One day, Amanda was thinking about a college professor that she hadn't seen for 10 years, wondering how he was doing lately. That evening, as she was standing in line at a book store, she noticed on the checkout counter a bowl in which people had dropped their business cards for a chance to win a gift certificate. Right on top of the pile of cards, in clear view, was the business card of the professor she had been thinking about earlier! She jotted down his phone number and called him to schedule lunch together. As it turned out, his office was just two blocks away from hers.
When coincidences like this happen in our lives, we can't help but wonder if a force outside of ourselves is at work. Some people feel that a guardian angel is intervening, especially if the coincidence saves us from danger. Others feel that the spirit of a loved one who has died is arranging items or events in our lives, as if Earth is a board game they play in heaven.
Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung coined the term synchronicity a hundred years ago to describe "meaningful coincidences," events in the physical realm (our outer world) that coincide with and match events in our mental, emotional, or spiritual selves (our inner world). Synchronicity defies the laws of cause and effect and often even occurs outside of the parameters of statistical probability. Jung believed that synchronicity was one of the bridges across which we receive information from the collective unconscious.
Regardless of where or how you think synchronicity originates, the important aspect of this phenomenon is to recognize it and interpret its meaning in your daily life.
Opening Up to Chance
In his book Incredible Coincidence: The Baffling World of Synchronicity, Alan Vaughan claims that "the more chance is let into your life, the more easily you will get what you want." Vaughan suggests several steps for opening up to chance:
- Let more people into your life
- Take more responsibility for what happens in your life
- Act on your inner impulses (intuition)
- Savor coincidences when they do happen
Besides being on the lookout for synchronicity, Vaughan says to keep in mind that it tends to happen when it's needed.
Others believe that making basic changes in your life seems to trigger synchronicity. Still others see it happen most when a decision needs to be made. The authors of Small Miracles: Extraordinary Coincidences from Everyday Life, Yitta Halberstam and Judith Leventhal, report in the sequel to their bestseller that readers wrote to them, telling how momentous changes occurred in their lives after reading Small Miracles and that "as soon as they opened their hearts to coincidences, the coincidences came flowing in."
You can also use certain tools of chance to align yourself with the collective unconscious, such as tarot cards, runes, the I Ching, opening a book to a random page, or even clicking through TV stations with your remote control! For example, Janette had just met a woman named Annabelle Lee and thought to herself, "Wasn't that name in a poem?" The next night she flipped through the channels on TV and there was the scene from the movie Holes where two characters were reciting Edgar Alan Poe's poem Annabel Lee.
Interpreting Meaningful Coincidences
Sometimes synchronicity talks to us through symbols and archetypes, just as our night dreams do. So it's important to remember to view meaningful coincidences emotionally and spiritually when a literal interpretation doesn't seem to fit.
Denise Linn, author of The Secret Language of Signs: How to Interpret the Coincidences and Symbols in Your Life, suggests that once you identify the feeling associated with your coincidence, try to remember the last time you felt that emotion. Then see how that memory might be connected to something in your present life.
Keep in mind that synchronicity is personal, not universal. What does it mean to your life at this particular time? To one person, for example, seeing the color pink unusually often might be meaningless, but to a pregnant woman it could be a message that she's carrying a baby girl.
If ever the rational part of you (or another person) tries to talk you out of the meaningfulness of a coincidence, let these words of Carl Jung guide you: "The unexpected and incredible belong in this world. Only then is life whole."