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
"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."
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.
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
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
"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
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
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.
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
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"
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
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
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
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,
An abnormal attitude in the sense that they are creative and have
avoided becoming "well adjusted" to a linear, stressful,
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
Find the original article here.
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 &
6.O'Regan, "Healing, Remission, and Miracle Cures,"
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.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
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,"
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:
& 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:
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 &
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,
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),
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.
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
Hawaiÿi 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,
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.