I’m a true believer in synchronicity. It happens to me mostly when I am in the midst of a major life transition, which is where I find myself right now.
Psychologist Carl Jung, a contemporary of Freud, defined synchronicity as the simultaneous co-occurrence of two events that seemingly have no discernible causal connection. I discuss three of these during a major life transition I was going through in my first book, WindWalker: Journey into Science, Self, and Spirit, available for now through this website (darrellyardley.com) directly from me.
One of those synchronicity events was when I had walked out of my office at the university and over to get on my Harley to go home. I had only recently realized that I wanted to make a major change in direction in my life, a calling that had been subliminally calling to me for years, but I had ignored and shoved down. That calling was to leave my academic, research career in evolutionary genetics and go into mental health counseling. I was pondering this as I walked out to my Harley that day, wondering how I could go about making that change.
My Harley was usually the only one in the motorcycle parking area, but that day, sitting right beside mine, was another beautiful Harley. As I was looking over at it and getting on my riding leathers, upped walked its owner. We stood there and talked for a few minutes. He said he was just coming back from completing is last course for getting his counseling degree. This immediately got my interest. Was I not just thinking about that? I didn’t even know Clemson University offered degrees in counseling. I had checked into it but with the Psychology Department. This degree program was through Education. Several days later, I found myself enrolled in my first course in the program. Classes were held in the evenings and so would not interfere with my faculty “day job.” Plus, as faculty, I could take one course a semester for free!
Enters my current life transition, having decided that after 23 years, I am through with counseling, and terminating my contract with the boys schools we have been doing horse therapy (equine-assisted counseling) with for 14 years. I am in a discernment phase now 1) trying to decide what my callings are in this late stage of my life; and 2) the need to find an additional source of income to replace some of the income I am loosing from the boys school. Something that involves using my callings.
I know a lot of the pieces (the #1’s), just not yet how to pull them together to accomplish #2,. One of those pieces was to go deeper into my Zen Buddhist spiritual practice. In this regard, the COVID pandemic and the extensive use of Zoom actually works in my favor toward this end. I am now a participating member, mainly via Zoom, with the Windhorse Zen Community, about 90 miles away, near Alexandria, NC. Now, back to synchronicity…
Imaging my surprise and delight when in a recent Windhorse Sunday service, Lawson-roshi teaching (teisho) was about koans. Koans are Zen stories, sayings, phrases, mental puzzles that defy logical solutions. They are tools for helping students achieve higher levels of understanding or enlightenment. The particular koan he was lecturing about was the “Buffalo Through the Window” koan, which I had not heard before. I will post a blog later on the koan, but as he lectured I realized the koan was a metaphor for where I was in my life right now and trying to discern my callings at this stage in my life. I was stunned. A real instance of synchronicity. But wait, it wasn’t over…
As he talked, he also mentioned a book that he said, he and Sunya-roshi both have recommended to a lot of their students. It was a book about discerning your callings: Calling: Finding and Following an Authentic Life by Gregg Levoy. I am here to tell you, that book hit my old proverbial nail right on the head. I’m about half-way through now. The author cites and talks a lot about a number of authors I too have read and value. It feels like I have been thrown a life-saver as I laid floundering in an ocean of indiscernible water of doubt, unsure which way to swim, trying not to drown. I highly recommend this book to anyone struggling with discerning a path in their darkness and trying to live a more authentic life.