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The Soul Ajar


Photo Credit: The Blue Flower

The Soul should always stand ajar

That if the Heaven inquire

He will not be obliged to wait

Or shy of troubling Her

~Emily Dickinson, 1865


One of my favorite concepts is “synchronicity.”  Synchronicity occurs when we have just encountered or reflected upon an inspirational thought or life-giving inclination, and suddenly it appears the world is conspiring to affirm it.  Some people call these “God winks,” moments when confirmation is received by the recurrence of a message delivered in a myriad of ways, seemingly by happenstance.  To my mind, synchronicity is not actually the stuff of coincidence or luck.  Rather, I have come to believe that it is an exciting and ever-surprising form of “divine guidance.” I appreciate this definition found on MindBodyGreen when I went looking for a definition that resonates and encapsulates all that I know synchronicity to be:


Synchronicities are a form of divine guidance.  They are one way that your angels, spiritual 

guides, the Universe or a higher power communicate with you.  Ohotto reminds us that 

synchronicity is a ‘powerful force that moves through all our lives… offering intuitive guidance, needed wake-up calls, signs, new opportunities, revelations of our life’s purpose, open doors and access to new unlived potential.’


When I seek direction, my Higher Power responds with synchronicities.  He knows I notice and listen to them, and it seems the more I respond to them, the more frequently these intriguing phenomena occur.  My most recent slew of synchronicities occurred around this idea of leaving the “soul ajar.”  And serendipitously, or perhaps synchronistically,  a person is far more likely to receive and register a synchronicity if they do, in fact, leave their “soul ajar.”  Let me explain.



It began with a reading of Thomas Moore’s recent book, gifted to me by a dear friend, The Eloquence of Silence: Surprising Wisdom in Tales of Emptiness (2023).  Moore’s chapter entitled “Doors and Windows” made an impression, persuading that, to get the most out of life, to live most fully, we have to live with some open windows and doors.  To Moore, windows and doors are “empty spaces” in a life, “time for doing nothing, gaps in a day’s schedule, not going to a place where [we’re] asked or encouraged to go, saying no to the offer of a job.”  These gaps create “empty passageways” in which we might “see things otherwise hidden or visit places otherwise inaccessible.”  Moore posits, “If you fill up your life, nothing unexpected can happen.  You can’t make fresh discoveries, and you will have few surprises and revelations” (10).  This is a beautiful way to express what I think I have often intuited.  When I am too “booked up,” I tend to feel a sense of claustrophobia, consisting not of cramped physical space but rather cramped time.  I feel a sense of uneasiness and a restlessness borne from a desire to cast off some of the commitments in order to create these pockets of space for opportunity, surprise, discovery, and delight.


Moore sagely argues:


Some people assume that life isn’t giving them new chances for enrichment, when in fact their doors are closed or even sealed up….If you are full of windows and doors there will be many new experiences in your life.  You will have enriching events. People will come in and out, and fresh ideas will come and go.  You have emotional spaces that need light, air, and spontaneous visits with friends.  Maybe you close up your psychic space out of fear or maybe because you have never considered the importance of doors and windows in your life.  That space in your schedule may not be a gap waiting to be filled, but rather a window or a door that is best left open (11).


As I reflected on these observations, I found myself thinking of a beloved painting by William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), entitled “The Light of the World” (dated 1853).  I first admired this painting in person at Keble College, Oxford, where it still resides in a side chapel.  This famous image is of Christ approaching a door, overgrown with vines and weeds, holding up his hand, poised to knock.  The most powerful statement this painting makes is a statement of absence.  There is no door handle on the side of the door where Christ stands. This isn’t Hunt’s careless omission but rather an exquisite depiction of free will.  The door must be opened from the inside.  Christ might knock, but he will never force himself inside the domain of our hearts.  Only we can choose to open the door or leave the door firmly shut.  The painting illuminates the verse 3:20 of the Book of Revelation,   “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”  Thomas Moore’s references to doors, to leaving doors open in our lives, recalled this painting for me and via this painting, recalled this verse.  


Photo Credit: The Blue Flower

Imagine my delight, then, when just after reading Moore, my family and I toured the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, MA, and our tour guide quoted the poem, “The Soul should always stand ajar.”  Windows, doors, souls ajar.  I was getting the message.  The synchronicities were mounting. Our tour guide also introduced us to the latest, comprehensive edition of Dickinson’s poems, arranged at last the way the poet herself arranged them into bundles, rather than thematically or chronologically.  This edition also supplies all the variations of words and phrases that Dickinson toyed with and recorded or crossed out on her poems, so when reading, we can see all the possible ways her poems could be read.  And there is extensive footnoting.  After Dickinson’s first line, “The Soul should always stand ajar” rests footnote #47.  Following footnote 47 at the back of the book yields this:


“47. The Soul should: Revelation 3:20, ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.’”


https://www.hup.harvard.edu/books/9780674737969

What to make of all these criss-crossing connections?  Some might decide, “coincidence,” but I detect synchronicity.  I prefer to smile at the loving guidance provided by these messages repeated in clever and fascinating ways.  I am nourished by these beautiful happenings. I derive sustenance from them.  And in this case, I interpret the meaning of these synchronicities to be an exhortation to both leave “my soul ajar,” my antenna up, allowing me to receive and to be a conduit for these messages and to make sure that I am opening the door, inviting in the holy and the sacred, the beautiful and profound at every opportunity.

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