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One City

The Power of Coincidence

by Jerry Kolber, special to the Herald, author: Three Dollar Dinner

Over the past few weeks I have been incredibly aware of co-incidents.  The power of coincidence seems to be playing a large role in my life and I am wondering if this is related to karma, or cause-effect, or intentionality. This may or may not have anything to do with Buddhism and I leave it those far more deeply versed in the non-basic teachings than I to weigh in, but I do feel compelled to share some of my thoughts on coincidence.

For example, at the IDP Meditaton Marathon, one of the first songs to
come on when ABC opened for business was I Love the Nightlife, as
hilariously documented by in a post by Ellen Scordato.
24 hours and several plane rides later, a friend in Berlin had taken us
to a club, and on came the song I Love the Nightlife.  I do not hear
this song much, and it seemed to make a strange line from NYC to the
city I found myself in. The club was also exactly the one place IDP
associate director Patrick Groneman had mentioned to me by name and
told me to avoid, though it turned out to be a lot of fun.


Another recent example: My boyfriend Brian bought me an amazing bronze
cast of a bird skull for my birthday, and he got himself a matching one too.
They are made by his friend Blue in New York.  Brian has been working a
lot in London, and met a new friend named Luka one night randomly in the UK
because Luka also had a piece of Blue’s jewelry.  Coincidence enough,
but on his way out of London his weekend another friend told Brian she was
looking forward to a date this week, because the guy had the same
name as she gave her stuffed animals as a litle girl. The guys (and
dolls) name? Luka Blue. 

Smaller coincidences abound at work and in life, and they have been
quite intense as of late. Is it any less of a coincidence that you go
into a store and discover a new photographer who inspires you in a new
creative directon?  You go looking for the perfect house to buy or rent
and eventually you find it – without having to look at every house in
the neighborhood (You just know it is the right one).  Out of billions
of people on earth you meet the friends and lovers who fit your life
perfectly and you theirs, and offer each other exactly the life lessons
you need at that moment in time. 


It is beginning to seem to me that being aware of coincidence is no
different than having present moment Buddhist style awareness. Every
moment of our lives is a co-incident – i.e. several incidents happening
at once.  That is at least one reasonably passable definition of
reality. So why do we seperate out certain co-incidences and say “What
a coincidence!”?  Why do some moments, which are really no more or less
special than any other moment, shock us awake with what we perceive as
some hidden message?

I propose that it is because of two forces at work. Number one, and
call me new-Agey if you must, but I do think that at certain more
depthful turning points, if we are open to it the universe will send us
signals that we are on the right or wrong path. Whether we are
unconsciously sending out a beacon saying “I am lost, please send a
sign” and are thus in a sense looking for coincidences, or if there is
something even more mysterious at work, does not matter. I know I am
not the only one who has experienced this level of what feels like
strang signposts on the liferoad.


The other force I think is at work behind what we perceive as special
coincidences is that at some times in our lives we are more focused on
deeper questions than at other times.  It is inevitable that if you are
focused on a question you are more likely to find an answer.  And the
quieter your mind is, the more likely you are to hear the answer when
it comes, so it is no coincidence that the more I am disciplined about
my meditation practice the more likely I am to be present to notice
coincidences, and the more likely I am to attach meaning to them. 

Thinking about this just makes me want to pay even more attention all
the time, especially in the moments that don’t necessarily register as
a big “coincidence”.  How often do I find just the right book, person,
or article with the right story or idea for exactly where I am in my
life?  Am I having these experiences or are they having me? Either way,
I do not live in a universe where I can rewind and try different
options, so the experience I have is the only one I CAN have – there is
not some alternate universe in which what we call a coincidence can
un-happen as a result of some other choice we make.


Put another way, the next time you are walking down the street and
happen to run into someone you know and they say “What are the chances
of running into each other?”, the only logical answer given the deeply
thick and non-optional nature of time and the universe is “One hundred

The only question really worth answering – if you want to get at the
truth of what is happening and what this experience has to offer (and
every experience has something to offer)  – is Why?

Comments read comments(14)
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posted November 12, 2009 at 12:58 pm

I agree with you 100%. I find that the “quieter your mind is, the more likely you are to hear the answer when it comes.” I think there are more coincidences that happen that are ignored because we are too busy to notice them.

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posted November 12, 2009 at 1:13 pm

Great posting, Jerry! Call it Co-incidence. Call it Serendipity. When the Attracting Force of our moment-to-moment experiences draw to us what truly completes the desire of those experiences it is called Magnetism. It is when we become Aware enough that we actually notice the connection.

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Jack West

posted November 12, 2009 at 3:29 pm

The term you are refering to is called synchronicity which was coined by C.G. Jung, a student of Freud. Sigmund sent him off in the direction by uttering that there is no such thing as a coincidence, everything happens for a reason. Based on that premise, Jung postulated a paper called synchroncity is which he explained that when inner thoughts become manifested in the outer world, it is the universe communicating with us, leading us toward our place in the cosmos, hence a religious and/or philosophical mood strikes the observer that they are in “sync” with the universe. Thoughts become outer actions in the world.

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Your Name

posted November 12, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Before I began my practice of Eastern religion, I got involved a bit in Mexican sorcery practices.
Divination is an art…and it is quite valid.
Consider this anecdote from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones on Non-Attachment:
In it, a seeker uses the I Ching to divine the fate of a letter that was sent.
Divination practices, again, are quite valid and can yield accurate results. And getting in touch with the coincidences which are not coincidence is one way in.
However, as the anecdote suggests, divination is not part of the path to enlightenment. If some divination experiences come to you, you don’t have to reject them. But consciously seeking them is a real distraction on the path.
There are unseen forces at play in the world. You may simply be getting in touch with them.
However, there is an entire discipline about opening this door. Because the forces which give this knowledge include both unseen divine beings as well as the “others.” And once you play in this arena, you must quickly learn how to discriminate between the players in that realm. Short version is that it is a whole lotta work and a whole lotta headache. Even some of the most advanced seekers can get duped by these beings. They make the lies and schemes of politicians look very tame in comparison.
It is complex. Because, if you merely shut the door, you are also shutting off insight into an inner realm. That can be invaluable. But, again, it comes with cautions. The words of the Christian mystics ring powerfully useful, “test the spirits.”
Seekers make mistakes on both ends with this…rejecting the realm entirely and losing all the wisdom it has to offer. Or, getting obsessed with the realm and becoming more of a fortune teller than a truth seeker.
May your spiritual journey be fruitful!!

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posted November 13, 2009 at 3:46 am

“what we perceive as special coincidences”
Perception and our interpretation of perception and in some cases our imaginations (ie divination, astrology, New Agey stuff)all lead to conclusions that may or may not be valid. If we want them to be valid they become so. Self-fulfilling prophecies and the like.
“…at some times in our lives we are more focused on deeper questions than at other times. It is inevitable that if you are focused on a question you are more likely to find an answer. And the quieter your mind is, the more likely you are to hear the answer when it comes, so it is no coincidence”
Absolutely true.
“…at certain more depthful turning points, if we are open to it the universe will send us signals that we are on the right or wrong path.”
Are you implying a sentient universe? Is any one of us so “special” that the entire universe, if it were sentient, would conspire to create signals just for each one of us? This strikes me as rather egotistical and by extension that the Universe works for our benefit (or detriment)on an individual or even collective basis. That would make each one of us (or our groups including nations) rather God-like would it not? If Karma is implied here that is a misunderstanding of the concept of Karma. Karma is neither personal nor is it sentient nor is it good or bad. Only our later perceptions of the fruits of Karmic action overlay this judgment of good and bad.
“The only question really worth answering – if you want to get at the truth of what is happening and what this experience has to offer (and every experience has something to offer) – is Why? ”
There is no answer to that question that will ever be completely satisfactory. It is an intellectual treadmill that never stops. Motivation for anything is always shifting according to perception and experience of perception.
The only question that may be answered is What? What are you, me, the Universe? Maybe when the What is addressed the Why becomes intrinsically clear.
Good post Jerry.

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posted November 13, 2009 at 10:32 am

“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous” Einstein
Nearly two years ago, I started a journey of discovering myself. Through reading a lot of books (Thank you Dr.Wayne Dyer)and taking time to be still for the first time in my life, I learned to listen. These times led to the end of my marriage as my former spouse could not handle what I was becoming as he was no longer in control. The deeper I went, the more coincidences came up, the more I realized I was on the right path. There are just too many to list.
I have come to accept these moments and am ever thankful for them no matter how small they may seem to others. Even during some of the rough times, music was at the forefront. “moving out” by Billy Joel popped up one time during an argument and my ex said “I heard that!”. I had a good laugh to myself.
Now here I am in my own home. Tomorrow it will be a year since I moved into it and this post comes up. Coincidence? Absolutely. The week and day of the move had so many moments that there was no question I was doing the right thing. I am stronger and happier than ever and pursuing a new career. I have met amazing people and sometimes cannot believe how far I have come, all because I learned to listen to my deeper self.
Thank you “coincidence”. Thank you for everything.

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posted November 13, 2009 at 10:59 am

It is a good add Im happy for you that coincident are not bad experinces usually are keep havinet.

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Your Name

posted November 13, 2009 at 11:09 am

When we say everything is a co-incidence that means EVERYTHING! The more aware I am the more I realize that I will move something from one side of the room to the other for what could seem like no reason. Then later I realize exactly why! Noticing is my favorite thing that I have learned through awareness.Thanks for the great story!

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posted November 14, 2009 at 9:59 am


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posted November 15, 2009 at 8:17 am

Six months ago, I was in the Supermarket and ran into a lady that had been a singer in the Choir that sang at my wedding, thirty years ago. We talked for a while and left. The next week, I was in a different Supermarket and met her again. It seemed very unusual, so I told her: “There must be a special explanation for this strange coincidence” We kept on shopping and at the checkout I remembered a man that sang at the same Choir. I told her that he was very old and sick and was living in a home for the elderly. She said: “Oh my, I haven’t seen this man for almost twenty years. He is the godfather of one of my daughters. Thank you! I will go and visit him tomorrow”. Two weeks later the man died. Two weeks after that, she died too. I feel something wanted me to join this two spirits to help them into transition. I learned to be more aware of “coincidences” since then.

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posted November 15, 2009 at 8:18 am

The Celestine prophesy discussings the coincidences that pop up in life. Also synchronicity mentioned by Carl Jung gets at the same topic.

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posted November 15, 2009 at 7:41 pm

From a Christian perspective, the flow of synchronicity, or the continuum of meaningful coincidences that occasionally, if not periodically, punctuates our existential paths, may be seen as a sign from without that our lives are in sync with the Divine as it emanates from within. And, from the perspective of this writer, this thought in sync, not necessarily with Paul, but surely with Christ.

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Jerry Kolber

posted November 16, 2009 at 6:52 am

Thank you all for your beautiful comments. I have been travelling this week and have not been as on top of checking in as usual, so it was absolutely lovely to hear so many of you share similar experiences. Jack, I love the word synchronicity and Cheryl, magnetism also feels powerful to me.
Nella Lou, I am honestly not sure if the universe is sentient or not. By “the universe sends you signals” I didn’t mean to imply one way or the other. When I consider that the entity I call I cannot exist apart from the universe, it seems to matter not particularly much whether the universe is sentient or not, though it’s an interesting point you bring up about the ego. I found the book The Secret to be a rather ego-based interpretation of a sentient universe, but that’s not what I meant. Still, a great conversation to have late into the night!
Audrey, how wonderful to hear that my post was just another coincidence affirming your own life journey. That alone brought a huge smile to my face.

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posted November 23, 2009 at 9:25 am

Seek and ye shall find. You see what you are tuned in to, no more, no less.

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