Friday, November 02, 2007

Pay Attention to Coincidence

As the grandchild of a Jungian, I was raised on "synchronicity"--the Jungian term for paying attention to coincidence. My grandmother, Sally Stevens Nichols, author of Jung and Tarot: an archetypal journey lived by it, and my mother definitely tracked it as well.

As a teenager and young adult, I came to view the notion of synchronicity sceptically. So you kept seeing the same symbol or animal or person over and over again? So what? Unless you believe in an unseen hand that is arranging all things for you, it makes no sense to ascribe any meaning to it. It is merely a coincidence (which popularly means that two things coincide for no particular reason).

In the past couple years I have learned that (and why) there are no meaningless coincidences. Deepak Chopra, M.D., in his marvelous mandatory book The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire: Harnessing The Infinite Power of Coincidence, explains it best:

There are no meaningless coincidences. It is not that the universe, or some unseen hand that is ascribing meaning to these coinciding events, it is us. At any given time in our field of experience, there are hundreds if not thousands of things that we could pay attention to. Some of them we do, and most of them we don't. Right now, I'm moving my attention from my computer screen to the clutter of my office, the Halloween detritus, the random lipstick that may be smooshed, the ipod I need to charge up. No wonder I mostly look at the screen!

Have you ever had that phenomenon where you hear about something new, a word, a car, a movie, a concept, and "suddenly" you hear it, see it, everywhere? Of course you have. Is that because suddenly events are arranging themselves to display more of that item? No. It's because now your mind is interested in it and is paying attention to it.

What's interesting about coincidences is not the fact of the coinciding people, places or things. What's interesting about coincidence is that I notice them. Coincidences are a clue as to what is most important to me. Of all the things I could pay attention to, I pay attention to this.

Chopra calls them clues to one's heart's desire, one's life destiny--the best that our subconscious (or "non local intelligence") wants to bring into the world. He tells a compelling story of how he followed coincidences to leave a hard-won prestigious medical research fellowship to go work in the ER of a county hospital only to discover his life's work, the connection between mind and body and to becoming an incredibly successful writer, speaker, runner of institutes.

Another book I like on the subject is Synchronicity: the Inner Path of Leadership by Joseph Jaworski (Leon's son). This book tells Joe's story of how he followed synchronicities to go from being a Type A Republican Texas wheeler dealer lawyer to founding an international institute for connecting people and public policy.

I have been experimenting for the past year with this. I try to write down coincidences every night in my journal putting a star next to the big ones. I believe they are shortcuts. Example, if a bunny keeps showing up in my life, everywhere I turn I see a bunny, and then I am faced with a choice between two things, one of which involves a bunny, one of which does not, I choose the bunny option. That most likely will result in my getting quicker along my path. Going where I want to go faster, more smoothly, with more clarity, focus, ease and grace.

Coincidences or synchronicities are signposts on what otherwise would be my largely unmarked path.

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