I have, through a series of fortunate events, been introduced to and befriended a mindfulness expert, Dr. Dave. I just love the guy. He’s one of these folks who holds people with his eyes and controls your attention through the inflection in and pace of his voice. He slows way down when he’s making the point he most wants you to absorb. It’s like performance art, watching this guy explain the overthinking mind, I tell ya.
All that to say, he’s a pretty captivating soul, but mostly, I love the guy because he does beautiful shit like this …
A few weeks back, a group of us were working on a video project with Dr. Dave at his house, which is always kind of a rewarding exercise in itself because his home is very curated and collected and cool. It spawns a lot of creativity, which is my currency of choice. Plus, interview someone on a chair in a lobby and then interview them on their couch in their living room and just see which comes out more engaging. It’s a pathetic contest.
Anyway, we were standing in his kitchen, contemplating his gracious offer to make coffee, when he threw a standard Dr. Dave curveball out. “Guys, I want to start today by setting an intention.” Aw yeah, here we go! Intentions! [Oprah voice] He reached into his pocket and pulled out three puzzle pieces. He placed one very deliberately in my hand, then each of my coworkers’ hands.
“I want you to look at the glossy side of the piece. What colors are on it? What textures did the artist capture? What bigger image might this piece be a part of?”
We all obediently ran our fingers over our pieces, quietly, pregnantly.
“OK, now turn it over. What do you notice about the other side? What does it feel like?”
We complied. It looked and felt like cardboard.
“Now, I want you think about a word. One word. I want that word to be your intention for the month of February. Think about something you want to work on or focus on. What is your word?”
We only get one?
“You know,” he continued, “sometimes it can be hard to see the big picture when we’re only focused on one small part of it. But if you set your intention, it can help clear out some of the noise and give clarity.”
Classic Dr. Dave. That insightful son of a …
This was the shot from the gun at the starting line for me. Not the idea of setting an intention. I mean, I employ mantras in loads of different ways: To get through a long run … “one more step, one more step, one more step …” Or a long car ride with three tiny, disgruntled passengers … “you’ll miss these days, you’ll miss these days, you’ll miss these days … Or even to walk away from breakroom brownies … “skinny jeans, skinny jean, skinny jeans …” But this was more complex.
Strap on your seat belts, guys. We’re going full speed into Metaphor Town!
Let’s say life is a puzzle, with, we’ll call it 100 different pieces (if you’re lucky), and each piece is a different intention; A different facet of your character, awareness or behavior you’d like to strengthen. If you invested a bit of yourself in every single one of those pieces, you’d feel pretty great about the project by the time it all came together and it was ready to be put away, right? Do you smell what I’m steppin’ in? What Dr. Dave was steppin’ in?
You can set an intention for the day.
Set an intention for the week.
For the month.
For the year.
You could take everything apart, figure out what needs fixing or focus and then fix or focus on it. Piece by piece. Day by day. Week by week. Month by month. Year by year. However much you can break off and handle at one time, handle it. Maybe it’s one small thing – like an hour more sleep – and that’s all you want to focus on for 365 days. I think that would be lovely!
This whole thing – this puzzle – might just be the secret to realistic change. It’s a guide to showing yourself grace and getting down into the gritty work in digestible, manageable doses. Every yahoo with a 50+ piece jigsaw under their belt knows that big results don’t come together by dumping the whole mess out on a table and going hog wild. No! Things really only start to come together when you have a plan. A strategy. They come from pulling all the edge pieces out first and starting there, maybe from a corner.
Yes, a corner!
Think of what your corners might be … C’mon, what are your biggies? For me, it’s patience, presence, health and growth. If I can get to a good place in those four areas, I think I can love with as much love as my heart can hold and live with as much life as my spirit can imagine. Maybe start there. With your four corners. The “need to haves”. Then … break it out from there with the “nice to haves” that tie back to your “need to haves”. What are the other pieces of the puzzle for you?
My intention for February is “awake”. (Remember, Dr. Dave only gave us one word.) It’s a state of being that often eludes me. I’m upright. I’m dressed for the part. I’m crossing everything off the list, but I am not always seeing things. I’m not always tuned into the people I’m doing things for or the reasons I’m doing things to begin with. I’m a frequent flier on the autopilot express, and my intention is to quit hitting snooze and wake the F up. Most importantly, the word “awake” ties back to one of my four corners: Presence.
So, now it’s your turn. I mean … if you want it to be. You could even go so far as to buy an actual puzzle from an actual store and write actual words on the backs of actual pieces. It’s your call. Blow it up and put it back together, word by word. An intention isn’t a contract or obligation to anybody but yourself. You can pick what those pieces say and you can pick your pace for putting it confidently into place before picking up the next one.
It’s your life, your puzzle. Eventually, it all comes together.
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