When I was in 7th grade, Caroline Matthews chose the name Serendipity for our yearbook of memories. I’d never heard the word before. I had to ask what it meant. The development of events by chance in a beneficial way. I was mesmerized: (a) at the idea, and (b) that a word existed for it. Caroline was prone to boasting, but on this account I thought she earned bragging rights.
Now it seems researchers are curious, too. Pagan Kennedy‘s article, How to Cultivate the Art of Serendipity, notes several researchers across various fields of study who are investigating – observing and documenting – examples of serendipitous discoveries. She also traces the origin of the word. It’s progenitor, Horace Walpole, was taken by three princes in a Persian fairy tale and their superpowers of observation. “At its birth, serendipity meant a skill rather than a random stroke of good fortune.”
So, is serendipity something that happens randomly? Or is it something you do?
Kennedy’s answer is no surprise; it’s an activity that relies specifically on the power of perception.
I agree. There are four things worth exploring as you practice cultivating serendipity. They are based on personal experience and years of study alongside fellow meditators who are learning to engineer their own consciousness.
- Maintain dual focus. Serendipity is about perception. Sometimes it emerges from focused attention. More often, though, the magic lives in peripheral vision. Dual focus is key. Which means seeing what’s directly in front of you and letting your awareness expand to the outer bounds of fuzzier perception.
- Dedicate awareness to an interesting question. To develop the ability to see, really see, you need interesting things to look for. You put your own superpowers of perception on alert when you move through your day with a question that supersedes the everyday humdrum. Mathematicians and scientists are known for their inclination to live with an unsolved problem, letting it gestate across days, weeks, months. Then, viola! The answer comes on a walk, during a shower, at a concert.
- Be open. People who are receptive not only see what’s coming. They magnetize it. How? By creating the conditions in which serendipity can flourish. Make no mistake. Serendipity is completely consistent and compatible with personal accountability and autonomy. Receptive people assume responsibility for opening to what’s available in their life, whether or not its their hands making it happen.
- Use it or lose it. Ignorance may be bliss. However, in the world of serendipity it’s disastrous. Turning a blind eye to what’s happening directly in front of you or peripherally around you all but guarantees you’ll miss exciting clues. Like any muscle, vision gets better when exercised Unused, vision degenerates. You don’t have to act on what you see; that’s a separate matter altogether. You just have to see and acknowledge whatever you’re seeing. Take a moment to experience the awareness of what you see. Only then, move on.