James Hollis suggests in his wonderful book Hauntings that we should look at the relationship of fate vs destiny. He suggests we look at fate as the givens with which we are endowed – genetics, parents, family, culture, upbringing for example. Destiny: the potential within the person that which wishes to unfold within us. How have we shown up in the world? How did our fate manifest during the first half of life? How about the second half? What made the difference? Do you notice any sense of a guiding principle or spirit that helped shift you from one destiny to another?
We can also apply this principal to any major event in our life. Any event that seems entirely out of our control could be also construed as our fate. For example a separation, a major injury, the loss of a job etc. In this case we begin by looking at the circumstances of our lives at the time of the event- what was going on? Where had fate seemed to intervene? What destiny may be unfolding as a consequence?
On a beautiful day in Vancouver some years ago, I went on a day hike up Grouse Mountain. I began with the Grouse Grind, an impossibly steep three km. winding trail that averages about a 30% grade much of the way. At the top you are greeted with magnificent views of Vancouver below you. Then feeling energetic I decided to ascend a higher trail to Goat Mountain. At times this involved clambering steep rock faces, but the reward was a magnificent vista of coast range mountains and even glacier capped Mount Baker in the distance.
It was on the way down that the unexpected happened. I stepped over a log and my left foot turned and I heard a distinct “crack”, I feared I had broken an ankle because although I could move my toes, it no longer could take almost no weight. It was a quiet trail and I was alone, no help in sight. Fortunately I had taken a hiking cane, unusual but with its aid I struggled 40 minutes to the top of the mountain where the gondola awaited. It was an eventful trip home via driving with one foot, a clinic to tell me I needed an X-ray, the emergency room at a downtown hospital to be finally six hours later sitting on my couch contemplating ruefully the impact on my life and why this may have occurred.
It was indeed broken but because of my experience it was too swollen to cast so I had a splint and a pair of crutches. This proved a blessing as the follow up X-ray a week later persuaded the orthopaedic doctor that an airboot would suffice saving me six weeks on crutches! It could have been so much worse!
So how do fate and destiny enter the picture? Fate clearly contributed to the accident; I had not been careless or mindless, it seemed to be imposed on me. Fate had also been kind to me by reminding me to bring my hiking cane and minimizing the impact of the trauma. However was there meaning to be gained from this experience? I very much believed that life sends us signs to guide our way – was this such a sign?
The circumstances of my life at the time was that I was exploring my spirituality. I had become a spiritual wayfarer exploring different traditions and interests. I think “spiritual flirt” would be an appropriate description. I had developed a belief in universal power and energy and was seeking ways to access and utilize this.
Two other factors seemed relevant. First a friend of mine had been trying to persuade me to accompany him to church. I had great resistance due to an earlier “fate” of being brought up in a strict Baptist home and developing a life long antipathy to religion and church. Secondly I had been reading a book titled The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and had just read a critique of new age spirituality as having no depth. It suggested finding a path preferably one connected with your cultural identity and going deeply into it.
Somewhat reluctantly I accepted fate was leading me to return to organized religion so I began to attend the Unity Church. This undoubtedly was a key determinant in my destiny as each step led to another. I made peace with Christianity, studied at theological college and eventually became a Spiritual Coach. Fate indeed stepped in to manifest a destiny I could not have even imagined and changed my life forever.