What would your approach be to solving this puzzle? Would you take the time to figure it out without any assistance other than the picture that slowly formed with each piece?
Or would you flip them all over, group them by letter, and piece them together from there?
There is more than one way to do pretty much anything, and the way we approach things says a lot about us, whether it’s a puzzle, a problem, riding a bike, or driving a car. There is a zen Buddhist quote that has been attributed to just about everyone because it is that simple and profound: the way you do one thing is the way you do everything.
Think about that. Really take it in. And then think of the ways that you do the things you do every day, especially things that everyone else does. Washing dishes, doing laundry, paying bills. The way you solve a puzzle will be different from how someone else does it, but it will likely be a massive indicator of how you solve problems that arise in your life.
The way you wash dishes or do laundry may indicate the way you care for yourself daily. Do you clean dishes as you go so you never have a pile-up? Do you want to wash laundry until you have nothing left to wear? (i.e., do you take time to care for yourself every day, or do you wait until you’re nearing a breaking point then take a whole weekend to rejuvenate?)
How about the way you drive a car? The way you specifically drive your vehicle is synonymous with the way you navigate your way through life. The way you handle the mechanics of it, the way you steer yourself, the routes you take are all expressions of you. How fast you go when you drive, how patient you are, how quick you are to anger, and the way you feel when someone else is in the driver’s seat—all of these are insights into you.
The way I drive certainly speaks volumes about how I steer my way through life. While I can’t say I’m proud of it, I tend to be fast. If we are heading out on a family vacation—perhaps a little road trip upstate—I will get us there thirty minutes faster than, let’s say, my husband would. I am not condoning speeding, and I also am not talking solely about speed. I also work to find the fastest route, take only necessary breaks, and do what I can to maximize my resources to get us there in the least amount of time.
I am also very focused on where I’m headed. I speak so much about enjoying the process and not overly focusing on the destination because it has helped me so much—whether I’m driving, writing, teaching, or living. I used to find myself on an elevated portion of the freeway, one that offers one of those beautiful expansive views, and I would be looking a good 200 yards ahead, eyes focused only on what’s coming up in the flow of traffic. I look for the space on the road, an opening that shows me where things seem to be moving quickly and progressing smoothly. I work to see upcoming congestion or problems on the road and how to avoid them if they arise. But, this is just the way I do it.
Others might be on high-alert in the car; their focus is immediate and limited to a small bubble of space. Perhaps these people are a little more neurotic in the way they navigate their way through life. There are still others who might be quick to honk their horn, flaring up with road rage in a sudden moment. This kind of behavior may be an indicator that these folks are also quick to anger and don’t have gentle access to their emotions. Or maybe their fear of running late and disappointing their child, spouse, or friend is taken out on fellow drivers— and those closest to them. Some love to take the scenic route, make frequent stops to see sights and consider getting lost as an opportunity to explore and learn something new. Extrapolating, they might not be as super-focused in their goals but choose to enjoy each day to the fullest, more open to opportunities, and more flexible when detours arise. If they are also chronically late as a result, it may allude to a lack of focus or follow-through.
If you frequently run out of gas and find yourself stretching your gas tank, maybe you also run on empty as a person?
Now that the metaphor is painfully clear: what do you know about yourself from the way you do everyday things? What are your tendencies on the road? How do you puzzle out a puzzle? What’s your laundry strategy?
The famous kabbalist, Kalonymus Kalman, wrote that the way the mind operates, the emotions, and all the other psychological functions are possible only through personal experience—which one must discover for him or herself. He compares the difference between studying the soul and studying the body. The body is easier to connect to and understand because it is tangible; you can see it and feel it; it can even be dissected. It is present and apparent. Whereas the soul is intangible, the goings-on of the soul are within and invisible to everybody else. It is only apparent to us because it exists inside of our bodies. This analogy points out that everybody must be their analyst.
We are living in a highly stressful time, but it can be a potent moment for us to examine these tendencies. Being quarantined and forced to stay home and inside gives us an unbelievable opportunity to know ourselves in an entirely new way. This inventory isn’t always easy, just like putting a difficult puzzle together isn’t always easy, but the reward is worth it.
Take a moment to rethink things…
In times of challenge, do you have a propensity to take fear and frustration out on your spouse, your kids, your friends, or your colleagues? How do you treat your employees or assistants?
Maybe, when things seem overwhelming, you become afraid of looking too far ahead? You place too much focus on the little things because the more important things feel too big.
When you get lost, do you stop to ask for directions? Do you pull over, completely stopping, to hyperventilate and cry? Do you reach out to a friend who knows this stretch of road?
Yes, we’re back to the driving metaphor.
My invitation to you is to carve an hour or so and dive into this exploration. Leave any judgment or shame behind, and just observe. Write down what kind of driver you are. Write down how you would solve the puzzle in this picture. Write down what your daily routine looks like and then gather clues. Your evidence list will start to look something like this:
When I drive, I like to take routes that are familiar to me.
I can’t stand a dirty dish and must clean it immediately.
I am always behind on my laundry, but my husband and kids’ laundry is always done.
I go grocery shopping on the same day every week.
Being stuck in traffic fills me with rage!
I’m too afraid to drive on freeways.
Once you have your list, look for parallels. These may be mundane activities within the physical world, but they are hints at what is happening internally—messages from your soul about where you’re thriving and where you need to step out of your comfort zone. It points to where you are experiencing flow and where you are getting stuck.
We don’t have control over many things in this life, but we can control ourselves. In a time where so many of us are feeling out of control, we can choose to sink into a more profound knowing. To take advantage of this challenge and commune with our souls, create a brand new roadmap for our life, and set intentions to make the journey in a whole new way.
Who knew that puzzles or dishes or laundry or driving could be so magical?