Mindfulness & The Big City: Magic

April 23, 2017

Sometimes magic is real.

 

As the lights went down in our high school theater, I settled back in my seat, wrapped in anticipation, knowing that a magical world would soon unfold and smother the dullness of my everyday reality. I love musicals, and this year our school was producing “Xanadu”. As I breathed in the forgetful darkness, our young people began lining the stage, their bright eyes radiating hope, their entire lives ahead of them, their young voices filling the air with song. Sometimes it is hard not to believe in the goodness of the world and the magic of the stage.

 

After the show I walked home through Maadi’s flower-lined streets with the words of the theme song ringing through my head, “Gotta believe we are magic.”

 

Is it possible that after the theater lights go up and the performers go home, after the janitors began sweeping up the trash and the mothers look for lost jackets, after the bouquets begin wilting in dusty vases and the sets are dismantled to be reused, is it possible to still believe we are magic?

 

Young children believe in magic. Theirs is a world of fairy tales and superheroes. Theirs is a world of real miracles and fantasy. But at some point in the process of maturing, that belief gets replaced with logical explanations, scientific proofs, and mundane reality. Life's glitter fades.

 

Buddhists believe that reality is subjective, a mere projection of our minds to suit the perspective we choose. So what if we believe in magic?

 

In the warm dusk of a Cairo-spring evening, I pause to really look at the richness of flowers surrounding me. I stand under a mighty orchid tree, her boughs laden with blooms, each flower perfect, yet no two identical. The bounty of genetic diversity. The lead singer in the musical was one of my students, and we had worked through a difficult biology course together last year. The process of DNA and RNA replication is astounding in its complexity. Certainly, anyone with more than a passing knowledge of biology can believe in magic.

 

Why is the magic of flowers and of childhood lost on adults? People are magic too. My first Buddhist teacher in Chicago used to remind us that life is filled with coincidences that are impossible to explain, it’s just that most of us are too busy to see it. How many times have I randomly bumped into a friend in a city with millions of people? How many times have I hesitated to cancel a dinner date, only to have that person call me to cancel? 

 

Our world is filled with magic, if only we care to see it. I resisted believing in the Law of Attraction for many years, until I saw too many examples to deny. Friendly people attract friends. People with a negative attitude attract negativity. One only need to observe the effect of a smile or a yawn on a room full of people to see the power of our empathetic motor neurons.

 

Magic goes beyond our immediate surroundings. A peer reviewed study by Byrd (1988) at the San Francisco Medical Center showed that prayer increased recovery times of people in the hospital. In this randomized study, one group was prayed for, the other was not. Even without any physical contact, the group that was prayed for recovered more quickly.

 

This week I am challenging myself to slow down and appreciate the magic in the world around me: the intensity of the birds singing at dawn, the freshness of the wind off the Sahara, the beauty of the children playing in the streets, the eternal pause just before the sun breaks a new day. The world is magic, and so are we, if only we choose to believe.

 

References

Byrd, R. C. "Positive Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer in a Coronary Care Unit Population."Southern Medical Journal 81.7 (1988): 826-29. Southern Medical Journal. U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 1988. Web. 23 Apr. 2017. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3393937/>.

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