So many worshipers made the pilgrimage that the stain was eventually moved above ground to a permanent shrine in order to accommodate the crowds. In 1978 a New Mexico housewife thought that she saw the face of Jesus Christ in a burned tortilla. Thousands came to see her tortilla. Other "miraculous" visions have been seen on everything from the rust stains of a grain silo to the backs of highway signs.20 You may think that such visions are isolated instances, but that's not the case. I'm sure you can find such occurrences where you live. One of our local newspapers recently ran a story that described a number of such instances in my area.21 In one case, a man claimed the Virgin Mary came in through his window and told him to go to Colt Park in Hartford, Connecticut. He went, saw her again, and spread the news. Hundreds have since come to see what they're calling the Virgin of Hartford in the foliage of a thirty-foot locust tree. On a single day about two hundred people were pointing at the tree and exclaiming, "You see her, you see her!" In another instance, in July 1998, over one thousand people went to a house in the nearby town of Greenfield to see statues of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, which appeared to be bleeding. And, parishioners in a Catholic Church in another local town, Ware, started seeing visions of the Virgin Mary after they thought their church was going to be closed. Are these really spiritual signs? Is it reasonable to conclude that an all-powerful, supernatural being would be communicating with us through tortillas or ice cream and urine stains? Is there a simpler explanation? It is well known that we look for patterns in things, and this pattern seeking can lead to biased perception, especially when the data we see are ambiguous. For example, when the Viking spacecraft photographed Mars in 1976, some people immediately saw a form that looked like a face, and thought that an alien civilization must have sculpted it. But should we believe in the alien civilization, or believe that our own constructive human perception leads us to see things that we want or expect to see. Even our culture can have an impact on our perception. When observing the moon, Americans see a man in the moon, Samoans see a woman weaving, East Indians see a rabbit, and the Chinese see a monkey pounding rice.22 The forms on Mars and the moon are vague, and therefore open to interpretation, especially if we have a preconceived notion of what to see. Have you seen the picture of the World Trade Center disaster in figure 6? Some people see the face of the devil in the smoke--they say it makes sense because the attack was such a horrendous deed.

But if we look hard enough, we'll see many different images in ambiguous stimuli. In fact, it's a common human perceptual phenomenon, called pareidolia. Just lie on the grass on a beautiful summer day and look up at the sky. All kinds of images will take form in the clouds overhead. Another stratagem, tantric Buddhism, is nearly the reverse. Conscious thought, at least the way we usually do it, is the manifestation of ego, the "you" that you usually think that you are. Conscious thought is tightly connected with self-concept. The self-concept or ego is nothing more than a set of reactions and mental images that are artificially pasted to the flowing process of pure awareness. Tantra seeks to obtain pure awareness by destroying this ego image. This is accomplished by a process of visualization. The student is given a particular religious image to meditate upon, for example, one of the deities from the tantric pantheon. She does this in so thorough a fashion that she becomes that entity. She takes off her own identity and puts on another. This takes a while, as you might imagine, but it works. During the process, she is able to watch the way in which the ego is constructed and put in place. She comes to recognize the arbitrary nature of all egos, including her own, and she escapes from bondage to the ego. She is left in a state where she may have an ego if she so chooses--either her own or whichever other she might wish--or she can do without one. Result: pure awareness. Tantra is not exactly a piece of cake either. Vipassana is the oldest of Buddhist meditation practices.

The method comes directly from the Satipatthana Sutta, a discourse attributed to the Buddha himself. Vipassana is a direct and gradual cultivation of mindfulness or awareness. It proceeds piece by piece over a period of years. One's attention is carefully directed to an intense examination of certain aspects of one's own existence. The meditator is trained to notice more and more of the flow of life experience. Vipassana is a gentle technique, but it also is very, very thorough. It is an ancient and codified system of training your mind, a set of exercises dedicated to the purpose of becoming more and more aware of your own life experience. It is attentive listening, mindful seeing, and careful testing. We learn to smell acutely, to touch fully, and really pay attention to the changes taking place in all these experiences. We learn to listen to our own thoughts without being caught up in them. The object of vipassana practice is to learn to see the truths of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and selflessness of phenomena. We think we are doing this already, but that is an illusion. It comes from the fact that we are paying so little attention to the ongoing surge of our own life experiences that we might just as well be asleep. We are simply not paying enough attention to notice that we are not paying attention. It is another Catch-22. Through the process of mindfulness, we slowly become aware of what we really are, down below the ego image. We wake up to what life really is. It is not just a parade of ups and downs, lollipops and smacks on the wrist. That is an illusion. Life has a much deeper texture than that if we bother to look, and if we look in the right way.

Vipassana is a form of mental training that will teach you to experience the world in an entirely new way. You will learn for the first time what is truly happening to you, around you, and within you. It is a process of self-discovery, a participatory investigation in which you observe your own experiences while participating in them. The practice must be approached with this attitude: "Never mind what I have been taught. Forget about theories and prejudices and stereotypes. I want to understand the true nature of life. I want to know what this experience of being alive really is. I want to apprehend the true and deepest qualities of life, and I don't want to just accept somebody else's explanation. I want to see it for myself." At The Center, we gravitate toward the use of natural, nondrug methods to address sleep issues in our depressed clients. While our doctors are not strictly opposed to the use of medications to promote sleep, there is always the possibility that some patients will become psychologically dependent on over-the-counter sleep aids (like Sominex or Tylenol PM). There is also an addictive quality to prescription sleep meds such as Lunesta and Ambien. This is why I prefer recommending simple, natural methods that have proven to be effective at improving sleep. These methods make up something called sleep hygiene, which is the term used to describe behaviors we can adopt that help to promote good sleep. I am going to give you a list of eleven behaviors you can adopt that will improve the quality of your sleep. You'll notice that the actions on this list don't take place only at night. This is because a good night's sleep doesn't begin an hour or two before bed but is determined by many choices, habits, and behaviors throughout the day. There are many things you can do during your waking hours that will greatly improve the quality of your sleep. Get exposure to natural light. Exposure to sunlight helps maintain a healthy sleep cycle. In fact, receiving intervals of light and darkness is the method by which our bodies determine our circadian rhythm, or internal clock.

Exposure to natural light during the day is especially important for people who may not venture outside much. Exercise. Just ten minutes of daily aerobic activity can significantly improve your sleep. Because rigorous exercise circulates endorphins into the body, which can make it harder to fall asleep, I recommend getting your exercise in before midafternoon every day. (We'll discuss this topic at length in chapter 9.) Take short naps. While some experts advise against napping because of potential disruption of nighttime sleep patterns, I encourage my clients to catch up on their slumber any time they can. Napping may not make up for a poor night's sleep, but a short nap can still be beneficial. I recommend limiting daytime naps to a half hour, however, so sleeping at night is not compromised. Review the medications you are taking. If you suspect that sleep issues are related to a medication you are taking, talk to your physician or pharmacist. Switching medications, changing a dosage, or taking your medication at a different time of day may be options. Anytime your partner feels appreciated by you, he/she feels love. That's how love is often communicated--by demonstrating that you value what he/she does for you and your happiness. Attraction really is about honoring the small contributions that your partner makes on a day-to-day basis. If your partner fills up your gas tank without ever mentioning it, show thanks. If your partner rubs your feet while you watch a movie on the couch, show her with a kiss or loving embrace that you're thankful for her. You don't have to change who you are or what you need in a relationship to make your partner happy. You simply need to know how they clearly feel respected, loved and admired by you--in order to cultivate a greater love with each day that passes. Become solution oriented as a couple. This is one of the mistakes that intimacy experts see happen again and again in relationships, and what accounts for thousands of divorces each year.