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Paul Pearsall

Becoming a Miracle Maker
by Paul Pearsall, Ph.D.

The "Abnormalcy Advantage"

What we call "normal" in psychology is really a psychopathology of the average, so undramatic and so widely spread that we don't even notice it. —Abraham Maslow

Patsy's Parade

"I see the balloons!" screamed little Patsy. "I see the balloons! They're blowing them all up right there for the parade. But that little balloon won't stay up. It just can't hold air. It can't keep the air inside it. It must feel like me."

Patsy was a miracle maker. She was only eight years old but she had wisdom that many don't have even after decades of living. Her favorite statement was, "That's just the way." All of her games followed the rules of "the way." She was undergoing a bone marrow transplant as treatment for her leukemia. She was in the hospital room next to mine, and on this Thanksgiving morning, her screams were of excitement and not from the pain of the needles that usually began our mornings.

Miracle in Maui by Paul Pearsall

Patsy often sat with the nurses at their station. They needed her to boost their courage on one of the most stress-inducing units of any hospital. The entire floor was sealed off from the rest of the hospital and had its own air circulation to save us patients from contracting infections. Our immunity was down to zero because of chemotherapy and radiation, and our blood counts would have signaled death under normal circumstances. A common cold could have killed dozens of us within days. Masks, gowns, and sterile gloves were worn by everyone, including the limited number of visitors, who always seemed so afraid when they came to see us. Once on this unit, we patients seldom felt the touch of another person's skin against our own. There were many "almost hugs" that stopped short of contact for fear of contamination. We learned to signal our hugging by wrapping our arms around ourselves while our loved ones hugged themselves.

All of us were on the verge of death. Almost half of us would die. Most of us would be exposed to more radiation than the workers in the nuclear accident in Chernobyl. In fact, lessons learned from treating the victims of nuclear accidents were applied to the treatment of bone marrow transplant patients.

We were all in terrible pain, constantly vomiting and losing control of our bowels at the same time. We were sick with repeated infections, and festering oral sores from the chemotherapy grew so large that they almost sealed off our mouths and made swallowing nearly impossible. We were all losing weight and had to be fed through our veins because radiation treatments had burned our appetites away. We ached where needles had drilled into our bones to withdraw marrow samples. I have never known such pain as the sensation of my own marrow being sucked from deep within me.

A bone marrow transplant typically requires about two months of hospitalization in almost total isolation. Prior to this time, the most rigorous tests are conducted and, ironically, the candidates for a transplant must be in "good health" even though they are dying. A "donor transplant" is a process through which the patient receives bone marrow provided by someone who perfectly matches the patient's own. An autologous transplant, as in my case, requires the removal of the patient's own marrow from the hip and pelvic bones, sometimes "purging" or treating it with intense chemotherapy, and then placing the marrow back inside the body after the patient has had days of near-lethal whole-body radiation and/or chemotherapy. Including the diagnosis, evaluation, numerous tests, chemotherapy and radiation therapy transfusions, and lengthy recuperation during which the immunity of the patient is so low that every cough and sneeze causes a fear of death, the patient and his or her family surrenders any semblance of a normal life for about two years.

All of us looked like walking ghosts. "I have an idea for a new diet," said Patsy one morning when we all were getting weighed. "Everyone who wants to look skinny can come here to get chemicals and rays. Then they will look like us. They could go on our cancer diet."

We could hear each other retching during the night and crying all day, but Patsy would cry only for a little while. Then she would hop onto her metal stand, which held the IV bags and tubes that always dangled beside each of us. Each stand was hung with several different colored bags that ballooned out in fullness with toxic chemicals designed to burn away any growing cell in our body, the latest drugs to treat the many infections we all contracted, and nutrients to keep us alive while we were unable to eat and digest food. The chemotherapy medications were equal-opportunity killers. They attacked any fast-growing cell in the body whether or not that cell was a normal hair or stomach-lining cell or a killer cancer cell. The contents stung and destroyed our veins so completely that the multiple daily blood tests we received had to be taken from a plastic catheter surgically implanted in our chests.

In the middle of the night, the nurses would come to pop out the heparin seals that served as chemical corks to hold back the blood in our chest tubes. The blood would spurt out, sometimes soaking the patient, nurse, and the bed. Hundreds of blood tests were necessary to determine when transfusions would be needed to save our lives. We sometimes tried to pretend we were not awake when the blood was taken, but the smell of heparin and our own blood would nauseate us. We patients cal1ed this catheter the "Dracula Drain," but our feeble attempt at humor could not mask our terror.

When we were given platelets to increase our blood count, we would feel freezing cold. I shook so hard that I still have soreness in my joints and muscles. A sudden fever would result, followed by tremors, headache, and nausea. All of this was overwhelming for a grown man, but Patsy weathered each torturing procedure with humor and strength. Her presence permeated the entire unit.

Patsy loved to ride her IV stand, crouched so low that the nurses saw only what seemed to be an unguided stand moving past their high counter. Patsy sneaked by the nurses' station and rode what she called her Christmas tree IV stand every day, and we all laughed at this daily joke. She would often drag along dolls in her parade and demanded that patients who were out for a wobbly walk join her. We had to keep in line, because that was Patsy's way. The nurses and doctors came to rely on Patsy's procession as a boost to their morale and energy, and we patients came to see her parade as a form of protest against the overwhelming urge to give up.

Now, however, Patsy was losing her physical battle. The transplant had taken just too much from her, and although she had pulled through countless crises that should have killed her, this time she would not survive. A virus so small and so weak that almost any person would never be bothered by it eventually would take advantage of Patsy's lowered immunity and kill her. First, there would be a slight fever and then, within hours, Patsy would be gone. Still, she continued to humble all of us with her strength and the making of her miracles.

On this Thanksgiving morning just before the crisis that all of us feared could happen to any of us at any time, her cries were of excitement about preparations for the Detroit Thanksgiving Day parade that were taking place (by coincidence) right underneath her window in the hospital courtyard. She hollered with glee at the big, multicolored balloons, and we all clustered to Patsy's room, dragging our own Christmas tree IVs. Like prisoners pressed up against the bars of our cell, we looked down on the impending holiday celebration.

"But that one little balloon can't hold air," said Patsy. She had been unusually pensive the last several days, and we all noticed that Patsy's parade was not taking place as regularly as it once did. She became somber now as she pressed her nose to the hospital window. We pretended we could not hear her murmur, "That's just the way."

Suddenly, the little balloon inflated and floated away from its handler and up into the sky. "There it goes," yelled Patsy. "It's going to heaven, but the parade is still going to go on, isn't it? There are lots of balloons and air is everywhere. That's the way it will be." With her words, the little balloon's journey seemed to be a meaningful coincidence for Patsy and for us all.

The Timelessness of Miracles

After my own bone marrow transplant, I almost died from suffocation. A simple virus not unlike the one that took Patsy's life attacked my lungs. As the nurses rushed me to surgery and I gasped for air, my nurse Carolyn said, "Remember Patsy and her parades. Think of your lungs as balloons and try to fill them up with air. Find the way." That's all she said, but it was all she had to say. She knew I needed Patsy's spirit then. I could barely breathe, but I relaxed as I felt comfort in Patsy's principle of "the way."

I survived what was supposed to be an "always fatal virus" to bone marrow transplant patients, and I began to breathe again. I had been given strength from Patsy. I knew her to be a miracle maker. I knew her spirit was still making miracles for all of us. Patsy had not survived her own illness, but miracles are not measured individually and in linear time. The measure of miracles is not living to an old age but of living life with the confidence that there is much more to life than just a local living. Miracles are not measured as successes but as celebrations of the strength and eternity of the human spirit.

The healing energy of Patsy's living provides clues for what it takes to be a miracle maker. Patsy's life must be measured in the depth and meaning she brought to it, not in the number of her years and birthdays. The science principles of nonlocality and nonlinearity are proven through the power, pervasiveness, and permanence of who Patsy always will be. Patsy lives forever in her enduring relationship with all of us. The temple of miracles is in our relationships and in our connectedness to others, not in our body or our skills. I will never see a balloon or a parade without feeling Patsy's power.

If we use long life, heroic survival, and the conquering of disease as the exclusive criteria of a miracle, we are trapped into believing that miracles "happen" only to a chosen few. We seem to think that if we are very lucky, very good, or try very hard, a miracle will happen "to" us and we will achieve victory over time, space, disease, and grief. But miracles are not payoffs for earned cosmic points. Miracles occur when we perceive life from the perspective of the cosmic laws or the "way it is" in the universe.

If we are impressed only by the misguided miracles of levitation or by dramatic stories of heroic patients conquering disease, we fail to see the simple miracles of a cloud moving at just the right time, a silver lunar rainbow, or the glory of a Christmas tree IV protest parade in support of healing. We can copy and learn from miracle makers such as Patsy. They know how to do everyday miracles.

Miracle makers like Patsy have found the way. As philosopher Sengtsan writes, "For the unified mind in accord with the Way all self-centered striving ceases."1 In other words, miracles have little to do with the survival of the self unless that self is all of us. Miracle makers are aware of their nonlocality as when Patsy saw herself as one with the little balloon that escaped the confines of earth. They know that their chosen view of their world designs that world, as when Patsy made joyful parades in a place where funeral processions were more likely. They know of the principle of complementarity, as when Patsy saw our potential for marching in her parade even as we wobbled down the hospital hall. They know the hope that comes with the uncertainty of life, as Patsy seemed to know when she pensively looked out of her hospital window and said that the parade would always go on even though some balloons escaped. After more than twenty-five years of clinical work with my seventeen miracle makers and after my own near-death experiences, I now knew that we don't have to go to gurus or channelers to find our role models for miracle making; we just have to look for people like Patsy.

Spiritual Superstars

An elitism of miracles has evolved in recent years. Popular and scientific writers alike describe the "heroic patient who conquers a fatal disease" and gurus who have uncommon insight and clearness of thought. There is talk of channelers, precognizers, fortune-tellers, and mystics who are able to see what the rest of us cannot.

My professional and personal experiences have taught me that although some people may indeed have developed their God-given capacity for uncommon consciousness, they are only professional spiritual athletes. The true gurus are common people who are able to cluster coincidences around them and give them meaning. They are free from the constraints of a local, time-limited view of the world, but they have not surrendered their rationality in achieving that freedom.

The Common Consciousness Cosmonauts

Brendan O'Regan, vice-president for research at the Institute of Noetic Sciences in Sausalito, California, analyzed data on miracles that are reported all over the world. He visited Lourdes in France and Medjugore in Yugoslavia, where an apparition of the Virgin Mary appeared in 1981. He also reviewed more than 86o medical journals and more than 3,000 individual articles on "spontaneous cures" and "coincidental remissions."2 His detailed analysis provides insight into the characteristics of those seeking miracles and the quality of being open to the various manifestations of the miraculous.

Father Slavko, a Franciscan monk who holds a Ph.D. in psychology and lives and works at the shrine at Medjugore, has noticed common characteristics in those people who are healed by their experience of going there. O'Regan writes, "It's very often the people who come and don't determinedly want healing who are affected. They come with an open mind and ask for healing but they have not come with this as the single-minded purpose of their trip."3

My own experience working with my patients supports this "openness to the Way" orientation of the miracle makers. Just as it is not the library that causes us to learn, so it is not the shrines at Medjugore or Lourdes that provide the miracle. Miracle makers go to shrines for a place to do, not find, their miracle. It is not determination toward a specific goal, but rather acceptance of cosmic life laws and a desire to experience all sides of living to its fullest that sets the stage for miracle making.

The Home on the Range Approach

"You always seem to look so pensive," said Marjorie. She was the always-cheerful nurse who seemed to believe in what I called the "home on the range" approach to illness and healing. The famous song titled "Home on the Range" contains the phrase "where seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day."

Although Marjorie's optimism was sincere, too often some people practice a pseudopsychology of mind-over-matter healing that suggests that we be upbeat, courageous, and maintain a positive attitude at all times. While there is nothing wrong with cheerfulness, I have found reflection, yearning, and private searching for life's meaning also to be key steps in the making of miracles. Crying in awe of the endurance of the human spirit is as healing as laughing in hope.

Suffering increases the potential for meaningful miracles because suffering increases our awareness of the nonlocality of the self. The suffering of cancer and its related treatments forced my attention away from "me" and toward a deep reflection on the nature of life and its meaning, a sense of my connection with everyone and everything, and direct, personal experience of the "Way" things are.

In his study of those who have made their own miracles, psychologist Brendan O'Regan did not see the ever-happy and cheerful orientation of popular psychology. He writes, "There is a sad, faraway look in their eyes . . . that is unmistakable. It seems like a kind of yearning for something, the search for a memory."4 O'Regan may have mistaken for sadness a contemplative state that I have seen in the miracle makers whom I have studied. The yearning of the miracle maker is a yearning for the finding of the Way. Perhaps the "farawayness" in their eyes was evidence of their realization of their nonlocality and the fact that none of us are trapped "here." The memory for which O'Regan's patients seem to be searching may be our collective capacity to transcend our physical state and to put our spirits to work in the making of our miracles.

Aldous Huxley writes, "The capacity to suffer arises where there is imperfection, disunity and separation from an embracing totality."5 A key step in making miracles is to be aware of how much more you are than just a body in a specific moment and place. Instead of being home on the range, miracles are found by working toward an awareness of our true nature as being everywhere.

Vittorio Micheli Went for a Walk

Miracologist and researcher O'Regan describes a case similar to my own.6 He discusses an event that happened in May 1962 involving a middle-aged Italian man with a large tumor in his left pelvic area. (My soccer-ball-size tumor was in the right side of my pelvis.) O'Regan reports that the tumor was so massive that it ate away this man's left hip and left him in excruciating pain. (My tumor ate away my right hip and the pain I experienced was immense and totally debilitating.) As in my case, a biopsy showed that the tumor was an aggressive, usually fatal, form of cancer.

For some reason, the man did not receive treatments for ten months. I was misdiagnosed for eight months, and in both of our cases, our skeletons were being destroyed. The man went to Lourdes, where he was bathed. Reports from the Medical Commission of Lourdes record that, exactly as I experienced, the man had lost significant amounts of weight, was in constant pain, and was unable to eat.

After his return from Lourdes, according to O'Regan's report, Mr. Micheli began to regain his appetite and noticed more mobility in his legs. About one month later, doctors took X rays. The man's cancer, as in my case, had decreased significantly in size. Then, in May 1963, the tumor disappeared and, as reported by physician Larry Dossey, "Another event happened that was even more amazing than the disappearance of the tumor. The bone of the pelvis, hip, and femur began to regrow, and with time completely reconstructed itself! Two months after being bathed at Lourdes, Vittono Micheli went for a walk."7

The physician's report of Mr. Micheli's case read, in part, "The X rays confirm categorically and without doubt that an unforeseen and even overwhelming bone reconstruction has taken place of a type unknown in the annals of world medicine. The patient is alive and in a flourishing state of health nine years after his return from Lourdes."8

My own report reads, "Dr. Pearsall has experienced a miraculous cure. His prognosis is excellent." My X rays had to be repeated because the radiologists could not be convinced that my current films were truly my own. "There has been a terrible mistake," one doctor said to me. "We lost your X rays and we have the wrong set. This man's bones are fully intact." Repeat X rays confirmed the miracle. Vittorio and I lived a very similar miracle.

I did not go to Lourdes, but I did go to my family and to my healing place in Maui. I employed several assistant miracle makers from the ranks of doctors and nurses. My nurses Carolyn, Marjorie, Betsy, and others never let local problems determine my fate. They never yielded to the certainty that can convert a diagnosis to a verdict, and they never allowed the limited point of view of an expert observer to determine the course of my healing or prevent them from helping to save my life in any way they could. The skilled and creative team of doctors on the Bone Marrow Transplant Team at Harper Hospital of Detroit (part of the Wayne State University Medical Center) were always open to the complementary side of every medical option. While they battled my disease on a "particle" level, my little "medicine girl" Patsy, my family, and the other courageous patients on my transplant unit kept me connected with the life-saving "waves" of love. Miracles are always an "us" thing, and miracle makers are very good at making nonlocal, spiritual connections with people (I will examine the loving nature of the miracle maker in more detail in chapter 5). Every day, there are miracles in families who manage to give their impaired children joyful lives, who survive the ravages of substance abuse, and who hold together as individuals and as a family through the most trying times. Miracles are not reserved for heroic "survivors." Miracles are made when people live life with meaning and satisfaction, even when negative circumstances surround them.

The Midas Mistake and the Danger of Making Wishes

Miracle making has nothing to do with making wishes. People who make wishes are taking a dangerous risk. As in fairy tales, most of our wishes come true. Unfortunately, we usually regret getting what we wished for because our wishes ultimately contradict the principles of the cosmos. We make the mistake of wishing for "our" way instead of the Way of Patsy's principle.

We tend to make what I call the "Midas Mistake." King Midas wished that everything he touched be turned to gold. He got his wish, and with it he lost forever the warmth and loving he really needed as those around him turned to cold, unresponsive gold metal. The miracle he wished for ultimately isolated and destroyed him and all those around him.

If we wish for miracles, we not only fail to exercise our own miracle-making capabilities but we are trying to assume the impossible position of a nonparticipant observer who is asking the world to change around, but not because of, us. Moreover, we run the risk of suffering from the attainment of our wish, because our certainty about how our world "should" be conflicts with the uncertainty principle that rules the cosmos. Wishing implies that having all of something is better than having a complementary balance in living. This conviction violates the complementarity principle. Miracle making involves the active embracing of the Way of our spiritual life, but it does not imply an acquiescent, helpless view of living. The act of wishing, in contrast, suggests a passive role rather than the participatory observer role so basic to the laws of the cosmos. Wishing denotes a request for intervention from "without," which violates the law of nonlocality that emphasizes the unity of everything and everyone. Miracle making represents a discovery of a new way of knowing from "within." If wishing is longing for love, then miracle making is active loving through every crisis and challenge in daily living.

If you wish for perfect health forever, you will never know what perfect health really is because you will never know the complementary side of health, which is illness. If you wish for perfect love with no conflict in your relationships, you will never value fully the miracle of being loved because you have never known the pain of its loss. Wished-for love is a passive love; love attained is an active, volitional state. Just as miracles do not happen to us, love does not happen to us. We make love by doing it, showing it, and realizing that, like illness is a part of health, so hurt and loss are a part of loving. Finally, if you wish for immortality, you will not share the full journey of life with those you love. You will end up always being the person losing other persons and never be the person who is lost.

When I teach about the art of miracle making, I ask my patients and students to ask themselves the following question: If you could have just one wish and be guaranteed that your wish would come true, what would that wish be? No matter what they answer, I ask them to consider the principle of complementarity: What about the exact opposite of your wish? Might that not make you equally happy in a different way? Are you really so certain about your wish?

If you wish for wealth, for example, would you not be as happy with simplicity? If your wish were granted, would you truly be happy with the complexities and obligations that come with wealth? If you wish for health, would you ever want to know what everyone else will know and learn from their times of sickness and suffering; will you miss the blessed feeling of renewed energy, the resumption of living, and the spiritual introspection that come with illness? Would you want to be the only one among your friends and loved ones who was healthy, unable to understand others' suffering?

We humans tend to think that if a little bit of something is nice, even more would be better.9 This is the local, one-cause-equals-one-effect, linear view of the world. Actually, the laws of physics teach that a little bit of something is just enough so long as we remember the complementary side of everything we think we want or need. That is why miracle makers are not wishers for more; they are readers of what is. They are active and participating observers of their own lives and the lives of those around them.

Becoming Miracle Prone

Based on my own experiences with miracles,10 my clinical study of meaningful coincidences and of seventeen patients who beat the odds by not allowing a diagnosis of death to be a wrongful verdict of nothingness, and research by others in this most exciting of human adventures, I have identified six characteristics of people who are what I call miracle prone. These are

  • A confident, erect posture with eyes that convey a spiritual energy and a knowing beyond the rational, logical, simplistic knowing of everyday living. They seem to know that their role of observer is crucial to what they will see.

  • Experience with several crises, and in the process, the development of a psychic toughness, as well as an awareness that there is always a complementary side to even the most apparently hopeless situation.

  • A yearning for much more from life than mere coping, survival, success, and security. A desire to behave in ways compatible with our nonlocality or transcendence of the here and now. A simplicity of lifestyle free of the need to acquire goods and possess expensive, complex things.

  • An abnormal attitude in the sense that they are creative and have avoided becoming "well adjusted" to a linear, stressful, see-and-touch world.

  • A tendency to be psychic gamblers because they are willing to take risks for the fulfillment of their dreams and to give meaning to the signals sent by the coincidences in their lives. They think in a freewheeling style that reflects the uncertainty of all of life.

The remainder of this chapter will explore each of these characteristics in greater detail. I invite you to learn the skill of miracle making from this list, for it is a skill that most certainly will make your life much more lively—and may even save your life, as it did mine.

The Look of the Lucky

As Brendan O'Regan writes, people who experience miracles "are in a very different place psychologically, emotionally, and indeed psychophysiologically."11 Most miracle makers resemble this description by an oncology nurse who treated me:

Every one of the patients who made it happen, who made miracles, looked the same. It was in their eyes, their posture, their hands, and their body. They had a dreamy look, like they were somewhere else other than here getting their treatments. I even had to tell them when the treatment was over. It was like I had to bring them back to earth. They also had what I call gentle moving hands. They touched softly, easily, and gently. Maybe it was because they were all weak, but I think they touched like that naturally. They all stood upright, as if their body was being held up by something other than muscles and bones. And I know this sounds terrible, but they all seemed to be skinny. Not because they had lost weight or were sick. They were on the trim side, each one of them. That's it. Dreamy, skinny, gentle, and upright.12

I make no claim that my seventeen MMs are scientifically representative of a "type" of person. I am sure, however, that they and I were physically altered by the impact of a life orientation. I believe that miracle makers look "dreamy" because they experience the nonlocality of our existence. They look dreamy because they have a dream that transcends the here and now

The energy expended in making miracles can burn off calories just like any other form of exercise. If there is sometimes a gaunt, drawn look to miracle makers, it may be due to their constant energetic exchange with everyone and everything. These are players in the major leagues of our nonlocality.

Miracle makers move and touch gently because in many ways they are just barely in their own body. Movements are made of necessity, but the soul is of the essence.

I believe that miracle makers stand tall because they are buttressed by their awareness of the glory of it all; their appreciation of the unrestricted, unlimited, immortal human spirit. Their bodies are not just held up by muscle and bone. They are buoyed in the often turbulent sea of daily living by their cosmic connection.

There are many plausible explanations for this "look of the lucky." Perhaps poor appetite, fear, depression, helplessness, and side effects of their many physical problems contribute more significantly to the look than their choice of a nonlocal view of living. That is the traditional, easy, local view. I choose the more radical, nonlocal view. I hope you will make the same choice.

The Psychic Toughness Response

There have been numerous books and articles about the fight-or-flight response, the sexual response, and the relaxation response. Recent research suggests that there is also a "toughness response," a training of the body and mind to better tolerate the neurochemical effects of stress through constant stress exercise. Just as someone lifts weights to develop physical strength, so the person with psychic toughness has carried many heavy loads, thereby conditioning themselves through their minicrises. As a result, their psychophysiological strength and adaptability develops to a higher level of psychic fitness.13

When working with paraplegic men and women, I noticed that they typically showed this psychic toughness response. Perhaps because paraplegic persons are unable to use their bodies to cope with some challenges, they must develop a sharper mental toughness. They can lose their temper and get upset without paying the price that less-tough individuals pay when the killer stress chemicals shoot through the body, stimulating it to fight or flee.

The MMs all showed a psychic toughness. They had dealt with several stressors in their life before their present severe crises and had heightened coping capacity. In the film Lawrence of Arabia, T. E. Lawrence performs a minor miracle. He holds his hand over a candle flame until his flesh starts to cook. When his friend tries this same trick, he screams in pain as he pulls away He asks Lawrence if the flame did not hurt his hand. Lawrence answers, "Yes, but the trick is not to mind."

Like magicians mastering sleight of hand, the MMs all had learned the skill that I call sleight of mind. They had become psychically toughened by a series of pain and suffering, and they had learned not to react only with their body. Thus they functioned within the realm of nonlocality, dispersing their pain rather than focusing on it as an exclusive somatic experience.

I have attempted to describe the pain of my illness and treatments throughout this book. I have found the task to be impossible. In her essay "On Being Ill," author Virginia Woolf writes that our language can express the images of Hamlet and the tragedy of Lear, but "try to describe a pain . . . to a doctor and language at once runs dry." The description of pain eludes us because pain is such a subjective event. Because it is subjective, we ourselves give it most of its power and meaning.

When we have been forced to cope with severe pain many times, we learn a sleight of mind to prevent pain from overwhelming us. The miracle maker converts severe pain to an energy to escape local suffering to the safety of other realms of reality. If we have developed a psychological toughness, severe pain drives us from our body and into our souls.

A friend of mine asked me how I could possibly deal with a diagnosis of death and all of the related suffering of my disease. I answered, "Just like other people in my situation, this is not the first problem in my life. My wife and I struggled through painful tests to 'confirm' a diagnosis of infertility only to have our own biological child years later. We now have one son with cerebral palsy and another with a severe learning disability and dyslexia. My wife and I have seen our fathers die suddenly. I have had six surgeries and faced the possibility of blindness twice because of retinal detachments. We've been here before. We call it our agony aerobics. I think we've built up a torture tolerance."

My friend laughed, but I was serious. I believe that we can develop spiritual stamina. Following the principle of complementarity crises complement healing. Miracle makers use their problems to make themselves stronger. We learn to make miracles out of madness when we get used to dealing with madness on a regular basis.

If your own life seems problem prone, you are in forced training for miracle making. Your choice is whether to view the apparent unfairness of so many problems happening to one person or family as victimization or as a painful part of learning to make miracles.

Yearning for More

Miracle makers are actively engaged in a search for the meaning of life. No coincidence is a "simple" coincidence to the miracle maker. As one MM said, "Everything means something." Something inside the MM knows that there are many ways to know, and so the miracle maker is locked in the pursuit of a meaning to life that extends far beyond success and survival.

Two unusual words describe the focus of the miracle maker: ineffability and noesis. Ineffability refers to an experience of our nonlocality of such power, so different from the sense-oriented, local view of life that it almost defies description. "I can't say it or tell it," said eight-year-old Patsy, the little miracle maker on the bone marrow transplant unit. "It's really strange at night when you think you have a new bone marrow but you don't have a new you. Where are you and who are you? I don't know. I mean I think I know, but I can't tell it."

Patsy spoke in metaphors when she spoke of the balloon that broke away. Religious figures, prophets, and wise people often speak in parables, analogies, or riddles because they are trying to describe things that are indescribable using our ordinary vocabulary. Illustrating meaning through metaphor is one way to communicate the ineffable.

Noesis refers to the sense of heightened clarity and nonlocality that miracle makers experience. Early works refer to such knowing as "cosmic consciousness"15 or "peak experiences."16 Psychologist Roger Walsh writes of this reality as being "so discordant with our usual picture of reality, so paradoxical, as to defy description in traditional terms and theories and to call into question some of the most fundamental assumptions of Western science and philosophy."17

If you choose to be a miracle maker, another choice you will have to make is whether or not you are willing to embark on a search for the meaning of the cosmic occurrences and meaningful miracles that show our human spirit in action.

We must, of course, earn our living, raise our children, and survive in the whirlwind of obligations of daily life. We must do what is necessary to adapt to the see-and-touch world, but we must realize that no matter how much we are "doing," we can still contemplate our "being" and our purpose for being. Like everyone else, I spend time balancing my checkbook, paying my taxes, going to the dentist, cleaning the house, and fixing the car. Even as I do what is necessary, however, the principle of complementarity causes me to think of how close I have come to not being able to do anything again. I think about what is truly miraculous about being alive and ponder why I am doing what I am doing. I can remember my dreams and monitor my life for its fit with those dreams. Am I loving enough, working at what I choose to work at, writing books I believe in, reading what I would like to read, and spending time with my loved ones? Am I remembering my connection with everyone, my responsibilities to the world ecology and to the welfare of others, and the fact that I must never stop yearning for the miracle of peace, harmony and sharing? Whenever I start to feel too content, I know that such satisfaction stems from the see-and-touch world's seduction with doing rather than the miracle of our being.

Freedom from "Stuff-itis"

When you face death, one of the first things you learn is how unimportant "stuff" is. One of my seventeen MMs, a biophysicist who recently died of cancer, had created many of his own miracles before and during his illness. He had outlived the most dire predictions about his condition. He said,

I used to be a molecule collector. I was into getting more and more particles. Now, I'm a meaning collector. I'm into getting more and more waves, more and more energy in my life; more spirit and less stuff. My wife and I had so much stuff that we graduated to the postgraduate level of garage sale shopping: We found ourselves going to garage sales to find holders for the stuff that we bought at other garage sales! Now, I want to spend my time without stuff all around me. I want to feel sun and wind, the rain, the night. I want to feel myself thinking and feeling. I don't want stuff—getting stuff, finding and protecting and maintaining stuff—to get in the way anymore. I want to live my life, not spend it sorting through the clutter that really has nothing to do with living.

So I could visit my mother, we visited Michigan during the summer, and my wife set up a hospital room in our home there during my first chemotherapy As I lay in a hospital bed in the family room, I watched my neighbor trimming the large bushes around his swimming pool. My neighbor started in early spring and swore all summer long as he cut at the bushes he had planted there and the bushes cut him back. He saw no relationship between himself and the natural vegetation, which had become invading stuff that detracted from his more important stuff, such as his pool and walls of his house. I never saw him admire his landscaping as he struggled to control it. He found no joy in his yard, but at the end of the summer, I saw him bring home more than a dozen new bushes to fight with next spring. I promised myself that day that if I was given more time to live I would attend more to relating with instead of working on my world.

I have learned to take time to look at my yard at least as often as I work in it. Until I was forced by my illness to take the time to look, I never noticed how much time we spend maintaining rather than enjoying our life. Now, when I cut my lawn or prune my bushes, I copy my Maui gardener, Pete, who always paused to smell, talk to, touch, and look at the natural beauty around him. For the first time, I have seen where I live instead of rushing through my world. Now when I walk around my yard, I can feel the bushes, lawn, and flowers rather than see them as potential chores. They continue to cure me by their very presence, and I sense the miracle in the existence they share with me.

A key choice in learning to make miracles is deciding whether or not you will be a consumer or be consumed. There is little time for miracle making when you are busy fixing, repairing, maintaining, and getting.

Comedienne Erma Bombeck wrote, "Never buy anything that eats or needs repairing."18 This philosophy of simplicity can clear the way for more meaningful living. During one of the most dreadful moments of his illness, a young bank executive MM said, "I've done, gotten, broken, and fixed almost everything, but I don't remember living."

We all must take care of the place we live, buy clothes to wear, and keep some order in our lives. If we are to make miracles, however, we must remember that the stuff of our lives are only the necessary facilitators for our movement within our physical world, not objectives in themselves.

When I went into the hospital for my bone marrow transplant, the nurses told me that I could bring everything I needed. "You'll be living here for months, so bring what you need," said one nurse. I knew I would be busy trying to make miracles, so I wondered what I would really need to do so. What stuff would you take along for miracle making?

For me, the choice was easy I took plenty of paper and pens. I asked several of my family and friends to buy me books that they were sure I would not read. I asked for books I would never buy for myself. I was hoping that I could create some meaningful coincidences by this merging of paper, pen, and new ideas. My wife bought me a book titled What Are the Chances? by Bernard Siski and Jerome Staller. It's a thin book with nothing but statistical chances listed throughout.

One day, as I suffered through some particularly painful chemotherapy and was wondering how I could have come down with cancer when no one in my family had ever had it and I never smoked and had followed almost every healthcare warning, I grabbed the book my wife had given me, thinking that its lack of plot and simple listing of interesting facts would distract me. I randomly opened the book to the middle and read, "Radiological studies of the gastrointestinal tract . . . are 90 times [the radiation] that you are exposed to during a typical dental X-ray."19

Over the last fifteen years, I had received dozens of X rays of the abdominal area as part of the diagnosis and treatment of kidney stones, and I mentioned this at once to my doctors. They now tell me that it is possible that these powerful X rays may have contributed to my developing cancer. By coincidence, a meaningful clue to the etiology of my disease had been revealed, as well as a clue for preventing its recurrence by avoiding X rays as much as possible. A meaningful coincidence had taken place that would direct my healthcare.

The Energy of Insight and the Challenge of Change

As a therapist, I have noticed that meaningful coincidences happen very often to my patients just at a key time of transition in their life, when they are confronting a particularly difficult decision or choice, or when they are on the verge of a meaningful insight regarding their life situation. As psychologist Carl Jung suspected, it seems as if the therapist and the patient were able to tap into their collective unconscious, mobilizing the energy involved in significant synchronous events.20

This phenomenon of patient-therapist miracle making is confirmed by Swiss analyst and physicist Arnold Mindel.21 Award-winning physicist Werner Heisenberg (founder of the uncertainty principle) was impressed by Mindel's work and supported Mindel's conclusion that an enormous amount of energy is released at key times in our lives, explaining why synchronicities often occur around birthdays, deaths, falling in love, during important periods in psychotherapy, intense creative work, a change in profession, or serious illness and healing.22

Arnold Mindel gives the example of a mentally disturbed patient who claimed that he was Jesus, the creator and destroyer of light. At that very moment, a lighting fixture dropped from the ceiling, knocking the man unconscious.23 Therapist friends of mine describe similar coincidences taking place when there "seems to be a lot of changing energy going on." To make miracles, we must choose to make change happen, and as psychiatrist Scott Peck suggests, intentionally take the road less traveled. Peck writes, "Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed they create our courage and our wisdom. It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually."24

Benjamin Franklin wrote, "Those things that hurt, instruct."25 When we choose change and make the effort to grow and become, we hurt. When we hurt, as from cancer, grief, or lost love, there is always the possibility of meaningful change in our view of our life. When we hurt and make transitions, meaningful coincidences and miracles take place. Miracle makers have chosen not to take the easy, "normal," well-adjusted road. They have chosen to create their own emergencies of spiritual growth and to take part in the wonderful events that happen when the energy of an evolving spirit is set free.

Taking the Gamble of Creativity

As pointed out earlier, most of the major discoveries of our world are related to meaningful coincidences. One of the primary characteristics of miracle makers is their constant surveillance for coincidences in their lives and their willingness to take the gamble of following the lead of a miracle.

When we coincidentally discover a picture of a relative whom we have not seen for years, we may choose to look at it briefly and put it away or we may "gamble" by giving meaning to the coincidence and trying to make contact with that relative immediately. One MM said, "I was cleaning our basement and found an old toy my sister and I had played with years and years ago. I was going to just throw it away and keep cleaning, but instead I stopped working, went to the phone, and called her long distance. When she answered the phone, she was crying. She said, 'I was just feeling so lonely. Your call came at just the right time.'" The MM's gamble paid off.

One of the most creative men of the last century was Buckminster Fuller. He wrote, "None of us is a genius. Some of us are just less damaged than most."26 He meant that some of us manage to escape the confines of traditional education, which stresses compliance and achievement at the price of creativity. If you want to make your own miracles, you might learn from the miracle makers and become a coincidence gambler.

Jungians, those therapists who follow the research and writing of psychologist Carl Jung, refer to the "Gambler Syndrome." The Jungian gambler is a person who is willing to risk everything on the metaphorical turn of a given card in the game of life. Such major chance taking is sometimes necessary when the stakes are high, such as times of decision regarding a major medical treatment or the choice of someone to love for life.

"More than 40 percent of patients such as yourself who get a bone marrow transplant do not survive the procedure, the X rays, and the chemotherapy. We cannot tell you what to do. The decision is yours," said Dr. Lyle Senrisenbrenner, who was leader of the transplant team at Harper Hospital. He is a robust man with a mustache that makes him look like one of the captains of the charter boats in Maui's Maalaea Bay. My wife says that he is of average height, but—probably because he helped save my life and because I was always in a wheelchair or hospital bed looking up at him for hope—I remember him as a giant of a man. On this occasion, he explained to my wife and me all of the details relating to one of the most dramatic treatments for cancer in modern medicine: the bone marrow transplant with its whole-body radiation and an almost totally destructive form of chemotherapy.

My wife and I decided to go ahead with the treatment. When we returned for my final preparation, however, the nurse said, "I'm sorry but before we can proceed, Dr. Sennsenbrenner wants to talk to you and your wife. He'll see you after lunch."

I said, "Something is wrong, isn't it? We are not going to be able to do this one thing that can save my life?"

The nurse answered, "You'll have to talk with Dr. Sennsenbrenner."

That nonanswer was answer enough. After the agony of deciding whether or not to undergo a lifesaving procedure that could kill me, something was going to exclude me from the procedure.

My wife and I sat with our lunch untouched. We cried again as everything seemed to be coming down on us at once. I thought, "Psychic toughness is one thing, but this has got to be overtraining." Our lunch hour seemed more like a year. It ended with us sitting miserably in Dr. Sennsenbrenner's office.

As always, Dr. Sennsenbrenner rushed into his office. He sat down at a table with his nurse, rny wife, and I. "I'm afraid there may be something wrong with your bone marrow. A bone marrow transplant will be more difficult now. We'll have to treat your marrow, too, so the risks are all increased."

"You won't tell me what you think my chances are, will you?" I asked him. "I gave you the statistics," he answered. "Since we'll have to purge your marrow, you probably have much less than a fifty-fifty chance of surviving the transplant and its aftermath. Without the procedure, you will likely not survive for long, but most of your last months would not be as terrible as some of the transplant procedure side-effects will be. I'm sorry but, of course, it's your decision," he answered.

I felt like a gambler about to turn over the one card that either would total twenty-one or cause me to lose everything and suffer dreadfully in the process. In that instant, I felt a severe shot of pain through my hips, where my cancer was. My wife asked, "What's wrong? You must have jumped a foot in the air. You almost levitated right up to the ceiling!"

"Just a reminder, I guess," I answered, knowing now that I would gamble everything to be given the chance to live. I took that chance. The fact that my own marrow was treated for cancer did put me in much more jeopardy. There was now the chance that my marrow would not survive the purging and lay dead in its storage container in the basement of the hospital while my body starved to death for the cells that only marrow can produce. Now, both my marrow and I would have to undergo treatment separately and hope that we would be safely reunited before one or the other of us was killed by our treatment. That one major gamble is partly responsible for the fact that all of my cancer is gone.

At home, before my hospitalization for the transplant and while waiting for the nine-inch wound left by exploratory surgery to heal, I was filing away my lecture material and preparing to take the risk of my life. As I shuffled things around, a piece of paper floated to the floor. I picked it up and read it. It was a quote by Robert Louis Stevenson that I had written down for future lectures. It read, "Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well."27 I was ready to play the game to the fullest.

The seventeen MMs were all gamblers in the sense described here. One young woman reported, "I just wasn't sure about loving him. I mean, he seemed to be the one for me, but it was going to be a big risk. He was not divorced yet, he was older than I, and he came from a totally different educational and religious background. I was sitting there looking at his picture and eating peanuts. I was throwing them high in the air and trying to catch them in my mouth. They kept hitting me in the eye and on the forehead. Then, for some reason, I decided that if that next peanut goes in my mouth, I'm going to go for it. I'm going to get serious about him. I threw the next peanut higher than any other, and it seemed to hover in the air trying to make up its mind. It was a direct hit. We're happily married now. It's a lucky thing that peanut hit the target."

This story may sound strange, and it may seem to be poor judgment to base a romantic decision on hand and mouth coordination. But like this woman, all of the MMs were gamblers who used coincidence as part of the process of their decision making. This woman fully acknowledged all of the other key variables that go into lasting love, but her decision to work at loving revolved around one key "card" in the game of her life.

Miracle makers often take such risks because they trust that there is something inside them that seems to guide them in the right direction. They also trust their ability to judge the significance of the clues provided by synchronicity and coincidence. They place their bets, but they are sure that they are the ones who provide the energy for the spin of the wheel.

Miracle Making as a Common Human Trait

Author Joseph Priestley whose collection of coincidences I referred to earlier, writes, "There is nothing supernormal and miraculous about this larger temporal freedom of the dreaming self. It is not a privilege enjoyed by a few very strange and special people. It is a part of our common human lot."28

I have presented six of the basic characteristics of miracle makers. Each characteristic represents a choice you must make about your own laws of living before you will be able to claim your birthright as a miracle maker:

  • You must choose between being creative, open, and vulnerable to the unpredictable energy of spiritual growth or accepting the more predictable local life of the here and now (principle of nonlocality).

  • You must choose between accepting transitional life crises as psychic toughening exercises and a necessary part of attending soul school here on earth or viewing the transitions and tragedies of daily living as punishment or as proof of the bumper sticker axiom that reads "Life's a bitch and then you die" (principle of complementarity).

  • You must choose between pursuing your yearning for a spiritual life that connects you with everyone and everything and being teased by a sense that there is more to life than your local existence or immersing yourself in the more known quantities of local laws: immediate pain, periodic pleasure, and easy and quick closure when decisions and problems arise (uncertainty principle).

  • You must choose between a view of life that emphasizes simplicity: freedom from acquiring things, goods, and money, or an outlook on life that stresses doing and getting more and more until the things of your life become the focus of your living (observer participantcy).

  • You must choose to utilize as a source of learning the energy released at times of personal decision and development, challenges, changes, and transitions of your life rather than adopt the view that things happen randomly to us and have little meaning other than as aggravations and threats to our survival and happiness (principle of nonlocality).

  • Most of all, if you are to make your own miracles, you must choose to be a gambler. You must not be foolhardy or reckless, but you must be vigilant for those times when all of the cards are on the table and it is time, as the saying goes, "to know when to hold them, and know when to fold them." You might at first choose to hold and play your cards by taking small chances that follow your spiritual sense and playing when others would decide to leave the game or watch others play. You must choose to put yourself in the miracle position, opening the way for the coincidence clusters that fuel miracles (observer participantcy).

Miracle makers have chosen to show a patience, forgiveness, generosity, truthfulness, and equanimity that I call "loving kindness." Every one of the seventeen miracle-making patients whom I studied showed loving kindness in all that they did. This seemed to be the catalyst for the explosion of a meaningful miracle in their life.


1. Sengtsan, Verses on the Faith Mind, trans. E. R. Clarke (Sharon Springs, NY: Zen Center, 1975).
2.Brendan O'Regan, "Healing, Remission, and Miracle Cures," Institute of Noetic Sciences Special Report (May 1987): 3-14.
3. Ibid., 11.
4.Ib Ibid., 11.
5.Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy (New York: Harper & Row,
1944), 227.
6.O'Regan, "Healing, Remission, and Miracle Cures," 9.
7.Larry Dossey, Recovering the Soul: A Scientific and Spiritual Search (New York: Bantam Books, 1990), 76.
8.O'Regan, "Healing, Remission, and Miracle Cures," 9.
9.In his book Recovering the Soul, physician Larry Dossey writes that the wish for the ultimate source of energy has resulted in the crises at Chernobyl and Three-Mile Island. The danger of wishing rather than making meaningful miracles that apply to our daily lives and take into consideration the principle of complementarity extends to our culture. See Mary Catherine Bateson, "The Revenge of the Good Fairy," Whole Earth Review 55 (Summer 1987): 34-48.
10.As I continue to review the seventeen case records of the miracle makers whose words are included in this book, I have noted a significant cluster of characteristics that form the basis for a description of a miracologist, or someone who makes miracles. A detailed report focusing on the psychological toughness and the sleight of mind characteristics is in preparation.
My students and colleagues have also noted that these seventeen cases reveal that each miracle maker was also a "sensuist" in that they all rejoiced in touching, holding, smelling, tasting, hearing, and seeing their world (sensualists, in contrast, are concerned only with sexual feelings). One of the most beautifully poetic and scientifically accurate books regarding the senses is Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of the Senses (New York: Random House, 1990).
11.O'Regan, "Healing, Remission, and Miracle Cures," 9.
12. This, and all of the quotes from patients and healthcare workers who have been a part of miracles, are drawn from my seventeen case records mentioned earlier.
13. Richard Dienstbier, "Arousal and Physiological Toughness: Implications for Mental and Physical Health," Psychological Review 96, no.1 (1989): 84-100.
14. Quoted in Charles Wallis, The Treasure Chest (San Francisco: Harper
& Row, 1983), 118.
15. William Bucke, "From Self to Cosmic Consciousness," in The Highest State of Consciousness, ed. J. White (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1972).
16. Abraham Maslow, The Farther Reaches of Human Nature (New York: Viking, 1971).
17.Roger Walsh, "The Psychologies of East and West: Contrasting Views of the Human Condition and Potential," in Beyond Health and Normality, ed. Roger Walsh and Deane Shapiro (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1983), 57.
18.Quoted in Robert Byrne, The Third—And Possibly the Best—637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said (New York: Antheneum, 1986), 43.
19.Bemard Siskin and Jerome Staller, What Are the Chances? (New York: Crown Publishers, 1989), 61.
20. M. L. von Franz, On Divination and Synchronicity (Toronto: Inner City Books, 1980).
21. Arnold Mindel, "Synchronicity, An Investigation of the Unitary Background Patterning Synchronous Phenomena," Dissertation Abstracts International 37, no. 2 (1976).
22. Werner Heisenberg, Physics and Beyond (New York: Harper & Row, 1971).
23. Quoted in E David Peat, Synchronicity. The Bridge Between Matter and Mind (New York: Bantam Books, 1988), 28.
24. M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1976), 16.
25. Quoted in Charles Wallis, The Treasure Chest (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983), 187.
26.Buckminster Fuller, Critical Path (New York: St. Martin's, 1981), 26.
27. Quoted in Charles Wallis, The Treasure Chest (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983), 120.
28. Joseph Priestly, Man and Time (London: W. H. Allen, 1978), 245.

Copyright © Paul Pearsall. All rights reserved. This excerpt is taken from "Miracle in Maui, Let Miracles Happen in Your Life." All rights reserved. Inner Ocean Publishing, 2001. Permission granted to reprint with author credit only.


Wishing Well by Paul Pearsall The Pleasure Prescription by Paul Pearsall Partners in Pleasure by Paul Pearsall

Dr. Paul Pearsall is one of the most requested speakers in the world, having given over 5000 international presentations around the world. He has been invited back by every group he has addressed. He is a clinical psychoneuroimmunologist, clinical professor at the University of Hawaii, a member of the board of the State of Hawai˙i Consortium for Integrative Health Care, member of the Heart Transplantation Study Team at the University of Arizona School of Medicine, and on the Clinical Advisory Board of the Cultural Healing Program at the Waimanalo Health Center on the island of Oahu. He is president and CEO of Ho`ala Hou, a non-profit research institute studying the application of ancient Hawaiian principles to modern living, working, loving, and health. He is a frequent consultant to national television, including CNN, Dateline, and 20/20.

Dr. Pearsall was trained at the University of Michigan and the Harvard and Albert Einstein Schools of Medicine. He served as chief of the psychiatric clinic at Sinai Hospital, director of behavioral medicine at Beaumont Hospital, and professor of clinical psychiatry and neurosciences at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. He has authored over 300 professional journal articles and 14 best-selling books, all of which have been translated to several languages. His most recent books include THE PLEASURE PRESCRIPTION, THE HEART’S CODE, PARTNERS IN PLEASURE, and MIRACLE IN MAUI. His next book to be published in Spring, 2002 is TOXIC SUCCESS: HOW TO STOP STRIVING AND START THRIVING.

In his international presentations, Dr. Pearsall is often joined by one of the most established and revered halau in Hawaii to combine the latest scientific research about healthy living with the ancient Hawaiian lessons of aloha.


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