INTRODUCTION

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Odds are that you’ve experienced your own sacred moments. After all, more than half of adult Americans have experienced a spiritual transformation, according to the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. Such transformations lead to dramatic changes in how people view themselves, the world, and the meaning and purpose of life.


These transformative experiences are available to us all. As the NORC study documents, these powerful, life-shifting events are typically triggered by either a personal crisis or a normal religious activity. Consequences typically include a strengthening of faith as well as positive, far-reaching changes in character, attitude, and behavior.


My own spiritual awakening was a gradual one. In my late twenties, I started thumbing through Shirley MacLaine’s book Out on a Limb, and that was that. I was hooked. I wanted to experience those incredible epiphanies for myself. Most of all, I desperately wanted to achieve “enlightenment.” Over the next few years, I devoured dozens of spiritually minded books, tapes, and seminars.


Then something thrilling happened. It was the Fourth of July. I was home alone. Work had prevented me from joining my wife, Kate, and daughter, Erin, on our traditional trip to northern Minnesota. We rarely missed a Fourth of July celebration in Kate’s hometown.


Early that afternoon, I lay down on the bed to close my eyes and mentally sketch out the rest of my day. Two minutes later, I heard Kate’s voice cheerfully calling out, “Hi, Phil!” Her greeting was loud and clear, as if she were standing right in front of me. The kicker was, I heard her voice inside my head.


I was stunned. I had always dismissed reports of “hearing voices” as a sign of mental illness. Yet there was no mistaking what had occurred. I had heard Kate’s voice—not with my ears but with some unknown sense. I remember thinking, So that’s what that feels like. Cool!


When Kate called the next day, I asked her what she had been doing at the time I’d heard her voice. She said, “Hmmm, oh, a bunch of us were sitting on the dock at Bev and Bill’s cabin. Someone said, ‘It’s too bad Phil had to stay home,’ and I said, ‘Let’s all say hi to him!’ So we all shouted, ‘Hi, Phil!’ at the same time. Why? Did you hear us?” I shivered and told her that, yes, I had. “Oh, my God!” she said. “I can’t believe it!” We were so excited, we had to go over the details again and again until we calmed down.


From that day on, my hunger for all things spiritual intensified. But the more I learned, the more I understood that spirituality isn’t about cool parlor tricks. Ultimately, it’s about how you choose to relate to the people and world around you. As my awareness grew, so did my capacity to recognize the sacredness in every moment. It eventually dawned on me that every day is a gift—and that what we do with it is our gift to ourselves, to others, and to the world.


When I felt I had grown enough to competently articulate these powerful truths to others, I set out to interview the authors and speakers whose work had resonated with me. I asked them to recall a profound moment in their lives when they felt deeply connected to spirit. I wrote up their stories for Edge Life, a Minneapolis-based magazine devoted to personal growth, integrative healing, and global transformation. Before I knew it, I had built up an impressive collection of wonderfully uplifting stories.


These intimate, life-altering stories of spiritual awakening and growth, rich with insight and meaning, remind us that everything we think, say, and do matters. Call it karma, or cause and effect, or what goes around comes around. Every action—from Stephen Simon approving a videotape delivery to Caroline Myss sending out a prayer to an Indian mystic to Christiane Northrup observing her first live birth—creates an unending sequence of ripples in the lake of our daily lives.


Not every story emerged from joyous occasions. Deepak Chopra, Joan Borysenko, and Dannion Brinkley were profoundly affected by the death of a parent. Echo Bodine made the heartbreaking decision to give up her only child for adoption. Frank Deford’s daughter, Alex, was slowly, agonizingly consumed by cystic fibrosis. From them, we learn that, despite our hurt and our grief, every tragedy eventually reveals its own sacred purpose.


Even when these profound moments of spiritual clarity appear to affect nobody but ourselves—Dan Millman’s spontaneous awakening while peeling a grapefruit, Tom Gegax’s startling vision in a Greek hotel, Jean Houston’s opening of a spiritual doorway—their consequences will echo through eternity. How? When people are changed by sacred experiences, the way they show up in the world changes too, which in turn subtly changes the people with whom they interact. Millions of us have already been jolted awake by one of these “life quakes.” More minds and hearts are opening every day. Soon, we will reach critical mass, and our culture will be forever changed.


Is there a common thread among these stories? No, not really. Some are subtle and insightful while others are knock-your-socks-off amazing. I hope these stories will touch your heart as they have touched mine. Some of them may challenge you to rethink your perceptions about the way the world works. Others may inspire you to make better life choices. Cumulatively, they may motivate you to live in a way that increases your awareness of the sacred moments that currently lie just beyond your vision.


Keep in mind that you don’t have to wait for sacred moments to come to you. Create your own by listening to your heart. Years ago, when my daughter was young, I’d stand in the doorway to her bedroom and watch her sleep. I’d close my eyes and imagine she was eighteen, pulling out of the driveway, headed for college. As I watched her wave and drive off, I’d pray with all my heart that I could turn back time and spend just five more minutes with her when she was a wee bairn. Then I’d open my eyes and there she was, still my little girl, and we didn’t have just five minutes, we had years! I practiced this “imagine the future” exercise well into her teenage years. Regularly reminding myself that her adulthood was fast approaching helped me cherish every minute we had together. Erin is now a lovely young woman, and those precious moments in her doorway will always stay with me.


Such sacred moments add depth and meaning to our lives. There is much you can do to prepare yourself for a transformational experience of your own. Get to know yourself better by reading self-help books. Keep a journal of your innermost thoughts. Meditate. Practice affirmations. Share your feelings openly and honestly with others. Most importantly, reflect each day on your opportunities for growth. And if all else fails, try standing in a doorway and counting your blessings.


Best of luck to you on your journey, my friend. May your life be long and prosperous, and may your days be filled with sacred moments.

SIXTY SECONDS: ONE MOMENT CHANGES EVERYTHING