As cliche as it may seem, October begins peak extraordinary season. Window skeletons! Front yard graveyards! Candy corn diet! Our raised awareness of Halloween makes us more tolerant of unusual stories. It's true. We put up with mystery this time of year. We give our brains a break and ditch the skepticism. There's a reason why so many classic ghost stories (Edgar Allan Poe, Washington Irving) begin when leaves change color and sunlight wanes. I think it's the same in our real lives: mystery makes us pay attention. I hope you enjoy the stories.
Sandra J, Atlanta, GA, - Simulpathy, or Getting Hit By a Car, Sort Of
When I was in my early 20's, I was riding in the car with a friend and felt a jolt in my body, like our car had been hit. At that point in my life, I had been in a few minor car accidents, and could recognize that jolt anywhere. Someone had been hit by a car, but not us. I didn't say anything to my friend. I acknowledged the jolt, but then just kind of let it go. When I talked to my mom later and she told me she had been in an accident, I simply thought, "oh--so that's what it was." I don't think I ever told her that I had felt the jolt. After it happened, I started being hyper-aware, feeling that I had a sixth sense and worried that any time I had a twinge, something bad was about to happen, or had happened. Strangely enough, when I look back on the extraordinary experiences in my lifetime, they have come at totally random times. If you listen too hard, or wait or expect signs, they don't come. I see and feel my mom often, now that she's gone. My sisters complain that they are not "getting the signs". I tell them they just have to be quiet and pay attention.
Kat P., Elmira, NY - Seeing the Washer Woman from the Civil War "I'm pretty perceptive when it comes to this stuff. I've learned how to block out the fear before it starts to get to me. I've also learned to keep my thoughts to myself."
The Extraordinary Project has gotten great press this summer, including a mention on NPR's CarTalk blog and a whole seven minutes on Chicago's WGN morning news. So many submissions came in as a result, with stories of exceptional connection, mystery, healing, recovery, and hope. You can read the details of my other summer discoveries in my new blog. By all means, tell me what you think!
The Wonder of Skipping Town
Changing the scenery and traveling somewhere new notoriously brings people into contact with serendipity, seriality, and synchronicity--three types of coincidence that carry meaning and lead to change for many. Has this happened to you?
Lisa T., Dallas, TX, Seriality in Symbols of The Virgin Mary "I had signed up for a two-week tour of Turkey, intending to study pre-Christian images of the feminine divine, such as the one found at Catal Hayuk in Central Turkey. When my flight to Istanbul was cancelled, I had to spend a day in New York. I called a friend from Louisiana who I knew was visiting the city at the same time. He chose, of all things, to take me to The Cloisters, a museum of medieval art and iconography. I had never been interested in religious icons particularly, but this time I saw some images of the Virgin Mary that provoked me." Continue
Terra M., Birmingham, AL, Synchronicity Threefold in London "My husband and I were travelling to EU in 1997 two days after Lady Di was killed. On a layover in Ontario en route to London, we started talking to two girls our age who looked cool. Turns out they were from Atlanta, and going to London, too. We boarded the huge 747, and lo and behold, we had seats beside them. We chatted 6 hours in flight and agreed we all had to get out of London before it was overtaken with mourners. The plan was to meet in Munich a month later at Octoberfest on 10/3 at 3:00 under the town square clock. We were surprised but happy to see them there. When we agreed to meet in Prague a month later, things got messy. We were late, so were they and we figured we'd never see them again. But no. We ran into them a few days later walking around in Prague." Continue
Jon Z., Florida, Serendipity in the Airport with a College Friend
Thirteen years ago I was returning to Colorado from a trip to New York. My cousin had dropped me off at LaGuardia Airport. I was on crutches at the time, because I had broken my ankle a few months earlier, which required surgery. The porter rushed over with a wheelchair, sat me down and went to get my boarding passes. He was gone for a bit of time, and when he came back he said apologetically, “Sir, I’m sorry, but you were scheduled to leave out of JFK, not LaGuardia. But we managed to book you on a flight with Frontier Airlines with a stopover at Midway Airport in Chicago.” If had been able bodied they would have told me to hit the bricks with a “hope you get to JFK on time,” dismissal. But instead they helped me out. The porter wheeled me to a virtually empty gate, with a legion of ugly blue 1970’s seats. I guess he wanted to play matchmaker, so he wheeled me next to the only other person sitting at the gate, a lovely young lady. And I recognized her. Continue
PreOrder The Extraordinary Project Book!
In late 2015 The Extraordinary Project will take book form. Sign up to reserve a copy, receive pub date announcements and reading invitations.
Family Bonds: Extraordinary Connections Between Parents and Children
This June I devoted The Extraordinary Project to the invisible tethers between grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren. Dozens of stories about family members sending messages through time and space, appearing in dreams that prompt a timely wake up, and spurring moments of synchronicity seem to suggest we are bound to each other by more than just genes and memory.
But what is the nature of this invisible tether? Is it sensory-based? Is it energetic? No two stories are identical, but most extraordinary stories between parents and children share an incident of heightened perception.While science does not have a unified agreement on the mechanism of uncanny connections, the stories we tell shed light on how often these incidents emerge in our lives and what they mean to us.
Did you know?
People who work with creativity on a regular basis have more experiences with the extraordinary? My piece this summer in Common Ground magazine explains. Read here.
Stories of Resurrection
Stories of resurrection, about people having an out of body experience, a near death experience, or connecting with the disincarate (dead), are told across cultures. These incidents happen to people who believe in an afterlife as well as to those who do not, which tells me the events themselves have nothing to do with belief. I wrote a piece this past winter for the Huffington Post when I met a man who told me, point blank, " I died. In a ditch. And now I'm walking around like nothing ever happened."
His story moved me, not because it defied the obvious end of life, but because he had a very unusual reaction to cheating death. He seemed of two minds about it, grateful on one hand, but rather annoyed and frustrated on the other. I found his duality surprisingly understandable. I had always been of the mind that a resurrection was a gift and a blessing, an auspicious event that meant the survivor was meant to survive. While my former narrative makes for a very nice and familiar story, the truth is, people are complicated. Their stories of dying and coming back to life are unique.
Have something to say? Come to the Facebook community and share!
What's That Sound? Extraordinary Moments in Nature
In a most welcome sign of spring, stories have flooded my mailbox from people who have heard voices and felt physical sensations from trees, rocks and other elements of nature. I'm not even kidding. It was as if everyone suddenly remembered and had to write down their awkward information transfers with the elements: sparrows dropping dead in front of them; trees calling for their attention. As it happened, I had recently visited and written about John Muir Woods, so I had trees on the brain. What became clear to me after reading these testimonies is the more time you spend in nature, the more likely you are able to pick up on its subtleties. Equally true is the intuition we develop over time spent in cities, small towns, and workplaces, I suppose. But time spent in nature--among nonhuman beings--lends itself to perspective on the extraordinary ways in which other living things communicate. For these reasons, it only seems right to devote the month of March to extraordinary moments outside. Selected testimonies No One There But a Tree and Hugger? moved me with their raw emotion and deeper questions: what happens if I respond to an inanimate object? Am I losing my mind? Will I be judged by others? How is it that I am getting valuable information from this experience when it makes no logical sense? I was quite moved by their answers, and think you will be too.
I wondered: Did anyone ever really hug a tree for some purpose?
by Jean Eisenhower
Tree-hugger. The term drifted into my mind as I walked on a trail up Humbug Mountain (really) on the Oregon Coast, surrounded by 600-year old Douglas Fir trees, each one easily four-feet across, with vines creeping tangled around the bases of their trucks, with dolphin-size roots plunging into the earthen sea. So different from the southwest desert where I lived.
My husband and I were bicycling down the Washington, Oregon and northern California coast after having attended the 1987 annual Round River Rendezvous of Earth First!-- the radical environmental activists I would come to think of as “my tribe.” There I’d overheard two young men, one in dread-locks, one with short hair and a workman’s cap, ribbing each other with this term they’d obviously been called and taken to heart. Tree-hugger.
I wondered: Did anyone ever really hug a tree for some purpose?
click here for the conclusion of "Hugger?" by Jean E.
No One There But a Tree...
by Jacqueline O. Young
In the evening of January 20, 1977 in New Haven, Connecticut, I was distressed. I had just broken up with my boyfriend and, as I walked across the Yale campus to my apartment, cutting across the Gibbs research labs, tears filled my eyes and I wandered unknowingly off the path. When I looked up I was an inch away from one of two black oak trees planted in front. One more step would have created an uncomfortable collision. Instead, however, as I stood there crying I felt as if someone was hugging me! I was very surprised. There was no one there but a tree. I was not in direct contact with the tree but I continued to feel a warm and comforting embrace. The feelings were definitely benign and loving and seemed to emanate from the tree in front of me.
As my surprise and curiosity grew, I felt a change. The tree now seemed to be pointing at the ground, as if to direct my attention to something at the base of the tree. I looked at the spot that the tree seemed to be pointing to and saw a shift of movement that shouted in my mind as “snake!” I jumped back a bit and wondered why the tree would point out a snake in the grass. I amused myself for a moment thinking perhaps the tree was referring to my newly ex boyfriend. But then the tree feelings seemed to shift yet again. This time the tree was pointing upwards. One branch in particular seemed to be the new “pointer” branch. I had been through a long and difficult evening, and my inner scientist was pushing forward now. I wanted to test what was happening to me. I wanted to apply some reason to the crazy moment. All I could think of was to not look. So I did not look where the branch was pointing.
But the feeling of pointing increased. It was like a pressure on my mind. As I continued to not look, the feeling increased again to what I would have to call a shout! Suddenly my mind was filled with a sense that the tree was shouting at me “You MUST look NOW!!!” So I looked. And I have never regretted it, because at that exact moment a shooting star crossed the heavens toward the northeast right at the tip of the pointing branch. My sense of time and space and universe suddenly was forced to expand to include sentient trees that could anticipate a shooting star as well as the meaning pertinent to me of this moment. I was stunned both by the beauty and the potential meanings of this event. It felt like a good omen. As it was, I met my future husband the very next day and when we moved, it was to the northeast where my life adventures continued.