When was the moment your life changed? If you open your senses to them, moments of synchronicity can usher in profound change, or simply render the present moment magical.
Gentle reader: Might I make a guess about you?
The path to where you are in life was more than likely an unlikely one. The you that is reading this could so easily have been so very different.
Say you’d not met that one person, not made that one decision, not been in that one place at that one moment, all those years ago. What was the moment when your life changed?
Moments like these feel as if they are meant to happen. Preordained. But you have to be open to them. You have to heed the message. And you always have the choice to remain as you are, or to heed these moments. To change.
Integrate wonder back into your life
Last month, following some remarkable moments of synchronicity*, my friend Emma Dixon shared a wonderful 1997 article by RM Fewkes on how such moments of synchronicity are central to the work of Carl Jung.
“The universe participates in the human quest for meaning. The universe will assist you if your quest includes the heart as well as the head. Examine the course of your own life and see where seemingly meaningless chance turned into meaningful coincidence right before your eyes. Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth. Integrate wonder back into your life.”
A few weeks back, I met my friend Kate Griffiths-Lambeth for lunch in London. The setting was the spectacular Sky Garden, perched atop a skyscraper on Fenchurch Street. I had the loveliest time catching up with Kate. As I returned to earth (well, to street level) after the lunch up in the clouds, I felt like I was walking on air as I wandered down Bishopsgate.
‘Twas not always thus. Exactly 20 years ago to right now, I worked a stone’s throw away** from Fenchurch Street, as St Helen’s Place, Bishopsgate. I do not look back on this as the happiest time of my life.
I had a few minutes to kill prior to my (2019) lunch with Kate. I decided to revisit my old place of employ in the City of London, St Helen’s Place. The lovely gent who was manning the gates was happy to let me step into the courtyard of St Helen’s Place to take a photograph. He told me I was the third person that morning to be taking a trip down memory lane and taking snaps of their old St Helen’s Place haunts.
The beautiful Georgian courtyard of St. Helen’s Place was entirely unchanged from its 1999 incarnation (although the sky was somewhat less Gherkin-ful in those days, as my tweeted picture of the view that day showed).
I am most definitely not unchanged from those days. It’s easy for me to recall exactly who I was and how I felt then. In summer 1999, I’d only just moved to the capital. To live at last in London brought an electric charge of excitement to each day. But my new job made me miserable. I felt out of my depth, overworked and stressed. I couldn’t deal with the old-school City of London culture of the office. If I’d been truly honest with myself, I would have admitted that my work was making me deeply unhappy.
Skip ahead a few months to February 2000. The universe forced my hand. I was made redundant from that City job. My world felt like it was coming off its axis. I had no idea how I was going to cover my rent.
I resolved to embrace change. To do whatever was needed to move ahead.
Within just a few months, my life changed completely. And in the best possible way. I took up running again (after a lapse of five years). I applied for jobs in very different sectors. I found the job that proved the stepping stone to my current place of work (where I will have been for 18 years, come next month). Most importantly of all, at exactly the same time that all this was happening, I met the woman who is now my wife.
Synchronicity upon synchronicity occurred over this period. Meaningless chance turned into meaningful coincidence more times than I could hope to count.
Moments of synchronicity don’t always have to be life-changing. They can be tiny. They’re always happening, all around us. Sometimes just recognising them is enough to render the moment magical.
As my train made its final approach to London Bridge on the day I caught up with Kate, the music I was listening to (Plastic by New Order) somehow slipped into perfect synchronisation with the view from the train window.*** My heart soared.
This other path lights up
On my journey home, I listened to the episode of Brian Koppelman’s excellent The Moment podcast featuring Jaime Meline, aka rapper and hip hop producer El-P (short for El Producto). In another moment of “seemingly meaningless chance turn[ing] into meaningful coincidence right before your eyes”, El-P spoke words that chimed perfectly with my own thoughts. El-P describes the moment in the last decade right before he met his creative partner Michael Render (aka Killer Mike). El-P and Killer Mike’s subsequent career together is a perfect marriage of minds and creativity, flourishing into the three (so far) stunningly brilliant Run the Jewels albums.
At the point right before Killer Mike came into his life, El-P was firmly down on his luck. His solo career appeared to have failed.**** He hid the extent of his poverty from his friends. He was at a point of desperation. This was the moment when he decided to change his life. El-P feels that before his life could change, his attitude to life and to the universe had to change. He says:
“I’m trying to learn. I’m trying to become a better person. I’m trying to understand who I am and I’m trying to listen to myself over the years, and incrementally become a better human. One of the things I’ve tried to do is tune in not to my own desires, not to my own serious ambition, but to what – in the most corny way that you can possibly phrase it – what the universe seems to be telling you. There’s a very big difference between someone who’s listening to yourself and your ambition and someone who’s tuning in to what’s actually happening around you. And when you start taking clues and you start taking hints from the things that are happening around you, this other path lights up. I was interested in that and I knew that that was something I needed to do to save myself. I needed to walk out of this experience a different person. One who says ‘Yes’ when he doesn’t expect to say ‘Yes’, and who says ‘No’ when he previously would have just said ‘Yes’.”
I love these words. Seemingly meaningless chance can turn into meaningful coincidence right before your eyes. This other path lights up. If you open yourself to the moment and to the change you need to make, you walk out a different person.
Gentle reader: What was the moment when your life changed? What synchronicities have meant to the most to your own life? Please leave a comment or tweet me and let me know.
Always be open to those moments of synchronicity.
Walk out a different person.
* I wrote about these moments of synchroncity in They’d fight the sun for each other.
** Well, if you can throw a stone a pretty fair distance, that is.
*** The Chemical Brothers captured those beautiful moments when the music in your headphones somehow syncs up perfectly with the view from the window of a moving train in their 2002 Star Guitar video.
**** He was just around the corner from the recording of his solo masterpiece, Cancer 4 Cure.
- Purple Emperor butterfly image at top of post: My thanks to Nicola Budd of Howell Illustration for her kind permission for me to include this detail from her beautiful new British Wildlife print. You can purchase a copy of this print from her online shop. Find out more about Nicola’s wonderful art via her website, and in my recent interview with her.
- Butterfly detail from a print by Yatsuo no Tsubaki, via Wikimedia Commons.
- Black and white horizontal butterflies, via Wikimedia Commons.
- Butterfly graffiti, via Wikimedia Commons.