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Pieces to Our Puzzle

Pieces to Our Puzzle

 

“Longing may be our legacy, but wholeness is our birthright.  It lies at the heart of the disappointments and delights of everyday life.  In weeding the garden and burning the toast. In falling asleep alone or enfolded in the arms of another.  In reading poetry instead of watching the news. In missing the grandmother you adored and becoming the father you never had.  In weeping for the suffering of the oppressed, the degradation of the planet.”

-Mirabai Starr

 

As spiritual beings, we are made up of a unique collection of pieces to our very own life puzzle.  These pieces represent the work in moving from immaturity to spiritual wholeness. It is often with this soul work of reassembly that one can get stuck, wondering how to bring wholeness to a chaotic and sometimes unforgiving worldview. This begs the question, maybe we are not meant to reflect some spectacular version of perfection after all.  Could it be within our imperfections that we exist in our truest form?

Growing up, I loved doing puzzles. What began as an unorganized slurry of parts, transformed into the most beautiful of pictures. This final image instantly made sense of the mess, as if it had been there all along waiting to be discovered. Working on this discovery was meditative in practice. Methodically lifting each piece, trying them in numerous places and looking for the smallest of details was a deeply introspective activity. I remember the tangible exuberance when arriving at the very last pieces. It was as if all of a sudden every angle sharpened and each piece seemed to effortlessly slide into the whole exactly where it was meant to be. The simplicity of it was startling. What seemed impossible from the beginning became instantly possible.

Life is not much different than the work of completing a complex puzzle. We enter this world with such possibility and many different pieces of self that will be tested in a plethora of ways. Each role that we try on is evaluated and considered. Is what we are doing or who we are leading us closer to this wholeness or further away? Each day brings new opportunities to evaluate our pieces under new circumstances, lending to endless amounts of feedback.

 

“Many of us have made our world so familiar that we do not see it anymore. An interesting question to ask yourself at night is, What did I really see this day?”

― John O’Donohue, Anam Cara

Just as with a puzzle, when finding ourselves at a dead end, we can remove layers that do not serve and rebuild our puzzle into wholeness. It is in this constant evaluation, continued work, and correction that one experiences the true practice of spiritual discovery. It is never too late to redefine our life. We are each given a blank canvas along with a bag full of pieces that represent our genetics, personality, birth status, family orientation, etc. While some of these pieces may be ill fitted from the start, we have the ability to build upon them in order to create a more beautiful self.

My marriage was a good example of this correction. In marriage, I tried out a piece of myself and worked tirelessly to make it “fit” the reality in which I found myself. It was only after years of hardship, I finally discovered my path was harmful and not in any way healthy for my heart and soul. I slowly became to undo these pieces, all that tethered me to another in an unhealthy way, and began the arduous work of rebuilding my puzzle one piece at a time.

 I will most certainly encounter many more moments of setback in which I move away from that beautiful image awaiting me.  Life is an endless cycle of expansion and contraction. All that matters is my intention. If I set an intention of spiritual growth, I can use this intention as a reevaluation tool along the way. If a piece does not seem to be fitting my intention, it may be time to make a change. In doing so, I continue to learn, grow and test this bag of pieces in as many ways as my precious life will afford. These pieces will begin to fill in the shadows of my soul leaving a beautifully clear image, representative of all that I am and all that I will ever be.

 

Personal Narratives and How We View the World

Personal Narratives and How We View the World

Mercy

 

To be a searcher of the soul does not preclude one from falling short time and time again. We are human and as such are challenged with human imperfections and peculiarities. The times have been especially difficult to digest and one begins to wonder how the human race will ever get back on track.  In this vein, I was speaking to a colleague this week when he pointed out that historically speaking, there has always been an auto correct moment.  Fascinated by his statement, I prodded him for clarification. He continued that even if many people have lost their way and even their lives, a moment of extreme auto correct had pushed the human race back to the moral high ground. Examples he used where events that lead up to the end of wars, the holy crusades, the Ottoman Empire’s demise etc.  It was at the same time a horrific and an illuminating point of view.

I began to reflect on his words but on a much smaller scale.  I do agree that in moments of falling short, of which we all find ourselves, a situational event often provides enough disturbance to redirect our will. We are stubborn and tend to believe the story we tell ourselves regardless of its truth. As storytellers, we create a narrative around our beliefs and experiences. Over time it becomes difficult to know what parts of the narrative are genuine and what parts are embellished. A personal example is my childhood story about cold weather and getting to school. I regularly had to stand at the bus stop in the snow and cold and found myself stretching the details when sharing my experience. This was my youthful way of pressing a point that it was indeed cold and the snow was indeed deep and difficult to walk through.  I am quite sure that the snow was not thigh deep on most days as I liked to state. The gist of the story was true…it was cold and snowy and difficult to get to school. The details were exaggerated to add impact to my words.

As an adult, I see our storytelling at work in many ways. With the recent unrest in our nation I find that most people only hold a lens for their story and rarely take a moment to hear others stories from a unique point of view. Is that not the hallmark of falling short? As students of mysticism we are drawn by our personal experiences to our faith. Part of these experiences must include moments in which we have become too engrossed in our self with no consideration for others. It is a treacherous place to be and rife with ego and selfishness. Awareness of this in itself serves as a personal auto correct on a spiritual journey.

“Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn’t matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again , come , come.” -Rumi

The question is not if we fall short but when. Having the grace and humility to admit these moments shows true strength of character rather than sticking to our story as if we were a politician trapped in talking points. Holding empathy for another even when they have a different view on life is the hallmark of growth. We are so gloriously different and that is what makes our world so beautiful. If we all looked alike or thought the same thoughts, life would be impossibly dull. It is in the disagreement that we are stimulated to listen, grow and learn.

I do believe that we are reaching a tipping point, a moment of auto correct, and I hesitate to think what discomfort and pain we as humans will suffer in the process. I only know what I can do as a part of the whole. I can listen intently to others as they speak their truths without interrupting or trying to insert my voice. I can reflect on another’s story and see which parts of their narrative are similar to my own. I can rejoice in the similarities rather than the differences and return to them with love and understanding. This is not a rejection of my views but an acknowledgment of others. It does not mark me as passive or insignificant. By doing so I am showing strength, and most importantly love for another.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of -God Romans 3:23

This is not a Utopian view of the world as I have been told on many occasions. This is the way in which our souls have gently guided us in this world, even when we continue to disappoint time and time again. It is in getting up and trying once more, that our souls will ultimately grow wings and soar.