When a series of coincidences occurs in my life, I often wonder—and I know others do the same—if the occurrences are some sign of God, or the universe, or something else, pushing me in a certain direction, or if they are more simply, in fact, a series of coincidences.
Here’s just such a story: about two months back, I started thinking seriously about attending a beginning yoga class. On the one hand, I feel as if I should have done this years ago. Given the variety of spiritual paths I’ve taken, it’s shocking that I didn’t end up in yoga classes, if by accident alone. On the other hand, I always buck against trendy activities, and there’s something about this one that, for some reason, particularly throws me off. This combination of interest and irritation had kept me from doing much more than idly thinking about yoga for several years.
With this mindset, on a Thursday morning, I was walking down the street and passed by 12South Yoga, a very popular Yoga studio near my house. As I walked past the front door, a woman—whom I didn’t know--was sweeping the front sidewalk. She looked up at me, smiled and said, “Are you going to join us in a class today?” After politely rejecting her offer, I continued on.
I would have forgotten that particular interaction if it were for a conversation that took place a little later in the day. About noon, I went to the gym at Vanderbilt for a work out. Like a lot of gyms, Vanderbilt sponsors a number of different group classes throughout the day—step classes, stretching, power, aerobics, and, yes, yoga. After working out and showering, I sat down at two of the computers in the lobby to check my mail. I was thrown out of my concentration when I heard my friend Laura, who teaches the Yoga class on Thursday afternoons, shout out, “Hiya John, are you going to join me in class today?” The wording was so similar to that of the yoga instructor I had run into that morning that I couldn’t ignore it. Nonetheless, I simply smiled at Laura and told her that I needed to get back to work.
The next morning, I was checking my email and received a note from one of my friends, letting me know that he had found a mutual acquaintance whom we hadn’t seen it years. Our friend’s nickname from undergraduate school—and it was meant to be taken ironically—was “Buddha.” The message from my friend read, “I’ve found Buddha,” and it gave me a weblink, a link that took me to Buddha’s “new job”—as a yoga instructor. You bet.
At moments like these, I feel like saying, “OK, I get it. I’ll do it.” I’m not quite sure with whom I would be talking, or I’m confusing an odd series of events with forces or nudges. The rational side of me wants to shrug off such “signs” and go on about the business of daily life. The other side of me desperately wants to feel nudged by the universe in a particular direction. Ultimately, of course, I suppose there is little danger in either answer on an occasion such as this one (although I can imagine occasions in which the answer might mean a great deal). Nonetheless, if you ask me seriously if I feel as if I’m being nudged by something larger than me, I would take a cynical line from Hemingway and give it an optimistic and wistful spin when I responded, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”