Have you ever encountered a random series of events that the logical mind can’t explain? Do you ever see certain patterns in the way your life is unfolding? Do you ever find a penny on the street and feel somehow that your luck in that moment shifted? Have you ever received a call or an email or ran into someone that you haven’t seen in a while yet has been on your mind? How do you describe that feeling? And do you believe that each of us is connected with all other humans with just 6 degrees of separation? And why is it always Kevin Bacon that ends up being the link?
Our human existence is riddled with such interesting happenstance. My ongoing yoga and meditation practice has opened my heart up to really celebrating whenever some inexplicable coincidence impacts my life.
I would like to call these synchro-NICE-ities!
Please read on to hear about how a few random events in my journey have played a huge part in my healing and growing. And, at the end of the blog, I’ve shared a few practices to help you notice and appreciate the mystical experience of synchronicity in your own life.
If you have read my past Mindful Chatter entries, you may already know that the death of my mom when I was 19 was a significant life event. I still grieve and celebrate her to this day. We all know how complex grief can be. Lifelong healing and integrating comes in all shapes and forms. Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I was a fairly emotionally shut down boy. I definitely had a sensitive heart, but the lessons I learned were more about finding deep places to stuff my feelings rather than explore or express them. This lesson of numbing emotions might get you through a rough winter when survival meant chopping firewood and making sure the water pipes don’t freeze, but it didn’t prepare one for dealing with the death of a parent as a teen or surviving in the big world as an adult. Luckily for me, I was also blessed with a sense of adventure that probably saved my life on more than a few occasions. As I reflect on the series of synchronistic events that unfolded over the past 20 years, I am truly grateful for the people that have come into my life to help me along my journey.
As a young adult, I left the comfort of my hometown in Pennsylvania to explore the world and by way of several stops around the world and the USA, ended up in the Bay Area almost 14 years ago. One of the first things I did when I got here was take a community college course on Holistic Health. This was in the fall of 2000. While the yoga and ayurveda health section went past me at the time (it would be almost five years later until I started to take yoga seriously), I was intrigued by Ramona, a particular guest speaker who did shamanic healings. I don’t know why she piqued my interest but I kept coming upon her business card. It would fall out of my notebook and land at my feet or I would consider storing it away in a shoe box but somehow it remain in my wallet. While I was neither a yogi nor very awakened to the wonderment of synchronicity at that time, I must admit I kept coming up with this certain little voice that said “schedule a session with Ramona.” So, I pinched my pennies together and finally set up an appointment with her.
The session had components of light talk therapy and some Reiki-like movements. I didn’t necessarily leave the session all that wowed or impressed. Then came the dream the next night….
I was lying in a brightly lit white room on a futuristic recliner. There was another recliner to my left about two feet away. I couldn’t make out the face of the person but somehow I knew the person was a woman. I reached out my left hand and she took it with her right hand. At that moment, she died, decayed, and turned to dust. It was a powerful experience, yet in the dream I was neither shocked nor sad.
Instead the vision in the dream shifted some blockages in my heart that had been sitting dormant for many years.
After that dream, I returned to Ramona two more times and the sessions further helped me open up parts of my heart where I’d locked and sealed away my grief and regrets. At long last, I began to be able to talk about my mom’s death with my therapist. At that time, my relationships with those around me took on a fuller, richer quality. It seemed that as the grief was addressed, I was liberated to deepen my intimacy with others.
Fast forward to the year 2005. I had finally figured out how powerfully transformative yoga could be. I had saved enough pennies to travel to an ashram in India to practice yoga. As a solo traveler I would often be fortunate to find fellow sojourners to spend some time with. At the ashram, I befriended the person in the room next door. This lovely kindred spirit was a Canadian schoolteacher who was there after receiving some not so cheerful news from her doctor: she had brain cancer and the prognosis was not so certain at that time. She had decided to take some time for herself before disclosing to her family, so she left her family and job for a month to connect to her spiritual side. Coincidentally, her name was Cathy with a “C.” Did I mention that my mom’s name was Kathy with a “K”?
Cathy and I did daily yoga classes, ate meals together, and most evenings sat by the Ganges River putting on our existential detective hats and pondering the mysteries of the Universe. I not only met one of the most courageous strangers in my life, but I also got to have conversations with her that felt not unlike the conversations I wish I could have had with my own mother. Through our chats, she managed to work through how and what she wanted to share with her own family when she returned back home. I had gone to India to deepen my yoga practice and left with more than I could have hoped for. The Universe provided me with this random encounter that allowed me to further process the loss of my mother as well as to begin to appreciate just all the things that mothers do for their families. I would sometimes ponder how she was doing and send out a healing prayer during my yoga practices, but, for one reason or another, we never emailed or called each other after that shared ashram stay.
In 2007, I hadn’t quite gathered enough pennies for another trip so my partner at the time (Thank you, Tommy!) helped to subsidize a summer trip to Europe. At the tail end of the trip, we were taking a self-guided walking tour around Rome and had somehow gotten lost in some tiny back streets that were not on our Lonely Planet maps. It was quite hot and I was starting to get a bit irritable. I was determined to ask the next person we saw for directions. When we rounded the corner of a tiny alley we came upon a group of four people all playfully cooling one another down by splashing water from a beautiful fountain that gushed from the side of the street. They seemed harmless enough and I became aware that they were even speaking English so I approached them. As I started to say “Excuse me…” the four of them turned around and I recognized one of them to be ashram Cathy! We ran up to each other and gave each other a big hug while our traveling companions were quite surprised. Once I explained to my partner and she explained to her family, the others could tell that our shared Indian experience was quite meaningful to both of us. Best part was, I knew that Cathy was in good health and she and her family were doing well. Cathy and her clan guided us out of the alley towards the Coliseum as we chatted away and got caught up on how our lives had unfolded over the past two years. It was a reunion that further served as a reminder of how small our big blue marble can be and how random encounters when appreciated can serve as opportunities to connect, grow, heal, and learn.
Fast forward to 2010, when I attended a Native American healing circle. I was a bit nervous as other than yoga and acupuncture I had not done much more holistic health for myself and this seemed to be a bit more of a stretch for my left brain to believe that sitting together and chatting for long periods of time in a sacred heated lodge would do much for me other than of course make me sweat. Nonetheless, my interest in trying different modalities of healing had continued to grow and a dear trusted friend had said in a loving manner: “This will be good for you!” So I decided to give it a try.
I ended up sitting next to one of the two facilitators who was a beautiful woman in her 50s. She explained she would lead us in a blessing along with a tobacco pipe ceremony. She proceeded to pass around in the circle the ashes from the tobacco and we were to rub them over our heads and bodies. We then held hands; she held my left hand with her right hand. At that moment, I flashed back to the dream I had over 10 years previous about holding the woman’s hand that turn to ashes. Instead, this time I was holding the hand of the woman that turns tobacco into ashes. All of a sudden, the dream back in 2000 that had liberated me from one of the most emotionally stuck places of my life, became a gentle reminder that I am at the right place, at the right time, and a sense of ease and calmness overcame me. The weekend ceremony was quite transformative and I did much more than just sweat in a sweat lodge. I detoxed parts of my physical, emotional and spiritual body and felt I had stepped into a new chapter in learning how to love myself and accept all the twists and turns of my journey thus far.
The time since the 2010 healing ceremony has been quite eventful. The time and energy I have put into healing and growing have usually kept me rather grounded and centered. But I did recently have a bout of anger and resentment towards my family. I seemed to have lost contact with the healing that I had done over the years. It felt at times like a very young and angry part of me would show up and I found myself needing to take some distance from my biological family. Even though I know grief work to be both nonlinear and ongoing throughout one’s life, I became increasingly frustrated as my left brain (supposedly the more analytical or logical side) would protest saying: “you already did this work!” and get all the more frustrated. I found myself slipping into a darker place and it was impacting many facets of my life – even beyond my relationship with my biological family. I couldn’t quite pin down where the anger was coming from but the blockages in my heart were returning and I feared I was regressing back to an earlier more shut down version of my usual open hearted self. What was the last twenty years of work all for if this is the direction my heart was taking me? The despair grew. Nothing – not yoga, not therapy -- seemed to help.
Then one night not too long ago, I receive an email from a childhood friend back in rural Pennsylvania. I had known her since preschool and we graduated high school together. Coincidentally, she too became a social worker and through the wonders of Facebook, we have remained in occasional contact but not much regular extended conversations since our class reunion back in 2007. This dear friend wrote:
“I dreamt about you last night so I thought I should let you know I am thinking of you. It was a beautiful dream. Your mom was visiting you and one of the dogs you had growing up. She got to catch up on your life and see what an amazing man you have become. I am not sure why I was a part of the dream but I wanted to let you know that I admire you and how you fight for what you believe and give others a voice. You inspire me and I will always love you. I hope all is well. I miss you, my friend.”
The moment I read those words, all of the blockages lifted. I broke down into tears of grief, of relief, of sorrow, of joy. The river of tears further helped me reclaim all of the insights and sense of liberation I had felt over the past twenty years of my life. How could a random encounter with a shaman lead to a dream that would help me make sense of so much? How could I possibly have met someone from Canada named Cathy in India and then again 2 years later in Greece who would help me further heal? How could a preschool friend have a dream that would instantly liberate me from some deep heartache? And, why do I keep finding lucky pennies but still have not saved up enough money for next big travel adventure?
Thank you for letting me share with you one thread of seeming randomness that has impacted my life. In reflecting on how these incidents have helped me grow, I realized there is a certain set of practices that can help to enhance one’s relationship with synchronicity. You can cultivate an appreciation for these patterns and, though there is no guarantee, you just might begin to see more of these situations presenting themselves.
So, each time a synchro-NICE-ity shows up in my life I try to remember these seven basic guidelines:
- To be open to the experience. Check out Dr. Joe Dispenza’s intention to help set the tone for each day so that more randomness can enter your life.
- To fully acknowledge and celebrate the appearance of the coincidence
- To let it be without trying to control, manipulate, or hold onto it
- To let the RIGHT BRAIN appreciate the pattern without letting the LEFT BRAIN overanalyze it
- To meditate, journal and/or share with those you trust on the wonderment of the experience
- To move on, let it go!
- To fully acknowledge and appreciate that what might be synchronistic to me may not mean anything to others. That does not lessen the experience AT ALL!
Let me know if you have any suggestions on how you have cultivated your appreciation for synchro-NICE-ites. Would you like to share some of your experiences with the once hidden but now visible patterns that play a part in your life? Send them to me via email and let me know if I can post them as additional tips and/or practices here in my MINDFUL CHATTER.
Keep your eyes, ears and especially your HEART wide open and see what you see for yourself! And next time you find a lucky penny, put it towards something that your heart desires and deserves!