NOTE: This is the first draft of the “Miracles” essay in my forthcoming book, Fifty-Two Flower Mandalas.
Responses and comments welcome, no matter how brief.
Miracles: Yellow brick roads
Copyright 2013 David J. Bookbinder
I am a miracle worker by trade. Or more precisely, a facilitator of miracles.
I make this claim sans grandiosity. My miracle-making abilities are as ordinary as those of the Wizard of Oz, an old man behind a curtain whose only real power was to trick Dorothy, the Tin Woodsman, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion into setting forth on a journey out of their self-limiting beliefs.
The best trick I’ve found to facilitate miracles is a deceptively simple question. (Sometimes I, too, need to be a little deceptive). I usually ask it early in my work with clients. It’s called the Miracle Question and it goes like this:
Imagine that after you finish reading this essay you go off and do whatever you do with the rest of your day. Tonight, you fall asleep. And while you’re snoozing, a strange thing takes place. The strange thing is that… a miracle occurs! The miracle is a special one, just for you. It’s that all your problems and concerns are solved: Poof! But, because this miracle happened while you were asleep, when you wake up tomorrow, although you are solidly in the world of the miracle, you are unaware of it. So the question is: Tomorrow morning, from the moment you wake up and as you step through your day, what do you notice – in yourself, in your surroundings, in other people – that eventually gets you thinking, “Something’s different about today. A miracle must have happened!”
You are looking for a shift in awareness that begins a journey, a realization like Dorothy’s after the tornado deposited her in Oz. She steps out of her house, looks around. As the film itself shifts into Technicolor, she sees the yellow brick road, the munchkins, the horse of many colors. After a while she turns to her little dog and exclaims, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!” You are looking for your I’m-not-in-Kansas-anymore moment. “Something is new and different, and I like it.”
After I ask clients the Miracle Question, I guide them through answering it, using prompts like:
How do you feel when you open your eyes? Are you in the same bedroom? The same house? With the same people? What’s different as you get ready for the day? What’s different as you walk through it, hour by hour? What do other people in your life notice about you that’s different? What do you notice about them?
The Miracle Question is part of Solution-Focused therapy, which is based on the belief that we have the means to solve our own problems. The question helps people to envision, while in a waking dream, what their lives can be when all their concerns have been addressed and current problems solved. Gradually, as they walk through their miracle day, a detailed vision of that different life emerges. Then it’s just a matter of working toward that miracle, one doable step at a time.
After clients have answered the Miracle Question, I ask them to reflect on what pieces of the miracle are already there, in whole or in part. Then I request that they evaluate their present lives on a scale of 1–10, where “1” is how things were when they were as far away from the miracle world as they have ever been, and “10” is they are living the miracle, 24/7. Most people readily come up with a number: “I’m a 3.” “A 5.5.” And so on. That number is where the journey begins. The miracle happens as they walk down their own yellow brick road.
Before they leave the session, clients come up with a task or experiment that they believe will move them closer to their miracle lives. The task is typically not one they would do anyway, nor is it so daunting that they won’t attempt it. Instead, it is something they want to do, even if there is some anxiety, and just doing it, regardless of how it turns out, raises their score. Most clients come up with two or three ideas, and selecting one takes little effort. They know. As a final check, I ask them to guesstimate how much doing the task will raise their score. Then their journey begins.
The following meeting, we look at what they did and how it went. Then it’s rinse, lather, and repeat until, step by step, week by week, they reach their miracle.
It is difficult to get somewhere if you don’t know your destination and have no way to verify whether you are on the right path. Answering the Miracle Question provides a visceral sense of the desired destination, which becomes a North Star they can refer to at any time. Scaling from 1-10 each session provides a means for discerning how far they have traveled and whether they are still on track.
The process is akin to the Call to Adventure that launches the Hero’s Journey, the meta-narrative that underlies most of our heroic tales. It impels us to enter new territory, where we take risks and endure struggles we might not otherwise have taken and endured, but which yield rewards that cannot be obtained any other way. Much as Dorothy discovered she always had a home, the Tin Woodsman found his compassion, the Scarecrow saw the results of his brilliant mind, and the Lion demonstrated his courage, by traversing our own yellow brick roads, we discover who we are meant to be.
Occasionally, a client objects to the word “miracle.” I back off and describe the process in less mystical terms. Yet at the same time, I am aware not only that their miracle is within their reach, but also that compared to the miracles that occur around and inside us an uncountable number of times each day, our personal miracles are relatively modest, and hence attainable. All of creation, after all, is already miraculous.
Perhaps today is when you begin a journey down your yellow brick road. What will you notice when you awaken tomorrow?
The future is wide open.