Spirituality, Synchronicity

The Great Wave of Synchronicity

Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa [Creative Commons License]

Wave. /weɪv/Noun: 1. a long body of water curling into an arched form and breaking on the shore.

August 2020. I tilt my birthday card back and forth. Waves, formidable and frozen behind plastic, shift, ever-so-slightly. They’re foreboding and grandiose, captured at their peak, foam overlapping seabed before the inevitable crash. 

I’m not sure if I’m mesmerised by the image, simultaneously familiar and new, or the lenticular effect. Or both.

On the back of the card is a handwritten note. Ever-thoughtful and imbued by her effortless poetry, Sanya refers to a metaphor from Joseph Campbell: “The psychotic drowns in the same waters which the mystic swims in delight.”

I see you, teaching yourself to swim in ‘the’ waters, she writes. You swim in calm waters, unsteady waters, and even through storms.

I put the card away in the drawer of memories-to-return-to-at-some-point, and the waves settle into the seabed of my unconscious mind.

Two Weeks Later: The Second Wave

While browsing YouTube, a thumbnail catches my attention. Spiritual teacher Aaron Doughty holds a postcard with the same image. The memory of the card comes flooding back. My intuition tells me this is a breadcrumb to follow. I press play. 

In the video, Doughty talks about the freedom of embracing a new identity and letting go of the illusion of a fixed self. I enjoy the video and appreciate its message, but it doesn’t hold any piercing insight or revelation. Still, it’s a nice breadcrumb to follow, and a small taste of the enchanted realm.

At some point, I see you as the swimming mystic, and the surfing observer, Sanya writes. I see you as he who taught himself to be so aware that no wave can consume you

If the universe is trying to communicate and you don’t pay attention, the message will become more and more conspicuous until you can’t ignore it. Part of learning to swim is understanding the nature of waves, how they move, the patterns they form, what messages they have to share.

December 2020: The Third Third Wave

As the year comes to a close, I’m experiencing inner-conflict. I don’t make the connection with the video, but this is friction between old and new identities, the psychotic and the mystic. Questions float through the surface of my mind. Am I being true to myself? Am I afraid to embrace my message, to take full ownership?

In my heart of hearts I know the truth, yet my mind protests, my ego holds on to its outdated form, the sceptic, the atheist, the “I’m too intelligent for wishful thinking,” the “they’ll think I’m crazy.” Layers of fear, doubt, uncertainty obscure my truth.

The symbol of transformation was transcending the depths of my psyche, projecting onto the canvas of life, before my very eyes

Truth takes time to flourish in the conscious mind. Truth is for the brave. For the courageous. The wave is far from my mind. But deep in the chambers of my unconscious, inner-tension is alchemising doubt into clarity. Little did I know, this intelligent process was energising into atomic form.

Infinite quantum potentials coalesce into material as mind and matter become one, working together to mirror this alchemical process. The symbol of transformation was transcending the depths of my psyche, projecting onto the canvas of life, before my very eyes.

Sanya and I are walking her dog, Luna. Just like the thumbnail some months ago, the symbol catches my eye, beckoning me from beyond. A parked van, directly opposite us, has the same image of the wave on its side. My heart smiles and my curiosity is tapped as I tap Sanya’s shoulder. 

“Sanya, what does this image mean? I keep seeing it. I’m sure it’s some type of message.” She responds about Japanese artwork. I smile. I appreciate the nod from the universe, the small spark of the miraculous piercing through the material. I tell myself I’ll look up the image. I think that’s it.

A Few Days Later: Wave From The Wall

Wave. /weɪv/. Verb: move one’s hand to and fro in greeting or as a signal.

The synchronicity ignites a subtle, transient moment of the non-ordinary, but the conflict continues. I feel the tension of opposites within. I find myself drawn to those who embody what I wish to, those who speak of the divine with conviction and openness. What I’m drawn to is a reflection of who I’m being asked to become.

Sanya is one of those people. I look up to her. I admire her courage and her dedication to truth. Her embodiment of her path. One evening, in exasperation, I ask her to reflect, brutally and truthfully and uncensored: what am I missing? What am I here to do? What’s my unique path? She replies and her words I know to be true.

I subconsciously carry this conflict into a conversation with my mentor and coach, Nick. He has an uncanny ability to reflect wisdom, to mirror my truth, to provide clarity. But what is reflected is much more conspicuous. The Zoom call starts. In the background, hanging on the wall? A painting of the wave.

Smiling at the growing ludicrousness, I make a point to enquire. “Nick, I have to ask because I’m seeing it everywhere — what’s the story behind the painting behind you?”

“Ah, yes, the Great Wave,” Nick says. He tells me his daughter painted the image for an art project, and he shares his screen to show the original — The Great Wave off Kanagawa. By no means an obscure image, it’s one of the most famous pieces of Japanese art. Somehow it’s significance passed me by.

Please, God. Give me a sign. What is my path? If I’m to serve you, how do I best serve?

Japanese ukiyo-e artist Hokusai made the woodblock print between 1829 and 1833. Behind the wave, barely visible, is Mount Fuji. In the sea, three boats. All engulfed by the rogue wave, foreboding and grandiose, captured at its peak, foam overlapping seabed before the inevitable crash.

Each of the boats has eight rowers and two passengers. A total of 30 people. Sanya’s card was for my 30th birthday, containing an image symbolic of my transition, the shift into a new identity, learning to swim. This, I’m sure, is just a coincidence.

I pause and get the card to show Nick. It’s only then I revisit Sanya’s message, the words which invoked the waves of synchronicity. From this place, things start to make sense. The dots are joining. But the conscious mind is slow to catch up.

After all of this, the growing synchronicities, the constant messages and reflections, after it all, a part of me, resilient and subtle and strong, continued to resist. So I turn to one final source for truth, for guidance. “Please, God. Give me a sign. What is my path? If I’m to serve you, how do I best serve?” 

The Crescendo Of Symbols Crashing

Wave. /weɪv/. Noun: 2. a sudden occurrence of or increase in a phenomenon, feeling, or emotion.

My first Christmas away from family is a challenge. Despite missing home, I set the intention to cultivate the festive spirit. In addition to a package sent from home, I decided to stock up with treats from a specialist supermarket. The sun’s shining, so I cycle.

I consider stopping at a shop en route. “No, continue,” the voice comes from within, but feels somehow distinct, certain. “Let’s make it an adventure.” I continue in the December sun, cycling at a healthy pace, enjoying the fresh air. 

I’m not sure why, but today my inner-conflict feels lighter. I’m inspired. Ideas buzz through consciousness, breakthroughs, realisations. When do I feel most alive? Where do I face least resistance? The topic of synchronicity surfaces. The miraculous. The magical. I’ve always felt I should keep these experiences secret, or at least wait for an unknown point in the future.

Is the one thing I feel I have to hide from the world the one thing I should be sharing?

A building sense of momentum, of knowing, of pieces falling into place. I pause at traffic lights. Everything stills, settles. A wave of calm. Everything glows. All motion, movements, sounds, people, cars, trees, the sky, a symphony. My state has changed, my senses are lucid, I am enchanted.

Then, a thought, loud and clear: “I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.” I’m already light, even then, this audible affirmation causes a weight to lift from my chest and my spirit soars, rejoicing in the crescendo, bathing in the transcendent, the moments upon moments, the epiphany, the resounding insight, symbols crashing into symbols.

Everything unfolds simultaneously, fluid, one swift motion. Something catches my eye, shades of blue, waves at their peak before the inevitable crash. I do a double-take. In the distance, just before disappearing from view, in the exact moment I have this insight, I glimpse a van speeding by, the Great Wave on its side.

Thirty-Six View Of Mount Fuji

I see you, as he who taught himself to be so aware that no wave can consume you. I see you as a master of water, a true knower of the ever shifting nature and behavior of water. To have witnessed this growth has been inspiring, teaching, and magical. May you teach others, may we all ascend together. Happy Birthday, Dear One. S x

The days that follow are joyful. I have clarity like never before. The energy of alchemy is freed, the tension of opposites resolved. Yet the image of the wave stays with me. Aside from what it means subjectively, was there meaning in the symbol itself? Was there more to learn?

Just like mountains, waves are controlled by the Gods, too

The artwork is part of Hokusai’s series, Thirty-Six views of Mount Fuji, a collection that depicts the mountain’s endurance in contrast to the constant ebb and flow of life. Mount Fuji represents beauty and stability in the face of chaos. Its etymology, “not death,” makes it a symbol of immortality and timelessness.

In Shinto mythology, kami is the spirit within all forces of nature, including mountains. The goddess Konohanasakuya-hime (“She who brought forth her children in fire without pain”) is said to reside above Fuji. Those who ascend the sacred mountain are purified and find happiness.

Just like mountains, waves are controlled by the Gods, too. This divine agency of kami has a “deep relationship with our lives and a profound influence over our activities.” Is synchronicity a similar force, joining symbols and themes to reveal things to us, divine agency in waves of meaningful coincidence? 

Yin and Yang

“The gigantic wave is a yin yang of empty space beneath the mountain,” notes Andreas Ramos in an analysis of Hokusai’s work. “The inevitable breaking that we await creates a tension in the picture. The violent yang of nature is overcome by the yin of the confidence of these experienced fishermen.”

Yin and yang, inner-conflict, the ability to ride out storms, to learn how to swim. In the darkness of psychosis, a dot of light, and in the lightness of mysticism, a dot of darkness. Mount Fuji represents the stability of pure awareness, that which is eternal and immortal behind all impermanent phenomena, all storms, all lightness, all darkness.

But what about identity and reinvention? Hokusai was a master of new identities, having changed his name no less than 30 times throughout his life. His series was an acknowledgment to the Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry, chosen by Japanese scholar and poet Fujiwara no Kinto (966-1041).

Hokusai is said to have yearned for some kind of immortality like those before him, an identity to last forever. Of his work, he once reflected on how, despite drawing since he was six, anything he created before 70 wasn’t worth bothering with, before prophesying:

“At 75 I’ll have learned something of the pattern of nature, of animals, of plants, of trees, birds, fish and insects. When I am 80 you will see real progress. At 90 I shall have cut my way deeply into the mystery of life itself. At 100, I shall be a marvelous artist. At 110, everything I create; a dot, a line, will jump to life as never before.”

The Pattern Of Nature

How does God communicate? What greetings or signals are used? Are we so conditioned to one form, we miss infinite alternatives? Are certain thoughts divine, leading us to where we’re supposed to be? 

If all is divine, interconnected, an expression of the cosmic absolute, all symbols are communication, from language to images to artwork and poetry and the feeling of something meaningful to an overheard conversation or words on a page or a van speeding by.

Step outside of the self and all of nature is a cosmic pattern. Each dot joined, each line, jumping to life with kami, the spirit in all things. The Great Wave of Synchronicity, the collision of multiple definitions, symbols upon symbols, a crescendo of meaning to inspire a new identity.

Symbols are the sound of the universe, the tension of foam overlapping seabed is a sign of transformation, and when the waves inevitably crash, the pieces fall into place, and then you can swim, in delight.

Published by Ricky Derisz

Spirituality Coach and Meditation Teacher devoted to understanding the human psyche and nature of consciousness. Undergoing a life-long process of minding my ego.

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