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This past week, I’ve been practicing a tried-and-true stress reduction technique:  a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.  Rob bought a Venice scene for me for Hanukkah (we visited Venice on our honeymoon), and I saved it for a moment when the stress was building up so much that I needed something to distract-immerse myself in–something other than watching reality shows on TLC, that is. 

To me, a puzzle is pure mindfulness practice.  You have to concentrate, sure, but you also have to relax your mind enough to trust your eyes will sense slight color and shape distinctions and guide you to fit together the next pieces.  You have to be able to walk away and trust that when you come back, you’ll see something you had missed before.  You have be flexible enough to pledge to finish it tomorrow.  This week.  Maybe this month. 

Best of all, as you complete a puzzle, you get to watch something beautiful fill itself in before your eyes.  And–oh, joy!–you get to snap that last piece into your accomplishment, your met challenge.

Here’s what happened when I got near the end of my Venice scene, though.  I discovered that the puzzle was, in fact, a 997-piece puzzle.  Three pieces were missing!

We turned the living room upside down looking for the missing pieces, and we’ve decided that the box was simply 3 pieces short.  But never mind the logistics of whether we should take the puzzle back to where Rob bought it, or whether we should have torn open the vacuum cleaner bag to see if we’d accidentally sucked ’em up.  I’m actually kind of pleased with the notion of the barely-incomplete puzzle as a metaphor for us on our journey to fresher lives.

In other words, if jigsaw puzzles are a mindfulness practice, what’s to be learned from a missing piece?  Here are my questions so far:

1.  What’s really missing from your life?  What can you do today to fill in that blank?

2.  Can you let go of something missing if it’s really and truly lost?

3.  Can you let go of the gratification of putting each piece in its place?  Can you find that same gratification in a 997-piece picture?

I’d love to hear your answers to these questions.  If you need more food for missing-piece thought, dive into this sweetly sad Shel Silverstein classic (thanks for the reminder, Valerie!).

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