Lately I have been having these incredibly interesting life events simultaneously occurring. As I continue to open myself up to others regarding my personal history with mental health struggles and some of the causal factors of those challenges, more people, more articles and more connections are continually being revealed to me.
In psychology, Carl Jung calls this “synchronicity:” events that are “meaningful coincidences,” occur with no causal relationship, yet seem to be meaningfully related.
For example, if someone recommends a certain book to you, then you happen to see a review of it in a magazine and then see a stranger reading it in the airport, there’s most likely a message in that book for you. When three different people of no connection suggest you try something new, it is worth your effort to investigate. The universe has something waiting for you in these meaningful coincidences. I accept life’s synchronicities as little winks from the universe: “Keep going, Jane. You are on the right path.”
However, in order to be alert to life’s synchronicities, we must be fully present, or mindful. As a reminder, mindfulness is: “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.”
This is a picture of the artwork I keep on my office wall as a mindfulness reminder:
It’s a lot harder than it seems, frankly. When I am at lunch with a friend, am I actually present mentally or am I thinking about the 3 things I need to do immediately after? When I am working at my “real job,” where the above artwork is framed, am I day dreaming about what I want to write about next on my blog? (Usually, yes…but we are all works in progress).
The most significant synchronicities have been in the revelation of connection through our shared experiences, particularly our common struggles: real life stories of anxiety, panic attacks, major depression, anorexia and/or bulimia, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, alcoholism, prescription medication addiction, PTSD caused not only by military experience but also by rape and child abuse, suicide and suicide attempts. Real stuff. Scary stuff. But the stuff from which we are most deeply connected, if we allow ourselves to remove the shame and stigma.
Big name movie stars, athletes, news anchors, and comedians are braving the consequences and sharing the truth of their struggles with mental health. Parents, coworkers, college students, children, young adults and grandparents are opening up with confidants and professionals. I am hearing these stories first hand and know that the more we talk about these things, the more they will be lifted from of the darkness, free from shame.
Which brings me to Garry Frickin’ Shandling, of all people. As those closest to me know, I’m a sucker for anything biopic. Unlike a sitcom rerun that makes me run from a room covering my ears, give me a life story and I’ll inhale it faster than a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. But Garry Shandling? Isn’t he a dorky comedian who was in his prime during my college years??
Well, yes, I guess, but I’ve just recently learned so much more about his depth and process through the HBO mini series, The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling, produced and directed by Garry’s protégé, Judd Apatow.
Posthumusly, Garry Shandling, who died at age 66, has become a major contributor to my Synchronicity Posse. Below are pictures on my phone from some of his diary writings, which he began in his earliest days of trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life, and continued throughout his explosive career. His soul searching began as a result of the trauma he experienced as a boy through the loss of his brother at ten years old. His parents never acknowledged the death of his brother, nor allowed his grief. He wasn’t even permitted to attend his brother’s funeral.
I paused the show and snapped pictures, paused and snapped, taking photos of Garry’s personal diary and his words of wisdom and personal reflection. Each one of these had a personal meaning to me or was relevant to things I care keeping about: being fully present, being/becoming my most authentic self, being fearless, the power of vulnerability, just to name a few.
This is a screen shot of all that I accumulated… from Episode 1:
A writer. A spiritual seeker. A student of buddhism. Practicer of mindfulness. Also, often a pain in the ass, work-related perfectionist who was often difficult to deal with and overly sensitive. Was I watching a documentary on myself???
No, just my synchronistic soul brother, encouraging me to follow my path and be both brave and fearless at the deepest levels.
Because, of course, this is not the first time I have heard these exact words recently. Meaningful connection through occurrence. Synchronicity.
“Have the courage to feel your emotions in <whatever is important to you>”
Meditate on it, open up at the deepest level.
Be brave at the deepest level.
– Garry Shandling, Zen Diaries
Look for the 2 part series, The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling on HBO: