I decided to stay home one day from school. I wasn’t sick but had never done that before so my Mom let me. I sat in bed, turned on the T.V. and interestingly enough, a show came on, on a channel that we didn’t get. It was the Phil Donahue show and his guest was this little Indian man, sitting in white robes and speaking about the purpose of life. His name was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and again, I burst into tears. I thought to myself, “This is what I’m on the planet for, to find and understand what he’s speaking about.” I wrote down his name and the name of his book, The Science of Being and Art of Living. After the show, I called all the bookstores and libraries in my home town of San Mateo but nobody had heard of it, so I shoved that little piece of paper away into a drawer. Three years later, while walking in downtown San Mateo I saw a poster that read, “Life is here to enjoy” and it had a picture of that man who’d been on the T.V. show, Maharishi. It also advertised an introductory lecture, which I attended and then proceeded to learn TM, which truly changed my life. Maharishi’s book The Science of Being and Art of Living also presented a beautiful explanation to me of understanding how life and creation works, which I still draw from to this day.


Q: What do you believe are the benefit, if any, vs. the dangers of mind-altering drugs?


A: I don’t feel I’m particularly qualified to answer this question because I haven’t really had any drug experiences. I know for many people, their drug experiences have truly opened them up to other dimensions in life and I think that’s wonderful. I certainly have no judgments about it. I’ve just never felt drawn to it myself. I am concerned about the effects it has on the brain. I know Dr Daniel Amen who’s done over 50,000 brain scans and has photos that show what happens to the brain through prolonged drug use. So I’m particularly careful with what I do ingest into my body, though I do think if used in the right way and in the right place, like in shamanistic practices and opening to the divine, substances have their place.


Q: What are some films you’ll never forget seeing for the first time and why?


A: The first film that comes to mind right away is The Sound of Music. I saw that for the first time when I was probably seven years old and my family went on a big outing to see it. One scene in particular that always moves me is when Julie Andrews is standing on top of that mountain singing “The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Music.” The freedom and connection to life, which that scene depicted for me will always be ingrained in my being. I was in Germany a few years ago and found myself on top of a hill that felt just like that one, though I know was shot in Austria, but it was similar landscaping, and I found myself just doing a Julie Andrews and singing, “The hills are alive with the sound of music”. That movie is so important, reflecting the power of the human spirit to survive, our need for freedom, and to allow our souls to sing, for love to prevail.


Another film that impacted me was The Wizard of Oz. I’ve seen that movie more than any other film in my life, at least forty times now. I believe it represents the magic of life and recognizing that we all have the wizard within us, and that we just need to click our red slippers together to create our own reality. I also think that is has a very deep, archetypical message. I know I’m always seeing what I can do to click my red heels together.


Sophie’s Choice is another film that really moved me, particularly the scene of her having to choose which child. I’ll never forget that because to me, that’s really the ultimate test in life. Can we survive? Can we keep our hearts open, even in the midst of this tremendous atrocity? Can we still believe in the goodness of life, even when things appear the worst? I don’t mean the goodness of life in a superficial way, I mean the belief that there is some deeper purpose in everything that happens to us. I think we all ultimately need to make decisions in our lives about whether we’re going to think of the universe as friendly or not. Einstein said the most important question we can ask is, “Is this a friendly universe?” So if we can have enough belief, faith and knowing in our hearts that it’s a friendly universe, no matter what the appearances are, then we’ve mastered life.


Q: Does God exist and if so, in what capacity? If not, why not?


A: Ah, the ultimate question of life. I absolutely believe that God exists and for me that means divine intelligence. An intelligent presence or spirit that is the creator, maintainer, even destroyer as the Hindu’s may say, in life. I can’t provide a specific way to prove this, perhaps there is, but from my experience, it all comes down to an inner knowingness, a knowingness that no one can take away from you. I have that inner knowingness, a divine connection with a universal presence of love, of grace and it’s beyond any kind of reason, explanation or proof.


Q: What do you think your greatest contribution to humanity is?


A: I have always felt that my job in this life is twofold. The first purpose is to be on my own path of awakening, to awaken to the greatest degree I can on my own soul journey. The second is to share that with as many people as I possibly can. I’ve always felt I was a messenger for the masses and a big part of that message is that I’m very authentic and real. I started out where most people do and I’m on this journey just like everybody else. I’m willing to share what I’ve found that has helped, and what hasn’t. Part of this effort is that I try to take what is perhaps “esoteric” and make it more accessible for a mainstream audience. So my role here is to be very deeply grounded in day to day life while relating to as many people as possible a spiritual component we all have, and many are searching for, in a contemporary, user friendly way.


Q: What does the human experience mean to you?


A: I believe that in life, we are in soul school, a school of awakening to the divinity of who we really are. We have the opportunity to recognize our true essence and to know that everything that happens on this journey is a catalyst of awakening to who we are. I’ve interviewed so many people over the years for Happy for No Reason and Love for No Reason, and I’ve heard numerous stories about people who have had near death experiences, many of whom report the same experience. An experience where at the end of our life, we’re asked one simple question. It’s like a one question final exam and the question is, “How much did you grow in your capacity to give and receive love?” and I think that perfectly sums up our main purpose in life. As we continue to awaken to the truth of who we are, we recognize that we are love, that love is our essence, and when we recognize love as our essence, as who we are, then we have completed our souls journey, we’ve learned our souls lesson. In answering this question, I’m reminded of a quote by Rumi, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it” so I feel like our life’s journey is to remove those barriers to the experience of love as our true essence.

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Chris Grosso is a writer, public speaker, mental health youth group facilitator, and author with Simon & Schuster. He also writes for Revolver Magazine, Fangoria, and has spoken at a bunch of fancy-schmancy festivals and conferences (as well as even more events that were significantly less than fancy-schmancy). Chris's podcast, The Indie Spiritualist, is hosted on Ram Dass's Be Here Now Network.