Fitting All Our Pieces Together
It is easy for specific details to entangle us.
Many of us enjoy the feeling of learning everything we can about one or two things in particular. We like to examine each individual aspect of a subject or every part of a single question.
Some of us are working to develop a new practice. We started trying to make a discreet change in our lives this month. If we choose our goals wisely we believe we can make measurable progress.
Selecting one thing we hope to accomplish helps us feel we can focus our efforts. It is like concentrating on one or two pieces of a puzzle.
We may have chosen a specific contemplative practice to develop this year. If we pay attention to one practice, we hope, our discipline and will power will help us.
I see things differently. Spiritual life and contemplative practices are not the same as physical exercise. Our practice is not about forcing ourselves to continue making progress. Contemplative practices, and spiritual life, are about being open to what is alive within us and around us.
We are not searching for one perfect piece of a puzzle so we can snap it into place. Spiritual life is about discovering the pieces we have and fitting all our pieces together.
It can be a challenge for us to recognize the shape of the puzzle we are working to put together.
Spiritual life is a puzzle which seems to change shape and size and color. We may have an understanding of the pieces we have, but fitting our pieces together can become complicated.
The ways we have put other puzzles together do not seem to work for spiritual life. We can easily become a little confused.
Putting Our Pieces Together
I have enjoyed putting puzzles together for longer than I can remember.
When I work on a puzzle, the first thing I do is find the edge, particularly the corners. Edge pieces help us see how the picture on the box is reflected in our specific project.
The next step to solving a puzzle is sorting out where the pieces can fit together well. I often take a big step toward solving the puzzle when I work on fitting some pieces together off to the side. When pieces fit together well they provide clues which can help solve the rest of the puzzle.
Each piece has something to contribute to the overall effort. My responsibility is putting pieces together and giving them an opportunity to meet their potential.
Spiritual life can be more complicated than a jigsaw puzzle. While we may have a general idea of what the puzzle will look like, spiritual life has ways of surprising us.
We do not have a clear picture to follow on the top of the box. Spiritual life is more about living outside the box than recreating the picture on the box.
Putting our pieces together is more complex when it comes to spiritual life. The pieces we think we understand can grow and change and defy our expectations. There are times when solutions we thought were all worked out are transformed before our eyes.Answers we thought were settled become something new and inspiring.
There are times when puzzles we saw as solved reveal themselves to be doors open to new possibilities.
Spiritual life is not a puzzle which can be set in stone. We have the opportunity to put our pieces together in new ways each time we look at them.
Will the pieces of spiritual life come together today?
How Will We Put Our Pieces Together?
When I was a few years old people told me I would soon have someone new to play with. My parents were going to bring a baby sister home from the hospital. On the great day I put all of my puzzles on display, ready to share. They brought in this tiny crying bundle. I did not say a word but turned and, very deliberately, put my puzzles away.
I love the shapes and colors of puzzles. There is a tactile reward in picking up a piece and putting it where it belongs. I like the process of finding a solution, the flash of insight which allows me to find the place where each piece belongs.
There is something contemplative about working on a puzzle with someone else. There can be long periods of stillness and reflection which result in dramatic action.
Each puzzle has a story of its own to tell. We listen by putting the pieces together.
Working together on the puzzles of spiritual life can be similar to putting together a jigsaw puzzle. We help each other see what our shared puzzles will become.
Discovering New Ways to Fit Our Pieces Together
Spiritual life, though, cannot be solved like a puzzle. We try to understand our pieces and put the pieces together. Working on spiritual life helps us see it in new ways and growing clarity.
The more we learn about spiritual life the more confused we can feel. We become confused, though, at new and deeper levels.
It is not our task to fit all the pieces together and solve spiritual life so we can put it back in the box. We explore the pieces we have to discover where spiritual life will take us. There is meaning and purpose in each piece.
Spiritual life is not a chaotic pile of pieces for which we need to restore order. Our work on spiritual life is recognizing what our pieces have to show us. We fit our pieces together in new, unexpected ways as spiritual life lives within us.
It is an ongoing puzzle in which we discover how the pieces fit together.
Spiritual life is not about making pretty pictures which match the top of the box.
How will we fit our pieces together in unexpected ways today?
What will putting our pieces together show us this week?
[Image by rawdonfox]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He has served as an assistant district attorney, an associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.