We called our recent tour of Europe’s sacred sites “Experiencing the Miraculous” not only because of what had taken place there in earlier times. Miracles large and small can occur for us every day; and when we go into an experience expecting wondrous things, we won’t be disappointed. Here are a few of the miraculous events that happened for me on our trip to three of the spiritual centers of Europe last month when I traveled with 157 like-minded souls to Assisi, Italy—home of Saint Francis; Lourdes, France—where a teenaged Saint Bernadette saw the Holy Mother, and Medjugorje—site of a more contemporary visit from Mary in the Balkan country of Bosnia-Herzegovina:
- Journeying to these holy places with my three youngest kids who might not have had churches and monasteries on their list of top places to see this summer, but who came alive with the spiritual power we encountered and became fully engaged members of this pilgrimage.
- Meeting a woman from Slovenia who joined our group for dinner near Medjugorje and learning that she had just watched The Shift the night before and was carrying with her a Slovenian copy of You’ll See It When You Believe It.
- Lecturing in a 1000-year-old church in Assisi, reading a scene from Nikos Kazantzakis’ Saint Francis where Francis conquers his fear and embraces a leper, and suddenly sobbing uncontrollably while the audience stood with their hands extended toward me in silent sympathy.
- Seeing an endless number of orbs in the many, many photos that people took of the lectures and the sites we visited.
- Joining the thousands of pilgrims who waited patiently for a chance to bathe in the healing waters at Lourdes and emerging like everyone else with a renewed spirit and no trace of having been near anything wet.
“I’d love to write a book, if I only had the time.” Have you heard someone say this recently, or maybe even said it yourself? Do you really want to write a book or maybe paint or dance or sing or fulfill any creative longing that’s been sitting on the back burner of your life? And is time really the issue? We all have the same number of hours in a day and most of us make decisions about how to spend them. In my movie The Shift, we see a young mother rediscover her love of painting because she gives herself permission to do so. Instead of continuing to assume that her dream is impossible, she asks for the opportunity, the time, she needs and she gets it. Why don’t we do the things we say we want to do? In the vast cornucopia of excuses, not enough time or “I’m too busy,” easily tops the list. But how can a person be too busy to make room for what they love? Thoreau is right in saying that we have nobler faculties we need to pay attention to, in addition to all the other details that occupy our lives. If you fear the part of your soul that’s calling you to a higher place, then you’re probably using the “I’m too busy” excuse. There is time to do what you love when you step back and look at your life from a higher perspective. Make sure that fear, doubt, and unexamined beliefs about yourself and your talents are not the real culprits keeping you from your creative endeavor. Rather than telling yourself you are too busy to pursue an activity you love, use the following affirmation: I intend to take time for myself to live the life that I came here to live.
In talking about my new movie The Shift, I’ve had a lot of questions about the nature of ambition. If the shift to a purposeful life is moving from ambition to meaning, why is it that we have to get away from ambition? What’s wrong with ambition? Isn’t that what we need to reach our goals and realize our dreams? I know it sounds contradictory—isn’t life full of seeming contradictions that we have to balance?—but in fact, we don’t have to give up ambition, only shift it toward the things we are here to achieve, the music we are here to play. You can be ambitious about having meaning in your life. I don’t think I’m not ambitious right now. I get more done now than I’ve ever gotten done in my life: creating books, writing all the time, living a very fulfilled life, making money, giving lectures, and doing all the kinds of things I do, but there’s a part of me that is so content and peaceful with who I am and what I’m doing that I know this is the music I came here to play. I’m ambitious, but I’m ambitious not so much about accumulation. It’s not the having but the being—the peace and the joy—that lets you know when your ambitions have meaning.