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  • Writer's pictureBernard Beitman, MD

Diary of a Coincider

A back story and brief record of coincidences throughout my lifetime.

Tales of the City (San Francisco) (Source: Wikipedia)

My Personal Backstory: a Breeding Ground for Coincidence Sensitivity

As a very young person, I wondered what was going on in life. “Something is going on that they’re not telling me.”

When I was 4 years old, I lay in bed staring at the ceiling. My mother thought I was depressed. I was probably watching my thoughts as I do now. It was the beginning of the development of my observer self. After second grade, at a summer camp on Lake Erie near Cleveland, Ohio, I got sick and was sent to the infirmary for a night or two. As I entered the bunkhouse, no one noticed that I was back. I felt as if I were invisible, that I didn’t exist. At that moment I became aware of being alone in the world. As a teenager I looked longingly at the stars in the summer night skies, pleading to be taken back to the planet I had come from.

I didn’t speak until age 4. My mother said that my first words were “Magic Chef,” which was the brand name emblazoned on our stove around eye height. I believed this nursery rhyme and still do:

Row, row, row your boat Gently down the stream Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily Life is but a dream.

Especially the idea that life is but a dream. (This man tells the meaning I intuited.)

My parents spoke German around the house. Back then, children were to be seen and not heard. Parent-child dialogue was absent in my family. The only dialogue I knew had to do with baseball and football that I played with my brother and other boys. “You bat first.” “You go out for the pass.” I learned about the world through observation and by overhearing other people’s conversations and from reading books and watching television. I interpreted behavior as symbols for something. I watched how boys ran and threw balls. I watched how girls talked and how they looked at me.

In college, I learned that if you want to be involved with girls, you have to talk to them. In medical school, I had my first ongoing dialogue with someone. It was Donald Harvey Stanford who loved cognac and cigars. We had some great conversations through his smoke and drink. From the outside, I looked like a successful American achiever. In high school, winning a batting title in baseball and making first team all-conference in football. Going to prestigious Swarthmore College and being fourth in the nation in base stealing, one of the tri-captains of the football team and captain of the baseball team. Playing rugby for Yale while going to medical school there. Stanford for psychiatric residency. Chairman of psychiatry at the University of Missouri-Columbia. But I was restless and curious. What weren’t they telling me?

I was taught to believe in the scientific method, to ask questions in systematic ways. I was taught to believe in modern science, to believe that everything around us can be studied objectively. That we should believe only what our five senses tell us or what can be measured. As time went by, I wondered what people meant by spirituality, by God, by everything-is-connected, by The Source, by Consciousness, by the One Mind.

Psychedelic drugs gave me hints. Meditation increased my openness.

Meaningful coincidences, synchronicities, are helping to answer these questions. The early development of my observing self, my late bloom into dialogue, and the need to rely on observation made me sensitive to coincidences. They have taught and guided me throughout my life. Coincider Diary

When I was 8 or 9, my dog got lost. I got lost looking for him. Then we found each other. As he jumped on my legs greeting me with “where have you been?” I wondered for an instant how this chance meeting had happened. Then happy to be reunited, Snapper and I went home.

That was the beginning of a lifelong series of weird coincidences. On the streets of San Francisco 1968-1971, I experienced the most frequent and intense coincidences. In the late 60s, the epicenter for mind expansion was Haight Street. I had a girlfriend who lived on Haight Street across from Buena Vista Park. I often walked that street hearing the lilting tunes of some passersby murmuring in my ear “acid, grass, mescaline.” I sometimes slept under stairways in a big Victorian on Fell Street. Went to concerts at the Family Dog out by the beach listening to the local band The Grateful Dead and the bang, bang of a band made up of Hell’s Angels. Attended the Monday Night Class out by the Pacific Ocean led by Steve Gaskins. He told us how we could collectively create peace energy by merging our minds into one emotionally positive thought. For 3 weeks, I lived with a marijuana dealer named Captain Bill and his woman Liz and the Camel cigarette smoking philosopher Thaddeus Golas, author of the hippie best seller The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment. The sheer unpredictability of life on the streets helped increase the coincidences.

During those years I wore a leather holster with a black and white Xerox copy of tarot cards. I’d pull them out, ask for a penny payment and do a reading. By performing this ritual I was creating synchronicities between the mind of my client and the images on the cards. My job was to interpret them. Sometimes the readings were astoundingly accurate. Why? I came to believe that mixing and spreading out the cards was like throwing them up into a river of information-energy flowing through us, the Tao. The cards mirrored the qualities of that moment for this person. Fast forward to Charlottesville, August 2017. I was finishing a draft of a taxonomy for processes of coincidences and wanted something easy to read. I went to the little neighborhood book exchange box, dropped off two and looked for one. Right in front was a book called Tales of the City about San Francisco in the mid-1970s. That book reminded me of the many San Francisco adventures. Finding that book right there in front of the book pile looked like a message to me: Write your coincidence stories!

The experience of meaningful coincidences has expanded my awareness of myself, of others, of the natural world around us. They have contributed to my spiritual and psychological development. In small and large ways, synchronicities jolt me out of conventional views of how the world works. They make me stop and think and wonder. My curiosity is activated. In repeated little bursts, my mind rises above, away from ordinary reality into more spiritually encompassing views of myself in the world. I enter into the group mind of which we are all a part. This is my journey. Please join me, learning from my experiences about new ways to understand your own. And it must be your way. If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.

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