A miracle happened in Maui. I died. I was near death three times. I came back. I wrote the first edition of this book more than ten years ago, just after Maui had breathed the sacred ha, the breath of life, back into my body. As a clinical psychologist and behavioral medicine researcher living on Maui, I had always sensed it was a magical and spiritual place, but I had toned down my sharing of my excitement so as to avoid mockery from my skeptical and often cynical colleagues. As miracles do, mine changed all that.
A BORN-AGAIN SKEPTIC
Medical tests confirmed that I had been rescued against all odds from a virulent Stage IV cancer that had eaten away my bones and left me dying in agony. I tried to tell my doctors to spread the news that miracles are real and to tell their patients that not only their powerful science but also Maui's spiritual energy had saved my life. I yearned to tell my scientific colleagues that they were dangerously wrong to doubt the reality of miracles and that it was no longer necessary to pretend that they did not also believe in miracles. I wanted them to embrace the words of David Ben-Gurion that "in order to be realist you must believe in miracles".
Although sympathetic with my excitement about miracles, many skeptics ignored what I thought was the great and reassuring news about miracles. They said that what I was calling a miracle was only a short and temporary reprieve from certain death. They said that my 'remarkable recovery' was purely the result of statistical good luck, an extremely unlikely numerical fluke that happens occasionally but is only a mathematical necessity that must pop up from time to time by predicted rules; at best only a sort of "scientific mini-miracle" that is no big news at all and undeserving of any further explanation beyond that of one of those extremely low-probability happenings that must occur from time to time.
I was often criticized for my Maui love-blindness that some said had clouded my scientific objectivity. I was told that I had lost the necessary skepticism of the scientist -- but according to Webster's dictionary, I, in fact, now considered myself even more of a skeptic post-miracle than before.
For Webster defines a skeptic as someone who is thoughtful, inquiring, and willing to suspend judgment on matters not generally accepted. I am a much more thoughtful skeptic now. I am willing to suspend judgment about matters such as life after death, reincarnation, so-called psychic "psi" experiences, the meaning and role of consciousness, and other challenges to mainstream science.
I am willing to consider the normalcy of what scientists like to call the "para-normal" and to avoid sliding from reflective skepticism into the closed-mind cynicism that renders, in the words of scientist Theodosius Dobzhansky ..... no evidence powerful enough to force acceptance of a conclusion that is emotionally distasteful. Nothing sets you to thinking more about what science sees as the weird things of life than coming face-to-face with your own mortality.
Now that I have more than ten years seniority with my miracle, I have learned a little more about them. I have deepened my sense that what science says are "natural laws" are sometimes suspended in ways and for reasons we may never fully understand. I am even more convinced of the mana or special energy of certain sacred places in the world such as Maui and the Hawaiian Islands that can serve as the perfect ecology for the miraculous.
While I offer some scientific explanations that may in part help explain why miracles happen, I have learned that miracles are far from some quantum jiggling of subatomic particles. I have learned that nature has a propensity for the unexpected majestic happening, and like most of those who have experienced miracles, I can see more than ever that these events take place around me every day.
As my miracle and I mature together, I have come to realize that nature keeps reminding us with events like rainbows that there is something immensely greater and wiser than ourselves and that we do not have to choose between science and spirituality. We can celebrate the powerful insights of science without sacrificing spirituality's more subtle sacred wisdom. Rainbows need not be seen as less miraculous because science can explain them as images created by sunlight refracting through tiny water droplets.
The "wow" of the sudden appearance of evidence of a unique sun and water union is not diminished just because we understand the "how". Miracle makers allow ourselves to be struck dumb with wonder at rainbows and nature's benevolent willingness to give us a peek at the grandeur of life. Scientists may know how rainbows form, but miracle makers understand why they are given to us -- heavenly reminders of the miraculous.
THE MYTH OF FALSE HOPE
My medical colleagues warned that all my talk about miracles might be creating false hope in those who are so urgently in need of healing. Even one of the doctors who had helped save my life with a bone marrow transplant criticized me in the media for "being on shaky scientific ground" when I wrote about my miracle. He and other doctors warned that false hope could be damaging to patients. But the best ground for good science has always been "shaky" and agitated rather than firm and stagnant, for it is such soil that is the most fertile for the growth of new ideas.
More than ten years after medical science said I should have been dead, I am here today to report that I am even more hopeful about the fact that miracles happen and not at all concerned about raising false hope.
After a decade of learning and talking about miracles, I know now that my celebration of miracles is not creating false hope any more than telling patients to eat a healthy diet and exercise creates a false hope of a long life. Some who follow the recommendations for a perfect diet and compulsively jog each morning still die untimely deaths, but this does not mean the recommendations for healthy eating and exercise or the hope for a longer and healthier life were false.
When it comes to healing, there is no such thing as "false" hope if embracing the possibility of impossibilities can provide some comfort and loving energy when we and those who love us need it the most. When I was dying, I was not too choosy about the nature of hope as long as I could find some.
The sweet gentleness of island living seems conducive to one of the most important ingredients in making miracles, seeming to have the time and more willingness to experience a deep and profound loving connection -- an aloha -- for a higher power [ke Akua], the land ['diva], and all of those with whom we live ['ohana] and who have ever lived [ancestors, or 'aumakua].
Miracles are not bound by time or restricted to any one place, but Maui represents an example of one place where people seem a little more willing to let things happen than to work fast to make them happen, and that's when miracles seem most likely to occur. They tend to "happen" to those willing to wait for them and more through "being" than "doing."
WHY ME? WHY NOT YOU?
After the first edition of this book was published, there was one question I was asked more than any other. "Why you?" As I watched so many of my fellow patients die, I experienced a nagging "miracle guilt." I asked, Why me? many times in the aftermath of my miracle and felt that I should have tried harder to transfer my miracle to others. As silly as it may seem, I felt that I had somehow taken too selfishly from the cosmic store of miracles and felt a deepening kuleana, enduring responsibility, to share all I could with as many as I could about the little I knew about miracles.
People wrote me from around the world wanting to know why I was blessed with a miracle while others did not seem to be. I have been repeatedly asked, "Is there a 'miracle-prone' personality?"' "How did you do it?" "How can I make a miracle?"
I used to avoid trying to answer these questions and I am still not sure what to say. Even after a decade, I am still relatively new at dealing with miracles, humbled by the experience, and certainly no expert. I do know, however, that having a positive attitude, never giving up, and thinking positive thoughts do not always seem related to the miracles I have witnessed.
The doctors and nurses who cared for me described me as a terrible patient. Despite the fact that I had written many books about health and healing, I often had a miserable and self-pitying attitude. I am now embarrassed at how I allowed my pain and suffering to make me so often insensitive to those trying to help me and how seldom I expressed my deepest appreciation to my wife and family who were under such stress and still helped fashion my miracle.
I was not courageous, I was willing to give up numerous times, and I often had very negative and angry thoughts about why such terrible things were happening to me. Nonetheless, the nurses who helped me make my miracle said they often did see a "miracle proneness" in me that they had noted in others who had experienced miracle healings.
Being Prone to Miracle Healings
This subtle miracle proneness may be related to the late psychologist and researcher Brendan O'Regan's observations in the little town of Medjugorje in the former Yugoslavia. A vision of the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to a group of children there, and people began to come for healing. Dr. O'Regan writes of what he calls "an interesting psychological profile" of those experiencing miracles at Medjugorje. He said he noted in those who experienced a miracle...... "a sad, faraway look ... a kind of yearning for something, the search for a memory, the need for an all-embracing experience of love of a kind not yet found."
Nurses see miracles every day, so they are the ones in the hospital that tend to be most comfortable with the miraculous. My nurses told me that they could see certain patients with a "miracle look in their eyes."
One of the intensive care nurses talked to me about miracles as I lay dying on the respirator in intensive care. As she held my trembling hand, she said softly,
"I can see it in your eyes. I can see it in the eyes of some of my sickest patients, and I see it in your eyes and your wife's eyes, too. I see that "miracle-ready" look. It's a kind of sad, pensive, faraway look as if you still have much work to be done in life and are just waiting for a chance to continue it. You look like you're being delayed but not stopped. Maybe it's just me, but a lot of us see it. It's as if you are waiting for something mysterious to happen, some kind of blessing or permission to let you go back to do the work you must do. You look like others who had the searching eyes of someone open to a miracle and needing one to get back to what you must do."
Maybe Maui helped promote my miracle because it brought out my sense of the miraculous, the same sense that rests within all of us, as a kind of built-in miracle readiness. Maybe I experienced a miracle because I was helped by my 'ohana to remain open-hearted, open-minded, and ready for a miracle so that I could return to the work I still had to do in my life.
Rather than making a miracle, I think it may have been those loving partners in my miracle, my Hawaiian 'ohana, nurses, doctors, and ancestors who somehow instilled the faith that kept me miracle-ready.
We All Heal Our Way
We all get sick our way and we all heal our way. A positive attitude, visualization, and imagery may set the stage for miracles for those strong enough to maintain these practices at the worst of times. For others, embracing who and how they are no matter how unsaintly, afraid, angry, and even resentful may be in some unique way the prelude to their miracle.
Miracles are enchanted mysteries, and to trivialize them by assigning certain behaviors, mental states, or specific steps for their attainment is to diminish the sacredness of miracles. Even worse, such prescriptions may lead to blame of the patient unable to be positive or for not getting well. Being open, remaining in search of the memory imprint of loving work yet to be done, and being available to miracles in any way that feels legitimately honest and right for you at any given time may help create a more fertile ground for the miraculous.
Ten years after the miracle that allowed me to continue to work, love, and enjoy every day in paradise, I remain overwhelmed not just that miracles happen but that they are so abundant and keep popping up all around us. As Einstein wrote, "There are two ways to live one's life -- as if nothing is a miracle, or as if everything is." Perhaps the greatest gift from my Maui miracle is that it taught me to live every day sharing with those I love the fact that everything and everyone is miraculous.
WONDER + IMAGINATION = MIRACLES
The word "miracle" is derived from the Latin verb mirare -- to wonder or marvel. By this definition a miracle can be any person, place, thing, or event that provokes wonder or awe. I have learned that a miracle is much, much more than a remarkable recovery.
From a simple starfish to a cure from cancer, it is something marvelous that happens that causes us to wonder and take note of the gifts of life, the enchantment of living, and the possibilities of our immortal spiritual survival. Miracles may ultimately be nature's spiritual nudge reminding us to remain amazed, and enraptured by what she has done and can do.
Wonder, said Aristotle, is the beginning of wisdom. Imagination, said Einstein, is more important than knowledge. The ultimate gift of my Maui miracle was a rekindling of my wonder at the way such a harsh and chaotic universe can suddenly behave in such benevolent ways. My miracle broadened and deepened my imagination of what life and death mean, and perhaps that is what miracles are for.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Inner Ocean Publishing. ©2001.
Miracle in Maui: Let Miracles Happen in Your Life
by Paul Pearsall, Ph.D.
In this moving account, the author shows that miracles happen when we realize that we are a manifestation of God's presence in everything, that we make miracles by choosing a miraculous point of view, when we understand that nothing is certain, including our own deaths, and that in the absence of certainty, there is always hope.
About the Author
Paul Pearsall (1942-2007) held a Ph.D. in both clinical and educational psychology and is a licensed clinical psychoneuroimmunologist, a specialist in the study of the healing mind. He is the author of numerous books, including five New York Times Best Sellers. Dr. Pearsall was a regular guest on Oprah, 20/20, Dateline, Good Morning America, etc. [ Dr. Pearsall was hospitalized for some tests, due to be discharged, became unresponsive and died of a spontaneous intracerebral hemorrhage July 13, 2007.] Visit his website at http://www.paulpearsall.com.