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Will the Universe Provide?


Will the Universe Provide?
– serendipity and lack thereof –

In your last months and weeks at Esalen, should you prepare for the time after? Would it be good to devise a scheme or schedule for reentry into what, at the institute, is often called “the real world?” A frequent answer to such questions among Esalenites is that the universe will, indeed, provide, if you only trust it. Melanie supports that view, “If you have a plan for leaving Esalen, great! If you don’t, so what? Your plan will unfold, whether you turn right or left at the top of the hill.”

Andy knew of at least one couple at Esalen, who trusted in, shall we say the flow of events? “They felt that doing much in the way of planning would be silly because the Universe had a plan in mind for them and they weren’t going to waste the effort, when the Universe already had done the work for them. Perhaps they are right. My view is that the Universe helps those who help themselves.”

From Geneva, Switzerland, Janet sent a mail which points in the same direction, “I knew that when I left Esalen I wanted to go and live in Europe and have some sort of job that was not 100% corporate like the one I’d had before - what this would be, I did not know. And, at the same time, in the back of my head, I was watching my bank account dwindle at an alarming pace, getting quite close to zero.
So, with these thoughts in the back of my mind, I took a workscholar month off - I had lots of events during one workscholar period: a wedding, a reunion, a sister with a new baby, etc., and so set off on a ‘vacation from my vacation.’ Somehow on this time off, without even really looking, I fell into an amazing job opportunity working for the Director General of the World Health Organization (a part of the United Nations) and living in Geneva. Although I had the intention of finding something exactly like this when I finished my time as an extended student (talk about the power of setting an intention!), here it was dropped in my lap quite a few months early and the offer was very time-sensitive - now or never. I felt a bit as if it was a gift from heaven, and if I scorned it, come the end of my ES, I would be broke and with no job offers in Europe and floundering. So I knew almost immediately that I was going to take it, but still agonized and tortured myself about whether or not I should leave Esalen early.

I feel a bit that it was the need for money that also drove me out of an animal that needs water being driven out of a safe place to the dangers of the river (if I can use such a corny analogy, but somehow I feel that it fits).”

There are dissident views on the nature of serendipity, though. And maybe there are even cultural roots to such attitudes toward life. Gerlinde from Germany had felt encouraged and appreciated as a person in her time at Esalen. Before coming to California, she had worked as a dental technician and - after hours – she had completed a five-year training as a Gestalt therapist. Now she felt full of drive, wanted to embark on a new career, and thought that the universe would carry her, if she really wanted. Right upon her return to Cologne she devised a flyer to advertise the Gestalt practice that she was going to open. She had developed a concept to coach people in search of their calling. To create space for her vision, she allowed herself three months without a steady income before she would have to return to her old job to earn her keep.

“Four months passed, and my ideas, wishes, and possibilities adjusted to reality. It was a strenuous time, during which I learned that I couldn’t paint my own future. On one hand, despite my intensive efforts at advertising my services as a therapist, I lacked clients and it became clear that I would not be able to make a living in Cologne, where there already was an oversupply of therapists. On the other hand, the flirt with Louie, an American whom I had met at Esalen, grew into a beautifully deep relationship, despite my negative preconceptions about intercontinental love affairs.

So I gave up the vision of becoming a Gestalt therapist in Cologne and found a good position in my old profession as a dental technician, in a holistic practice. And even though conditions were good, it cost me tremendous discipline to return to ‘the same old job.’ I had always believed that I was somebody special and my stay at Esalen had confirmed that in me. And yet, some of the philosophical views taught there are simply not the only truths.

- Everybody is special
- Everybody has special talents and if she follows her calling, she will be successful
- The universe will provide, we just have to trust

Reality is different. It encompasses everything under the sun: joy and sadness and pain and happiness - and the universe will provide only if we add our own effort. I find it difficult to correct my Esalen worldview. I have now decided to commit to whatever task I face in any moment. And, mostly, it’s carrying water and splitting wood, not saving or improving the world. After nine months I quit my job in Germany and moved to Milwaukee, to be with Louie. There I had to defy severe homesickness and a long, hard winter, and yet I was always certain that this is my path now.”

Udo, a fellow-German, has a similar dissident impression, “I had come to Esalen to heal a painful separation and divorce. And in my year there I watched my own healing unfold as if carried by a mighty river. Personal encounters, seminars, the books I read while there, even signs and symbols in nature – all pointed in the same direction: a completely new understanding of love, sexuality, and relationship. By the time I left, I felt more ready than ever to be a lover, a father, and a husband again. I invited a new love into my life, doing all manner of heartfelt rituals around that. I trusted that the universe would provide. And the good old universe really provided a lot over the last two years, but I am still waiting for a woman in my life.

I have come to find it naive to think that God or the Cosmic Forces or however you want to call the ‘Inexplicable,’ will tick off my wish list and will promptly deliver to my doorstep. It did not respond yet to my deepest longing, to give and receive love, which is the essence of life. I am not saying that the ‘Inexplicable’ doesn’t have a plan. I am saying that, in my case, it has a plan that clearly differs from my ideas, a plan that might well be inexplicable - and I try to accept that and be patient.”

Tina, the third German in this chapter, writes, “One of the biggest changes of consciousness for me was the awareness that I don’t have to KNOW everything all the time, I don’t have to have a detailed plan or at least detailed ideas about the near and far future. Things and plans are prone to change and in the end it will all work out differently anyway, is one of my lifetime mottos these days. You never know what is around the next corner.

Trust and relax in this trust that everything will work out perfectly – and if it doesn’t seem to be perfect in a mundane sense at this moment, there will be a time when I will realize why the situation or the expectation has gone “wrong.” Life goes on; it is a waste of energy to dwell in the past. I always have a choice, I can always say no or yes, I can always change my mind.

I will know the answer when I will know.

It is ok to live in the unknown.

Asking for help or support doesn’t mean I am weak.

Being vulnerable and emotional doesn’t mean I am a wimp.
Overall I would say I am on my best way to becoming a grown up woman.” 

community – September 27, 2006 – 10:35am