19 Oct The Wonder of Everyday Miracles
“Miracles rest not so much upon healing power coming suddenly near us from afar but upon our senses being made finer so that, for the moment, our eyes can see and our ears can hear what has been there around us always.”
Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop
Two days ago, on Saturday, I arrived at my Aunt Gloria’s home. I got there in an exquisitely clean car. The driver works for a popular, app-run service that’s less expensive than most taxis. The kind driver picked me up from the Burbank airport and even helped me find the best Starbucks nearby without charging for the extra time. As a thank you, I got him his favorite coffee. It was great seeing how much he enjoyed that first sip. A miracle!
When we arrived at my Aunt Gloria’s three-story townhouse, her neighbor and his son were looking through special glasses at the partial eclipse of the sun that had just reached its apex of 60-65% occlusion. I had no idea that the eclipse was happening! They offered me a peek. In addition, the boy showed me a special box with a pinhole in it. The sun’s light went through the hole and was projected onto the back of the box. There it was! The sun’s eclipse. He was proud to show it to me. Another miracle!
My Aunt Gloria opened the front door to let me in. She’s 94 years old, genuinely sharp as a tack, and lives in a home filled with Persian rugs and colorful paintings. And she’s a voracious reader. To be more precise, she is not a reader but a connoisseur of audiobooks since she has macular degeneration that makes it increasingly difficult for her to see objects over time.
I don’t know if it’s the sound of my voice as I come bounding into her living room or if she can still see me, but she always greets me with a big smile and this one word that always opens my heart:
“Marichkee!” she says. “It’s so good to see you! Come here: let’s see what you’re wearing today!” Then I come closer so she can review what I’ve put together. I always want to make sure that she’s pleased with my outfit.
But here’s the miracle: I will be 80 in a few months, and someone still remembers me as a baby! “You were the cutest baby!” she says, patting my cheek. It melts my heart every time.
In Search of Everyday Miracles
There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” — Albert Einstein
So, what is a miracle? How can we define it in a way we can use to bring meaning and purpose to life? A way that can be of immediate use to us? In the years I’ve been leading courses, I’ve discovered a method for examining miracles. I offer it here:
- A miracle is any event that lies outside our current way of seeing our life, bringing us both a benefit and lasting happiness.
Think of it this way: do you remember an event that brings a smile to your face when you recall it? I remember when I first learned “balance” on a bike. I was nine years old, and my father was holding onto the back of the seat as he walked me down a sidewalk, with me pedaling all the way. I knew I wouldn’t fall if he held on. Around the 6th try at pedaling, I noticed his voice sounded far away as he talked with me. Sure enough, he had let go of the bike, and I was pedaling alone! I could feel my body adjusting itself to keep me up and running. I had balance!
If you want to experience a child finding balance, I recommend this short YouTube clip.
Here’s something else that I discovered about miracles:
- What was once a miracle is absorbed into our usual way of seeing life. It becomes a commonplace experience, and we seldom regard it as a miracle again.
Over my lifetime, I have loved to bike! It’s impossible now since I need to care for my bones, which get slightly more brittle each decade. However, I remember when I hadn’t biked in about ten years. I was 35 at the time. Some friends and I rented bikes to go around Yosemite Valley. I’d been apprehensive, thinking I no longer knew how to do it. But once I sat on the bike’s seat, off I went. I’d never lost that initial sense of balance!
Here’s a question for you: are you willing to seek out the miraculous events, no matter what size they may be, that occur around you every day? I know this can be a challenge. Our brain has become accustomed to looking for what’s not working in our lives rather than what is working. Our brain has developed a Negativity Bias to keep us alive. Scientists have shown that our brain hasn’t changed much in about 100,000 years! It still thinks it has to protect us from predators that may lie outside our cave’s haven. We weren’t powerful as animals, but we did have that brain to look out for us by seeing what wasn’t working instead of what was working. And it still behaves the same way today.
So, if you’re willing to see some “ordinary” miracles, please try this:
- Each day for the next week, keep a journal of what has worked about that day, especially at those times in which you thought nothing did work. It could be large or small, but you’re training your brain to shift from the Negativity Bias to looking at things that may have been there all around you, as Willa Cather’s quote above echoes.
- If you don’t find anything that works, be compassionate with yourself. You’re learning a new skill set. Simply promise yourself that you’ll look for what’s working tomorrow and do it until your brain catches on and starts following what you ask it to do.
- You may find that this is an experiment you’d like to continue for at least 30 more days. If you do, notice how much lighter you feel in your heart of hearts. This strategy works! I promise!
Until next time, please remember that I’m here to support you to live your best life!