People often wonder what a synchronistic event means in the big picture of their lives. You check the clock and it's 4:44, and you realize that you have been checking the clock at 4:44 all week. You have a dream about a gerbil and then your child brings one home from school. You think of an old friend you haven't thought of in a long time and then get an email from him. Do these space-time collisions mean anything?
When something synchronistic happens, to me it means that I'm aware and open and seeing connections that are nonlinear, nonsequential, and nonchronological. I also interpret it as a signal that I'm on the right track, somehow; the energy of life is communicating with me, and I'm listening.
When something synchronistic happens to me, I stop and take a moment to see if there is something further that I want to pursue related to the situation. Synchronistic events are wonderful signposts for decisions to make or directions to follow. To use an example from modern technology, a synchronistic event is like an alarm that goes off in my phone, reminding me to make a phone call to my intuition. I call my intuition to say hello and check in, and I see if there is anything else I need to know or an action I might take that is inspired by the situation. If I hadn't heard synchronicity's "alarm," I would have missed this opportunity to check in.
As this example underlines, I believe that synchronicity's meaning is entirely subjective; it's about me and what I personally take from the experience rather than an objective analysis of the experience and its potential value. This means that both ordinary and extraordinary synchronicities can be equally full of potential meaning.
I was recently reading Robert Grudin's book Time and the Art of Living, in which he says, "Our common image of experience is about as accurate as a still photograph of a man riding a bicycle. Project this image back into reality, and the man will fall off his bicycle." Less than half an hour later, I quite randomly stumbled on a photograph of a bicyclist in my own collection of vintage photos. It was an ordinary convergence of coincidental moments, but one that I couldn't help noticing. So I looked for the message or lesson that might be hidden in the odd little convergence of time and space. I went back to reread the quote from the book, now taking my time to fully absorb it.
As I revisited the words, I realized that they were just what I needed to jostle my current resistance to change and embrace change itself as a comforting constant. The few months prior to this event had been marked by change and motion. I had felt an almost desperate longing for stillness, yet the serendipitous pairing of Grudin's quote and the photograph that I found moments later reminded me that although we can have moments of stillness, life itself is always moving, in constant momentum. I am so thankful for this convergence of coincidental moments because it brought my attention to exactly where it needed to be. In fact, I created a piece of art around the photo of the man on the bicycle, and I keep it on my desk to connect me back to that coinciding moment in time, when a photo and a quote converged to bring me a powerful life lesson.
Synchronistic events can be simple, ordinary experiences, like connecting a quote with a photograph. Or they can be extraordinary circumstances that don't even seem believable. When I was in college, I woke up one morning with a strong urge to attend a church down the street from my apartment. I did not regularly attend church, so the pull seemed rather random. In fact, I didn't even know what kind of church it was or anything about it at all. Yet the intuitive hunch was so strong that I just couldn't shake it, so finally I thought I'd just take a walk there, at the very least. I did in fact enter, and I sat down in a pew to attend the service. I was stunned when the minister began his sermon by reading a quote from Carlyle Marney, who was my father's mentor, the man for whom I was named!
I was beaming the whole time and filled with a sense of wonder; in fact, during the hymns, I must have been singing extra-loudly because after the service, the gentleman sitting next to me in the pew complimented me on my "joyful singing." We introduced ourselves, and when he heard my last name, his eyes widened. It turned out that he and my father had been in the same study group of young philosophers in the sixties a group that had met halfway across the country and been led by...none other than Carlyle Marney! Hearing the quote in the sermon, he was reflecting on his old colleagues, including my father, with whom he had not connected in many years, and there I was, sitting right next to him!
What I find interesting about these two examples is that the "ordinary" experience had as much of an impact on me as the "extraordinary" experience, if not more. A synchronous event doesn't need to be epic and theatrical; it can be very simple. As with everything in life and, for that matter, everything in time it's all about our perception rather than the event itself.
Becoming more aware of synchronicity is a wonderful creative skill to cultivate. A synchronistic experience, regardless of why you believe it happens, is a unique opportunity to get outside your normal space-time trajectory and see information in a new light. Experiencing synchronicity requires a certain change in linear time; we must slow down the way we are metabolizing time, because so often synchronicity appears in little things that you would never even notice if you were hurrying. Just as our personal experiences become more meaningful and memorable when we "stop them in time" by recording them in journals, letters, emails, and even conversations, keeping a synchronicity log or journal helps keep synchronicity alive in our consciousness as a present force, as a new order of time.
I've kept a synchronicity log on and off for years, and I find that when I'm not actively recording synchronicities, I don't see them nearly as often. Naturally, this is supreme evidence for those who believe that synchronicity is exclusively the result of chance and desire. Indeed it is true: whenever we actively seek anything, we see it more, and we can use this psychological phenomenon to our benefit. If you're looking for things to be grateful for, you're going to see more ways to be grateful. If you're looking for wonderful ways to spend your time, you'll find more wonderful ways to spend your time. If you're having a bad day and you just keep seeing things that are going wrong, you get more of the same. Similarly, as we become more intent on looking for synchronicity and its accompanying guidance, we will see more of it.
Shelley Lindsey, one of my students, had several insights when she began to track synchronicity in her life: "As I started writing down the things that are happening, I saw how many times the 'Red Sea' has parted. It makes me aware of times when I have paid attention and followed the cleared path, and other times when I just stood there, and drowned. Keeping a written log of synchronicity made me pay attention to the power of positive thinking, how looking for what I need brings it to me."
Next: Kronos and Kairos
Excerpted from Creating Time: Using Creativity to Reinvent the Clock and Reclaim Your Life ©2012 Marney Makridakis. Published with permission from NewWorldLibrary.com.
Marney K. Makridakis is the author of Creating Time and Hop, Skip, Jump and founder of the online community Artella Land. More.
Kronos and Kairos
Creating Time through Flow
Timelessness and Authenticity
Finding Flow in Everyday Life
Creating Time through Synchronicity
Synchronicity and Meaning
From Plato to Play-To
Your Mission Paintment
Art of the Song
9 Modern Muses
Inner Voices of Creativity
Nine Greek Muses