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Synchronicity and Tao

Gentle ocean shallow waves

What is synchronicity?

Synchronicity is derived from the Greek word Syn or 'with,' and Chronus, the word for 'time.' Synchronicity means united, acting or considered together and synchronous with time. So what is synchronous with time? It is a sense that the inner and outer world are working as one.

Carl Jung described synchronicity as anomalies in experience that capture our attention. An image or symbol from a dream or a recent thought suddenly takes form through experience. Those who keep track of their dreams discover that synchronicity is not an anomaly at all. Dreams show us how we construct reality or create the patterns of events we encounter. When we unpack dream symbols to understand the story of conflict, cause and the resolution, we begin to see a similar story of symbols that become what we experience on our path.

Synchronicity and Tao te Ching

According to Taoism, all things are united in time and flowing together. The main theme of the Tao te Ching presents a way of understanding the part we play in affecting what we experience. It attempts to describe Tao, which is called mysterious because we are not accustomed to detecting our connection to the whole.

Just like dreams, the way of Tao seeks to unmask us to ourselves through experience. And also like dreaming, Taoism is the art of identifying with the infinite and wandering in the unfathomable. The more we are able to achieve this boundless awareness, the more we become aware of our power to either open or shut the door to a more profound sense of interconnectivity. Synchronicity therefore, becomes a growing awareness of how thoughts influence what we encounter.

The Tao te Ching explores this idea in a peripheral way. It interprets the way of Tao as how to understand the human condition compared to natural phenomenon. Like dreams, the text can appear cryptic. Dreams are cryptic because it is the only way new ideas can slip through the walls of our defenses. The Tao te Ching is like a walk with a Master. It can take several readings before we can understand it's inherent poetic style.

Using nature as a philosophy for the human journey, we can see how our outlook is limited when considering the whole. For example, in understanding a wave, we might start by considering the entire ocean, corals, sealife, trade winds, currents and weather. To describe a cresting wave however, we have to consider gravity and the Moon too. So immediately we see how our version of the whole can be limited by our beliefs.

Manifestation is our Inner Dialogue

The Tao te Ching teaches us that our sense of separation creates events that we would call synchronicity. The practice of Taoism leads to an awareness of the connected nature of all things. We observe events as the manifestation of our inner dialogue.

For example, we meet others and come to know them by their behavior. "She is nice; he is pushy; they always want to buy new things." She is nice because her inner dialogue might be about compassion for others. He is pushy because he might have an inferiority complex that tells him he has to fight his way into the world. They always want to buy new things because they haven't developed an inner dialogue that cultivates contentment. The I Ching says: "If you want to know what is important to a person, observe what they nourish."

The inner dialogue determines how we appear and behave. Through events, we see how our inner beliefs manifest. Even when we are on a path of discipline and meditation, sometimes we get lazy and slip back into routine thoughts or a past way of negative thinking. We only become aware that we have slipped back when we notice how a negative mindset courts negative events. We observe the correlation and call it synchronicity.

Three Things About Taoism

Taoism teaches a change in our perspective that:

Cultivates contentment and joy in what we have.

Fosters independence from ideas like good and bad.

Opens us to the mystery of life so that we can participate in the mystery.

The language of the Tao te Ching is quite broad at the same time that it remains simple. It is a message about understanding manifestation and learning how to stop projecting our judgments onto what unfolds.

The Yin and Yang

In chapter 28 we explore the Yin and Yang of manifestation:

"Know the male, but hold to the role of the female.
Be like water that nourishes the valley."

Knowing the male is a message about Yang and the energy of manifestation, while the female is Yin and the void. Throughout the text we come to appreciate the cycles that unfold similar to how each morning darkness transforms to light. We don't judge day or night to be more important than the other. The void opens the potential of new manifestation and without it, Yang or the sun would scorch the earth. We hold to the role of the female (Yin) by remaining open and letting go of anything we cling to.

To be like the water that nourishes the valley is to understand that the root is endless. Water flows ever onward, upward and downward. Our inner valley is nourished because we are open to life's endless flow. We can nourish others because we have learned to nourish ourselves.

Taoism And the Art of Stopping

Knowing when to stop is another important principle in the teachings of the Tao te Ching. This is a lesson about the formed (Yang) and the formless (Yin.) Taoists call it the carved and uncarved block. Manifestation is the carved block but we are told to let go and return to the uncarved block or how Tao is shaping the world in endless variation and renewal.

From Chapter 32:

"When the whole is divided, it has names.
These names come to exist everywhere.
As soon as there are names,
you should know that it is time to stop."

Tao takes form as manifestation. Your Tao or inner dialogue takes form as manifestation too. The whole is divided into names. We give the event a name, but it is revealing something new. To call all future events by the same name leads to judgment. This is why we are told to stop.

The chapter goes on to say:

"Being the watercourse for the world,
the endless virtue will not run dry
and you will return to the state of innocence.

Know purity, but hold to the role of darkness"

If we could observe our universe from the eyes of nature we would appreciate the mysterious movement of water and its life giving properties. The endless virtue is this appreciation for the boundless, and it will not run dry because it is more than what we think ourselves to be. This awareness returns us to a state of innocence. When we hold to the role of darkness, we find our footing in the mysterious. Because we appreciate how life fulfills us and live in contentment, we:
" return to the boundless and infinite."

Scarcity, Abundance and the Tao te Ching

Chapter 9:

"Rather than fill anything to the brim
it is better to have stopped in time."

This chapter teaches us to achieve balance in opening to the flow. There is no brim and there can be no emptiness. As soon as we classify fullness and emptiness, we choose an outlook of either scarcity or abundance. What we call synchronicity reflects back our mindset. If the environment is filling you with a sense of scarcity, stop in time and change your outlook.

Chapter 27 focuses on movement, expression and discipline in living in abundance:

"When you are traveling, leave no tracks.
When you speak, know when to stop."

To live in the boundless and infinite, we need hold onto nothing. Those who know say little and those who don't know are always speaking and defending their uncertainty. Economy of words is the manifestation of your inner certainty. "One who measures needs no counting rods."

To measure 'what is' we need not classify it as anything. It just is. The difference between measuring and counting is judgment. Measuring can be the sense of the playful witnessing of the reflection of our inner world. It is not good or bad - it just is.

Nature's Inspiration for Leaders

Chapter 30 follows the idea that the best of all leaders follow behind. They inspire rather than demand and those who follow achieve great things.

"A good leader achieves success by knowing when to stop.
Achieves followers without the use of domination.
They know success, but do not brag;
They achieve results, but are not arrogant.

They achieve results because it is the natural way.
Results come by way of necessity
and not through force."

Those we lead want to accomplish great things. A leader accomplishes great things because they are serving the greatness in others. This is the necessity of nature's ways because nature seeks to strengthen all things too.

The sun emerges and a chain reaction of abundance unfolds on the earth. An inner dialogue of contentment and being committed to cultivating the seeds of genius in others - beyond ideas like good and bad - allows us to achieve the results of nature's necessity.

Taoism is a way of releasing any sense of separation that can leave us feeling like we are different from all that we see around us. It teaches us to abide in the flow of nature's pursuit of abundance. Synchronicity stops us in our tracks to remind us of this connection.

Synchronicity can show us a snapshot of how all that we experience is a reflection of our inner world. Rather than treat this event as an anomaly, see it as awakening to a more natural outlook that is boundless. Understanding the Way of Tao can open you to endless synchronicity.