It’s a Miracle All Around
Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu, Guru devo Maheshwara Guru sakshat, param Brahma tasmai shri guravey namaha
I am here to learn from my past, to receive teachings in this present moment and to continue to learn and grow, even when facing loss, illness and death. There is a teacher within and a teacher without. I offer my efforts to my own illumination, the teachings which come to me in many forms. (author’s translation)
Miracle — a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable, a wonder, marvel; a highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, a heaven sent.
I’ve never seen a man walk on water, but I do believe in miracles. I just got back from San Destin, Florida, where I was visiting the beach with my friend and her three kids— one last dip in the Gulf’s crystal waters before the weather changes. At the beach, I witnessed a myriad of miracles through the eyes of my friend’s 14-month-old daughter.
With a big round mouth, huge eyes and speechless pointing, my friend’s daughter makes this hilarious face that says, Oh, Wow! I saw in this small child a sense of curiosity that I too once knew, but have forgotten. When the pelicans flew overhead, a dragonfly swooped by and the sunset colored the sky, Oh, Wow! The baby’s Oh, Wow! face is not just for obviously beautiful things that adults think are cool (like the sea turtle nest we saw). A spoon is Oh, Wow! This watermelon is, Oh, Wow! Some shoes, a ball, a bottle cap and a scrap of paper are all Oh, Wow! — almost every moment, a miracle all around.
I love to work and usually get really busy this time of year, probably like you, but my life has changed a lot since last December: a break up; a new career and more recently, my dad’s cancer diagnosis and treatment. My priorities have changed too. Instead of speeding up, I’m slowing down. That big project for work no longer seems as important as a visit home, a long walk with a friend or one last weekend at the beach.
Whether it’s an upgrade or a loss, change is hard. It’s also unavoidable, unexplainable and miraculous. It seems to me that life moves in cycles, as a mysterious sequence of never-ending beginnings and ends. A cure for cancer would be a big miracle, giving me more time with my dad, but thanks to my friend’s daughter, I able to perceive mini-miracles that are happening all the time, all around. This gives me hope.
On the Gulf Coast, in the creatures of the sand, sea and sky, I saw the miracle of nature, whose vulnerability and resilience reminds me of my dad. In the big waves, pristine shore and welcome waters of the Gulf, I felt a homecoming I can describe as the miracle of belonging, where all are welcome. And finally, a recent situation that I felt so stuck in has become an opportunity for growth. This is the miracle of forgiveness.
Miracles can happen in the mind. Sometimes, I feel as small as a grain of sand, the heart capsized by sorrow and in the midst of some ancient migration. But all it takes is one tiny wonder (the insight of a child, a strawberry, a friend’s laughter, my teacher in some shape) to flip the ship, lift sail, and fill my spirit with joy. Oh, Wow! Is here, in everything. It’s a miracle all around. It’s an all-around miracle.
The following text written by Howard Thurman, as well as other stories, songs, and a yoga sequence have given me many awesome tools to ride life’s recent waves. I hope they are as uplifting for you as they have been for me. And if you have the chance for one more weekend at the beach before the water gets cold, I’d say, Oh Wow! Go! I’d also like to thank my family, friends and puppy for being awesome. This essay is dedicated to Lucianne Carmichael and A Studio in the Woods.
Howard Thurman’s Miracle of Living, excerpt from The Inward Journey
Frequently we are filled with a strange sense of the mystery and the miracle of life. In our private lives we are mindful of many blessings in a minor key, blessings so intimate, so closely binding that they do not seem to be blessings at all:
The ability to get tired and to be renewed by rest and relaxation; the whole range of tastes from sweet to bitter with the subtleties in between; the peculiar quality that cool water has for quenching the thirst; the color of the sky and sea and the vast complex of hues that blend with objects, making the eye the inlet from rivers of movement and form; the sheer wonder of sound that gives to the inward parts feeling tines of the heights and the depths; the tender remembrance of moments that were good and whole, of places that reached out and claimed one as their very own, of persons who shared at depths beyond measuring; the coming of day and the sureness of the return of the night; and all the dimensions of meaning that each of us finds in the cycle of movement which sustains and holds fast in the security of its rhythms. Thus, in our private lives, we are mindful of many blessings in a minor key…
… Beyond all these there is the intimate sense of being upheld and cradled by strength that is not of our making, something that gives to life a quality of integrity and meaning which we, of ourselves could never generate; the gentle upheaval in the heart reminding us to lift up our heads and be of good courage…”
Miracle, Sanskrit for Smile
“Miracle” comes from the Sanskrit word for smile: smerah. It later found its way into noun form as Miraculum, “Object of wonder” and winds up in old French as “Miracle” a wondrous work of God (Etymology.com).
“Magic” is also a related concept and comes from the Sanskrit word for illusion, Maya. The miracle or magic happens when we learn to see.
Magic happens when there is a shift in perception.
— Sharon Gannon
Miracles and Citta Prasadanam in YS 1.33
It is a miracle that we can experience peace in the mind. When we cultivate citta prasadanam, we are likely to see many miracles and even become miracle makers. The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali describes this peaceful state of mind: citti meaning mind stuff, and prasadanam meaning delicious and blessed, like the food we eat at the Good Karma Café. Patanjali gives us some tips on how to access citta prasadanam: the four infinite thoughts.
Maitri karuna muditopeksanam
Sukha duhkha punyapunya visayanam
Bhavanatas citta prasadanam
By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.
It’s a miracle that clouds can hold millions of gallons of water, so light in the sky.
— Radhanath Swami, The Journey Home
The Miracle of Emptiness in YS 4.15
According to the yoga tradition, as well as many Buddhist and even some contemporary Christian teachings, we experience reality based on our own past and individual perceptions. It is a miracle that we can be wrong and learn and grow. “Emptiness” sets the stage for miracles. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra also does a good job of explaining emptiness as a potential miracle moment:
Each individual person perceives the same object in a different way, according to their own state of mind and projections. Everything is empty from its own side and appears according to how you see it
The Tiger and The Strawberry
Here is a classic story from India as told by many spiritual teachers. Someone is being chased by a tiger to the edge of a cliff. The tiger is about to eat him, so he descends. Halfway down the cliff, he discovers more tigers at the bottom are waiting to devour him. He hangs on for dear life, stuck. Mid-panic, looks up right in front of him to behold a ripe, wild strawberry. He eats the berry. The berry is his Oh, Wow! miracle moment. Here is a delightful blog post on this story.
The Miracle of Mindfulness
Mindfulness teachings compliment the theme of miracles nicely. Thich Nhat Hanh, in his soothing manner, explains the momentum of miracles in everyday life in The Miracle of Walking on Earth. Walking, eating and daily activity meditations are great ways to find miracles. The Guru Mantra and Lokha Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu may be used to bless meals at home or over in the delicious Good Karma Café. Here is an awesome video of Thich Nhat Hanh talking about miracles.
The Miracle of You
It is so amazing that we can ask for help and receive it. The teacher comes in many forms: a loved one, a message, the rumble of thunder that indicates a coming storm or a strong sense of wrong and right. But sometimes, even when the answer is right in front of us, we can’t see the forest for the trees. And in spite of our efforts, we seem to miss the miracle.
Sometimes the miracle is there, just not where we think it is. But how can we keep a beginner’s mindset when it feels like we’ve tried everything? In Letting Go, David R. Hawkins says the fact that we search so hard and try so many methods proves that it’s in there, somewhere. Maybe the miracle you seek isn’t outside of you or in any one method, but within. Perhaps you, seeker, are the miracle.
How do you stay still? How do you find stillness in a world that’s constantly changing and moving? Look at what the planet does. It spins on its axis, and it moves through space at some incredible velocity in big circles around the sun, and its also wobbling. How do you find stillness there, in that kind of environment? You look past the outer differences to the inner essence where you will find stillness.
— David Life
The Miracle of Peace
Here are two of my favourite miracle moments from religious traditions: Lord Caitanya’s pastimes in the forest and Isaiah 11:6-9. These stories appeal to yoga’s stance on vegetarianism, ahimsa, as well as our own individual desire for reconciliation.
Radhanath Swami tells the story of Lord Caitanya’s pastimes in the forest. One day, Lord Caitanya is walking through the forest singing and dancing in ecstasy. He passes the elephants, touches the tigers with his feet and teaches all the animals, even the boars and deer, to chant the holy names. All the animals dance and sing together. At this time, there is a tiger in mid-hunt, chasing a doe. He jumps on her, catches her and is about to bite into her neck. All of the sudden, Lord Caitanya’s voice is heard. The two enemies lock eyes. Instead of biting the doe, the tiger and the deer embrace. The enemies weep and dance while singing the holy names.
Isaiah 11:6-9 from the Judeo-Christian tradition says:
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb; the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf, the beast of prey, the fatling together; with a little boy to herd them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together, and the lion, like the ox, shall eat straw. A babe shall play over a viper’s hole and an infant pass his hand over an adder’s den. In all My sacred mount nothing evil or vile shall be done; For the land shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord as the water covers the sea.
It’s a miracle all around. It’s an all around miracle. — Nick Sly, artist/actor
John Prine: Summer’s End
Guru Ram Dass: Miracle Mantra
Keith Porteous: The Four Infinite Thoughts
Sarah Quintana: It’s a Miracle all Around
Louis Armstrong: What a Wonderful World
The Flaming Lips: When you Smile
Cry You One soundtrack
Sister Rosetta Tharpe: Up Above my Head
Holosync: The Dive
1. Have you witnessed a miracle? More than one? How many? How often?
2. Ask the same question to someone else.
3. What is the difference between a big and a small miracle?
4. What or who is you strawberry? And your your tigers?
5. If you could perform a specific miracle, what would it be?
6. What’s a miracle moment from one of your favourite movies?
7. What is beginner’s mindset and how does it relate to your understanding of Guru?
8. How do your practices (art, yoga, meditation and contemplative thinking) add value to your sense of miracles?
I’ve seen three miracles. The birth of my children. That was the first one. It’s the most amazing thing. It’s the only time I saw my own aura. Your mom said I was lit up like a light bulb. Second miracle is that I had DIC four years ago and I was supposed to die but didn’t. Most people die, but I didn’t. Third miracle . . . That I got stage two cancer and they caught it now instead of several years from now when it would be four. Those are my three miracles. I have a guardian angel but she won’t tell me her name. I keep asking her, but she won’t tell me. I think she is afraid I’ll call her all the time.
— Ray Quintana (Sarah’s Dad)
Lokha Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu
Written by Sarah Quintana