INSIDE THE MIRACLE
SUFFERING, RESILIENCE, AND HEALING
I love coming to the Open Center and am looking forward to offering this workshop based on my new book, Inside the Miracle, which gathers almost thirty years of inquiry into suffering, healing, and wholeness.
One of the great transforming passages in my life was having cancer in my mid-thirties. This experience unraveled the way I see the world. It scoured my lens of perception, landing me in a deeper sense of living. There are certain experiences that reform us, as if God’s a tireless blacksmith who, against our pleading, forges the metal in us, though it takes years for our heart and mind to cool from the pounding. My journey with cancer was how I was forged.
One of the mysteries of being human is that healing is a process that never ends. Transformation, even from a single event, can continue for eternity. And so, I continue to be transformed by my journey with cancer, which began with my struggle through three years of illness and alarm from 1987-1990. All those years ago, that struggle brought me close to death. Today, I remain committed to surfacing the lessons of transformation as they continue to shape the lens that life has given me. The transformative events may differ for each of us, but every soul will face a life-changing threshold that will keep shaping who we are for the rest of our life.
As coal is pressed into a diamond, experience presses us into the clear jewel that we are. Difficult as this is, this is the hard-earned way that wisdom appears in the world. And though what’s unearthed in this book comes from the heat of my journey, the lessons are for everyday living. It’s a law of spiritual nature: that the press of crisis, illness, heartbreak, and grief make visible what’s essential to live. Somehow, our life-giving lessons are more easily seen through the press of difficulty. So much of what we learn and pass on is the residue of more heated times. This is how we preserve what matters. This is how we create medicine out of our suffering.
Though my story is framed around a particular crisis, I believe that all forms of crisis somehow raise a common instinct to survive and with that a common set of tools—such as risk, trust, compassion, and surrender—becomes available to all. And coming this far, it seems clear that being a survivor is embracing the will to live, and whether that embrace lasts for years or months or days or even hours, whoever embraces life is a survivor.
Sooner or later, we’re asked to be honest with our fears and hopes; to render, through our experience, the irreducible mystery of life in which we all swim. After all this way, I know that I am weak and strong, stubborn and determined, afraid and brave, giving and demanding, resilient and stalled, confused and clear—sometimes all at once. I know now that going on without denying any aspect of the human drama is what strength is all about.
I leave you with this poem from the new book:
COVENANT WITH TIME
In silence or in crisis, we can put
down the gun, bandage the wound,
carry the water and share our bread.
But under all that, all we can do is
hold each other and listen. The one,
an indispensable lifting. The other,
an indispensable putting down. So
when you fall, I will help you up.
But when I fall on the inside, just
sit with me and rub the cuts no one
can see. This is how we make it to
tomorrow: fall and rub, lift and put
down. Like a piece of cliff letting
go after a thousand trials
to add to the shore.