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Center for Enlightened Leadership

A Life-Enriching Gift: Seeing Synchronicities

  Adam Sokolow
  Adam Sokolow
Senior Advisor

It was the height of autumn, and Mother Nature was extending an open invitation to everyone to come revel in her seasonal splendor. An October’s child, then 10 years old, I rejoiced when my father announced that we were taking a ride in the country. For me it was a double treat—I secretly felt that Mother Nature was celebrating my birthday. There we all were: my father driving, my mother in the passenger seat, and my brother Steve and me in the back seat. I was sitting behind my father looking diagonally through my mother’s window, half-noticing my mother turning her wedding band on her finger, when suddenly, somehow, the ring flew out of her open window.

I was hyper-alert: the clear blue sky, the cool dry air, the smell of drying leaves, the particular sound the wind makes blowing through the crisp multicolored foliage hanging precariously onto the branched canopy that enveloped our moving car. My mother wailed, “Cy, stop the car—my wedding band just flew out the window!” My father didn’t ease up on the gas pedal, saying, “You’ll never find it in all these leaves. It’s gone.” My mother demanded, “Cy, you stop and turn this car around right now!”

My father seemed to be assessing the situation; he felt it was hopeless and he hesitated to stop. Finally, though, he gave in. We must have traveled a mile or so down the road when he braked and made a U-turn on that solitary, winding, autumn country road.

I knew what was going to happen because I just assumed that’s the way things were with my mother. I always knew that my gentle, loving mother was also at times a powerful force of nature. And I sensed that power as she quietly gazed out of her window, transformed into a protectress, full of determined fury.

We were driving back, yes, but to where? Then my mother quietly said, “Cy, stop the car.” This time my father complied immediately. As soon as the car came to a halt, my mother opened the door and walked over to the other side of the roadway directly toward a puddle of water. She reached her hand into the wet leaves and withdrew her wedding band, saying matter-of-factly, “I have it.”

My mother knows things that no one can explain. I have some of that in me, too.

Last night I awoke restless, which is unusual for me because I regularly sleep soundly through the night. Much too alert to fall back to sleep, I went to my library looking for something interesting to read myself to sleep again. I settled on The Best Tales of Hoffman, a particularly enjoyable book that seamlessly blurs the boundary between the ordinary world and the (mostly unseen) magical world. The book has always resonated with me, for I am sensitive to things other people don’t readily notice. For me, a person, object, or place can somehow become imbued with a subtle vibratory glow that often provokes in me instantaneous intuitions and images that, more often than not, reveal something of unusual importance.

When morning came, I felt that somehow I had been guided, offered a synchronistic stylistic nudge to help me overcome my hesitation in writing on the rather personal and self-disclosing topic of my gifts and talents that permit me to make a unique contribution in the world.

The eminent psychiatrist Carl Jung called these kinds of occurrences “numinosities and synchronicities.” While all things in our objective sun-lit world are illuminated through our five senses, some things seem to take on a special numinous glow: a spiritually elevated quality that inspires an inner experience with emotional significance and personal meaning. As an illustration, notice the ordinary objects that are around you right now. Now call to your mind some experience that has elevated you or inspired you with awe. There’s an obvious difference. The latter experience evokes deep feelings and instantaneously queues a significant story. For me, for example, the scent of juniper brings to mind images of humanity living in harmony with the natural world. Those things that move us in such a way are called “numinosities.” And my ordinary day is often filled with such extra-ordinary occurrences. Maybe this is why I’ve taken to writing and am rarely seen without my camera.

Jung coined the word “synchronicities” to describe the relationship between unintentional and unrelated events that somehow seem to connect in a way that provides meaning and purpose. Such synchronicities, if attended to, have the power to reveal a pattern and provide direction toward the next step in a compelling and life-enriching journey. Synchronicities are always occurring, revealing some facet of the background matrix that interrelates and interconnects all things. First, though, we must notice them. This may be why I’ve been drawn to study metaphysics, a branch of the philosophy that focuses on what’s below or above our natural world, as well as the field of Jungian depth psychology, with its exploration of archetypes (types of arcs) of the personal and collective unconscious.

You can well imagine, then, that as I move through my ordinary day in the rich cultural avenues of New York City, a place in which those of us who live here are highly motivated and focused, I am often compelled to take detours and pause for impressions as I am serendipitously stirred within this powerful urban cauldron. Maybe this is why I practice yoga and Tantric meditation on a daily basis; they afford me the spiritual tools I need to be able to remain somewhat grounded and flexible as I range through the societal genius and lunacy of our human condition.

Over these many years since my mother demonstrated her ability to tap into an extra-ordinary way of knowing things, I’ve had to come to terms with this sometimes confusing sensibility within myself (I erroneously assumed that other people saw the world the same way I did). Yet, unlike my mother, who casually acknowledged this gift with a smiling twinkle in her eyes, I was also born with a voracious curiosity, so I had questions—lots of questions.

Casting a wide net as I searched for answers, I wanted to know what people of renown from various cultures throughout world history had to say about what were, for me, the apparent realities of a mostly unseen world. I have come to learn that I seem to be present to what Jung calls “the archetypes of the collective unconscious”—those symbolic images and structures that form the foundational matrix of our psyches. One of these archetypes is what sages of the Vedanta tradition of Indian philosophy refer to as an Akasha, a radiance-space of unbounded awareness that serves as a reservoir of intuitive knowledge.

Okay, that’s a mouthful, but in essence it means that, like my subtly powerful mother, I was born with a particular life-enriching gift, which for me is to naturally see and try my best to fathom what’s below and above the surfaces of the seen world.

It is said that we must put in at least 10,000 hours to truly transform a natural gift into a cultivated talent, and I have more than made that effort. As a result, my natural gifts have become even more bountiful, for they now afford me both the essential insights and the necessary skills to be able to empower others to discover for themselves how they too can harness the power of their gifts into life-enriching talents.

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