On August 16, 1987, the Harmonic Convergence, one of the first globally synchronized human gatherings, occurred on Mt. Shasta–coinciding with the alignment of celestial bodies and the Mayan calendar. Although I was unaware of this event, on that day I got in my car heading home to Seattle, WA out of Coos Bay, OR, on the West Coast of the United States, bordering the Pacific Ocean. I found myself driving a hundred miles in the opposite direction–instead of heading north to Seattle, I was heading south toward Mt. Shasta, which is in Northern California. When I realized the mistake, I pulled over to gather my thoughts. It later occurred to me that my inexplicable change in course was due to the force of energy in these gathering people. This is not as far-fetched as it sounds when you consider the role that electrons play in our experience of consciousness. Electrons synchronize with each other, eventually spinning in the same direction, even if separated by several feet of steel. Human consciousness is affected heavily by the spinning of electrons. For instance, when a person is under the effects of anesthesia, the only physical change is that the electrons in the brain stop spinning.
In my experience, humans demonstrate a very real tendency and drive to synchronize with one another. Carl Jung was the first to write about the phenomenon of mutuality in meaning, saying, “Synchronicity is an ever-present reality for those who have eyes to see.” We seek a convergence in our physical, intellectual and emotional wavelengths, which results in what I call “immersion”. This immersion is the birthplace of the truly productive, fulfilling and creative outcomes that are borne out of our interpersonal collaboration. You experience this when you are understood and attuned with someone you love. You feel this when training with a particularly good partner, almost as if they can anticipate your needs and respond in kind, and you them. Good teachers feel this with their students. Synchronicity forms the foundation of self and mind created between parent and child.
Children seem to synchronize better than adults do. I believe this is because children are more naturally able to be present in the moment. This fact became very apparent to me while I was teaching a Filipino martial arts seminar at a park in Eugene, OR, during the same weekend of the Harmonic Convergence. As it was ending, I was poignantly cognizant that I needed to depart for my grandparent’s 60th wedding anniversary. I did not wear a watch, so I began asking people at the park if they had the time.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” I asked a woman pushing a stroller, “Do you have the time?”
“No, I’m sorry I don’t have a watch,” she shrugged.
I waved down another man who was running. Without a pause in his gait, he shook his head that he, too, could not give me the time. By this point, I was becoming almost frantic. Then I heard the rushing of small feet behind me. It was a group of three seven or eight-year old boys, weaving a course of grace and havoc (borrowing from Joni Mitchell) across the lawn. They were immersed completely in their sprint while spinning hula-hoops like wheels on the grass, laughing and running through the park in the carefree and joyful way they do at that age. One boy, without even breaking his stride or looking up, with heaving chest and out of breath, yelled, “Hey mister, don’t ya know what time it is? It’s now!”
I was dumbstruck, stunned with an epiphany that would forever change my life. This child had, in the most carefree and exuberant way, startled me out of the tasking, stressed and completely misaligned coma that I had been creating in that moment. The contrast between his synchronized vitality and my strained distraction was overwhelming. Most adults would have simply dismissed his comment as foolishness, but out of the mouths of babes come some of the greatest wisdom. This boy showed me what it meant to be in the moment, to be present. His happiness and the thrill of his play was his whole world in that slice of time. He was truly alive in his immersion.
For me this was not only a lesson on how to be mindful, it was also a lesson on attentiveness. Encounters, events and interactions should not be ignored automatically and passed over without consideration. Some of the most important insights of my life have come from unexpected sources because I pay attention. I realized that life is the moment, nothing more and nothing less. It is not your plans, your past, your future, your schedule or your worries that makes you alive. Those are the impediments to living that so consume the most precious commodity we have–time. We are governed by schedules, which, by definition, prevent momentary presence. Our lives today are riddled with constant intrusions and derailments, keeping us continuously thinking about anything but what is right in front of us. So many of us squander the moment because we are not present, and find ourselves bemoaning the transience of our existence. We cry for the lack of fulfillment and meaning that results from an inattentive and unintentional lifestyle. We cannot synchronize within ourselves, we cannot synchronize with others and we wonder why we feel stripped of meaning, robbed of fulfillment and cut short of the time needed to live with satisfaction.
In order to live the moment, you must search for and eliminate those things that rob you from it. Do you give your presence over to resistance with others, resentment and grief about the past, fixation on achievements and schedules, preoccupation with dynamics out of your control? None of us has any dictation over how much time we are afforded, but we can actualize the quality of that time through seeking mindfulness and synchronicity. Ultimately these are the elements that make being human an extraordinary condition indeed.