Provision #417: Embrace Mystery

Laser Provision

The more we learn about the universe, the more one thing becomes clear: there is a lot we do not understand about what happens and why. That is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived. The more we embrace that mystery and open ourselves to the multivariable calculus of life, the more possibilities will present themselves to our awareness. So if you’re ready for a wild ride, read on as we turn over some of the more unusual stones of life.

LifeTrek Provision


We continue with the second half of our series on spiritual wellness. You may remember that the first half of our series focused on 12 things to avoid in order to promote spiritual wellness; since the beginning of May, we have turned that around to look at the things we need to embrace.

Today’s Provision to embrace mystery stands in contrast to the recommendation we made to avoid magical thinking Click. The distinction between magic and mystery is an important one to grasp. Magic is defined as “the art that purports to control or forecast natural events, effects, or forces by invoking the supernatural.” Mystery, on the other hand, is defined as “something that baffles understanding and cannot be fully explained.”

To embrace magic, then, is to embrace a system of control over life that does not exist and does not work. There are no guarantees, when it comes to future events, whether we invoke natural or supernatural powers. Regardless of the claims people make, be they purportedly scientific or religious, a quid-pro-quo formula that guarantees success and fulfillment in life if you believe, sacrifice, and/or do certain things should be a tip off that you have entered the untenable realm of magic.

That doesn’t stop people from trying, of course. And, to borrow a famous line, “a sucker is born every minute.” We get so invested in desired outcomes that we will believe, sacrifice, and/or do just about anything if we think it will get us where we want to go. But that is not the way to spiritual wellness. Succumbing to magical thinking will lead us down the wrong path, wasting a lot of time, money, and effort in the process.

Giving up on magical thinking too often leads people to become either lackadaisical or anxious. If there is no sure-fire system of control over future events and desired outcomes, then some people conclude, “What’s the use!” They either stop caring or they start worrying.

But such extremes overreact to the vicissitudes of life. That’s why we also urged you to avoid aimless Click and anxious Click thinking. Just because there are no guarantees in life does not mean that there is nothing we can do to influence the probabilities of life. There are relationships of cause and effect that cannot be denied. If I decide to go out and mow the lawn, the chances that the lawn will be mowed increase exponentially over my deciding to go out and do something else.

Of course the mower may still not start, I may twist my ankle, I may tire out, or I may get distracted by some greater urgency. There are countless reasons why the lawn may still not get mowed even after I make the plan and start working the plan. But that does not mean I should abandon planning. In life, planning gets things done. Especially when we plan with an open architecture that takes into account just how mysterious life can be. Consider, if you will, the following phenomenon:

— In the late 1970s on the outer islands of Japan, the Japanese government maintained small colonies of monkeys in order to study their habits. One monkey learned to clean dirt from sweet potatoes by dunking and washing them in a stream. She taught this skill to several other monkeys who then taught it to others. After 100 monkeys learned how to do this, the entire colony • even those who had never been trained • was observed as being able to use this skill. What’s more, other colonies on other islands, in no contact with the first, all demonstrated the same proficiency. Biologist Lyall Watson wrote that the skill “seemed to have jumped natural barriers” of time and space.

— Heart cells also seem to have the ability to jump natural barriers. “Place one throbbing heart cell in a laboratory dish next to another heart cell,” writes Paul Pearsall in his book The Heart’s Code, “and they will beat in their solitary rhythms. Place several heart cells together in a dish without any physical contact between one another and with no synapse connecting them and they suddenly fall into a rhythmic unison, a rhythm that is distinct from the rhythm of each individual cell.”

— Water also seems to have the ability to jump natural barriers. In the past 10 years, Masaru Emoto has conducted and documented many experiments in which the crystalline structure of freezing water responds to its environment in mysterious ways. When exposed to beautiful music or life-affirming messages, the freezing water develops well-formed and beautiful crystals. Crystals fail to form, however, or become extremely deformed, when the music or messages are hostile and chaotic. Given that the human body is 70% water, this has relevance to us all.

— As described in the recent movie What The Bleep Do We KnowClick, quantum mechanics, or the study of very-small, sub-atomic energies, has uncovered a very weird world indeed. As Niels Bohr, one of the architects of quantum mechanics, observed: “Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory, has not understood it.” That’s because on the sub-atomic level, things look and behave very differently from the ordinary world that you and I live in most of the time. In quantum physics, which underlies all of life, common sense becomes nonsense and vice-versa.

— Atoms, for example, act like waves and particles at the same time. They also have the ability to be in two places at once. Not to mention being able to communicate and influence each other without regard to space and time. Separate two atoms that are in relationship to each other by great distances and they will both change their spins, instantaneously, faster than the speed of light, and without any physical contact between them, when the spin of either one is changed by researchers. Scientists call this phenomenon “nonlocality” because the effects are independent of location.

— Even time is able to be bent on the subatomic level. Atoms that precede other atoms in time, and then go out of existence, influence other atoms in the past even though there is, again, no physical contact or thread that is tying them together. Simply put, when it comes to quantum mechanics the standard rules of cause and effect, of time and space, no longer apply.

— Perhaps that’s why there are so many accounts of energetic or vibrational healing. People are far more than just physical bodies. We are vast collections of atoms, each resonating on different but related frequencies, that respond to all levels of stimuli. Many double-blind experiments have been conducted, for example, where groups of people, plants, and even microorganisms, have been prayed by others for across vast distances and without their knowledge. Such experiments document a significant improvement in the health outcomes of the objects of prayer.

— And if that’s not enough mystery for you, many others have sought to research and document such phenomena as telepathy (mind to mind), clairvoyance (mind to object or event), precognition (knowledge of future events), and psychokinesis (mind over matter). From this vantage point, there are no coincidences or accidents. There are only synchronicities, as matter arranges itself in response to our intentions and attentions. Since on the quantum level everything is continuously connected to everything else, there is at least reason to recognize such phenomena as possible.

And if that is at all true, then embracing mystery is indeed part and parcel of what it means to be spiritually well. The more scientists learn about the inner workings of the universe, the more they know that they don’t know. If anything “baffles understanding and cannot be fully explained” it is the universe itself. And that is occasion for both hope and consternation.

It is an occasion for hope since no situation is ever beyond intervention. On so many levels • physical, mental, emotional, volitional, relational, social, financial, political, and spiritual (to mention only nine) • we can train ourselves to work with the stuff of life. If one level seems to be fruitless or exhausted, we can turn to other levels for both individual and collective repair.

It is an occasion for consternation in that there are no guarantees that anything will ever work. Mystery is not magic. Life is just too complicated for that. We may be able to reduce risk, but we cannot eliminate risk. We may be able to improve our chances, but we cannot hit the bull’s-eye every time. To embrace mystery is not to take a controlling interest in life, not even on the levels of energy and vibration. These too have their limits and will, forever, hold their secrets.

But embracing mystery opens us up to far more possibilities than a narrow or flat view of the universe would suggest. Who would even think to look under the stone of subtle energy without first embracing mystery? Who would waste their time in prayer and meditation if there was no suggestion that love and gratitude could make a difference in the world? Who would want to train themselves in what Jon Kabat-Zinn calls “inner technologies” unless there was some reason to think that such technologies can truly tap into untapped potentials?

I, for one, find these reports to be not only intriguing but persuasive. There is simply too much going on here to live in the flatland of cold rationality and Newtonian physics. Quantum physics has made bedfellows of science and spirituality. May we each continue to research that connection as responsible parties on the trek of life.

Coaching Inquiries: Do you embrace mystery? Or do you dismiss the reports of things that baffle your understanding and cannot be fully explained? How would your life change if you took these reports seriously? What “inner technologies” might you choose to develop? What new practices and habits might you develop? Who could be your coach in the mysterious embrace of life?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..


Thanks for this week’s Provision. As a member of Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority (www.thetanuxi.org), I have spent the last several years challenging myself and others to confront our biases instead of just smoothing them over. It is amazing what we can learn and how we can grow when we stop blanketly defining ourselves as people who embrace diversity and start defining ourselves as amazingly intricate individuals, each of whom has a history and scope through which they view and interpret the world. It took me a long time to be aware of (or willing to admit) my lens and the ways it biased me, but attempting to do so has been enlightening as I try to take my own steps to “second-tier thinking.” 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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