Synchronicity is a term that came into popular use through Swiss psychotherapist Carl Jung. In his life and during sessions with clients he experienced “meaningful coincidences” where two or more signs, that occurred randomly, were also connected by meaning (not by cause).
A person may dream about a unique symbol and then receive a card in the mail the next morning with the same symbol on it. The symbol may be a reminder or a sign pointing that person in a specific direction. The coincidence is the appearance of the symbol in the dream and then in physical reality. The meaning is derived by the feelings, thoughts and actions it inspires. Synchronicity is when the meaning of a coincidence is applied to life. Coincidence in action is synchronicity.
Synchronicity as Meaningful Signs
Synchronicity helps us know if we are on the right track (or not). It offers us an opportunity to test our choices and find out whether they are good for us. When our body, heart and mind are aligned, we are more likely to experience synchronicity. Ultimately, synchronicity is multiple signs focusing our attention to a path.
Imagine you are on a path in the woods. Typically, you will read the signs you come across. If you see a sign that says, “Danger! Live Crocodiles! Go ahead at your own Risk!”, you may consider turning around (although I’ve been known to keep on down the path). If you continue along the path, your senses may be heightened and you may even come across a crocodile. Or, you may avoid danger due to your heightened state. The point is that you’ve been warned and it is your choice whether and how (with awareness) to continue down the path or change course.
The signs that show up along our path in life can lead us down different paths. A sign may be a person who resembles a person from our past, an animal that shows itself to us during a walk or a quote that you hear over and over in the span of a day. Synchronicity is when we have more than one sign show up with the same meaning.
If we listen, pay attention and follow a sign we may be led to more. If we don’t pay attention, then we may end up being distracted onto other paths and/or going down a path that may not serve us in a holistic way. Typically, a path connected to synchronicity has a higher potential to serve our whole self – body, heart and mind.
When we are noticing a sign there is usually a deeper knowing and a feeling that goes with it. It may be the distinct feeling of flowing with life in ease and acceptance. Or, it may be the feeling that you need to wake up now and get back on track! When I’m not getting any signs…well, it feels more like I’m not living my life fully.
Different signs, over time, tell us different things. I may see a heart shape in the clouds as I’m walking and then meet a person in the park who I have a strong connection with. Through this synchronicity I learn to trust that heart in the clouds as an affirmation of strong connections.
A Personal Story of Signs and Synchronicity
Recently, I found myself in a circle of people studying the myth of Pele and her sister Hi’iaka. I thought in my mind it was going to be a women’s circle. It turned out to be much more (including men). Staying open and aware I was able to receive many signs during the first hour.
One sign was that many of the people in the circle reminded me of others I’d met in the past (even though I’d actually only met one person in the room previously). I love this type of sign! The person is not the same person, however, there is something physically, energetically and/or intellectually that reminds us of the other person from our past. It catches our attention and heightens our awareness. If the exchanges with the past person were not good we may take more caution around the new person/situation and possibly change course. If we had a positive exchange with the past person then we may feel there is something to learn and listen for more. This is synchronicity!
In this example, I found myself sitting next to a Jungian Psychologist. I took this sign as inspiration that I have more to learn from the Jungian archetypes, possibly emerging through the myth of Pele.
Hearing about the myth of Pele and Hi’iaka felt so in line with where I needed to be and what I needed to hear at this point in my life. It was not logical. I’d just finished some deeper dreamwork that opened up some options for personal growth. The signs around this gathering and the myth of Pele and Hi’iaka turned into a synchronicity, helping me focus the direction of my personal growth.
Another sign had to do with Pele’s skirt. In the myth, her ceremonial dress is very important and has to be just right. Earlier that day, I’d been encouraged by a shamanic teacher to journey and pay attention for what may be my ceremonial dress while doing shamanic work. I am not fashionable so to hear this twice in one day in a sacred and serious way was amazing.
I found myself in fascination, curious for what I would learn from this circle and myth. Through the heightened awareness brought on by the signs and synchronicity, I experienced the circle as an opportunity for me to mature through a Hawaiian myth. I could have easily chosen to experience it as “not what I expected” and left filled with disappointment.
Science and Synchronicity
Carl Jung defined synchronicity as “meaningful coincidence”. Many in science view synchronicity as apophenia or the experience of seeing false patterns in random or meaningless data.
Lets be clear that both synchronicity and apophenia exist.
- The trap of synchronicity is to create connections that are misleading.
- The trap of apophenia is to refuse to accept valid connections that lead to important insights and improved life choices.
How do we tell the difference between synchronicity and false connections?
Live the experiences and practice!
An open and relaxed mind is critical for synchronicity. It is easy to force signs into connections which aren’t relevant. We can see many potentials and possible paths ahead of us. Yet, we walk only one physical path at a time. Deciding which signs are relevant to follow can be overwhelming if our mind is not clear.
With a clear mind we will simply understand the sign, know the path forward and step into it. We won’t choose to follow a path out of worry, doubt or a desire for life to be a specific way.
Because synchronicity works with “what might be” or potential, we must hold it lightly. We are on a current path, yet we have not chosen the future path.
Learning to work with synchronicity is an art. We watch for the signs, take actions and test them over time.
Benefiting from synchronicity requires both learning how to see the big steps in your life path expansively while using facts and a sense of reason to refine your smaller next steps ahead.
Seeking Signs and Synchronicity
There are infinite possibilities for how synchronicity will come to you. It may come in the form of a song over the radio that helps you shift frustration into courage and motion. A synchronicity may be a cool breeze that catches your attention and reminds you to smile.
While shamanic cultures have included synchronicity as a part of how they navigate life, Carl Jung found a gap in western society when it came to these non-repeatable (hence unscientific) experiences. Below are some tips for recognizing and integrating signs and synchronicity into your life.
Seeking Signs and Synchronicity Tips
- A clear mind helps everything, including living a life with synchronicity. Practices like meditation help keep the mind clear. The less distracted you are with thoughts, worries and doubts, the more likely you will notice the signs along the way.
- To practice noticing signs, ask a question about your life and go for a walk in nature. Repeat the question as you walk and see where your attention is drawn to. What are the first four signs you notice? And, what meaning can you associate with each sign? If the answer isn’t clear, ask the question in a new way and try again.
- When a sign shows up, follow it. Pay attention and listen for a deeper meaning. Be curious and see if the sign has a significance you can apply to your life. In this way, a sign opens us up to synchronicity.
- Check in with how you feel about the sign. Does it send a warning to you? Or, does it feel electrified? Does it feel good? Noticing your feelings when you come across a sign will help turn it into a meaningful message, inspiration or action.
- Play with the energy of the sign. What does this sign want you to do? Explore the possibilities. Do some research or start a creative project to honor the sign and turn it into synchronicity.
- Take action and let the universe know you are paying attention. Follow through with what feels right. As you take actions, look for additional signs you are on the right track – the magical path of synchronicity.
- Journal about the signs you notice in your life. Keep track of when you see signs, how they feel and what meaning you derive from them. Over time, you may see patterns in the signs and synchronicities that show up.
- Don’t give up. Onipa’a means persistence in Hawaiian. Remember that seeking synchronicity will bring more magic into your life. Be persistent!