Divine Synchronicity: Finding Meaning in the Dots


When I was in graduate school studying theology at Notre Dame, I worked with a priest on a video project. One day he told me to look at the new 3-D poster on his wall and tell me what I saw.

“Dots,” I said. “Lots of dots.”

“Look harder,” he said. “Now what do you see?”

“Still more dots.”

I tried this exercise a few more times and was growing frustrated. Then I relaxed my focus a tad, and suddenly a saw a palm tree. Then a rainbow. Suddenly I saw an intricate rainforest of vibrant colors.

I think about that poster in moments of divine synchronicity, when the random pieces of my life suddenly fit together in a puzzle that make sense. Every so often, we get an aerial view of the landscape of our lives that provides inspiration for all those hours spent in the trenches, when we question the meaning behind our mundane activities.

Perhaps the best example of that was last Thursday when a few us who are involved in the online depression community Group Beyond Blue celebrated the life of Mary Cimiluca, one of the administrators who gave tirelessly to the group.

Four and a half years ago I started the group after reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl. I was profoundly moved by his message that suffering has meaning, especially when we can turn our pain into service of others. A survivor of the Holocaust, he writes:

We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement. When we are no longer able to change a situation — just think of an incurable disease as inoperable cancer — we are challenged to change ourselves.

At the time I had tried numerous medication combinations, alternative therapies, mindfulness exercises, cognitive-behavioral strategies, but I still lived with panic and depression. I wondered if I would ever feel better. Upon finishing his book, I created the Facebook page and started posting, inviting anyone I knew who struggled with depression. Today the group is a vibrant community of 5,600 people. Mary and other administrators, especially Al Lindquist, have nurtured the community with loving guidance and inspirational posts over the years. Its sister site, Project Hope & Beyond, that I started shortly thereafter has 24,000 members.

Frankl’s “logotherapy” is based on the belief that human nature is motivated by the search for a life purpose. If we devote our time and energy toward finding and pursuing the ultimate meaning of our life, we are able to transcend some of our suffering. It doesn’t mean that we don’t feel it. However, the meaning holds our hurt in a context that gives us peace.

In a dark period of her own, Mary also found inspiration in Frankl’s book. As the founder and president of Noetic Films, she co-produced the documentary of Viktor Frank, Viktor & I, with Alex Vesley, Frankl’s grandson, with whom she became very close. At the lunch following the funeral service, a group of a dozen friends of Mary’s shared tributes of her. As I told the genesis of Group Beyond Blue – inspired by Man’s Search for Meaning– next to Frankl’s grandson, I couldn’t help but think of the rainforest.

I see it.

I definitely see it.

It was a moment of delicious synchronicity, an aerial view of life that I’ll remember when all I see is dots.

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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9 Responses
  1. Lizzie

    I read his book too Therese and gave a copy to my CBT therapist. I like the way he talks about the sensitive person and the advantages of being one.How it gives someone the understanding of their captors.
    My father was a prisoner of war in Japan and he never held any grudges. He forgave his captors and I suppose it gave him some healing by doing so.
    I am trying to do that myself. As I went to see my psychiatrist who sent me a copy of the letter that he sent to my Gp.
    I have to pay privately to see him . In the letter it was written as though we both had been at different appointments?
    He said that I had come off my medication a year ago and in fact it was only in August and also I didn’t have any problems with this drug. When in fact I had said I had suffered with hair loss and weight gain. Plus I felt less anxiety but also found it hard to be bothered by anything??
    He also said I was catrospsing as my husband is blind in one eye and has a detached retina in the other and we don’t know how much sight he will have.
    I am trying to be reasonable and say maybe he was having a bad day. But when you are paying a lot of money it’s hard to walk away without the support you needed.
    We have to change ourselves to our situation we find ourselves in and our attitude to it and how we manage it . I am finding that hard maybe it’s time for me to read the book again. Lizzie x

  2. Kathryn

    It is SO difficult to find meaning for your suffering when you are in the trenches battling that suffering. Going from one doctor to another, then specialist after specialist searching for a diagnosis for your illness and agonising pain and continually being told there is nothing wrong with you. It is all in your head, go to a Psychiatrist and get treated for your depression. You know you are sick and depressed, but you are depressed because you are sick and no one will listen. Then finally a diagnosis but no proper treatment for the pain until 12 years after getting sick.
    By this time when you finally see a good Pain Specialist he tells you that your brain an nervous system have developed new nerve pathways in your body so now you have a chronic pain condition that is going to be very difficult yo treat. And so the experimentation begins with one new drug after another. Narcotics are bad bad bad so you have to come off them and try these new neurological. But you can’t think or do anything and they make you drowsy and more depressed.
    27 years of seeing different counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists who, more often than not, have their own agenda when treating you rather than your wellbeing. So the search goes on to find a therapist who REALLY cares about you and not what she can learn from you as if you were a guinea pig. And the search continues for the right antidepressant as you have been through every single one that is subsidised by the Health Department snd the Private prescriptions are way out of reach because of your limited income on a Disability Support Pension.
    But there is finally light at the end of the tunnel. Feeling almost normal again and able to talk, smile and laugh with people you meet. Taking yourself OFF the highly addictive pain meds you were given 18 years ago and told you would be on for the rest of your life has been THE best decision ever!! Three years of nightmare pain, exhaustion and isolation, depression so severe it is a wonder you are still here and being abandoned by most of your family and all but ONE friend. A long difficult journey, almost as bad as the memory recovery journey, and now you are free one month on.
    Your adult life has been divided into 4 stages – 1.leaving home to train for a nursing career, working in the hospital, travel then train for midwifery and more travel – 2. Returning home sick but no one believing anything is wrong for many, many years even after the diagnosis – 3. Encouraged to seek Counselling for depression and uncovering repressed memories of horrific abuse and then being retraumatised by the counsellor lack of duty of care – 4. Coming out the other side.
    The best thing about seeing so many different therapist over the years has been all the different coping techniques you pick up and then when they work for you you want to help others like yourself. You feel that there is no chance of getting back into Nursing so it would be a great new career change. So you begin training as a counsellor and do more and more courses because no one will allow you practice as s counsellor as you are too “damaged” by you abuse history. It seems like doors just keep getting slammed in your face every time you try. So after a lot of special interest courses at the local Community College and nursing your best friend at home through her final days of cancer you decide you try to give nursing another shot. Starting out small you join an Agency and work 2 X 4 hour shifts per week then build up to 4X4 hour shifts. After 2 years you move on and to a short Refresher Course for Midwifery after applying for 45 jobs and attending 23 interviews. And knocked back every single time. But back working with mother’s and babies is a real joy for 8 years and all the counselling skills become a very important part of your job.
    Then illness strikes again. Twice during the employment period patients or relatives pass on a bug and Swine Flu then the final hammer blow when multiple viruses knock out your immune system again. Not long after that your father dies and the family home has to be cleared out for sale. Blow after blow after blow happen in the following months and you feel as though you will never get up again. Your doctor has strongly recommended retirement from nursing so then you decide you no longer need the amount of pain eds you were on just to survive and commence a self monitored detox to get off as much as possible as fast as possible.
    In between all of that to are nursing your 90 year old neighbour through her end stage kidney cancer. So even though you are suffering you are still able to give out to your neighbours. In fact if is the helping them with taking them shopping or to Docto appointments that makes your life feel worthwhile now.
    I STILL don’t know why I had to survive horrific abuse for the first 14 years of my life and have to deal with abandonment issues because my parents could never show me any love or affection because I was too much like the precious, WANTED and adored baby who had died from cot death 14 months before my birth and then I would stop breathing too and had to watched 24/7. Or any of the other things that have tortured my mind. But if any of my experiences can help someone else when they are suffering – to know that they are not alone, that what they are going through is not going to make them crazy and that they CAN survive this, they DO have the resilience inside them to do so, then my suffering has had a purpose.
    And I have been able to help people along my journey. Even if only for a short time – just as others have helped me. That is what finding YOUR meaning in life is all about.

  3. Cathy

    Delicious and divine synchronicity- a beautiful process open to us if we challenge our vision to look ‘through’ all the dots that compose our life. Thank you Therese for sharing your experiences and wisdom- you are an amazing poet.

  4. Vartan Agnerian

    How long does it take to find meaning in the dots …

    Does divine synchronicity also lead to negative and damaging and hurtful outcomes’ or is it only positive …

    Being a recent widow’ having a very difficult time of grief’ continuous self blame and remorse’ of how events and decisions turned out ‘ to lead to my husband’s death ….


  5. Vartan Agnerian

    How long does it take to find meaning in the dots …

    Does divine synchronicity also lead to negative and damaging and hurtful outcomes’ or is it only positive …

    Being a recent widow’ having a very difficult time of grief’ continuous self blame and remorse’ of how events and decisions turned out ‘ to lead to my husband’s death ….

    Very sad’


    1. Therese Borchard

      I am so sorry for your suffering, Laura. I can’t say for certain when/if you’ll see the meaning in the dots, but only wanted to provide hope that sometimes you get to see that the suffering can lead to good things. Again, not to romanticize suffering in any way. Pain is pain. I hope that you have a reprieve from the pain soon.

      1. Vartan Agnerian

        Thank you Dear Therese for your kind answer …
        I’m glad somehow I found your site today’ and started reading your articles about depression and your clear explanation and guidance give hope that there could be an exit from despair in due time …
        Yes ‘ pain is pain’ and this transition to widowhood is quite strange and unfamiliar’ after 44 years of loving and contented marriage ….


        1. Therese Borchard

          Thank you, Laura. I am happy that you had a loving and contented marriage. You are in my prayers. Grief is so very hard. Therese

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