10 Life Lessons from a Jigsaw Puzzle

Now that I’m on my summer break, I’ve been doing lots of puzzles.

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To me, puzzles are an introvert haven, a quiet means—to-its-own-end. It is the perfect antidote to my tendency towards goal-fixated rushing and over-productivity. Puzzles allow me space to day-dream, ruminate and integrate. When I stirred awake at night, puzzling is a non-stimulating unwind for my psyche. They are a simple source of pleasure and satisfaction. All these would be reason enough for me to be a puzzler.

But a few years back while I was still directing SKY, I kept a puzzle going in one of the spare rooms and would fiddle with it during breaks from my office work. Always a theologian and meaning-maker, I realized what was so soothing about the activity was the metaphor it was for the rest of my life and litany of lessons it had to offer me. Here’s what I discovered and continue to be reminded by my mystic-teacher-puzzle friends:

Taking the puzzling to the streets: when things look like #4 (a technicolor mess eg. the border crisis), i try to take one small action in alignment with my big picture—like standing for an hour downtown in solidarity with families detained and separated here in Tacoma (at the Northwest Detention Center) and at the border. Does it make a difference? See #8: Everything you do is doing something. It shapes identity, staves off the despair of complicity, and strengthens the musculature of another way of being. I don’t share images like this to say, “Hey look at me!” or “Why weren’t  YOU  there?” But rather to inspire you into the thing—whatever it is—that puts you in alignment with your bigger picture.

Taking the puzzling to the streets: when things look like #4 (a technicolor mess eg. the border crisis), i try to take one small action in alignment with my big picture—like standing for an hour downtown in solidarity with families detained and separated here in Tacoma (at the Northwest Detention Center) and at the border. Does it make a difference? See #8: Everything you do is doing something. It shapes identity, staves off the despair of complicity, and strengthens the musculature of another way of being. I don’t share images like this to say, “Hey look at me!” or “Why weren’t YOU there?” But rather to inspire you into the thing—whatever it is—that puts you in alignment with your bigger picture.

LIFE LESSONS FROM A JIGSAW PUZZLE

  1. All the pieces fit somewhere.

  2. It may not be clear right now where exactly they fit.

  3. It may take a lot of trial and error to find out where they fit.

  4. In fact it might look like an unredeemable technicolor mess right now (cue: the nightly news).

  5. This process of trial and error may be irritating, frustrating and/or aggravating. It may appear at times daunting, hopeless, or like you’ve spent the last half an hour moving pieces around and making no progress whatsoever.

  6. Boundary-setting rituals are sacred: turn over all pieces; sort out and complete the border first. These are the rituals that reveal at least the scope—if not the details—of one’s vision, values and trajectory. Such boundaries provide a container for freedom and creativity to play, some initial no’s that set into motion at least the general direction of your puzzling yes.

  7. When a piece aligns, enjoy the thrill of small achievements with a victory dance and/or an internal high-five.

  8. If you’re not getting anywhere, sometimes it’s easier to see where things fit when you zoom out or blur your vision a little—like looking at a Magic Eye. Drop back into the big picture. Look at the box. Look for the general groupings of colors and patterns. Sort like with like. it’s not cheating. In life, for me, this looks like identifying energies and spirits that are present and contributing, and making art and alters to acknowledge and give placement to them. Confusion, ambiguity, doubt, fear, inspiration, courage, the brink of change—name and place them. Everything has a place. Everything you do is doing something.

  9. A puzzling playlist, podcast, and/or audiobook can help pass the time; snack and wiggle breaks are renewing and clarifying; and there are few things as priceless as a good puzzling companion (thank you roommates).

  10. There is a big picture that is harmonious, beautiful and whole. Don’t give up.

Tonight the Full Moon Eclipse in Capricorn provides an opportunity to rest and relish in the illuminated big picture of one’s life and the agency one has to orient towards new seasons; as well as to pinpoint what habitual patterns are ready to be forgiven and released. Maybe the habitual pattern is the need to be different than one already is—and a release or forgiveness might not be a sudden change in habits or behavior but a more non-violent, non-forcing acceptance of one’s present way of being (try as I might to force a piece to fit with another when it’s just not right—can I just relax, let it go for now, come back to it when a few more pieces are in place?)

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Change and uncertainty is up in my life (#wanderingpriestess) and in the world right now (#apocalypsepending). After spending a day in a swirl of future plan-making, I realized I was getting caught up in Control and Over-Thinking energy, a desperate remedy to manage the anxiety of the unknown. I’m pausing today with Puzzling Lesson #8: naming and placing Control and Over-Thinking, dropping back into my felt sense of creativity, inner listening and reflection. I am traveling today, so not meditating with my puzzle at the moment, but I had the space and time waiting for my flight to create my Full Moon Eclipse mini alter and scribble some meditative art. I am offered new clarity from my spirit in this image and the words: Allow. Unfurl. I trust the truth of my own timing.

If you’re not a puzzler, I’d love to know: what are your favorite forms of creative non-doing? What gives you the space for mind-drifting musing and fruitful fruitlessness?

May this Full Moon Eclipse offer space and clarity for the easeful allowance your unfurling soul journey.

Your friend on the path,

Kate