This Thing Called Life
by Graeme Kapono Urlich
Solitaire - More lessons from games
Some time ago I suffered a concussion and it was taking a while to recover from it so I started to play
solitaire as a way to exercise my brain in pattern recognition. Recently I moved house and rediscover my
deck of cards and this prompted me to start playing again. Before long I started to pick up on some
Sometimes I would start to get frustrated and feel a futility in playing the game if I wasn’t solving it
frequently enough for my liking. Then I remembered that I wasn’t playing it to “solve” it, I was playing it
to exercise my brain and that was happening whether I solved it or not. The frustration went away. Sometimes
we quit on useful activities because we lose sight of why we are doing them in the first place.
Another thing I noticed as I played was that, with each round, the cards would develop sequences that were
sometimes helpful but mostly made it harder to solve the games. I was able to solve the games more often
when I made sure I shuffled the deck really well. Sometimes in life we get into “sequences of behavior” and
that can stop us from achieving goals that we may have. A good “shuffle” of built up habits is often very
useful if we want to make major changes in life but we feel stuck with little progress.
Very often when playing the game, I would notice myself getting into an automatic mode and going quite
quickly. When I reached a point where I thought it was at an end and was packing up the deck to start again
I would notice a move that I had missed. Sometimes in life it is useful to take a step back, be more
present, and really look at what is happening on a personal level. Usually ideas and opportunities that we
hadn’t noticed before will pop out of the background.
I notice this in working with HTML pages as well. When I read through the code it looks fine but when I view
the page in a browser there is an obvious fault. Sometimes it takes trying various things to find the fault
but, because the page doesn’t look right, I know I have to keep looking. If I get annoyed with it the bug
tends to stay hidden but if I can relax and just look quietly, the fault shows itself to me and I can make
the necessary change to fix it.
One day as I was playing a few rounds, I noticed that I hadn’t succeeded in solving the games at all and I
began to wonder what was going on. Then it occurred to me that maybe a card was missing so I counted them
and sure enough, I had dropped three of them and hadn’t noticed. They had fallen out of sight. The next game
was solved after that. Sometime in life we may find we are not playing with a full deck and maybe need some
extra information or inspiration to achieve our goals.
Quite often it seems like the game is reaching a dead end and there are no more moves to be made but then a
single move opens up a chain reaction of moves that lead to resolution of the game. This is particularly
satisfying because I have stuck with it and succeeded when the instinct was to pack up the cards and start
again. In my case it would not have mattered because I am playing the game for the mental exercise but in
life, if something is important enough, achievement of a goal usually depends on perseverance and
There were occasions where there were two or more possible moves to make. I started to test my intuition
about which was more likely to lead to resolution of the game and made some rules about the priority I gave
to each possible one. This avoided confusion and second guessing my choices. Sometimes as I turned over a
card I would see what it was in my mind while other times I sometimes saw what card I wanted it to be but
usually I just waited to see what card it was. In life we are often presented with multiple options and we
can get uncertain about which one is “best.” Practicing the skill of awareness and intuition is very
Many times while playing a round I’ve had the thought that there was something I needed to go do. Then, at
the conclusion of the round I would find myself shuffling and laying out the cards again to start a new
game. I would think to myself “Oh well, I’ll play this round and then go do what needed to be done.” This
might happen two or three times before I realized and I decided “Oh well, the games is laid out for me when
I have done what I need to” and I leave the game where it is for later. Sometimes we do this kind of thing
in life, keep watching a movie or doing something else and in doing so, forget the thing that we really
needed to do.
Now that I have written all this down I am wondering if there is a point to be found in it. One is that we
can learn from anything at all if we pay attention to the experience. The trick then is to apply it to life
in a constructive way, as I did with a game in my article "From Small
Beginnings.” It may take some help and guidance sometimes but we have tools all around us to
help improve this thing we call life.
Graeme Kapono Urlich (February 2024)
More Lessons From Games
Learning Experiences (video)
Aloha New Zealand - School of Huna and Hawaiian Shamanism