Through you, Nature becomes Aware of Itself.

Eckhart Tolle


There are many ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.   ~ Albert Einstein

        Signs and symbols: abundant at times, absent at others. For me, I’m much more aware of their presence when I slow down. The quieter I am, the more “tuned in,” “in the flow,” and appreciative of the whole “there are no coincidences” thing I am. The clock is often at 11:11 or 3:33.

        The hard side of that reality is in having felt that connectivity, and then not feeling it, but wanting to. Or worse, needing to. I have been in both places.

        After my dad died, there was quite a display in the ocean outside our cottage: rainbows and a shark and dozens of diving pelicans all day long. I stepped outside with a relative to show her the display of soaring, diving, and feeding birds. It was a spectacle beyond description. She turned to me and said, “My son sends us rainbows; now you’ve got your pelicans.”  

        With no pelicans up north, I often feel that “pelican presence” in Canadian geese or lakegulls. The formation of the birds was always the mesmerizing piece to my air force flight instructor father. So many representations can fit that bill for me. But am I making something of nothing, or is there really something there? That is where two factors come in, in my humble opinion:

        First, we are human and we are oriented toward doubt and scrutiny of belief. At least I am. It’s called overthinking, and it’s precisely why I work on this practice of getting out of my head. As my friends and family and those who know me well will attest, it is a practice far from perfection. It’s all about returning to our hearts, resisting the drift back to our thoughts and unconscious living. It’s a practice of return: every day, every hour, every minute, every moment. 

        With my mom, there were double rainbows and butterflies. She was buried with a butterfly in her hand; I’d found it at the beach. Now they appear everywhere: a mile offshore, they’ll fly onto a boat as I ride; yesterday, as I began writing, one fluttered right to me. It’s crazy. Many butterfly pictures texted between my siblings and me.

        In January, my siblings were in town to sort through my mom’s “estate,” (namely a childhood home full of memories). As we were walking down the street, a service vehicle with a gargantuan monarch butterfly on its door drove past us. It turned into the driveway right in our path, only to backup and turn back in the direction from which it came. What the heck? Dead of winter and the biggest butterfly you have ever seen – four-foot wingspan – turned and stopped right in our path. I think one of us said, “You’ve got to be kidding me,” while the other said, “Hello, Mom.”

        The key is to have faith or, as Einstein says, “to believe in miracles.” The more I can get out of my head and into my heart, where that bigger than me lives, the far better directed I am. Remembering to have faith, which is different than knowledge, also helps. Just like courage is feeling fear and doing something anyway, faith is not knowing and believing anyway.  

        I often think about the scandal that came out in Time Magazine years ago around Mother Teresa’s journals. They were found after her death; I think they were even published. (Ugh. Not nice!) Mother Teresa wrestled with doubt and apparently experienced time not feeling God’s presence. The article, if I remember correctly, jumped all over her faithlessness. What a joke. She clearly went long periods of time not feeling any sort of divine connection, but she wrestled that doubt out on paper during long, dark nights. And, by day, she went about doing her work – in good faith, might I add.

        Yesterday, I was planning to write about something else. Then, a butterfly flew by. I reached for my phone to take a picture for my sister, but then it rang. It was her, thinking of me. When we got off, I decided to write about signs and intuition, and as I did, a friend called inviting me to a book signing on the very subject, during the exact time when I needed to be waiting out a lacrosse practice nearby.**  Life’s funny like that sometimes. To me, it feels a lot better and less arbitrary when I am in the flow, tuned into these universal efficiencies.

“Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the future.”  ~ Francis P. Church

        That’s where the meditation and peace come in. It doesn’t matter how you get to a place of stillness and receptivity; it is just important to do so. Simply said, you are going to feel it more when you’re aware.  

There are so many ways to get out of our heads: 4-7-8 breathing, alternate nostril breathing, outdoor exercise (without headphones) or silent meditations. Just a personal observation: the more we clear our heads and open our minds, the more we are going to feel connected to the signs and symptoms of the universe. An untuned instrument makes noise. A tuned one makes music. It is worth tuning…

“If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is,’ Steve Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson. “If you try to calm it, it only makes things worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does there’s room to hear more subtle things—that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could before. It’s a discipline; you have to practice it.”

This day, practice awareness through breathing techniques, walking, or exercise without headphones, to name a few. Listen, keep your eyes open, and be inspired.

** The book talk was with Joe McQuillen, one of the fathers of the five Winnetka boys lost in an accident in an icy lake three years ago. The book is called “My Search for Christopher on the Other Side,” and about how Joe and his wife have found connection, hope and love through meditation and mediums. Joe is passionate about pursuing metaphysical connection with lost loved ones; if you are, it is well worth checking out his local story and resources.

Butterfly landed on me on my way to visit my mom.