In her book Outrageous Openness, Tosha Silver writes about her straight-laced, highly-skeptical, economics professor friend Don, who liked to introduce Tosha as his “wacky, psychic pal with a degree from Yale.”
One day, Tosha asked Don, “Really Don, total truth. Has anything ever happened that made you wonder if you had the full picture? Anything ever rock your perfect little rational world?”
Don went on to tell her about one night when he was in college, when he went to sleep before his roommate had come home for the night. At 3am, Don awoke with a pounding heart and heard his roommate calling his name, twice. But the room was empty.
He stumbled out to his VW Bug, woke up with a start, put on his clothes, walked to his car, and started driving. But it felt more like the car was driving itself to the side of the road several blocks away. Like a magnet, Don was drawn to a spot ten blocks away, where he found his roommate buried under a snowbank, drunk, disoriented, and freezing.
Tosha was fascinated. “Man, you gotta be kidding me. This didn’t change your life at all?”
“No way," said Don. "I had to see it all as a coincidence. If I hadn’t, I would have had to question everything.”
Don is not the only rationalist to sweep under the carpet an anomalous experience that didn’t fit into his world view. If he had allowed himself to realize that he had come face to the face with a perfect example of human telepathy and clairvoyance, he might have faced a threatening, that perhaps his worldview isn’t large enough to encompass what really happens in people’s lives.
Psychoanalyst, researcher, and UC-Berkeley professor Elizabeth ("Lisby") Lloyd Mayer faced a similar dilemma. One day in 1991, Lisby’s 11 year-old daughter Meg’s handmade harp was stolen from the theater where she was playing. For two months, Lisby tried everything to recover the harp. The police got involved. She contacted instrument dealers all over the country. A CBS TV news story even aired. But nothing worked. The harp was lost.
Then a friend of Lisby’s said, “If you really want that harp back, you should be willing to try anything. Try calling a dowser.”
Lisby was skeptical. All she knew about dowsers was that they were made up of odd people who walked around with forked sticks telling you where to drill wells.
But Lisby’s friend told her that really good dowsers could find not just underground water, but lost objects. At a loss, Lisby figured she had nothing to lose. She contacted the president of the American Society of Dowsers, Harold McCoy in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and explained that a harp had been stolen from Oakland, California. She asked Harold if he could help her locate the harp.
Harold said, “Give me a second. I’ll tell you if it’s still in Oakland.” He was silent for a moment and then said, “Well, it’s still there. Send me a street map of Oakland and I’ll locate that harp for you.”
Lisby overnighted Harold a map of Oakland. Two days later, he called to give her the address of where the harp was located. Lisby had never heard of the street he named, but she passed the information along to the police. The police shook their heads. They couldn’t issue a search warrant based on a hunch. So Lisby decided to drive over and post flyers within a two block radius of the address Harold had given her, offering a reward for the return of the harp.
Three days later, her phone rang. A man said that his neighbor had recently showed him the exact harp the flyer was describing. He promised to give it to a teenage boy who would deliver it to her in the rear parking lot of an all-night Safeway.
In spite of her own skepticism, Lisby showed up at the appointed time and place, where a young man loaded the harp into the back of her station wagon. That’s when Lisby came to the same conclusion Don would have come to if he had accepted what had happened with he and his roommate. This changes everything.
Lisby went on to write a wonderful book Extraordinary Knowing: Science, Skepticism, and the Inexplicable Powers of the Human Mind, which is full of stories of people who knew things they shouldn’t have, as well as the scientific data supporting the existence of paranormal phenomena like telepathy, clairvoyance, remote viewing, and the power of prayer.
The Neurosurgeon’s Success Secret
Lisby was talking to a client, a neurosurgeon with impeccable credentials and an uncanny ability to perform the most dangerous surgeries. In spite of how life-threatening his surgeries were, his patients never seemed to die. But this neurosurgeon kept getting migraines, and standard treatment wasn't working, so he went to see Lisby.
She helped him pinpoint exactly when the headaches began. It turns out the headaches started right when he stopped teaching medical students and residents at the university hospital. Why did he stop teaching? He was reluctant to tell her, but he finally confessed.
The neurosurgeon admitted that his success rates are so high because he waits until a white light surrounds the patient's head. Then—and only then—he knows it's safe to operate. But how can he teach this to medical students? Surely he can't train residents to look for halos around people with brain tumors and aneurysms?
Because he felt like he had to hide the mystical experiences that help him guide his patients safely through surgery, he quit teaching, and perhaps the discord within him led to migraines. The neurosurgeon was stuck. He felt he couldn't tell anyone at the university that he sees white lights nobody else sees. Surely, it would ruin his reputation. By betraying what was true for him, he was getting migraines. It’s a conundrum many face when we deny our own experience of reality because it doesn’t fit with our neat little world views.
Stories of Everyday Miracles
After reading Lisby’s book, I asked people on Facebook and on my blog whether they had ever known something they shouldn’t have known, something that made them feel like we live in a friendly universe that guides and protects us. The 100+ stories that came in touched my heart. Here are a few.
I was in Rio, Brazil for my brother's wedding and a few days after the ceremony, we were all sitting relaxing on the beach. My brother had walked down the beach alone about half an hour before I got a terrible, chilling feeling. I just started telling his best friend, "Go find Landon! Go find Landon!"
His friend knows my "gut" instinct level well and took off down the beach. He finally got to my brother where a lifeguard had saved him from the undertow.
— Clayton Wright Robinson
The woman who needed a hug
I was in a small Hallmark shop looking for a card when it happened. There were two other people in the store: the clerk at the register and a woman further down the aisle. All of a sudden, I was overwhelmed by a voice and a feeling throughout my being, which said, Hug her.
The instinct became more frequent and insistent until I walked over to the woman and said, "I know this will sound strange, but do you need a hug?"
Her face immediately crumpled as she nodded her head and leaned into me. I'm not sure how long we stood there with our arms wrapped around one another. Once her tears had subsided enough for her to speak, she told me it was the one year anniversary of her teen daughter's passing.
— Jeannie Walsh
Home buying instincts
In April 2012, after serious intent to buy a home in a neighboring town, after bidding on a property, I just flat out and unilaterally decided against it in the 11th hour. My family was beyond upset with me. The kids were excited about living in this town, but my gut flat out refused. There was nothing to explain this feeling. The town was perfect, and the home was lovely. I just felt that it was the wrong choice. I am typically accommodating and flexible, but in this instance, I was adamantly against the idea.
We settled on a home within our own town. We moved in June, and the kids started school in September. On December 14, 2012, the unthinkable happened at Sandy Hook Elementary school. My youngest (a child I never thought I would be able to have and came into this existence ever so unusually to begin with), would have been in that school on that day had I stayed the course. -
— Christina Lianos
Share your miracle story?
Many are reluctant to share these kinds of stories, but if you have a miracle of your own and would be willing to have it published in my upcoming book, please post your story in the comments (with your full name) or send your story to Pearl@LissaRankin.com.
The more we share openly about these kinds of heartening phenomena, the more we will realize that we are all interconnected, that there is a guiding force helping to protect us, and that really, truly, we have nothing to fear.