Synchronicity is a word that keeps tapping on my window, ever since I began my ministry at Altrincham and Urmston. The more I talk about it the more it seems to occur. Only in the last few days I have been aware of it on several occasions, there are three that really seem to stand out.
I was contacted by an old university mate, Max, last week; I have not seen him for about ten years. He recently got back in touch because I had bumped into a mutual mate Steve when I was studying at Luther King House. Steve was on a completely unrelated course there, the group he was with had just hired a room for the day. I haven’t actually seen Steve since that day 12 months ago, although we contact one another from time to time. Anyway Max has made arrangements to come to Manchester in a few weeks time and for us to meet up. Well the very next day I was in town with my dear friend Claire. Throughout the day I kept on bumping into old friends I’ve not seen for a while, including a man who helped me out, when I really needed, it a few years back. Sadly this man had recently lost his son and was still grieving.
We weren’t really sure what to do with the day and decided to take a left turn to look in a book store, there was something I wanted to get Claire. Well low and behold who do we bump into? Steve. I just burst into laughter, it was no surprise to me at all. I knew that I would see him that day. Some would call this happenchance and others merely coincidence, but I prefer the phrase synchronicity.
Later that evening I was looking for a hymn to end a service I was creating. I had picked an obscure reading for the service. I was not completely sure why, but I just felt like I ought to use it. Anyhow I was looking for a rousing hymn to end with, but one that was appropriate to theme of the service. I was a bit stuck but thought I might have found one. I opened a hymn book at completely the wrong page and was just about to turn it over again when suddenly I saw the words from the reading in the first verse of the hymn. It was also a rousing tune and just fitted in perfectly to theme of the service. Was this just random chance? Can synchronicity occur with inanimate objects?
The third occurrence I’d like to share happened yesterday morning. I left the Urmston congregation having led them in worship. I joined with the Altrincham folk and shared in worship created and led by several women members of the congregation. It was a wonderful experience and spoke powerfully to me. What was so amazing is that the main theme of the address was thematically identical to the subject of the address I had just shared at Urmston. I sat there grinning from ear to. We have made some powerful connections over the last few months and it is really showing. Yes I seem to be experiencing “meaningful coincidence” or do I mean “synchronicity” constantly, ever since I began my ministry last year.
What is synchronicity? The psychologist Carl Jung coined the phrase to explain what he called "meaningful coincidences " that occur due to seemingly unrelated events. His concept of synchronicity came about through the many baffling coincidences his patients shared with him in his practice, especially as he began to realize that the occurrences went beyond what could be attributed to mere chance. One example of synchronicity that really intrigued Carl Jung occurred with a patient recounting her dream of a golden scarab beetle. A young woman that Jung had been treating told him of a dream in which she had been given a golden scarab. He was sitting with his back to a closed window while she told him of the dream. Suddenly he heard a gentle tapping and turned to see a flying insect knocking against the window-pane from outside. Jung opened the window and caught the creature in the air as it flew in. The insect closely resembled a golden scarab. It was the one closest related to such creature in their part of the world. Normally, such insects would not come into a dark room, but at the same moment the patient mentioned the beetle she had been given in her dream, this beetle appeared at Jung’s window. He was quite astonished at the coincidental timing and admitted that nothing like it ever happened to him before or since. This was also a breakthrough moment for the patient who had become bogged down in his attempts to treat her.
Synchronicity suggests that events we experience as human beings are more than mere chance, that there is more going on; that we humans and all of life are connected and at a deeper level than would outwardly appear. For me this suggests that who we are, what we think, feel, imagine, react to, are interrelated with the things going on around us in our environment. Who and what we are, how we appear to be to others and how, who, and what they are and how they appear to us converge together at moments in time. Often we are unaware of this. I know I was for most of my life. What is interesting to me is that the more aware of this I have become and the more I talk about synchronicity, the more frequently it appears to occur.
During my ministry at Altrincham and Urmston I have made it a priority of mine to visit every member of both congregations in their homes. During this wonderfully spiritually intimate times many people have related similar experiences to me in the conversations that we have been having with one another. Several people have described times and events when the universe appears to have spoken to them of a deeper connection to life and that they have responded to it in turn.
Mothers often talk about a connection with their children of feeling their pain, even when they are not physically in their company. I’ve heard similar experiences recounted by siblings especially twins. Can these occurrences be rationally explained, it would appear not and yet so many of us recount them.
I have felt this too. It happened to me the moment that Ethan, my friend Claire’s son died. I was sat on the bus travelling to work when suddenly I felt violently sick in my stomach. I had never felt a sensation like it before or since. I discovered sometime later this was the same moment that the breathing apparatus in the hospital was turned off and Ethan was declared dead. Now you could just say that this was coincidence, but I believe it was due to the connection between us. It is not something I thought much about at the time, but as I have reflected upon it since it has made more sense. Of course many would say I was just feeling ill. My answer to that would be, this was not merely travel sickness it was far more violent. I had a very special connection with Ethan, throughout the few years that he lived. He taught me how to experience the Love I know as God.
It would appear that the more awake to synchronicity I have become; the more I experience it in my life. This complex, interrelated world in which we live and the life we share is, I believe, deep with meaning and beauty. Living fully and well requires that we wake up to it and go with it. Cultivating this awareness helps us become more fully alive.
The key, it would appear, is to be awake.
It is said that soon after his enlightenment that the Buddha passed a man on the road who was struck by the Buddha's extraordinary radiance and peaceful presence. The man stopped and asked, "My friend, what are you? Are you a celestial being or a god?"
"No," said the Buddha.
"Well, then, are you some kind of magician or wizard?"
Again the Buddha answered, "No."
"Are you a man?" "No."
"Well, my friend, then what are you?"
The Buddha replied, "I am awake."
Life is a gift, a precious gift and one we are fortunate to experience at all. I have discovered that the more aware and awake to this we are the more we can experience synchronicity and the more blessed and fortunate we feel.
The key for me is to become and remain open; the universe will take care of the rest.