Is the Universe Friendly?

I have been working on this Reflection for a few weeks. Then for a couple of months. Somehow, a few more months went by. It appears that the Universe was insistent on providing me with LOTS of material to work with while exploring this theme, and I actually have no idea whether I will ever be done and complete. So let’s venture forth, with courage and curiousity, and see where we end up right now, while remaining open to all that the future still holds for us all.

Where do I begin?

In April, we (my beloved, a dear friend and a professional collaborator, and myself) launched a new yearlong program, Awakened Living. I had this vision for a long while, of creating a program for deep, transformative, and lasting awakening experience, based primarily – but not exclusively – on the Enneagram. It has been my belief that we need awakened, conscious, and engaged-with-life people badly these days. Many of them, and soon. Like, yesterday. The program came together with grace, beauty, and magic, and we are deep into the third module of the program with our first cohort. As is usually the case, when I sit in the co-facilitator chair in programs of such nature, I end up going through the process myself as well. There simply is no way to remain detached and not to open up to the experiences and how they impact me, if I am to facilitate with openness, authenticity, and integrity. One of the profound experiences for me had an incredibly potent blend of deep grief, being literally flushed from my body, followed by a delicious and visceral sense of spaciousness and peace.

Friendly? Yes. Easy and peaceful? I don’t think so.

“It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change, there is power.” – Alan Cohen

Some theoretical musings. We often hear the phrase/thought/New Age wisdom that “the Universe is friendly.” Einstein was attributed to say it. Wise sages and gurus repeat it. Still, what does it really mean, the Universe is friendly (feel free to substitute Universe with your favourite higher power term, be it God, Creator, Spirit, or Gaia)? What does it mean that everything that happens is for you? How might we translate it into a day-to-day life? Let’s zoom in.

Conceptually, it is easy to understand. When everything is going nice, easy, and beautiful, the Universe is definitely friendly to us. All is well. Creative juices are flowing, clients are amazing, there is a skip in my step, the day is automagically aligning to my agenda, and all is well in my world. The Universe and I are buddies in those moments. Only… it never lasts, does it?!

A friend said once that the difference between theory and practice is that, in theory, theory and practice are the same, but in practice, theory and practice are very different. How different? Stay with me.

Back to a personal story. Almost in parallel with the Awakened Living Program, I went “back to school myself,” starting a 10-months Deep Coaching Certificate program with the Deep Coaching Institute. I continued writing my musings while in Taos, NM, as I was finishing my second and last residency, and nearing the completion of this learning experience, which deepened and expanded my connection with the Enneagram and a presence-based coaching modality and approach. Because of my two decades of previous coaching experience, and because of my Enneagram type (for those curious, I am very much at home as a Type 8), switching into a beginner’s mind, with openness, humility, and vulnerability, has not been the easiest of journeys.

I think I will call this one a variation on “friendly,” with a gentle sense of humour thrown in for good measure.

After my father passed away in the Fall of 2018, I now only have my mom in Israel. She is aging and her dementia is getting more evident. I traveled to to visit her twice, in June and then July, to move her to an assisted living home, sell her apartment, and deal with the notorious Israeli bureaucracy, which can really push any notions of a “friendly Universe” to the edge of one’s patience and understanding. Most of it is now done. My mom is settled and is finally beginning to enjoy the life she has there. It is incredibly moving to hear her talk about new friends she has met, people she is socializing with, and dancing quite regularly.

Being an only child, the experience and the responsibility of this remote care-taking of my mom, mixed with several trips to Israel every year, evokes a rich blend of joy, sadness, burden, love, impatience, compassion, and presence. Theoretically, I have known that, someday, my mom is going to age and something will need to change. The knowing was somewhat remote and distant. Until it wasn’t, forcing me to face it at a timing I might not have been ready (are we ever?). When it happened, it wasn’t theoretical any more. It was here. If this is not a funky way to look at the friendliness of the Universe, I don’t know what is.

“Before we can receive the unbiased truth about anything, we have to be ready to ignore what we would like to be true.” – Ann Davies

More musings. One of the things that often tends to happen when everything is going well, is that we tend to fall asleep. Not literally, no, though it is needed too. I am talking about falling asleep through the lens of being consciously awakened and aware of what is happening on a moment-to-moment basis. We lose focus and presence, start taking the flow for granted, stop paying attention, switch to autopilot, to habitual ways of coasting through life.

When that happens, a course-correction is needed. Something to wake us up from our slumber, to remind us that life is dynamic and has no stopping places, nor room for complacency. “Get present,” the Universe whispers. “Pay attention.” And when we ignore that initially-quiet whisper, the volume increases. Then, if we missed it, it increases some more. Eventually, there comes a point when the volume becomes so loud we can’t ignore it any more; this course-correction is often described as a wake-up call.

More personal story. After a couple of years of contemplating a move away from Vancouver, to an area that is smaller, more quiet, with more peace and nature, it almost suddenly happened very quickly. We ended up putting an offer on a house before selling ours, and it was accepted. Then, in a currently-finicky real-estate market of Vancouver, our house was sold in 5 days, and significantly over our asking price. It all felt right, it was all happening, and it was also happening very fast.

For me personally, this is a significant move. I have lived in Vancouver since 1996, and have considered it my home – probably for the first time ever, out of all places I have ever lived in. I know Vancouver, I am comfortable there, I know who I am – or was – when I lived there. It is interesting to notice that, now that we have moved, it somehow doesn’t feel as drastic as many other changes that have been happening since I started writing this Reflection. Perhaps this was one quiet whisper I did pay attention in time. I’d like to think so.

“The only thing that is truly ours is the life that’s in our body that wants to unfold. Everything that we think, all our plans and all our values, all our projects, our self-image, our sense of personal identity—all of that is beside the point of what needs to happen right now.” – Reggie Ray

In parallel with all of it, Luna showed up in our lives, bringing with her a blend of joy, playfulness, anxiety, overwhelm, wise eyes, and plenty of puppy-ness. Most of it is sweet and beautiful, yet also with something I am having to work through.

Luna is a labradoodle and comes from the same breeder as Tobi, who was my (and our) previous four-legged companion, guide, guru. It has been two years, which can seem both as a very long time to be without the love of a dog, and also a very brief moment in time. She is clearly not Tobi, even though there are plenty of similarities when one brings a dog into a family. When she arrived, much as I didn’t want to, my mind started comparing her to Tobi. It also brought back many bitter sweet memories, and while this beautiful and painful blend subsided, I still notice the occasional moment when my thoughts are being present with “what was” rather than “what is.”

I know that Tobi taught me how to open my heart in a way like never before. I am now learning, or perhaps re-learning, to do the same thing again, with a different being. It is an invitation from a very friendly Universe, inviting both love and grief to sit together, hand in hand, opening further and further to the intertwined lifelong relationship these two experiences seem to have.

“Was it possible that life had more to give us than we could ever take for ourselves?” – Michael Singer

Simon Goland