Walking through Central Park the other day, I had an encounter with synchronicity that has stayed with me because of the delight of the moment. Whenever I have an opportunity to do so, I go off the regular pathways in the park and find my way in amongst the trees. There’s a small footpath that I often take in the morning, lined by tall evergreens and old, stately deciduous trees. When I’m there, it feels as though I’m in the midst of towering spires of a cathedral and the quiet of this place always touches me.
On this particular morning as I walked along, a bright red cardinal landed on a tree just to the right of me and a bit ahead on the path…
He was about hip height, so I stopped walking and began to talk to him. Cardinals are often seen in the park and they often fly by in front of me–something I always consider a lovely gift–but this one wasn’t going anywhere. Rather, he hopped to a bush a bit closer to me, then another, and finally to a tree just behind me. Each of these hops placed him at about hip height. Then, he hopped down on the path behind me. I squatted down and continued to talk to him. He came closer and closer and I had the distinct impression that if I held out my hand he would hop onto it. I didn’t move, though, as I didn’t want to frighten him. Eventually, he came to within about five inches of where I squatted on the trail and we hung out for a minute or two. Then, he flew on to a tree a bit farther away, letting me know that our conversation was over.
Carl Jung calls moments like these synchronicity, or “meaningful coincidence”, and for me this is the key to engaging and celebrating synchronistic moments that emerge in our lives. The meaning is always personal and may not be something anyone else agrees with, and that’s the beauty of it. For me, a synchronistic event reveals my relationship with a larger reality and with a dance that’s so complex and multidimensional that I can’t hope to ever comprehend it. With the cardinal, the meaning it touched for me was a reminder that I’m related to the world in much wider circles than my everyday life might suggest.
As I walked on to work, I was filled with gratitude for this moment of synchronicity, of my coming together with something meaningful to me. Cardinals have long represented messengers for me and I have the belief that they are “winks” from a larger reality. For most of my life I’ve celebrated synchronistic events and I also hold the belief that the more we recognize, acknowledge, and celebrate them, the more we notice synchronicity present as a natural part of our everyday activities.
For this week’s practice in conscious living, I invite you to take the time to celebrate whatever synchronicities may show up in your life. For example, when you think of someone and they call or send an email, take a moment to acknowledge that your thinking of them and their reaching out at the same time is an example of synchronicity. Or, you need an extra dollar to get something and look down and there’s a dollar bill someone dropped in the street. One thing doesn’t cause the other, and yet they are related by the meaning you give them.
One of the reasons I encourage people to notice and celebrate synchronicity is that I think we feel better when we experience ourselves as part of something larger than ourselves. The dance of synchronicity is sometimes so complex and so unexpected that it inevitably speaks to a mystery that goes well beyond our everyday understanding and our Western, rational world view. For me, this is a good thing–to know that there is more to reality than we will ever understand and that we are part of something that is so much bigger than we are.
Also, I find it interesting and useful to engage in an activity that I can’t control or predict. Synchronicity doesn’t operate on a conscious level, and it doesn’t come from our wanting it to be there. It emerges from a larger dynamic, often when we least expect it, and I think it can be helpful to recognize that there are processes and realities operating that are so far beyond what we perceive with our limited five senses.
As with all these practices, remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion and to allow any judgments to arise, move through, and move on. Playing with synchronicity asks us to be open and willing to be surprised, which isn’t a bad muscle to build.