Friday, June 26, 2015

Puzzles and the Contemplative Life

The Rev. Nancy E. Gossling


Puzzles. It was another new prayer discipline for me, just like walking, only passive. Interestingly, the latest scientific research shows the importance of silence and sitting quietly for children; however people of all ages and vocations, people of every socio-economic status, and people who have 24/7 internet access need to unplug and be quiet. We must discipline ourselves, and provide the space for others, to take a break. We need self imposed “time-outs”  to regroup, regather, recreate, and recollect ourselves into the one, unique, and beautiful individuals that we all are!


Last fall, I decided to “take on” a 1500 piece monster puzzle of Ireland. I had “all the time” in the world not to rush through it, and not to set a deadline for its completion. I was “in transition”, a perfect time for being “off message”, a perfect time for “refocus.”  I chose this puzzle for three reasons: it was difficult and could not be completed easily or quickly; it reminded me of a country and people that I love; and I could spend time recalling memories. Thinking new and old thoughts, I put together pieces of this puzzle. I put together pieces of my life.


Frankly, I never had much interest in puzzles; and this puzzle was much bigger, more complicated, and much more difficult than I ever imagined. Several times I thought about quitting. Instead, I just went back to Cambridge or did something else. I was looking for anything that would distract me from the task at hand. As summer approached, deadlines appeared. Paul had business associates arriving at the end of June and the puzzle was now occupying two tables in the living room, instead of one. Pollen covered it with a thin layer of Irish pea green. This puzzle needed to be DONE. Frankly I was tired of it and tired of this new prayer discipline. I was ready to move on!


What to do?


Finish it. While some things are worth quitting, this one was not; and so I had to focus time and attention to get it done. No more excuses.

Life is like putting together the pieces of a monster puzzle. Silence is required for concentration, for memories to surface, for new perspectives to be acquired, and for issues to be clarified. Challenges abound. Help is needed. Patience required. Pieces go missing; and sometimes we want to quit. And yet, like me and my puzzle, we need to finish it with focussed time and attention. We also need to know when it’s time to move on. The contemplative life invites us to do that.