There is a common expectation – especially in conscious, spiritually aware circles – that as soon as we walk our authentic path, the universe will open all the doors for us and we will be able to move effortlessly towards our destiny. Like the grass growing easily, so is our evolution towards a better life expected to be smooth and straightforward. But is this expectation valid and is it serving us?
The expectation of easiness stems from a well-observed phenomenon, namely that our authentic path is signposted by synchronicities. The study of these “meaningful coincidences” goes back to the iconic Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung. One day, while an overly rational patient was telling him about a dream in which she was given a golden scarab, a similar insect tapped on the window. Jung grabbed the insect and gave it to the lady: “Here’s your scarab,” he said. This surprising coincidence felt so deeply meaningful to her that it “punctured the desired hole into her rationality.”
This phenomenon has been found relevant not only by psychotherapists, but spiritual seekers of all sorts. As soon as we are beginning to find our way, we encounter these magical coincidences, which are not only meaningful, but helpful. We “randomly” find the book or article which answers our questions, we “accidently” bump into the person who will help us achieve our goal, or we find some sign popping up which leads us to the right house, the right person, the right type of work.
The still unexplained, nevertheless very real, principle of synchronicity is at work here, which connects our inner world with outer experiences. The more we are in tune, the more we are “in the flow,” the more often we experience synchronicity.
Does this, however, mean that personal growth is always as easy as walking down a well-paved path? Does this mean that we will feel good and supported all along the way while we thrive for a better life? Does this mean that whenever we encounter obstacles and hardships, we are on the wrong path?
In order to answer these questions, we must understand something important about the basic nature of life itself. In the mid-20th century, mythologist Joseph Campbell studied myths, legends, and fairy tales from all over the world, and arrived at a surprising conclusion: all the stories in the world share the same structure, which he entitled the “Hero’s Journey.” (Being a storyteller myself, I actually attempted to craft a story which didn’t fit it. Trying to be the devil’s advocate, I still could not! Whenever I came up with something which was outside the Campbellian scheme, it failed to be a story. It was a mere “telephone-book.” It had no dynamic.)
This basic structure of a story, which Campbell discovered, is so deeply ingrained into our consciousness, that it appears to be the blueprint, not just for fiction stories, but for life itself. In other words, our own life fits the Campbellian scheme!
I remember a fascinating conversation with Dr. Raymond Moody, the father of near-death studies, who pointed out that this is also what people who have experienced clinical death told: “At the moment of death, life ceases to be a story.” Life is a story, which comes to an end at the moment of death, when the very notions of time and space collapse and something utterly different takes their place.
As long as we live, our lives are stories, for which we have a blueprint: The Hero’s Journey.
Just like the hero of any story, when we follow our own call for adventure in life, we encounter helpful friends. But we also encounter enemies, as well as facing many tests and trials. Without these, we cannot become stronger and we cannot evolve.
Think of it as resistance training. If we want to develop strong muscles, we must give them some resistance; we must push against or lift weights which are outside of our comfort zone, or we must do more repetitions or longer times than those we are already accustomed to. Every force in nature has a counterforce. If we set a powerful intent to create a powerful change in our lives, we can expect help, but also resistance! Psychologically speaking, encountering resistance can actually be helpful in many ways. It shows us where our fears and weaknesses are, and what we need to learn in order to grow up to a new level of being.
Therefore, we must not give up and believe we are on the wrong path, just because we encounter some resistance and experience hard times! I have a very spiritually oriented friend, who believes that whenever he is on the right path, things must happen effortlessly. For instance, he started growing vegetables in his garden, because he felt a calling to live a more natural life. However, when slugs ate his first produce, he gave up saying it “was not meant to be.” This is not resourceful thinking. Instead, he could have invented some organic and animal-friendly way to protect vegetables from slugs and shared his findings with fellow gardeners.
Alright, you may ask, but how can we distinguish between “normal resistance” which we are meant to overcome, from signs that we are indeed on the wrong path? This is a very legitimate and important question. The answer lies in looking at the whole situation holistically. If the road we have embarked upon didn’t feel good from the beginning, if we neither felt a particular calling for it, nor experienced helpful synchronicities, then that really seems like the wrong path.
However, if we felt excitement and a sense of purpose to start with and encountered help along the way, but also started to experience hardship and resistance, we can treat all the negative things that show up like monsters in a fairy tale – these are obstacles we are meant to overcome. Such an approach will only make us stronger and wiser at the end.
Of course, there is one ancient and most powerful enemy which can make us feel bad even when life is heading towards its very best. That enemy is fear. Conditioned to remain within the restrains of well-known situations, as human beings we are bound to experience some discomfort when life is changing, regardless whether it’s for better or worse. Therefore, buckle up and let go of the fear; we are heading towards some turbulent times, but how else can the new be born if, first, we don’t allow for dismantling the old…