Solving the Jigsaw

Jigsaw SolvingSometimes mindfulness is not appropriate.  Sometimes rationality is the only way to go.

I sat in front of a jigsaw puzzle the other day and decided to attempt an experiment.

My normal thought process when trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle is to identify an area of the puzzle that I want to fill in, look for a missing piece that is around the edge, identify the part of the picture that is missing and then search for the part of the picture within the pieces that have not been placed yet.  The strategy works to a certain extent, but I wanted to improve it.

I decided to employ mindfulness to help the puzzle solving process.  I identified an area of the puzzle I wanted to solve.  I saw a missing piece and the missing part of the picture.  I then turned off my mind.

I observed the pieces.  I saw how the light reflected off the colored cardboard.  I saw the brown table below the pieces.  I saw the edges of each piece and how they curved inward towards and outwards away from the center.  I felt my chest rise and fall with each breath.  It was a very pleasant experience.  But it did not help me solve the puzzle in any way.

When I stopped attempting to be mindful, I went back to the normal algorithmic thought process that I used to solve the puzzle. I searched through the unplaced pieces and attempted to find the part of the picture that was missing.  I was much more successful in placing pieces using that method compared to using the mindfulness method.  There may be ways to use mindfulness in these type of scenarios.  I just don’t know how it would fit.

This seems to be another example of how mindfulness and rationality do not mix.

In my “controlling thoughts” post, I spoke of how going into mindfulness with an agenda distracted me from actually being mindful.  My jigsaw experience seems to be a similar situation.  But instead of failing to be mindful because of a goal, I was failing at accomplishing a goal because I was being mindful.

Fundamentally differing.

But this dissonance reminds me of a couple of blog posts from a while back.  Mindfulness vs. Concentration and Reconcilable Differences.

I have come to this conclusion before but I will say it again.  The two ways of thinking can coexist.  They serve different purposes but they share common attributes.

I know the pieces fit.

I do not need to spend time deciding which one is more important or which one I should focus on more.  The puzzle to solve is when does reality lend itself to mindfulness and when does it lend itself to rationality.

Photo courtesy of liza31337 

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