A Goddess to Spark the Creative Flow

Illustration: Cat Finnie

Tap into Saraswati’s energy to learn, create, and evolve

Imagine this: You wake up eagerly before your alarm goes off, anticipating the day ahead. You’re ready to embark on a new project, and you have so many ideas that you want to explore, you barely know where to start. Once you’ve walked the dog or ushered the kids off to school, you settle in and begin your work. Before you know it, it’s 3 p.m., and you realize you were so engrossed in what you were doing that you forgot to eat lunch. You’ve hardly gone to the bathroom! You were in the flow.

The creative force that fueled you is the goddess Saraswati’s Shakti energy. If that doesn’t sound like your typical day, it might be time to connect with the goddess.

The story of Saraswati

Saraswati is the goddess of learning, speech, and creativity. In Hindu mythology, she was brought to life by Lord Brahma, the god of creation. Brahma had decided to create a world from all of the cosmic chaos, but didn’t know where to begin. To help with this effort, he called forth goddess Saraswati by touching the tip of his tongue. She provided him with the feminine energy, Shakti, and the wisdom he needed to create an organized world.

Saraswati was very beautiful, with big brown eyes and long, lustrous hair. She played music on her veena, a lute-like instrument, and traveled by swan (which is a pretty creative way to get around if you ask me). Saraswati became Brahma’s consort and wife. Enraptured by her beauty, Brahma grew multiple faces so he could look at and admire Saraswati from all different angles. This really annoyed the goddess. Like many marriages, Saraswati and Brahma were not in it for the long haul. Their relationship did not last, as she was more interested in her personal projects and quiet contemplation than in her wifely duties.

The name Saraswati means “to flow.” In earlier Hinduism, some considered Saraswati a river goddess. The actual Saraswati River was very important in the Vedic religion, representing a pathway to the heavens, and Saraswati embodied that river. Later, people more often associated her with knowledge, speech, and creativity. However, the concept of “flow” is still very relevant to Saraswati energy. Whether you desire to have your speech flow purposefully or to be in a state of flow while at work, you can call on Saraswati. Followers of Saraswati petition the goddess to spark a creative idea, help understand a new or complex concept, and speak eloquently.

Sarasvati, Nepal
Sarasvati, Nepal

How Saraswati manifests in modern society

People who have a lot of Saraswati energy are more interested in following their passions and creative callings than in accumulating material possessions or money. These people have an idea, and it’s important for them to bring it to life, no matter what. While they don’t do it for the money, they do like to be recognized for their contributions and creativity.

Author Elizabeth Gilbert is a modern-day example of a Saraswati-inspired woman. In fact, I would consider her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear a manifesto for anyone who wants to walk hand in hand with Saraswati. In the book, Gilbert says, “Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”

The goddess doesn’t want you to play it safe. Saraswati wants you to learn, create, and evolve

It’s important to note that Saraswati creates for the benefit of herself. She doesn’t create to get rich quick or become an influencer, she creates because she has something inside her that needs to be brought to life. Just as society benefits from any talented artist, other people benefit from Saraswati’s creations. She does it because her soul is calling her to do it. It’s her dharma, her life’s purpose.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a modern-day positive psychologist and author of Flow, believes that happiness and fulfillment are a result of “a state of heightened focus and immersion in activities such as art, play, and work.” You achieve flow when you’re doing something that you really enjoy. Like Saraswati, when someone is creating for themselves and for their higher purpose, they are in the flow. I find it amazing and synchronistic that the meaning of Saraswati’s name?—?flow?—?is also the term Csikszentmihalyi uses to represent a state of immersion in a creative pursuit. It makes me believe that all roads lead to one version of the truth. In this case, that manifests as connecting with divinity by engaging in work that lights you up.

How Saraswati showed up for me

I’ve traditionally considered myself a creative, as I was a designer and entrepreneurial spirit. I created and launched several business endeavors, including a pet grocery and self-serve dog wash. Though the business didn’t last, I was always proud of the accomplishment and bringing the idea to life. Sometime in my thirties, I traded my desire to create for stability, money, and benefits. In some ways this was expected, as I was raising two children and was the breadwinner of the family. While the job was great based on that criteria, it wasn’t fueling my creative spark the way previous work had.

saraswati, india
Sarasvati, India

Working at a corporate job with back-to-back meetings and a structured methodology was uninspiring. I was going through the motions and doing a good enough job, but with a lack of any real excitement or curiosity. In meetings, I would say all the right things as if I was reading from a script, but there was no heart behind my words. Inspiration had run dry. Looking back at Gilbert’s quote, I was not doing something that brought me to life. I was not speaking my truth or bringing new ideas forward. I was there for the money. I was not in the flow.

It reminds me of a quote from Fight Club: “We work at jobs we hate to buy shit we don’t need.” In my case, a truer word has never been spoken.

After attending the 17th scrum ceremony of the week (that might be a slight exaggeration, but it sure seemed like 17), I felt a presence. It was like Saraswati was sitting next to me in the corporate conference room with fluorescent lighting. She was glaring at me through her long eyelashes, arms folded against her chest. She was wearing a business casual outfit (that she was not happy about, by the way) and basically said, “Either you leave, or I leave.” With that ultimatum in place, I decided to resign.

Though it was scary, it felt like the right thing to do. The first day I woke up without a full-time job in over twenty years, I felt a little unmoored, a little queasy. I was reminded of the expression that ships are safe in the harbor, but ships weren’t built to stay in the harbor. It was time to set my own course and choose work that was meaningful and inspiring to me.

We can’t ask for Saraswati’s inspiration and then ignore it once we receive it. Elizabeth Gilbert explains in Big Magic that an idea is not our own. If we don’t devote the time and energy needed to bring an idea to life, it will move on to someone else. I’m thrilled to now have the time to pursue ideas that have been percolating. They’d been kept on the back burner, since I hadn’t had the time to explore and develop them. It’s tough to predict what the future holds, but at least I won’t look back in 20 years wondering why I didn’t take the time to labor my own creations.

We are most creative and in the flow when we’re not thinking about what needs to be done, but rather doing it without judgment or attachment.

Saraswati reminds us to pursue the things that make our souls light up. That’s why we’re here. It’s not about the huge 401(k) or the McMansion. It’s about learning what excites us and how we can use that to add value to the world. The goddess doesn’t want you to play it safe. Saraswati wants you to learn, create, and evolve. That is our dharma.

A ritual to activate your Saraswati energy

Rituals can help you to connect with the goddess and activate her Shakti energy. To get started, make sure your meditation area is clear and free of clutter. The goddess who flows needs space to create. Make your environment comfortable for Saraswati to stay and inspire. Light a candle or burn some incense, like frankincense, bergamot, or jasmine, to invoke creativity. If you have an altar, make some offerings to Saraswati. It could be an artifact of the project that you are embarking on, or maybe it’s your favorite book or piece of music.

Take a comfortable seat on the floor or on a meditation cushion. Before you begin your meditation, petition Saraswati for help. Where would you like her help? Do you need help initiating a new project? Or maybe you’ve begun a project but don’t know how to complete it. Or perhaps you need inspiration for a new idea. Ask the goddess for help, being as specific as possible.

Next, start an awareness of breath meditation. This meditation’s focus is on observing the breath. Breathe normally, and when your mind starts to wander, which it will, simply bring your focus back to the breath. Observe your mind’s activities non-judgmentally and keep returning to the breath. This will help you develop concentration and give you a sense of your current state of mind. Do this for 5–10 minutes.

After your meditation is complete, get to work. Whether it’s planning your next project or wrapping one up, begin. Try to remove your ego or thoughts about the project and let Saraswati’s Shakti energy lead the way. We are most creative and in the flow when we’re not thinking so much about what needs to be done, but rather doing it without judgment or attachment.

I wish you creativity, passion, and wisdom on your journey.

Written by Lisa Marie via Medium.com

Reality Revolves Around You

Life moves around you, to serve you. Your goals, ambitions, desires, curiosity, mood, and state of mind. “Law of Attraction”, they call it. Reality revolves around you, like if you are the center of the Universe. Because you are.

The Universe around you moves with your passions. Your choices and decisions, your bold moves, your actions. Your curiosity. Your will to live.

When you stop, when you lose your passions, the Universe also stops.

You may still be living. You may go about your daily routines, walk in the street, go to your job, do your stuff. Days still rise and nights still fall. The clock keeps turning.

But that aspect that rejuvenates reality, that which refreshes things, keeps things fresh and vibrant, moves stuff around, brings new things and removes old ones (metaphorically speaking, situations, people, circumstances) stops working. Everything stalls. Things carry on, but they just repeat. There is no new. There is no growth. Days go by being always the same.

At this point, if you try to change a little, explore a little, try something new, it doesn’t work. It’s all jammed. The Universe is stopped.

This is what is meant by “time is an illusion”

Linear time (clock time) is. To Spirit, time exists, but it’s a matter of experience, of growth, or better said, evolution. It’s the succession of states that you move through, emotionally, spiritually, that “go forward” as spiritual curiosity is satisfied and meaningful experience is taken.

If there are no new things, if spiritually and emotionally everything is the same, clock time keeps moving forward, but spiritual time is halted. And you could grow into old age and die, without ever growing past the child internally.

This is why only your passions in life matter, including for professional and sustenance purposes. Whatever you consider logically about living through your passion, being easy or hard, practical or impossible, theoretical or pragmatic, passion is the only thing that moves the Universe for you. By passion I mean your most heartfelt inner interests and curiosity.

fractals, time is artWhy? Because it’s spiritual. It transmits to you what your Spirit wants to go next. And that’s what you are meant to be doing. Nothing else.

And by spiritual I don’t mean religious, or even spiritually awakened. Let’s say you have no spiritual beliefs or interests whatsoever, but you happen to have a heartfelt passion about becoming a lawyer. To me that’s spiritual. That’s the passion you should follow.

Does that mean that following your passions is going to be super easy? Does the lawyer not have to go to law school first? Does he not have classes to attend and exams to pass? Maybe success is not immediate. Maybe there are lessons along the way. But maybe those are exactly the lessons you need, and seek. And maybe it’s passion that will carry you through, it’s what will pick you up when things go sour, to try one more time. “Happiness is the path”, they say. Success is how many times you fail and you can still get back up. They say.

If the Universe is stopped, maybe it’s because you’re stuck

If you think the Universe has stopped evolving, it’s because you’ve probably spent and lot of time doing things, but without much spiritual (or inner) significance. So now it has crawled to a standstill.

If the Universe is stalled for you, then you need to jump start it. Maybe you’ll need to put in a lot of extra effort. Maybe you’ll spend a great amount of time producing things along the line of your passion, but without much sense of going forward, without much acknowledgment or results. The machine has gained cobwebs and rust. So you may need to start pushing the boulder up the mountain, push yourself past disheartening odds, for it to become functioning again. Emotional laziness accumulates.

But you need to do it. You need to make the bold decisions, make experiments with your life, maybe step a little out of the comfort zone. You don’t necessarily need a boot camp or a military drill. But maybe testing those murky waters you were always afraid to go in, but never left your mind. Maybe going where you always wanted to go.

Maybe that’s what the Universe will respond to.

by Nuno Alves

The Difference Between Enlightenment & Having Spiritual Experiences

Art by Teal Eye

via Awakened Vibrations 

Enlightenment is not an experience. It is a state of being. It is a radical state of clarity. It is a continuous state of clear awareness. It’s not something you attain, for in the moment of “achieving” this state of clarity, your fundamental belief in the personality self, your hypnotic fixation on personhood is obliterated. You, as you have known yourself, do not cease to exist…you simply see that you never existed in the first place. There is no “you” to attain enlightenment.  In that moment any reality of a “you” who could succeed or fail, attain or not attain, is understood to the very core to be unreal.

It’s not an intellectual understanding. It does not involve the mind or thinking or evaluating or believing. You just see it. It’s like seeing a shadow at night and it looks like it’s moving. You think it’s a dog or a monster or a ghost. The mind fills in the blanks, fills it in and makes it very real for you. Then you turn on the light and you see it is a shadow cast by something that is being blown around by a breeze. You don’t need to think about it, or believe it or anything. You just see it. When you turn off the light, you see the shadow again, but you know what it is and that’s that.

Only, it’s kind of a big deal, especially at first, because every activity, motivation and aspiration is organized around this basic, unexamined bedrock belief in the self.  It’s so fundamental that you don’t even know it’s just a belief, an assumption. Not only is your personal world built around this organizing principle, but so is our entire society. When you wake permanently from the dream of self, the world of men may not make much sense to you, and you may not make much sense to others.

Waking permanently is different than waking for a moment and then going back to sleep. When you wake fully, that moment of waking may seem like an experience, but what follows is a state of being…being awake. That is what the threshold of enlightenment is. When you cross it, you are in a totally different terrain. It’s not a static state, like you “reach” enlightenment and that’s it.  But this is the fundamental threshold of living in a state of basic clarity that is not mental, theoretical or academic.

People who are still sleeping, but waking up from time to time, can be very concerned that no one ever should claim to be enlightened. It doesn’t bother people who are fast asleep as much, but it does seem to really get the hackles up for some people who are popping in and out of direct clarity.  Direct clarity is clarity you are living in this very moment, not clarity you refer back to…referring back to your experiences of momentary wakefulness.  People who pop in and out of clarity can often sit in their dream state referring to the experience of clarity that they had, but are not having in the moment. There are all kinds of strange beliefs floating around. “One who claims to be enlightened is surely not, because an enlightened person would never say so.” Or some such nonsense. There are lots of reasons not to walk around telling people you are enlightened, but false humility is not one of them.

Enlightenment is something people don’t speak much about.  Those who live in this awareness know exactly what it is. You could also be talking to someone so learned in topics such as non-duality and while they could go on at length talking eloquently around it, debating the finer points of it using impeccable spiritual lingo, the living of it, the true direct understanding of it eludes them.  It’s hollow.  It’s intellectual.

Then there are spiritual experiences. They can range from the mild to the spectacular: feelings of oneness to the emergence of rare abilities. How to deal with these changes, how they might affect your life, and how to integrate them. Spiritual experiences and enlightenment are not the same thing. Some enlightened people have these crazy spiritual experiences. It’s also possible that some don’t. Many people have all manner of intense spiritual experiences and have not crossed the threshold of enlightenment.

It’s probably wise not to get too swept away by the spiritual experiences. They can be crazy and intense and reorganize your life, but they come and go. They may leave you with a whole new set of “powers” to deal with and integrate, but a person can get so focused on chasing the experiences, raising their frequency, activating their DNA or whatever, that they lose themselves. It may seem counter intuitive, but spiritual “evolution” as we know and practice it today is not the same as enlightenment. We can be living without food, running more energy, working with angels, or whatever, but that is not the same as enlightenment.

The point of this article is not to value one experience over another, but to bring into focus the difference between the state of enlightenment and the various kinds of spiritual experiences, including the path of spiritual evolution as we are re-defining it in modern culture.

Spiritual experiences are very flashy, we can talk about them for days and never tire.  We can revel in our abilities or the “places” we go. Enlightenment, or awakening, is not like this at all.  To say it is humbling is a comical understatement, as it wipes out the inner personhood to whom pride or shame could accrue. Everything in the whole universe changes, and yet it is at the same time, completely anti-climactic and very ordinary.

Intuition and the Power of Supra-rational Thinking

Art by Peter Diamond
Art by Peter Diamond

by Chris Mackey

Do we place too much of an emphasis on rationality over intuition? Our education system places great emphasis on developing our capacities for collecting data, applying reason and using logic. These are very worthwhile means of gaining knowledge, but we generally pay much less attention to ways of developing our intuition, another form of understanding and guidance.

This is an underlying theme of the recent film, The Man Who Knew Infinity. It tells the tale of the Indian mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan who rose from poverty and obscurity to ultimately be acclaimed as one of the greatest mathematicians of the last century. However, when he arrived in Cambridge in 1914 at the invitation of his mentor, GH Hardy, he was initially viewed with extreme scepticism and disdain by many of his traditional peers.

Their negative reaction to Ramanujan was not so much based on racism, as their objection to his unconventional ways of thinking. He could not conventionally explain his reasoning that enabled him to derive formulae that solved complex mathematical problems. He was not so concerned about demonstrating conventional proofs for his mathematical expressions, as he felt that their validity could be demonstrated in other ways.

Most mathematicians would work by applying their understanding of various concepts to build a formula. That would be a rational process. By contrast, Ramanujan worked the other way around, drawing on intuition. He felt that he had received his understanding from something beyond him. The formulae came to him first, and their accuracy and significance were often revealed later. Ramanujan specifically attributed his intuitive understanding to a Goddess who “wrote on his tongue”, sometimes revealing solutions to him in visions and dreams. The contemporary mathematician, Ken Ono, described Ramanujan as more of a poet that a problem solver.

Strikingly, the potential application and meaning of many of Ramanujan’s formulae were most relevant to things that only became of interest well after his death. For example, he detailed “mock-theta functions”, extremely complex formulae that are relevant to current understanding of string theory in physics, and such phenomena as black holes.
Despite recognizing Ramanujan’s genius from their earliest correspondence, GH Hardy was himself perplexed by Ramanujan’s reticence to account for his findings using conventional proofs. No doubt their collaboration, which helped many such proofs to be discovered, consolidated the appreciation and usefulness of Ramanujan’s work. Nonetheless, it’s clear that Ramanujan had drawn on a most worthwhile method that was not well appreciated and accepted, even though it led to solutions being found that Hardy and others believed could not be derived in any conventional way.

As a psychologist, I have become especially interested in the under-recognized potential of intuition to solve problems or address challenges. I have now heard of countless examples where others acted on an intuition that defied any rational explanation, and benefited greatly by doing so. Sometimes it even saved their lives. I hear such examples much more often now that my clients and other acquaintances know that I have written a book on synchronicity.

This is one example. A friend, Ross, explained how he was once travelling on foot alongside a highway in Queensland and decided to sleep on one side of the road, sheltering beneath a bush. Soon after he lay down to go to sleep, he had a strong, inexplicable urge to move to the other side of the road. He was initially quite reluctant to do so in the windy conditions, as the ground on the other side of the highway was more damp, uneven and less sheltered. Minutes later, a passing car ran off the road through the bush where he been sheltering and then back onto the road again. It was as though he had received a message from something beyond him. He had learnt to respond to such messages before. If he had dismissed his intuitive urge to move as being irrational, he almost certainly would not be alive to tell his story.

Ross’s thought process might not have seemed rational, at least in the sense of being explicable in terms of reason or logic. But this did not make his insight less valid. Nor was it less than rational. Like Ramanujan, many of Ross’s previous intuitive insights had proved to be true in an uncanny and most advantageous way. He had many stories describing times when he had experienced favourable outcomes by acting on intuition. In many such situations, these outcomes might not be achieved through rational thinking alone.

For this reason, I refer to the examples of Ramanujan’s mathematical ability and Ross’s life-saving intuition as reflecting “the power of supra-rational thinking”. They are not so much irrational as beyond rational. Intuition is not a lesser form of thinking, but merely a different form. Undoubtedly, it is often important to apply our reason in solving problems. Science and formal knowledge in many areas would not likely have advanced anywhere near as far without such discipline. But this does not mean that we should ignore intuition, or disparage those who claim to find it especially useful.

In my view, the most powerful form of understanding will often apply reason and intuition at one and the same time. This partly involves appreciating our implicit, as well as explicit, thinking. But these stories suggest that at least some people might intuitively tap into an awareness that exists beyond themselves. We seem to be very good at developing our thinking that uses our brain like a computer. I think we are perhaps in our infancy in terms of learning to use our mind as a receiver. This may relate to processes of enlightenment. There seems little to lose in exploring this potential further – the power of supra-rational thinking.

In my book, Synchronicity: Empower your life with the gift of coincidence, I describe many examples of the benefits of drawing on deep intuition. Recognizing the potential relevance and meaning of remarkable coincidences in our lives seems to be an especially useful way of tapping into a deep intuitive realm. In my own life, and in that of many of my clients and others, it is one of the most useful ways of helping clarify our sense of life purpose and meaning. Synchronicity can point the way to our personal destiny. It can guide us toward enlightenment.

Chris Mackey is a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society with 35 years’ experience as a clinical and counselling psychologist. His book, Synchronicity: Empower your life with the gift of coincidence, was released internationally by Watkins Publishing in September 2015. His additional articles on synchronicity are posted at http://www.synchronicityunwrapped.com.au.

Synchronicity & Mainstream Psychology

by Erin Purcell
by Erin Purcell

by Chris Mackey

Mainstream psychology needs to do more to acknowledge a spiritual dimension in people’s lives. This includes a greater acknowledgement of mystical-sounding or paranormal experiences such as synchronicity, which involves strikingly uncanny and meaningful coincidences. Many people identify themselves as being spiritual, although not necessarily religious, as a result of having such experiences. Synchronicity, as with many other spiritual or transpersonal experiences, is appreciated more through intuition rather than rational thought processes. It seems that an overemphasis on rationality throughout Western culture, including throughout the field of psychology, has led to an underrecognition or underemphasis of the relevance and importance of synchronistic and other transpersonal phenomena in people’s lives.

The notion of synchronicity implies that some coincidences are not merely the result of chance or mere happenstance. They are so subjectively compelling and meaningful that the person experiencing them may view them as “meant to be”. They seem to point to a hidden pattern or order to the universe beyond what is readily manifest. Synchronistic experiences typically have a numinous or sacred quality, evoking a sense of fascination, wonder or awe. As a psychotherapist of 35 years’ experience, I have been struck by the increased extent to which my clients have divulged synchronistic experiences to me since they learned that I was writing a book on the subject. Not uncommonly, they have explained that they had not previously confided such experiences lest they appear psychotic. Here are two cases in point.

One client, a man in his early 30s, presented with depression in the context of severe alcohol dependence from his adolescent years combined with methamphetamine addiction. Soon after he learnt that I was writing about synchronicity, Eric explained that he had been feeling suicidal earlier in our contact. At one point he was kneeling before a window, crying, with the barrel of a 9mm pistol in his mouth. He slightly chipped a tooth on the barrel. He was about to pull the trigger. He suddenly noticed a black bird, like a raven, looking towards him from about 20 metres away. It suddenly took flight directly at him at full speed. It smashed into the window pane immediately in front of him and fell down dead, ‘like a kamikaze pilot’. Eric put down the pistol. He had a ‘brief moment of clarity’, believing that the black bird had sacrificed itself for him. The uncanny nature and timing of this event led him to feel he was meant to live. He soon booked himself into a rehabilitation program. He felt that the black bird incident had strengthened his motivation to the point where he was only one of two people he knew of from the rehabilitation facility who overcame his addictions.

Eric explained that he hadn’t mentioned the blackbird incident to me because it might have seemed like ‘borderline psychotic behaviour’. He continues to believe that this synchronistic experience saved his life and helped his excellent recovery. Directly acknowledging his transpersonal experience in the therapy setting has seemingly assisted his engagement with therapy goals, his life meaning and achievement in resisting any relapse. He has now successfully returned to full-time work, married, and fathered a child.

I increasingly hear of clients describing synchronistic experience in conjunction with other paranormal phenomena, such as having a dream or vision that anticipates an event that occurs soon afterward. The following synchronistic experience involved a ghostly encounter.

Diana, a woman in her early 40’s, was looking for direction in her life after leaving a marriage marked by emotional and physical abuse. She had a sense that she might somehow receive guidance for her future path from her ancestors. One day, she spent hours trying to research her family tree, but gave up in frustration as she found nothing useful. She nonetheless prayed that she would come across some useful information about her ancestors.

synchronicity, quote, time is art, documentary

As Diana was in her bathroom preparing for bed, she was startled by a vision of a stooped old man. He was quaintly dressed in clothes of a former era. He looked at her and said, “the information you require you will have in the morning”. He then vanished. When she awoke, despite wondering whether it was just a hallucination, the striking nature of this encounter led her to resume her research. Within half an hour she came across completely unexpected evidence of a particularly well-educated and accomplished branch of her family contrasting with her own very modest educational and socioeconomic background. This markedly boosted her belief that she might be capable of pursuing further study at a point when she was at a crossroads in life. Despite also raising two young children under adverse circumstances, she was able to not only successfully apply for tertiary study, but to get very good grades, all the while boosted by the numinous and synchronistic quality of this ghostly encounter.

Diana went on to describe many other examples of synchronistic premonitions, and described many confirmatory examples of her intuitive insights. She summed up synchronicity as “the universe telling you that you are getting warmer”. Such anecdotes are consistent with my own view that synchronistic experiences help guide us to our optimal life path, like a “tick from the universe” affirming that we are on the right track.

There should be scope to acknowledge such incidents in the therapy setting, given their impact on someone’s life. However, I suspect that they are rarely disclosed. I suspect that most psychologists would be little prepared to meaningfully deal with such revelations, as there would be minimal reference to such experiences in most mainstream psychology courses.

It is nonetheless understandable that spiritual and paranormal phenomena are largely neglected in mainstream psychology. The field is established on a scientific foundation: we are meant to objectively research hypotheses using replicable methods. However, this is not the full story, as we also wish to be able to acknowledge and explore the full range of human experience. Any psychological approach that leaves out some of the most subjectively relevant or important things in people’s life experience would be unduly limited. Strict behaviourism could only ever advance so far.

In my view, positive psychology is a field which is the most promising in exploring broader dimensions to people’s lives, including spirituality, whilst still adopting a considerable degree of scientific rigour. Positive psychology is a science of wellbeing in that it looks to objective empirical support for any interventions proposed to improve people’s mental health and wellbeing. Positive psychology research has recently highlighted the objectively demonstrated benefits of spiritual beliefs or practices for people’s wellbeing. These benefits include increased longevity, lesser alcohol and drug use, reduced health costs and greater resilience in adverse situations.

Synchronicity relates directly to the “PERMA” model of positive psychology, as outlined by its founder, Martin Seligman. He emphasized five domains as being integral to psychological wellbeing. These include positive emotions, engagement in activities and roles, positive relationships, personal meaning and accomplishment. Anything that is objectively demonstrated to enhance these aspects of our life experience is consistent with positive psychology. Eric and Diana’s stories illustrate the potential beneficial, even profound, impact of synchronistic experiences in each of these domains.

The positive psychology field is now more explicitly incorporating spiritual themes related to life purpose and meaning. The goal is to draw on the best in ourselves whilst contributing to something beyond ourselves. This has led to an increasing acceptance in the positive psychology literature for such terms as “the sacred” or pursuing one’s “calling”. This is not altogether surprising as early theoretical work in this field acknowledged the influence of such luminaries as William James, Abraham Maslow and Carl Jung (who coined the term synchronicity) who were all strongly interested in transpersonal phenomena.

It is only recently that I have felt emboldened to present on the phenomenon of synchronicity at scientifically based psychology conferences, including at the recent world congress on positive psychology in Orlando, Florida. In the 21st-century, we are becoming more open to consider more intuitive and creative ways of thinking and perceiving the world whilst nonetheless aiming to objectively explore what impact they might have on our wellbeing.

Synchronicity: Empower your life with the gift of coincidence I have set out to incorporate theory, anecdotes and personal and client examples to offer a 21st century take on the legacy of Carl Jung, who so intriguingly introduced us to the concept of synchronicity sixty years ago. He first wrote about synchronicity in a book co-written with Wolfgang Pauli, a father of quantum mechanics. As their collaboration showed, just because something sounds mystical does not mean it is inconsistent with a scientific mindset.

Chris Mackey is a clinical and counselling psychologist and Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society with 35 years’ psychotherapy experience in public and private mental health settings. He is the principal psychologist at Chris Mackey and Associates, his private psychology practice in Geelong.

Chris has presented at numerous national and international scientific conferences over the past 20 years on such topics as the assessment and treatment of psychological trauma and the evaluation of effectiveness of psychological therapy for anxiety and depression. Chris has a particular interest in promoting more optimistic approaches to mental health, including positive psychology, about which he has presented regular free public talks in Geelong over the past ten years. He has been fascinated in synchronicity throughout his career as well as in his everyday life, leading him to choose this topic for his first book, Synchronicity: Empower Your Life with the Gift of Coincidence. His practice’s website provides extensive information about a wide range of mental health issues (see www.chrismackey.com.au).

Synchronicity, Science and Spirituality

the sync movie
by Chris Mackey

Have you ever been so astonished by a remarkable coincidence that it stopped you in your tracks? You might have been thinking about someone you hadn’t seen for a long time who suddenly contacted you out of the blue. Or you might have had an unexpected and improbable encounter with someone who could help you solve a problem with which you felt stuck. Or there might have been a curious connection between two events, such as a clock stopping at the precise time its owner died. Such experiences are examples of synchronicity, an uncanny timing of events that compellingly seems to go beyond pure chance. Synchronistic experiences suggest a hidden order or organizing force to the universe, seemingly connecting our inner and outer worlds.

Synchronicity is a mystical phenomenon in that it cannot be explained adequately in words, it can seemingly promote insights in ways beyond usual reasoning, and it seems to be influenced by something beyond our own will. Such phenomena are often dismissed as unscientific, supposedly being based on mere superstitious beliefs. However, their potential relevance is reflected in many people reporting that they have had such mystical experiences (approximately 40% of respondents in studies), of which synchronicity is one of the more commonly reported.

In my view, synchronicity is a phenomenon that might help bridge scientific and spiritual perspectives in several ways. Firstly, there is scientific evidence for phenomena in the natural world that have features in common with synchronicity. Secondly, the experience of synchronicity can enhance people’s spiritual development in terms of promoting a sense of purpose and meaning, which scientific research has shown can enhance people’s mental health and well-being. Thirdly, recent findings in brain science point to the potential of synchronistic experiences to enhance mental health by promoting neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.

Scientific and spiritual views of the world are often seen to be antithetical. However, a belief in the validity of synchronistic experience is not inconsistent with a scientific mindset. Indeed, Carl Jung developed his ideas on synchronicity in part through discussions with Albert Einstein. Furthermore, he only came to write about it after active encouragement from Wolfgang Pauli, one of the founders of quantum mechanics. A number of the leading quantum physicists from earlier to more recent times have seen connections between findings in quantum physics and mystical beliefs, including a seeming overlap between synchronicity and established scientific evidence for the scientific phenomenon of entanglement.

Entanglement is now well-established physical phenomenon whereby two physical particles that have previously come in contact with each other have later been found to interact instantaneously despite being separated by vast distances. Whereas Einstein had dismissed any such possibility of “spooky action at a distance”, the phenomenon has been repeatedly demonstrated in well-controlled scientific experiments. Synchronicity, like entanglement, transcends usual notions of space and time. For example, some people report the repeated synchronistic experience of going to phone someone, at which point the other person phones them at exactly the same time. This raises the question that if physical matter can be instantaneously connected at a distance, then why not people’s consciousness, potentially even transcending physical death. A number of people have reported revelatory experiences whereby they have heard a deceased person’s voice leading them to achieve a goal such as finding a lost object. Such experiences no longer sound as outrageously fanciful when contemplating the phenomenon of entanglement, or other astounding findings from modern science consistent with ancient mystical beliefs. Such findings include that the seemingly physical nature of matter is an illusion, and that time might travel backwards as well as forwards.

quote2Synchronicity is associated with spirituality in a range of ways. Many people report that some of their most frequent or intense synchronistic experiences seem related to finding their optimal life purpose or destiny, in a manner that seemingly points to a larger organizing force in the universe. This is seemingly such a feature of my own and my clients’ experience that I have long considered synchronicity to commonly represent a “tick from the universe” that you are on the right track in the direction you are pursuing. Synchronistic experience also often seems to be associated with providence: it leads to a sense that “the universe provides”, especially when we have a sense of being in harmony within ourselves and others. A specific example of this is when someone has a fortuitous encounter with someone who can teach them an important life lesson, or a new mentor, associated with the saying, “when the teacher is ready, the pupil will come”.

Interest in spirituality within mainstream psychology and health settings has increased in response to research evidence that religious faith confers physical and mental health benefits. Such benefits include reduced incidence of depression, lesser alcohol and drug abuse, lesser suicide risk, reduced risk from various physical illnesses, greater longevity and increased individual happiness. Such findings are increasingly acknowledged in medical schools, and in such fields as positive psychology and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), beyond the widespread adoption of mindfulness techniques. Appreciating synchronistic experience as pointing to a larger organizing force beyond ourselves can support our wellbeing by enhancing our sense of meaning, purpose and connection. This is also relevant to the increasing number of people who identify themselves as being spiritual, but not religious.

Finally, there is emerging evidence from brain science for the potential benefits of synchronicity. Novel and numinous experiences, which are associated with a sense of wonder, fascination and awe, lead to neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, or the development of new brain cells and connections between them. Experiencing synchronicity is, by definition, novel and numinous, owing to its perceived uncanny and meaningful nature. Such experiences can also lead to the expression (activation) of genes that release dopamine, which can assist motivation and goal-directed behaviour. These outcomes have obvious potential benefits for pursuing purposeful goals and enhancing mental health.

Once we entertain the potential validity and meaningfulness of synchronistic experience, including in the setting of a psychologist’s consulting room, a whole new interpretive world opens up for how we might make sense of our own and others’ life experience. It can expand our perspective and facilitate new ways of perceiving life challenges and potential ways to address them. We can then draw on what I refer to as “the power of supra-rational thinking”. These are the underlying themes of the book, Synchronicity: Empower your life with the gift of coincidence, due for release in September 2015.

It is full of synchronistic examples from my own and others’ life experience described in ways to illustrate how we might draw optimal meaning from them.

Chris Mackey is a clinical and counselling psychologist and Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society with 35 years’ psychotherapy experience in public and private mental health settings. He is the principal psychologist at Chris Mackey and Associates, his private psychology practice in Geelong.

Chris has presented at numerous national and international scientific conferences over the past 20 years on such topics as the assessment and treatment of psychological trauma and the evaluation of effectiveness of psychological therapy for anxiety and depression. Chris has a particular interest in promoting more optimistic approaches to mental health, including positive psychology, about which he has presented regular free public talks in Geelong over the past ten years. He has been fascinated in synchronicity throughout his career as well as in his everyday life, leading him to choose this topic for his first book, Synchronicity: Empower Your Life with the Gift of Coincidence. His practice’s website provides extensive information about a wide range of mental health issues (see www.chrismackey.com.au).

The Quest for Gnosis

Gabriel D. Roberts is a theological scholar, researcher and public speaker that specializes in discussions about the nature of perception and belief. After 27 years of passionate searching and study, Gabriel stepped away from his long held Christian faith into a more expansive and fluid worldview. His latest book, The Quest For Gnosis explores the roots of belief, the power of the ecstatic state in one’s spiritual life and the means by which a deeply satisfying spiritual life may be achieved outside of the bonds of dogma. Within The Quest For Gnosis, Gabriel interviews 20 of the brightest minds in this field of study, including Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, Graham Hancock, Daniele Bolelli, Peter J. Carroll, Hamilton Morris, Dr. Aaron Cheak, David Metcalfe, Dr. Rick Strassman and many more. Gabriel writes for VICE Magazine, Disinfo.com and Realitysandwich.com and is the author of three books. He is continuing his research at the University of Washington in his hometown of Tacoma, WA.

We had the pleasure of chatting with Gabriel at the 2014 Synchronicity Symposium in Joshua Tree and getting to know more about him. His new book (which he was kind enough to hook us up with) is incredibly inspiring and a great read. Like Jennifer Palmer, the subject of our film, Gabriel did a complete 360, his spirituality took on a new dimension (literally), while his world view broadened considerably in a rather short time. This kind of transformation which usually takes entire lifetimes also takes a tremendous amount of courage. It’s rare to meet folks that have made such a complete change in their belief system. Telling an alternative story in such a way that makes it difficult for non-believers to turn away is no small feat. This is an ongoing challenge for the filmmakers. We hope our film, ‘Time is Art’ also does exactly what his books and talks do; legitimize a truly spiritual way of life.