When I say meaningful coincidences, I’m really talking about synchronicity.
First coined by psychiatrist Carl Jung, synchronicity is the name for when two or more events occur that appear to have no relationship, yet seem meaningfully related.
Often (but not always), synchronicity is recognized – or attributed – retrospectively. We humans love labeling stuff.
When presented with these ‘spiritual puns’ (if we even notice them), we tend either to question them or dismiss them as ‘fortune’ or ‘coincidence’, ‘luck’ or ‘chance’ – even ‘fate’ or destiny’.
But what if the reflection process was actually super valuable for us all? Could making sense of life’s serendipitous moments lead us to a life-changing understanding? And how good would it be if we could learn to harness coincidence at will?!
Well, we can.
Synchronicity – just like learning French and bowling – is a skill.
Ideapod co-founder Justin Brown agrees with me. He shares a sync-tastic anecdote from this year’s Burning Man festival – an event that is notoriously a conduit for such experiences – below.
And he isn’t the only one. Motivational speaker, life coach and author Gabby Bernstein tells us to walk around ‘expecting miracles‘. Philosopher and filmmaker, Jason Silva, talks of harnessing ‘flow’. In her bestselling book series E-Squared and E-Cubed, Pam Grout writes about leveraging the ‘field of infinite potential’. Chiropractor, researcher, author and speaker, Dr Joe Dispenza, phrases it in terms of ‘accessing the quantum field’.
So what is the common thread running through these different names for what is essentially the same thing?
And how do we develop our synchronicity muscle – and summon cool coincidences on demand?
What meaningful coincidences are and how they happen
Have you ever been struck by the good timing of something? A chance encounter with a person with a message you were ready to hear?
That’s what I am talking about.
For some of us, cool coincidences are prolific in our daily lives. Author and speaker Deepak Chopra suggests that the incidence of coincidence (he calls them ‘clues’) increases as a person becomes more enlightened.
Others appear to experience no magic at all. The world of synchronicity is ‘hidden from view’ and all events have the quality of the banal and entirely explainable.
There are at least two potential explanations for this:
- Cool coincidences happen to all of us, but only some of us ‘see’ (aka acknowledge) them. This is kind of like ‘the observer effect‘. Carl Jung said that ‘Synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see’.
- Some of us are doing things that are more conducive to an abundance of cool coincidences. I’ll discuss what those specific things might be below.
It has been suggested that synchronicity ‘clusters’ around significant events. One reason for that is tumultuous circumstances, for example the end of a relationship, are outer conditions that shove us towards presence in-the-moment (we can’t notice coincidences without being present).
Mundane circumstances of daily life can also be rich with synchronicity – if we have the right inner conditions, which we can foster through personal awareness and self development. We are said to experience synchronicity most often when we’re open and aware. This at least partially explains why reports of synchronicity are so common from events such as Burning Man, which is a haven for the open minded.
They come in different forms
Sometimes synchronicity comes in the shape of startling insights, as something in the outer world confirms something that we had forgotten we knew. As philosopher David Spangler says, ‘intuition is another form of synchronicity’.
Our perceptions of ‘coincidences’ and ‘instinct’ are based on how we experience the boundary between our inner and outer environments. In other words, how we see things depends on our personalities.
A note for the strictly facts-oriented
If you are a highly logical sort of person, then your way of interpreting cool coincidences might be to assess what physical circumstances have enabled you to ‘filter’ your reality, and notice opportunities more readily.
More intuitive types take a different approach to understanding synchronicity. They might, for example, question their internal states when cool coincidences occur, guiding them to do any ‘inner work’ perceived as necessary.
Regardless of the way we’re wired, if we want to enjoy more good coincidences, then we need to recognize them when they come and act on them.
Synchronicity and thoughts
The extent to which we experience meaningful coincidences is directly correlated with our thoughts. That’s not hippie jargon: it’s to do with how our thoughts expand (or narrow) our field of vision.
Once we become aware of our thoughts, we might notice that we tend think the same thoughts over and over – especially if we are stuck and under stimulated.
We can also discover the language of our thoughts – whether they are posed in limiting language (‘I can’t do this’), or they are more empowering (‘I did a great job with that today’). Eventually, we learn that we are not our thoughts, and for many of us, that is a key realization.
So how’s this relevant for making the magic happen?
If we know that our minds create outcomes, and if we are full of negative thoughts – we need to change our minds to create the right conditions for coincidence. Think of it like laying fertile ground.
Changing your thoughts is pretty simple after you have become aware of them.
For a really excellent approach to changing thought patterns, I recommend Joe Dispenza’s book, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself.
Here are some other things you can do:
- Be aware of what you are letting into your consciousness (the springboard for our thoughts). Filter your newsfeeds and your friends.
- Explore other techniques for establishing new thought patterns – for example, meditation and Emotional Freedom Technique.
Synchronicity and passion/purpose
This is pivotal to experiencing cool coincidences.
Author Nathalie Thompson says: “I love the fact that when we just trust our instincts and follow our passions, (emphasis added) the Universe seems to go out of its way to line up little surprises, coincidences and synchronicity for us.”
The quote brings up two important elements – or precursors – to synchronicity.
The extent to which we trust our ‘gut’ is sketchy territory.
If we are highly self aware, and have done inner work around uncovering the inauthentic parts of our personalities (i.e. where we know we are ‘acting up’), we can learn to trust our instincts and take them as cues to act. Some individuals are really practiced at this.
If you aren’t practiced at that, you can start by noticing when you have a ‘gut sense’ about something, and doing self inquiry.
Now we are talking! A solid concept to grasp.
I’m not referring necessarily to your soccer/gym or smoothie obsession, though you can and should absolutely follow your bliss on that front too.
This is about the work you do that focuses and absorbs you in life; what it is that you do for you.
Author Paulo Coelo says: “When we’re interested in something, everything around us appears to refer to it.”
Deepak Chopra has suggested that we are all here to fulfil a unique purpose. His is ‘healer’. Maybe yours is ‘writer’, ‘artist’, ‘creator’, or ‘communicator’.
The relationship between purpose and synchronicity is this: (1) purpose gives us the clarity to see the value in opportunities as they arise, and (2) linked to that, we are better placed to seize those opportunities.
Clarity of purpose is the reason why you can enjoy cool coincidences in one area of your life (for example, career), but not another (for example, love and romance). As soon as we get clear on what we want, and we get rid of anything holding us back, things tend to line up.
A purpose-unveiling exercise
In her forthcoming book, The Art of Creating a Successful Soul-Centered Life, life coach and author Jeanette Brown gives the following exercise for helping you to first determine, and then act upon, your purpose:
- Define your values. What’s most important to me?
- Clarify your goals in alignment with your values. What do you really want to achieve? Jeanette recommends having up to 3 goals, but no more.
- Anticipate any obstacles that may hinder you. Having good self-awareness is key when working out emotional barriers you may have. A problem identified is often half solved.
- Commit to action.
- Take the first step even if it is small and you don’t feel inspired. Power is in the present moment.
- Celebrate your successes along the way. Privately acknowledge all of your effort.
Doing this exercise will really help you to gain clarity.
I would add something that helped me a lot in uncovering my purpose.
Identify what it is that you do when you are procrastinating from ‘work’. That’s a big clue towards your purpose. For me, that was always researching health information, reading and writing.
‘Flow’ – purpose taken to its limits
Flow is another term that originates in psychology.
Also known as ‘the zone’, flow describes the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed, with a feeling of energized zeal and focus. You feel spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task! It is a state of ‘hyper-focus’.
Flow is said to be the most desirable state on earth – and the most elusive.
So what’s the relevance of flow to cool coincidences?
The more we can get to this state of ‘flow’, the more happy coincidences we’ll notice. Why is that? Nobody really knows. It is probably because being in that state allows us to drop all mental obstacles to experiencing them.
So how do we all get flowey?
I know I risk going into buzzword overload now.
It appears that it is possible for us to ‘hack’ a state of flow, based on what we know about how top sporting athletes have accomplished astonishing feats.
Author of The Rise of Superman, and founder of the Flow Genome Project, Stephen Kotler, has identified 17 flow ‘triggers’, including risk taking and altruism, that are categorized further into psychological, environmental, social and creative.
And how might you do that?
One way is by spending time in nature. This isn’t too surprising when you consider that nature – which, well, we are a part of – is a jaw droppingly synchronous environment.
One other reason why time spent in nature is useful is that it’s good to get away from all that noise. Author Stephen Richards said that “When you connect to the silence within you, that is when you can make sense of the disturbance going on around you.”
A practical approach to creating cool coincidences
We can develop our synchronicity muscle through the following four steps:
Getting clear on what you want out of life
If only doing it was as easy as saying it.
You don’t need to have it all worked out. Also, what you want will change over time. What you can do is be actively ‘discovering’ what it takes for you to feel fulfilled.
Once we are clear on what we want, we need to commit to the path of action. Steely eyed determination seems to come more naturally to some people, but actually what we are seeing in those people is purpose in action.
The extent to which we take action is undoubtedly affected by our perceptions of ourselves and how empowered we are.
Immobilization is likely if we do not perceive ourselves as being instrumental in (or capable of) designing our lives.
Once we do commit to a course of action, we find ourselves getting all sorts of spontaneous ideas that help us along! When you get those ideas, follow up on them. Motivational speaker Tony Robbins said: ‘Never leave the scene of a great idea, without taking any action’.
It is amazing about much progress can be made in crazy-short amounts of time, when inspiration is in the driving seat.
Keeping an eye out for synchronicity
Winston Churchill said: “Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but usually manages to pick himself up, walk over or around it, and carry on.” Ain’t that the truth.
We need to be aware of when things start lining up for us.
Coincidences can often come at you from nowhere, and in the strangest ways. For example, they may come in the form of overheard conversations giving you leads on something critical to your project, or just the right book showing up at the right time.
To avoid ‘getting in our own way’, we need to check in on our ability to say ‘yes’ to life – to show up, and be aware of what’s going on around us.
Wellness expert, motivational speaker and author Dr Michelle Nielsen says:
“Whether you believe it or not, it’s hard to ignore that synchronicity works in our lives all the time. All too often, we’re not paying attention. We dismiss them as chance encounters or luck. Why not make your own life a scientific laboratory and try paying attention to coincidences. When someone comes into your life at just the right time, pay attention. When something you’ve just heard about keeps popping up in different places, pay attention.”
Trickier than it sounds, this is to do with relinquishing control.
To a degree, we need to ‘allow’ things to happen in life. That helps us to be open to the possibility that there is more than one way of doing things. This is a useful awareness to have when a path you have fixated on doesn’t pan out as expected.
Practically speaking, non attachment to outcomes means we are less stressed – and healthier. Which leads me onto something else that’s necessary before cool coincidences can happen.
The relevance of lifestyle
I know what you’re thinking. Surely this is a subject that has got nothing to do with your dirty cheese burger and fries habit.
Well, actually – it does.
Our diet and other lifestyle choices affect our ability to think straight. Poor choices compromise just about everything and – key to this conversation – our brains. To take one example, poor food choices affect our mood: synchronicity will remain elusive if you are stuck under the clouds of depression.
There are certain additional things that have been shown to help elevate consciousness:
Burning Man – synchronicity’s playground
Oh, Burning Man.
Though I have yet to experience the event first hand, like many I have been intrigued by the accounts.
Burning Man veterans expect magical things to happen.
Justin Brown, who attended this year’s event, describes clearly the notoriously difficult-to-describe event below.
A lesson from the playa by Ideapod co-founder, Justin Brown
Justin is the co-founder of Ideapod, a revolutionary social network that helps people to share and connect with each other in a more authentic way.
Using Ideapod has definitely helped me to create coincidences. It was a forum through which I developed my passion and enthusiasm for writing and ideas, and has enabled me to find the right people to connect with on projects. I have even used ‘the ‘Pod’, as I affectionately know it, to make a romantic overture (I ‘took it to the Pod’)!
It’s a truly an exciting forum for self expression. I look forward to seeing you all on there soon.
Justin shares with me some fascinating observations on synchronicity from Burning Man 2015.
Justin: “The setting of Burning Man is incredible.
It takes place on a ‘playa’, which is an area of flat, dried-up land in the desert. Nothing can grow there, and it’s terribly dusty. That’s why it’s so remarkable that a city of 60,000 gets built each year and then disappears at the end of the carnival.
The city is organized in a circle like a clock around a big open area where there is a big wooden man and wooden temple, both of which get burned at the end of the festival. There’s no phone reception and it’s difficult to plan on meeting people, as plans change quickly. This is why trusting in serendipity becomes so important.
The whole city experiences 24 hours a day of partying. People sleep when they can or hardly sleep at all. There are many lectures and workshops to attend.
There’s incredible freedom of expression there. It’s not just hippies, but a real diversity. People’s characters seem to take on exaggerated form: they shine brightly – and you can see their darkness emerging, too. I was surprised to see that many people there just wanted to do drugs, party hard, hook up and dull their minds.
There were certainly conscious people there: people being mindful of their actions, trying to use the experience to grow in some way.
I experienced incredible serendipity with two of Ideapod’s potential investors, who I was introduced to in the week before Burning Man. Both of these investors are focused on helping to create a better world by investing in companies such as Ideapod.
In the week before Burning Man, I met with Sally (not her real name) in San Francisco, and we spoke a lot about consciousness and how Ideapod is needed to help people connect more authentically. Sally is a very experienced investor, and we agreed to catch up again at Burning Man.
The other introduction was to Jim (not his real name) and we didn’t find time to meet before Burning Man, so I figured we’d try again after the carnival was over.
Towards the end of Burning Man, I visited Sally at her camp. Just being there at the right time to catch anyone was unusual, and Sally was happy to see me. This was my mantra while at Burning Man. Trust that the right people are there at the right time – and go with the flow.
Sally invited me to meet her at one of her art installations in the center of playa that afternoon. I already had plans and said that if I changed my mind, I would see her there. Sally said: “No worries, if it’s meant to be then I’ll see you at 3pm, if not we’ll catch up another time.”
Instead I decided to catch up with a good friend of mine and we went on our own adventure. This began with a naked shower with about 100 people at the same time. It was an incredibly liberating experience being totally naked with so many people! I couldn’t stop giggling like a child as it reminded me of being washed by Mum and Dad as a kid.
After the shower experience, my friend and I went exploring and allowed the wind to guide which direction we went. Soon enough, we ended up out in the wide open area where the art installations were.
Then one of the biggest dust storms in 10 years hit. These dust storms are so epic, you can’t see more than a foot in front of you.
We had to walk with our bikes, and by this stage we were in the center of the playa. We were completely lost. This was not the right spot to be with the dust storm raging around us.
Being completely lost and unable to see anything, we kept on moving and trusted that we would be guided in the right direction by our intuition. After 30 minutes of being hit by dust out in the open, we stumbled upon one of the art installations, and gratefully went inside for some shelter.
You couldn’t have made this up – but Sally was there! It was exactly 3pm. Even if I had planned to be there to meet her, there is no way I would have found the art installation due to the dust storm.
Sally was happy and astounded that I made it there on time. I told her that I was on a different journey right now, and that it was a complete coincidence. I recall Sally saying that there are no coincidences.
We moved on and managed to find our way to the Temple, where we took shelter under a bike rack with four other people.
A few hours later, the dust storm subsided and I’ve never been so grateful to see the sun shining through the clouds.
For me, the lesson I’ve chosen to take from the experience is a very profound respect for both the beauty of earth and nature’s power. The earth can easily outlive humans, but we can’t live without the earth being in a healthy and balanced state.
During the storm, I had some fear that this was Armageddon, that climate change had irreversibly altered the balance of nature, and that humans just need to be resilient in the face of change while correcting nature’s balance. This was my ‘spiritual lesson’ from the whole Burning Man experience.
I left Burning Man on Sunday to spend the night in a nearby town with a good friend of mine. I arrived at a restaurant where my friend was with her friends and got seated between her and some guy called Jim. Before long, I realized this was the other investor I had been introduced to.
Jim was impressed by the coincidence. We spoke a lot about how ideas really are a free expression from source, and how Ideapod can help raise consciousness this way. He knows Sally and loved the story of seeing her in the center of the playa during the dust storm.
Much more happened at Burning Man, and these are just two of the experiences. I’m not trying to prove that these meetings were more than coincidences. However, I choose to see myself as being guided by something outside of myself, and that the more time I spend in a ‘state of flow’ as Jason Silva would define it, the more serendipitous encounters I will have.
This makes logical sense even without the belief in a higher power. Living in a state of flow means we’re more optimally using our brains, relying less on the neo-cortex and more on our intuitive powers.
And it’s not about a new definition of ‘God’. What I love about all this is that we rely more on ourselves, on our own intuitive powers and being guided by our own inner moral compasses. The open question is where this inner sense of wisdom comes from. Does it come from ourselves or from somewhere else?
This question doesn’t need to be answered. How could it be? What matters is living life in flow with a cultivated sense of optimism, wonder and curiosity for everything that exists.”
What do you do to create meaningful coincidences? I’d love to hear from you!