During a time of great drought, a Taoist master was asked by members of a village if he could help bring rain to their dry fields. They confessed trying many other approaches before reaching out to him, but with no success.
The master agreed to come and asked for a small hut with a garden that he could tend. For three days, he tended the garden, performing no special rituals or asking anything further from the villagers. On the fourth day, rain began to fall on the parched earth. When asked how he had achieved such a miracle, the master answered that he was not responsible for the rain. However, he explained, when he came to the village, he had sensed disharmony within himself. Each day, as he tended the garden, he returned a little more to himself. When he returned to balance, the rain came naturally.
I have heard that this was one of psychologist Carl Jung’s favorite stories, told to him by Richard Wilhelm, translator of the Chinese divination text, I Ching: Book of Changes. Jung believed Taoist beliefs mirrored his own understanding that what we call personal consciousness is only a partial perception of a greater whole. There are ways to fling open the mind, connecting us with a collective unconscious, allowing us access to larger universal rhythms. And from this fruitful entanglement, parallel events can arise, such as what happened between the Taoist master and the rain falling.
Jung would later call these seeming coincidences synchronicity, a psychological principle that treats the inner attitude of the person as inseparable from events taking place in the world. Jung, however, was not suggesting or equating synchronicity with causality. The Taoist master did not cause the rain to fall. Rather, Jung believed there were parallel processes in which outer events mirrored psychic activity. He was struck by Wilhelm’s insight that tao, normally translated as the wayor path, might be better understood as meaning. Synchronicity could be understood as coincidences threaded together by meaning, a way of knowing that was potentially as impactful as Western concepts of causality.
We all have some intuition of a thin veil separating us from a larger universal consciousness. Jung was not alone in believing this veil could be lifted. Philosopher and novelist Colin Wilson wrote of a “subconscious mind” that becomes numb, “like an arm upon which I have been lying in my sleep, and which has become completely dead and feelingless.” The task is to restore circulation between the subconscious mind and the flow of life. In doing so, we awaken a feeling connection with awe and mystery. And in awakening to this possibility, a fundamental transformation takes place. No longer passive subjects at the mercy of events, we become active participants translating meaning into life.
Does the parable of the Taoist master represent a symbol of the awakened mind, a person who has restored circulation between himself and the Universe? And if this is the case, then we must consider anew the synchronistic attitude toward life. When we restore balance and meaning in ourselves, we seed the world around us with hope and purpose.
Excerpted from Alan Briskin's Huffington Post article.
SEED QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How do you understand the notion of becoming active participants translating meaning into life? Can you share a personal story of synchronicity where your returning to balance coincided with harmonious external changes? What helps you stay focused on your inner balance when you notice disharmony in the outer world?
When I see disharmony in the universe, I bless it, saying: "bless your heart, [the person or event], and "bless my heart". I then continue to bless people and events with whom I feel disharmony, and each time blessing my heart. This helps me to be calm and to come within.
Synchronicity for sure today! I was planning on posting in another forum We become the stories and experiences we share. I believe this relates beautifully to the idea of "becoming active participants translating meaning into life." For example, post election here in the US, although some awful things have happened already in the name of hate, other wonderful things have happened as well with people stepping forward to act out in deeper kindness and love and care to one another. Which stories do we focus upon? Which ones do we continue to share? We become these and our world view changes because of it. Do we lament or do we take positive action? And do we allow ourselves to be in discord or harmony? I struggled with this last Friday as I have a wide range of friends with a very wide range of beliefs, I hold all of them in my heart with compassion and seek to understand views that may be different from my own. I do my best to not judge, but to listen to hear what is going on underneath. When we stop to do this listening, the story we hear is usually one not so different from our own: we all want to be valued, understood, cared for and to matter. So I focus on this and then I ask: how can I serve others to feel this and how can i reflect it myself?[Hide Full Comment]
I had been caught up in the sadness I felt during and after the election season. I was recently jolted out of it & into the joyful wonder by synchronicity. I am an art teacher and one of my students was looking for help & research material for a project. Two days later, as I browsed in a thrift shop, a book caught my eye. I opened it up, and there were just the instructions we were looking for! It made me so happy to realize that when I put my heart into caring for others,even in small ways, the universe works with us! It gave me hope and a renewed commitment to try to make ripples, no matter how small, toward good for others.
YES! We need this especially now...a group of contemplatives willing to commit to practicing daily to send that love and energy into the world.
Such readings make me go deep inside of myself. I have come to realize that when I create dissonance in me by being carried away by my self fulfilling needs without consideration of the other, I create a big split in me and the other. When I become aware of my self-created disharmony within me and consciously make a shift in me I once again feel wholeness in me and with the other. This is like tending my garden and receiving the rain of grace. To me this is the awakening, coming out of my slumber, and relating to the light within me and without me.This is the middle point where both hands come together, the outer and the inner. And the rain of joy, love,light and peace showers.
May I continue learning how to remain awakened and balanced and receive the blessings of the rain!
Jagdish P Dave
I think of us as participating in the meaning of life, not as translating meaning into life. The meaning of life is whatever it is. Our translating meaning into life is our interpretation. We can be in harmony with our selves which puts us in harmony with Nature though not necessarily in harmony with the outer world of people and activities around us. When in harmony with Nature, we are in harmony with the meaning of life. In becoming more accepting and valuing of my real self, I allowed more synchronicity with my self and became more in balance with my self which resulted in others becoming more accepting and valuing of me -- what a coincidence. What helps me stay focused on inner balance is knowing that my real self is my essence and foundation that I need to stay faithful to even when noticing disharmony in the outer world. I've learned that faithfulness to my inner self is primary and independent of the outer world and keeps me in balance with my inner self.[Hide Full Comment]
Such a beautiful reflection to change the lens on my perspective. Reminds me of Swami Vivekananda's speech on 'microcosm' - the world within - and the 'macrocosm' - the world without. He said that the inner world of a person decides whether any blow from the outer world affects her/him. Similarly, I've also found that if I am not at peace or acceptance with myself, it becomes difficult to accept things in the outside world. Perhaps acceptance of the situation allows surrender, and then we may not be waiting for the synchronicity to happen, making us at peace with the outcome?