The Extraordinary Project is an online collection of our most unusual human experiences. I started this project because meaningful coincidences happen to all of us, and connect us in remarkable ways. I hope to gather 100,000 anecdotes to better understand how these incidents change the stories of our lives.
Parents and Children
This month I’m devoting 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? Knowledge based? Family and friend based? I have a few ideas based on anecdotes I've been told:
Mothers and Daughters: Already, on several occasions, my own daughter has taken the words right out of my mouth so to speak, and spoken my exact thoughts aloud before I had a chance to say them. She is six. Her sensitivity to how I think, talk, and phrase my sentences, though unconscious, is hard to refute. I wonder if such behavior happens between all children and parents; if it's instinctual, like other senses. She has picked up on the subtle rhythms of my communication--and the thoughts that prompt me--without really trying, in the same way we don't try to hear birds singing, or try to taste sourness in a lemon. We just do those things naturally.
Fathers and Daughters:
Some people can "pick up on" their parent's activities from a distance, without knowing why. One childhood friend of mine wrote of an experience she had with her dad the day she came home from college:
"I arrived home when he was at work, so got in the car to explore what was happening in the area since I'd been gone. I drove to Palisades Park for some reason completely unbeknownst to me (something I truly never did for no reason) and came upon a new falafel shop. At the time, there was absolutely no place to get a falafel near my parents' home in NJ, and in fact I hadn't eaten one or desired to eat one in probably years. In any case, I spotted it, pulled over, went inside, ordered a falafel sandwich, a can of Dr. Brown's Black Cherry Soda and a piece of baklava. Baklava. again, is something I probably hadn't eaten or thought to eat since about the 4th grade. I get back in the car with my brown paper lunch bag and drive home. In that time, my dad had arrived home from work. He was sitting at the kitchen table with a brown paper bag, not yet unpacked. We hugged and kissed hello and sat down to eat. He unpacked his bag, and took out… a falafel, a can of Dr. Brown's Black Cherry Soda, and a piece of baklava."
My ideas about these invisible parent-child tethers continue to evolve the more stories I hear. While no two stories are identical, most extraordinary stories between parents and children share an incident of heightened perception that confuses us. Many of us have trouble believing in it--and the invisible tethers it suggests-- even if they've happened to us directly. Scientist Rupert Sheldrake's theory of Morphic Fields proposes these types of perceptions are transmitted through an energy field that mainstream science does not yet recognize.
I continue to be fascinated by the fact that, while we all have heard of such types of connections--many of us have experienced them first hand--we have trouble believing them. They confuse us. Whether between two living family members or between one living and one disincarnate, the highly sensitive, long distance, and premonitory quality of these connections are equally impossible for most of us to process. And yet they have very specific characteristics. We see them, hear them, feel them, and behave as a result of them. The only thing we don't do is talk about them. #extraordinaryproject
Stories of Resurrection
happen across cultures, to people who believe in an afterlife as well as to those who do not. The conditions are mysterious, but the insights are real.
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.
Many contributors to the EP find the best way to process their experience is to write it. We honor this choice to use the narrative voice (plus it's fun to read these stories while you're on the train!)
No One There But a Tree...
An extraordinary diary
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.
Have something to say? Come to the Facebook community and tell us!
An extraordinary diary
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? There were people in this movement who acted – what I thought then – strangely. Some conducted “medicine circles” and sang New Agey songs. They were a definite minority, strange and not embarrassed to be so strange. I’d dropped in on one of those events when invited, but snuck away shortly after it began. Now I imagined the leader of one circle hugging a little white-barked birch tree, and found the picture ludicrous. Nah, I thought.
Why don’t you try it? I heard.
The voice had come from the trees, and didn’t have a quality I could remember – it hadn’t been audible – but was clearly there, in English, no less!
click here for the conclusion of "Hugger?" by Jean E.
I was so thrilled to talk to the anchors on WGN Chicago's Morning News about the Extraordinary Project. We talked about science, storytelling and Taco Bell.
Why Does It Seem Like "Asking the Universe" Works?
Did you ever notice when you need something, really need it, an extraordinary moment tends to occur? A friend calls from out of the blue with an invitation, you stumble upon a hidden stash of cash you'd forgotten, or, true story, a restaurant is giving away free food when you're hungry? Studies find that EEs happen more dramatically for people seeking advice, and that psychological correlations do happen across long distances when more of you, not just your logical mind, is seeking. It's not the universe, though. It's you.
Did You Know?
Artists are among the most comfortable with the extraordinary? Read here...
...about how the creative process routinely calls on the unknown in ways science is only beginning to understand.
PreOrder The Extraordinary Project Book!
The EP Thanks...
The kind people at Food Should Taste Good, Landmark Fiat, Ashtanga Circle, SMITH magazine, The Writers Workspace, The Observatory, and public radio program Strangers --as well as 80 other supporters-- for their financial, product, event and editorial support. The EP has had more than 5000 visits! I am so grateful for your company down this road.
How I Started Down This Road
Weird coincidences find me. The technical term for a person like me is a High Frequency Responder: I notice and remember and even attract synchronicities, hard-to-explain chance meetings at airports, telephone telepathy and the like. Sometimes these moments are small and forgettable. Other times they change my behavior and decision-making. The sheer number of them fuels my sense that they are an important but yet to be understood aspect to our human communication.
The Dark Side of Coincidence from The Huffington Post
A flight from New York to Chicago made me see how important it is to take coincidences, premonitions and other extraordinary experiences out of the "magical" conversation. Read here...