This I Believe: The Power of Mystery


Image and essay by Janet Grace Riehl, copyright 2014

The Power of Mystery

Something’s happening. We can feel it. From the furthest reaches of the galaxy to a sub-atomic particle. That something is the constant, organic, mysterious change known as life.

And it’s happening faster. So we’d better get used to it,  and we’d better get good at it if we want to survive as a species and a planet. The big bang has come home. The bumper sticker “Think globally, act locally” might be expanded to: “Think galactically, act molecularly.” From protozoa to protean space explorations life is on the move. The times call for us all to become creators—to cooperate with the larger mystery and to co-create our lives in concert with something so vast and so deep we can never encompass it. We can only learn to be held and enfolded by it.

Transition has its seasons of darkness, shadow, and pain. We honor that. Life takes time with unexpected turns. We honor that. And in honoring that, strangely, burdens lighten. Then the meandering path through change yields rather than greets us with roadblocks.

The pace of change explodes as life reorganizes itself for the next mega-cycle. We are being made ready. Because ready or not, here it comes.

Luckily, we’ve been given longer lives. With this longer span of productivity comes the luxurious necessity of giving ourselves time to regroup. During the in-between times we prepare for the next act. The intermission and the entire act become a creative space. There’s time to digest information taken in during the first act, time to stretch, get a cup of coffee, and greet friends while we feel around on the inside to glimpse who we are in this moment as we prepare for the next ones.

So let’s get good at transition.

Carl Jung’s concept of synchronicity—serendipitous coincidences—is part of the mystery. Reading these synchronous events is one of the skills in transition. Ordinary living becomes a source of magic with many messages. Things as simple as fortune cookies and the daily horoscope hint at our heart’s desire if we are open. Everything becomes an oracle to lead and protect us. We come to realize that we are surrounded by signs, symbols, and portents. We ourselves are ciphers in the eye of the sacred storm.

There is choice within destiny. Sometimes destiny speaks in a thunderous voice and we know we are being chosen rather than doing the choosing. Events come into our lives that beg to be used, and that beg to use us. And, sometimes, destiny speaks in an off-stage whisper.

In order to slip and dive through transition we must improvise. We must learn to live as a jazz artist plays, as a great chef cooks, as great lovers exchange pleasure.

The map of mystery limns the Terra Incognita beyond the edge of the world. If only we can appreciate and cooperate with the mystery without getting lost in it!

11 responses to “This I Believe: The Power of Mystery

  1. I love the following lines! Now all I need is to learn how to see…..
    “Everything becomes an oracle to lead and protect us. We come to realize that we are surrounded by signs, symbols, and portents. We ourselves are ciphers in the eye of the sacred storm.”

    • Edith, thanks for calling out these lines. Pretty damn good, no? This column is pared down from an essay of over 3,000 words. I wrote it originally in 1990 as the introduction for my book “Seasons of the Soul: Moving Gracefully Through Uncertain Times.” The book never happened, but almost 25 years later, I can say that life did happen and when I can see that it is constantly unfolding. Affectionately to you out there in Ireland, Janet

      On Wed, May 7, 2014 at 1:05 PM, Telling HerStories: The Broad View wrote:

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  2. Janet: Well thought out and presented. If you see it, then you own it. For this cosmic and global change, a critical mass must take place—one person at a time, and at the same time.

  3. Of course.

  4. Janet: Many thanks for your article. You speak to all of us to look and to see where our creativity takes us and to carefully examine the lives of those who touch us and whom we touch. Surprisingly, a bit of whimsy spoke to me what you mentioned fortune cookies. My most recent one said: Don’t trouble trouble until trouble troubles you. Hum. Guess we all just keep watching and keep creating.

    • Matilda, thanks. “Don’t trouble trouble until trouble troubles you” is brilliant. It would be fun to see how many troubles we could avoid if we didn’t court trouble. On May 10, 2014 3:27 PM, “Telling HerStories: The Broad View” wrote:

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  5. Yes we are in a constant state of transition, Janet. We inch through our interconnected web of sticky consciousness looking for the center. The center is an oracle. It constantly vibrates the strings in our ego, and we begin to remember the music within our soul.

  6. yemenijourney

    “There is choice within destiny” So true, Janet! I was thinking yesterday as I was walking with the children about how we don’t have control over so many things in our lives, but we do have some control over how we react to them. I don;t suppose that’s an original thought (SMILE!) but it created the basis for a really good kid conversation as I tried to get them to understand this. I love your examples of improvisation, they are upbeat, joyful and creative. Just what the doctor ordered!!

  7. “Life takes time with unexpected turns. We honor that. And in honoring that, strangely, burdens lighten. Then the meandering path through change yields rather than greets us with roadblocks.” Those lines say it all to me: honor what we have, work from where we are, and we find possibilities in what is rather than fighting what isn’t. Beautifully and wisely said, Janet! (And perhaps that book that never became one then could be incorporated into some new project, now.) As always, the accompanying art is a joy to see.

    • Thank you so much, Susan. If anyone would know about honoring the unexpected turns and finding the possibilities within them–it would be you.

      On Tue, May 13, 2014 at 8:09 AM, Telling HerStories: The Broad View wrote:

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