The Tao of Sloths

Synchronicity occurs when two or more events things that are apparently unrelated occur together in a meaningful manner.  You are thinking about someone and the phone rings; it’s them. You are in Egypt. You see someone who reminds you of a friend from high school. At lunch in Cairo you run into her. Typically, when a synchronicity happens we ask, “Why does this happen?” “How did this happen?” “What does this coincidence mean?”  “Is it proof of telepathy?” Experience and Integral Deep Listening teach that these are the wrong questions to ask about synchronicities. Experience shows that there is no one right or satisfying answer to these questions as explanations of synchronicity. Integral Deep Listening shows, as for example in the following interview, that a much more useful question to ask is, “How can this synchronicity function as a wake-up call for me? You may never know for certain why you had a synchronicity, but you can leverage it to move you down the road toward enlightenment, using the Integral Deep Listening questioning protocol.

In this example, I was writing to my wife, Claudia, who is currently in Costa Rica, communing with dolphins, whales, sharks, fish,  bats, spiders, crabs, snakes, monkeys, and yes, sloths. I saw on Google Maps that her travels were going to take her very close to the Sloth Sanctuary on the Southeast coast of Costa Rica, and so I wrote her to ask her if she was going to go. Immediately thereafter I received an email, forwarded to me by my sister Annette from my niece Helen, on sloths. Now I do not think about sloths every day. I don’t think I have ever read an article about them. The only reason they have been on my mind the last few days is because my wife has sent me some pictures of them.I certainly had not told either my sister or my niece anything about sloths, but Annette did know Claudia was in Costa Rica. At any rate, this felt like a genuine example of synchronicity to me.

I saw this is an opportunity for an experiment. If life is similar to a dream, in that we think we are awake when we are actually in a delusional state, mostly self-created, then all waking events can be treated as dreams, yes? So from time to time I have interviewed synchronicities just to see if by doing so I can “step outside the dream” and see if there is any wake-up call that gives some extra meaning to the synchronicity.

Here is the interview, which follows the Integral Deep Listening Protocol for interviewing dream characters:

What are three fundamental life issues that you are dealing with now in your life?

Keeping focused on writing; doing my best at teaching and therapy

Deepening, broadening meditative consciousness

Becoming more awake – especially in being conscientious about little daily things and at night when dreaming.

Tell me a dream you remember.  It can be an old one, a repetitive dream, a nightmare, or one that you’re sure you understand. 

It’s a waking dream of synchronicity. The last several days I have had reason to see pictures of tree sloths – a highly unusual focus for my awareness – because Claudia is in Costa Rica and has been sending me back pictures of them from the jungles by Drake Bay on the SW coast. Now she is on the SE coast; I noticed that there is a sloth emergency rescue very close to where she is. I had just written her, asking her if she was going to go there, when I got an email from my sister Annette, who was forwarding an article that her daughter Helen, my niece, had sent her on a woman who rescues tree sloths in Suriname! Since I have thought about sloths very few times in my life and have not mentioned them to Annette – although she knew Claudia was in Costa Rica – this was a different type of article for Helen to send to either one of us. So it certainly is an example of synchronicity. 

Why do you think that you had this dream?

Maybe to call my attention to some points in the article? It closes with a tongue-in-cheek section on “The Tao of Sloths:” 

What would it be like to be a sloth? Human life would be a blur. Sloths seem to embody a central tenet of Taoism “action through non-action” so let’s consider a “Tao of Sloth”:

Eat slowly – The sloth’s diet of leaves is hard to digest, their approach is to allow plenty of time

Hang out – Sloths save energy by hanging from their claws rather than using their muscles

Smile all the time – Sloths are cute and appear to smile though they’re not primates, they’re related to anteaters and armadillos

Be kind and others will be kind to you – Three-toed sloths climb down from the safety of the tree canopy to poo on the ground, for the benefit of moths that live in their fur (the moths in turn encourage the growth of beneficial algae)

If this dream were playing at a theater, what name would be on the marquee? 

 Sloth Synchronicity

These are the characters in the dream, beside yourself…


If one character had something especially important to tell you, what would it be?


Now remember how as a child you liked to pretend you were a teacher or a doctor?  It’s easy and fun for you to imagine that you are this or that character in your dream and answer some questions I ask, saying the first thing that comes to your mind.  If you wait too long to answer, that’s not the character answering – that’s YOU trying to figure out the right thing to say!

Sloths, are you a character in Joseph’s waking dream synchronicity?


Sloths, look out at the world from your perspective and tell us what you see… 

A world in trouble, a world endangered by greed and thoughtlessness.

Sloths, you have a moral sense and an obvious awareness of world events that actual sloths don’t have. How come?  

As Joseph is thinking about such things, we partake of his level of consciousness and include it. Because we add our own awareness to his, we transcend his perspective on life, in our own ways.

Sloths, would you please tell me about yourself and what you are doing?

We hang out in trees, eat leaves, and sleep.  If we are two-toed, we are nocturnal. If we are three-toed, we are diurnal. We love trees and we love our jungle home!

Sloths, what do you like most about yourself? What are your strengths?

We are very well adapted to our jungle lifestyle. 

Sloths, what do you dislike most about yourself? Do you have weaknesses?  What are they?

We are somewhat picky about what we eat. We also have to make certain compromises. Some of us, the diurnal three-toed ones, come down to the jungle floor once a week to poop, which makes us vulnerable. 

Sloths, what aspect of Joseph do you represent or most closely personify?

A constantly smiling nature – optimism and belief in people, harmony, and goodness, despite the vicissitudes of the world, the injustices of people, and his skepticism about a lot of things. Also, an ability to avoid reaction, for the most part. Not as good as sloths, but better than most people. 

Sloths, if you could be anywhere you wanted to be and take any form you desired, would you change?  If so, how?

We wouldn’t change ourselves or our habitat. We would most certainly change the behavior of human beings. We do not care so much what humans think or how they feel; they are free to do whatever of that they want. What we care about is their behavior. We would definitely change that in a way that made it much more respectful of other life forms.   Humans generally put their needs before those of everyone and everything else. We understand, because we do too, but humans have a power and influence that is both unprecedented and beyond their ability to understand or control. 

(Continue, answering as the transformed object, if it chose to change.)

Sloths, how would you score yourself 0-10, in each of the following six qualities: confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing?  Why?

Confidence, 0-10. Why? 10 We have confidence we can live, grow, raise our children, and be happy as a species, in harmony with other species. 

Compassion, 0-10. Why? ? We don’t think about that; we are pretty much into living.

Wisdom, 0-10. Why? ? We have the adaptive talents of 60 million years of evolution.

Acceptance, 0-10. Why? 10 We are not aggressive; we have few defenses, so of course we have learned to accept pretty much whatever comes. 

Inner Peace, 0-10. Why?   9 We haven’t thought about it. But relative to humans and most animals, we probably have a great deal. 

Witnessing, 0-10. Why?   2 We are enmeshed in the web of life. Objectivity is not our strength; we don’t need it for anything.            

Sloths, if you scored tens in all six of these qualities, would you be different?  If so, how?

We would not be in harmony with our environment and ourselves as we are now. 

Sloths, how would Joseph’s life be different if he naturally scored like you do in all six of these qualities all the time?

Interesting. Much confidence, acceptance, and inner peace but very little if any compassion, wisdom,  or objectivity! He wouldn’t think much; he wouldn’t care much; he would mostly focus on being and his beingness rather than on doing and making life happen. He wouldn’t be about creating the life he wants, for example; instead he would be about living fully the life he has.  

Sloths, if you could live Joseph’s life for him, how would you live it differently?

Pretty much as he just said: think less; focus on beingness rather than doingness. Living life from the perspective of a sloth both slows things down and opens them up. 

Sloths, if you could live Joseph’s waking life for him today, would you handle Joseph’s three life issues differently?  If so, how?

Keeping focused on writing; doing my best at teaching and therapy

We don’t do such things; nor are we concerned about them. However, if he were to do these things as if he were us, he would do them in a very focused way, feeling fully present.

Deepening, broadening meditative consciousness

You cannot say we have meditative consciousness, because we lack the type of self-awareness that arises after language acquisition, objectivity, and the compassion that grows out of both objectivity and wisdom, but we have three of the essential ingredients of meditative consciousness: confidence, acceptance, and inner peace. If he becomes us when he meditates he will amplify these qualities as well as beingness and presence. 

Becoming more awake – especially in being conscientious about little daily things and at night when dreaming.

We can help with the aspects of being more awake that involve confidence and focus, beingness, acceptance, and inner peace. 

Sloths, what life issues would you focus on if you were in charge of Joseph’s life?

We would focus on being in the now; being aware of being alive with each moment, with each breath. With taking the time to enjoy this moment…and this moment…and this moment.

Sloths, in what life situations would it be most beneficial for Joseph to imagine that he is you and act as you would? 

If he is stressed or reactive, feeling pressured, or in drama, being me will help get him out. If he is meditating and wants to move into a greater sense of presence, nowness, and beingness, he can be me. If he is not meditating but just living and wants to grow these capabilities, he could do worse than be me.

Sloths, why do you think that you are in Joseph’s life? 

The immediate cause was the synchronicity which led him to do this interview. On a broader level, to help him wake up to a perspective and a deeper, broader amplification of three of the core qualities he associates with wakefulness.  

Sloths, why do you think Joseph had this synchronicity?

Synchronicities, like nightmares, repetitive dreams, things that are funny, important, or intense, get his attention. They get him to stop, take notice, and wonder. Most of the time this is as far as humans go. He is trying to figure out what he can learn from this particular synchronicity. 

Sloths, why do you think (some event happened) or (some character) was in the synchronicity?

Nothing  beyond what I have already said. 

Sloths, why should Joseph pay any attention to what you have said? Aren’t these just a projection of Joseph’s own wishes and desires?

Absolutely. But they are also the embodiment of a perspective that makes sense to him, that he can use to help him achieve some of his goals, which include being centered, staying out of drama, not reacting, being open, accepting what is, and deepening his inner peace.

Thank you, character! And now a couple questions for Joseph: 

What have you heard yourself say?

I could do worse that imagine being a sloth! I like that, because it not only makes the sacred mundane, spiritualizing qualities humans generally associate with laziness and irresponsibility, but makes it pretty funny at the same time! Waking up is about cosmic humor as much as anything else. And sloths live in a world of abundance: plenty of trees and leaves to eat. Their beingness can be luminous, or full of light, if you look for it.

If this experience were a wake-up call from your inner compass, what do you think it would be saying to you?

 I cannot say that this interview got me closer to understanding synchronicity or why this particular example of synchronicity happened. I used it to wake up a bit more, by interviewing an interesting emerging potential – sloth perspective! People ask the wrong questions of synchronicities. Instead of asking, “Why did I have this synchronicity?” they need to be asking, how can I use this synchronicity to help me wake up? 




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