Thursday, June 16, 2016

What You Wish For

It is a beautiful summer evening and I am sitting out on the balcony of a hotel I have never been to before, in a town I had never heard of until a few weeks ago, with a man I didn't know existed until about a year ago. Life is full of unexpected surprises.

Mark Johnson and I are on vacation in the Finger Lakes of New York. How we ended up here is an interesting story of the power of coincidence in shaping our lives. As you know, we have been reading The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence, by Deepak Chopra. According to Deepak, there are no meaningless coincidences in life. Every coincidence is a message. A clue about a particular area of our life that requires our attention.

Over time, we can learn to recognize and appreciate these coincidences and their meanings. And by expanding our awareness, we can connect to the underlying field of pure potentiality that exists in the universe. It is much easier to understand the significance of an event that has already occurred in the past. The goal is to be able to recognize these coincidences when they are occurring. With awareness and practice, we can eventually reach a state that Deepak refers to as "synchrodestiny" where we have the potential to achieve the spontaneous fulfillment of our desires. 

I know it may seem like a stretch to you, especially after reading a brief one-paragraph summary of an entire book. But the concept is actually very plausible. Basically, we need to be open to the idea that the universe has a plan for us. And that it is giving us clues along the way to help us carry out its plan (i.e. our destiny). We also need to acknowledge that we have a role to play in this process by setting intentions for the things that we are seeking, placing ourselves in a position for those intentions to be fulfilled, and then stepping back and leaving the rest up to the universe.

Which is exactly how Mark Johnson and I ended up in a hotel in the Finger Lakes of New York. It all started a few months ago when we were watching House Hunters. One of the couples was looking for a house in Geneseo, New York. At the beginning of the show, they panned across an image of this beautiful waterfall in a park near Geneseo, called Letchworth State Park.

As soon as we saw the park, Mark Johnson and I had the same reaction. We both knew we had to go there. He immediately paused the TV, got out the computer and started researching where the park was located and how long it might take to drive there. And I added it to the list of "places to travel" that I keep in my notebook.

At the same time, we were really starting to get into the Deepak Chopra book. One day, I mentioned to Mark Johnson out of the blue that it would be really cool to go and see Deepak speak somewhere. We thought maybe he would do a book signing to promote his new book. Mark Johnson went out to Deepak's website and found that he was speaking at an alternative medicine conference at Nazareth College, which is near Rochester, New York. Just about an hour away from Letchworth State Park.

Needless to say, a road trip was starting to take shape. We bought our tickets to see Deepak and Mark Johnson planned out a two-day trip for us that included a visit to Letchworth State Park and a driving tour around the Finger Lakes. 

We continued reading the book as the trip drew closer. Our goal was to finish reading it before we saw Deepak speak. And we did. The more we read the book, the more we started to integrate the idea of synchrodestiny into our everyday life. We started to use the word "synchrodestiny" as a verb whenever we really wanted something. As in, "I'm going to synchrodestiny some key lime cheesecake." 

All kidding aside, we began to believe more and more in the power of coincidence. The closer we got to the event, we started to talk about what we would do if we actually met Deepak. He was starting to attain near "rock star" status in our household. We joked that we could make t-shirts and wear them to the event to get his attention. Or maybe we could ask him to sign our books. Over the last few weeks we focused a lot of our energy on where and how we would meet him.

When we got to the hotel last night, Mark Johnson wondered if maybe Deepak would be staying there too. It was an upscale spa hotel and it was only five minutes from the campus of Nazareth College where he would speak in the morning. We decided that if he was staying in the hotel, he would probably have a car pick him up in the morning. And we figured if he was speaking around 9:00 AM then the car would probably come to get him in the hotel lobby around 8:00 AM.

The next morning, we got up and started getting dressed. Usually I am running late, but on that morning as we left the hotel room, Mark Johnson said "Hey, we are right on time."

Then we walked out of our room and down the hall into the lobby. At the exact moment we entered the lobby, we saw that Deepak was walking towards us. He was on his phone, but he must have noticed that we recognized him because he paused and glanced up in our direction.

I simply said "Good morning, Deepak" as we walked past him. 

He said "Good morning." And then went back to his call. 

We played it cool until we got into our car and then Mark Johnson and I started freaking out. We turned on the car and the clock showed that it was 8:01 AM. We had literally synchrodestinized meeting Deepak Chopra in the lobby of our hotel at the exact time we specified, 8:00 AM.

After that, we headed over to Nazareth College to hear Deepak speak. The energy of the crowd was really interesting. Most of the people were alternative medicine providers, so there was this overwhelming feeling of healing and compassion in the room. His talk only lasted an hour, and I think we all wished we had more time. At the end of the talk, he asked the audience if he could offer us a brief meditation. 

He started by focusing in on our breath. Then he directed our attention to our hearts and asked us to contemplate four questions: Who am I? What is my purpose? What do I want? What am I grateful for? Instead of trying to think about the answers, he encouraged us to just observe whatever feelings, images or thoughts came to us spontaneously.

When I started meditating on the question "Who am I?" the first thing that came to my mind was that I am a healer. I have never used that word to describe myself before, and maybe it just came to me from the energy in the room. Or maybe it is a sign of something yet to come.

For the next question about my purpose, the only response I felt coming back to me was "I don't know." It would have been nice to get some brilliant insight about my life's purpose during Deepak's meditation, but I guess it is not time yet.

When I focused on the question "What do I want?" the first answer that came to me was that I have everything I need. There is nothing else I want. And then my mind jumped to the words "financial freedom." That is what I want, because it is the one thing I have now that is allowing me to live my life in such a joyful and peaceful way.

Finally, I focused on the question of what I am grateful for and I was flooded with images. My physical body, my health, my life with Mark Johnson, my family and all of the people I love, my bedroom at my house in Dearborn, and so many more things. I was overwhelmed with gratitude, happiness and contentment. It was the most amazing feeling.

After we wrapped up the meditation, Deepak thanked the audience and then it was time to go. Mark Johnson and I continued along with our driving tour around the Finger Lakes and ended up sitting here on the balcony of our hotel in Skaneateles, watching the moon rise over the lake.

I can't help but marvel at the series of coincidences that brought us here to this moment. The House Hunters episode about Lechtworth State Park and Deepak's lecture at Nazareth College, which led to our eventually meeting him in the lobby of our hotel.

At the same time, I have to wonder why. Maybe all of this was just an elaborate plan by the universe to show us that the things we are reading about in Deepak's book really can work. And if that is the case, it makes me wonder what else I might be able to sychrodestinize in my life.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Archetypes and Engineers

If you are a fan of the band Guster, you will appreciate the reference in the title of this blog. If not, just look up their album called Easy Wonderful and you'll figure it out. Mark Johnson and I have tickets to see Guster on July 8. That really doesn't have anything to do with this blog. I am just excited about the show. Guster is one of my favorite bands.

You might remember what happened to me the last time I went to see Guster. It was just over a year ago, when I was still in my yoga teacher training. The concert was on a Saturday night. The next morning I went into yoga class wearing my Guster tank top and I did my first headstand. If you'd like to read the whole story, click here. I wonder what the next Guster show will bring. If anything unusual happens, I will definitely let you know.

As I have mentioned a few times, Mark Johnson and I are reading a book by Deepak Chopra called The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence. Essentially, the book is a blueprint to finding your life's purpose. He believes that all beings are one with each other, and each of our souls is connected to the universal soul. If we are somehow able to tap into the infinite organizing power of the universe, we will be able to fulfill our true destiny.

There are many ways we can start to reach into our internal soul and, from there, begin to connect with the energy of the universe. Meditation is one of the foundational elements of his book. And it is something I have been practicing for over a year now. I have already seen glimmers of the potent effects of a regular meditation practice. I have had many unique experiences during my meditation that have given me clues about how to move forward in my life.

Another thing that Deepak recommends in his book is to identify and reach out to your archetypes for guidance. He says that archetypes are perennial themes that reside at the level of the collective, universal soul. These themes have existed forever and are passed down through the writings of ancient cultures, literature and by other means. We also see these archetypes played out in our modern-day life through movies, television and books.  

To make this concept more accessible, he provides some great examples. Think about Marilyn Monroe as the embodiment of Aphrodite, the goddess of sex and beauty. Or what about Robert Downey Jr. as Dionysus, the untamed, fun-loving spirit. The larger the personality, the stronger the individuals connection to a particular archetype. 

But you don't have to be a famous movie star or a powerful world leader to express your archetype. Anyone can do this. All it takes is a sense of curiosity and self-awareness, along with a little bit of exploration. There is an exercise in the book that walks you through some common archetypes and invites you to envision yourself as that archetype for a short time and then see how you feel.

Mark Johnson and I did this exercise together a few weeks ago. With each of the archetypes that were presented, we both closed our eyes and attempted to transform ourselves into that archetype as best we could. We both had varying reactions. Some of them felt interesting, but we felt more like an observer than an embodiment of the archetype. And some of them resonated more strongly. 

One of the archetypes was the Divine Mother. Deepak describes this archetype as the essential nurturing force, alive with life-giving energy. She is also the primordial creative force, giving birth to forms and phenomena. When I entered into the Divine Mother, I felt entwined with everything around me. I kept my eyes closed and turned my palms open to the sky and I could feel tulips growing out of my hands. (I know it may sound crazy, but that is what I felt.)

Deepak recommends that you choose more than one archetype. Preferably one male and one female to help you remain balanced. Once you identify your archetypes, the next step is to integrate them more fully into your life and place reminders of them in your home. Mark Johnson picked two different archetypes that he felt connected to. Then he bought statues of each archetype and placed them on a shelf in the bedroom. 

Meanwhile, I have been struggling with my chosen archetype. Based on the significance of archetypes in this book, it seems like a really big decision. What happens if I pick the wrong archetype? How can I know for sure if the Divine Mother is really my archetype? I have always felt a strong connection to Mother Nature. And many people see me as a compassionate, nurturing mother figure. But is that really enough? If this is really my destiny, why didn't I have any children?

We did some more research on the Divine Mother, who is known as Shakti in the Hindu culture. Shakti is the divine force, manifesting to destroy demonic forces and restore balance. Every God in Hinduism has his Shakti and without it, he has no power. So Shakti is the Mother Goddess, the source of all, the universal principle of energy, power or creativity.

After reading all about Shakti and her innate power, I felt a little overwhelmed. I am not sure if I am ready to draw upon all of that energy and invite her to express herself through me. It is hard to believe that I have the potential to tap into that sort of power. Maybe everyone feels tulips growing out of their hands when they embody the Divine Mother.

Over the next few days, I continued to think about my archetypes. One morning, I was in the shower and I remembered that we had an expert on Hindu gods and goddesses as a guest speaker at my yoga teacher training. I thought about her presentation and then I remembered Shiva. I always think of Shiva as a female, but it is actually a male. 

Shiva is one of the three powerful Gods of the Hindu trinity. Brahma is known as the Creator, Vishnu is the Preserver and Shiva is the Destroyer. But he is not merely focused on destruction for destruction's sake. Shiva's purpose is to destroy to create. Only through the destruction can something new come into being. During the training, I felt a strong connection to Shiva. I was fascinated by the idea of destroying to create.

I wondered if I should invoke both Shiva and Shakti as my archetypes - one male and one female. So Mark Johnson and I decided to research Shiva online. It turns out that Shiva is the male counterpart of Shakti. And Shakti is the female counterpart of Shiva. According to Hinduism, they are the divine parents. From time to time, they save creation from evil forces. Shiva represents the constitutive elements of the universe, all that exists. And Shakti is the dynamic potency that makes these elements come to life. One cannot exist without the other.

In searching for my archetypes, I have apparently stumbled into the Hindu equivalent of the Wonder Twin powers. Just in case I was doubting my connection to Shakti, the universe decided to give me another clue to keep me on my path. Or as Mark Johnson explained, "It's like you did a math problem two different ways and came up with the same answer."

The more I research these gods and goddesses, the more confusing it can become. There are so many stories and traditions associated with them. And so many different manifestations and qualities that they portray. Some representations are benevolent and compassionate, while others are more aggressive and violent. I guess that can be true of human beings as well.

It is clear that these particular archetypes are reaching out to me. The question is why. And what qualities are they trying to express through me. I found this description of Shakti and for now, it seems to be the one that resonates the most:
Shakti’s themes are protection, banishing and communication. The Tibetan supreme feminine power, Shakti does not stand by idle when we are in distress. She is an active, loving force for change. When called upon, Shakti manifests within us as intelligence, instinct, willpower, energy, action, and ultimately, magic. Shakti especially energizes communication skills, so that our words will be heard clearly and understood.
When I read that description, I can see aspects of myself in her. I may never completely understand all of the forms and expressions of these gods and goddesses. And maybe that's the whole point. I am always trying to figure things out and come up with the right answer. But some experiences are beyond logic and reason.