On Mystery: How Can We Drink That Wine These Days, Beyond the Old Ways?

How can we experience mystery in our 21st century lives? How can we experience the beauty of mystery, beyond all the old constructs that may no longer ring true to us? Because in truth, the old ways may feel tired, or loaded, or may trigger us in whatever ways.

But mystery matters to me. Yes, though my personal beliefs tend toward the existential, I want—and more, I need—to stay connected to the part of me that marveled at life as a child. Children naturally see mystery in everything. Their imaginations are finely tuned to receive the mysterious, to interpret life in mysterious ways. In turn, that way of experiencing life keeps the fires of their imaginations burning.

 

Adult life is dealing with an enormous
amount of questions that don’t
have answers
. So I let the mystery
settle into my music.
—Bruce Springsteen

 

Cut to now, 61 years into my own life journey. I’ve marked junctures like the ecstasy of birthing my three sons, and the dark beauty of witnessing my mother’s death as its own rather miraculous rite of passage. In fact, the birth of my first son and the death of my mother 38 years later feel like bookends in my adult experiences of mystery so far. Because the unexpected truth is that I left my family’s vigil for my mother with more of a sense of the mysteriousness of life than ever.

I can see clearly now

Since then, and since I’m fundamentally an explorer of the human journey, I’ve been saying with more and more clarity that we need and deserve to continue to experience mystery throughout our lives. We especially deserve the energy and inspiration that the unexplainable and the irreducible bring to us at just the right moments.

After all, why not? What’s the down side, really? And if a potential down side does trouble your heart and mind, let me know. Let’s get into it. Because nothing matters to me more than conversations about our ever poignant experience of being human.

 

The greatest mystery of existence
is existence itself
.
—Deepak Chopra

Synchronicity as beauty, and more

Meanwhile, as to how to taste the sweet wine of mystery in daily life, synchronicity is one beautiful companion at the ready. Indeed, we can allow ourselves to enjoy and be intrigued by all the small and large synchronicities that occur in our lives. These are meaningful coincidences that tend to move us—or often move us forward—in unexpected ways, or that just give us special satisfaction. A moment of beauty. It’s goose-bump territory.

My own life has been a study in synchronicity since my early 20s. Coined by Jung to articulate a principle he learned in his studies of Eastern philosophy, I learned of it during a life-changing season when, newly a young mother while still in college, I studied the Holocaust in such depth that my Catholic confidence in life came crashing to the ground.

 

As soon as we notice that certain types
of event “like” to cluster together at
certain times, we begin to understand
the attitude of the Chinese, whose
theories of medicine, philosophy, and
even building are based on a “science”
of meaningful coincidences.

—Marie-Louise von Franz

 

Synchronicity ultimately became a healing principle for me, one that I’ve experienced in all shapes and sizes for nearly forty years. And these days I’m awe-struck at the deliciousness of my clients’ synchronistic experiences.

Cue “everyday mystery”

Poetry is another possibility for experiencing and expressing mystery. Indeed, it’s one that makes a special difference to me as I seek to describe what I mean by everyday mystery.

Everyday Mystery

You can’t know what I have to share
unless I tell you. And I know,
I know it’s fraught terrain,
no way to cross that threshold with anyone
who hasn’t opened—or who has closed
for whatever reason—
that door. No way now
to offer that wine.
But wait. Or is there? Is a baby’s breath enough,
or a dew-covered tomato shining
through viney profusion
in the backyard next to the fig tree
spilling its jewels?

Because those moments do come,
like sudden lightning that clears the field
and jolts our hearts, too,
simple exchanges
that meet their mark.
Words and moments that matter.
So what will I see, feel,
offer, and be fed by today if I watch
closely, present
to everyday mystery?
Even the question
thrills me. And, in truth,
that means everything.

Teresa Young

 

The bottom line for me is that a sense of mystery matters in our daily lives, often action-packed as they are. Often nose-to-the-grindstone as we are if we don’t regularly look and listen for the revivifying meaning in unexpected gifts that we had no idea of receiving.

So may you experience such mysteries effortlessly, and continuously, just by your openness to them. And keep me posted!