A town was completely enclosed behind high walls. For generations all the people stayed within the walls, comfortable with the only world they knew. Occasionally some brave adventurer would climb over the wall, never to be seen again. Inside the walls, people wondered if their friends never came back because it was SO good outside of the walls or if it was dangerous and they met with some awful tragedy. The risk was too great for most to take. Eventually the curiosity of a group of people in the town got the better of them. They decided to discover firsthand what life was like beyond the walls. They tied a rope around a volunteer, who climbed over the wall. After he had time to look around, they hauled him back. They were bursting with questions as they gathered around him, and everyone spoke at once. But the man said nothing. All he could do was smile from ear to ear.
There are no words to describe the moments of life that go beyond your current experience. Sometimes you just have to pause at the limits of your understanding and enjoy the mystery. All you can do is grin from ear to ear with the joy of new possibilities. You can’t fully explain it. If someone hasn’t had the experience, they won’t understand it in words. If they have had the experience, they won’t need explanation. They will see it on your face, the look of recognition. Getting stuck on the explanation is a little like being at the peak of a roller coaster and pausing the scene to analyze it, and describe it and before you know it the ride is over. Its far better to simply enjoy the feeling of exhilaration.
I’ve been thinking about synchronicity and serendipity again after some recent small world wonders. I have a profound appreciation for synchronicity and serendipity, as they are two of life’s gifts that fill me with deep gratitude and wonder.
The beauty of moments of synchronicity and serendipity is that they are surprising. They take you out of the high protective walls of your mind, shake you out of a comfortable mindset that deludes you into believing that life has predictable patterns that you can control and explain. Some situations defy easy answers. Déjà vu, uncanny premonitions, recurring dreams, ridiculously improbable meetings, outrageous “jinx” moments – these are all beautiful, if sometimes eerie, experiences.
There is no particular causal link. For example, I am eating in a restaurant on the other side of the world in a place I have never been and there is my neighbor at the next table. We didn’t plan it. There is no rhyme or reason as to why this should happen. And yet, it feels like more than coincidence. We have a conversation that the crazy pace of home life never allowed for. A friendship is born.
As Swiss psychologist Carl Jung said, it’s “more than chance, and less than causality”. It’s a meaningful coincidence, even if just because it leaves me gasping at the possibility of miracles in every day moments. It empties me, which makes me open and ready for whatever other wonders life has in store.
Birds and creatures so often seem to be agents of meaningful coincidences. The hummingbird appears at particular moments of self reflection as if to remind you to be gentle with yourself. The crow reappears high on the pole as if to warn you to pay attention. An eagle inspires some new courage. In Australia, the kookaburra takes the role of the trickster, reminding you to not to take yourself so seriously.
Jung had a meaningful encounter with a beetle. A patient was telling him about a dream that involved a golden scarab beetle, when he heard a tap at his window. Jung opened the window and in flew a scarab beetle. Its colors matched the description of her dream. The scarab beetle was rare in that part of the world. It was an unexpected visitor. He handed the beetle to the woman and said, “Here is your scarab.” By all reports, the woman had some major breakthroughs as a result of the experience. The beetle became a symbol for transformation and wholeness.
So often, moments of synchronicity and serendipity occur at times of crisis and vulnerability. When the student is ready, the teacher appears. The teacher may be a person, a bird or a beetle, a meeting, a memory or an event.
One of the most amazing moments of serendipity I have ever heard about was the story of a Jewish man from Ohio who visited the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. The man had some unresolved tension with his deceased father. He was blaming himself for his father’s death and decided to leave a note to his father in the wall. His note said, “Dear Father, I beg you to forgive me for the pain I caused you. I loved you very much and I will never forget you. And please know that nothing that you taught me was in vain.” He placed the note into a small crack in the wall and in the process dislodged another note. He couldn’t resist reading it. Incredibly, it turned out to be a note from his father. It said, “My Dear Son Joey, If you should ever happen to come to Israel and somehow miraculously find this note, this is what I want you to know: I always loved you even when you hurt me, and I will never stop loving you. You are, and always will be, my beloved son. And Joey, please know that I forgive you for everything, and only hope that you in turn will forgive a foolish old man.”
I certainly hope this is a true story. Even if it isn’t, it’s an extreme version of situations that take place for all of us at different times. In this case, the son was ready, and the teacher came in the form of the most amazing and transformative coincidence. Maybe the long and short of it all is to have an open mind and heart so that more and more situations feel meaningful and significant. Choose to believe that people and events, especially the surprising ones, are sacred experiences.
My meeting with the love of my life twenty years ago was serendipity. There was no logical reason why we should meet, coming from different cities and worlds. The meeting was meaningful and created a family and a life calling. The birth of my three children, the moves from Australia to New Zealand to America, the encounter with some incredible people, the sharing of pieces of wisdom at just the right time – these and more situations are encounters with a mystery that sources my life and fills me with joy.
Serendipity and synchronicity call me beyond the thoughts I’ve known to soar like a bird and shine like a golden beetle. They remind me to trust life which surely has more plans and purposes than I could ever imagine. So many moments are tapping at the window of my consciousness, asking to come in. All I need to do is open the window.
But don’t take my word for it. Look to your own experience. As Rumi said, “Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” Find your own meaning. Realize your own miracles. The universe is waiting to greet your openness. Fill the hunger in your spirit by discovering the miracle and meaning that is lurking in every moment. This is the true joy of being alive. Celebrate the conspiracy of coincidences that are collaborating in the creation of your life’s calling.