Gandalf helps you craft a life of deep meaning
I know what it’s like…life feels sort of directionless. You look around and see your friends who seem to have things figured out. You’re not sure where you’re going, but you’re pretty sure you’re not happy where you are.
In response to this problem, therapists have a technique borrowed from Solution Focused Therapy called “The Miracle Question.” We use this to help clients figure out how they’d like their lives to look, what goals are important to each client, and to begin to develop a treatment plan. (There is no limit to the amount of detail you can include. In fact, the more detail the better!)
For fun, and in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Lord of the Rings, we get to have Gandalf weigh in on the question with us! So make your favorite cup of tea, find a comfortable spot on your couch, and lets begin…
A knock at the door rouses you from your nap in your overstuffed chair. The fire in the hearth crackles merrily, warming your cozy dwelling. Opening the door, you find a familiar face, smiling at you with affection and care.
“My friend, it is good to see you again. Might I come in?” A deep voice rumbles.
“Gandalf!” You cry, happy to see your old companion. You swing wide your circular door and usher the white wizard into your well-appointed sitting room. You’re glad to fix a pot of your favorite Hobbiton tea while Gandalf ducks his head under your doorframe and takes in your warm home. He smiles that secret grin only shared between two friends and settles himself into a chair. Hand reaches into some hidden pocket in his robe and withdraws a well used smoking pipe.
You pass the hours trading stories, remembering years gone by. As the day settles into evening, you share some uncertainty you’ve had about your future. “What will I do? Life for me seems…” You drift off, uncertain how to answer.
The wizard peers at you from beneath bushy white eyebrows, lips puffing on his tabbac.
With a deep breath, he ushers you closer.
“I have certain ways to help you clarify this question,” He rumbles. “I want you to trust in my magic and give yourself to the spell that you’re about to conjure.” He continues.
“Find a comfortable spot and begin to tell me of a meaningful life.”
You look at him uncertainly.
He glowers, taps his pipe on the arm of the chair and begins again.
“Look into the smoke” He says, exhaling a sweet smelling cloud from his pipe.
You trust your old friend and, as you look into the mist, you begin to see shapes taking form.
“It is exactly one year from today.” Gandalf says. “Let us shape this life you are living. Imagine everything that you desire. There is no element too large or too small. After all, you were one of the saviors of Middle Earth!”
Your gaze begins to unfocus and the scene before you takes shape. You watch as a perfect day plays out for you… It looks so real!
You see yourself as you wake, exactly one year from today and you discover that your life is precisely how you want it. It is as if his spell has crafted a miracle for you!
“Tell me what you see” the powerful wizard continues.
And you begin to describe. (Take this time to write down your thoughts).
Goals in the smoke
Where are you when you wake up? Is there anyone with you? What do you see? What are the first things you do?
And then what? Do you eat breakfast? What do you eat? How do you feel? Do you exercise on this day? Call someone you love? Take a beloved pet for a walk?
And then what? If you’re working, what is your occupation? Perhaps you’re in school. What classes are you taking, or how do you get to work? How does it feel as you travel to this job that you adore? If it’s a day off or you’re not otherwise occupied, how do you spend this free day? Notice how these things make you feel uplifted and joyful.
How do you spend your day? What thoughts occupy your mind?
What is lunch for you? Did you prepare something ahead of time or are you dining at a café, perhaps?
With whom interact during the day? What are those conversations like?
And because this is a “real” day, if there are obstacles, how do you surmount them? What do you notice about your thoughts or behavior that makes these difficulties manageable? Ways that work even better than today. How does it feel to respond in this way? How do you interact with others around you- both strangers and those you know?
And after this, what do you do before dinner? What are the sights, and sounds, and smells of this experience? (Really lean into these descriptions)
You realize that this ancient magic spell helps you to clarify these images in your mind as you stand next to Gandalf.
What sort of hobbies have you pursued or crafts have you undertaken? Have you carved out time to visit with a friend? Take in a theatrical show? Have you joined a local quidditch league? Do you find your favorite spot at the library as steal an hour to crack open a book you’ve heard so much about? Or maybe you’ve carved out some time to volunteer at a cause dear to your heart.
“Yes, tell me more.” Your magical friend continues.
And you see yourself at dinner time. Do you dine with company? What is the energy like at the table? Is it a meal on the go as you walk at the beach? Barbecue? A favorite take-out place for a picnic in the park while you listen to live music?
And then after dinner…How do you choose to wind down your day? What meaningful activities do you occupy yourself with? Is it cuddled up on the couch with a loved one or pet? Out for dancing and drinks? Maybe a lecture at a local college?
And finally, bedtime. What routines have you established that anchor day’s end for you? What is meaningful about this time?
And as you finish telling Gandalf of these experiences, he nods, a warm grin splitting his wrinkled face. “Yes my friend. That is a life worth living, indeed. And allow me to let you in on a great wizardly secret.” He pulls you close, smell of sweet tabbac lingering on his whiskers. “That day begins today. This life of value and meaning. The day that you so desire begins with a choice. What choice can you make today, this very moment to bring you one step closer to this life of which you dream?”
Putting your vision into action
Dear reader, what did you see? If you’re wealthy, what do you need to do today to start building your wealth? Do you need a budget to stop living paycheck to paycheck? To find a better job? Pick up overtime? Something else.
If you’re surrounded by beloved friends in your vision, what can you do today to cultivate these relationships or develop new ones?
If you’re in a job you love, what skills or education can you begin to hone to improve your lot?
If you’re physically active in your dream, how can you take one small step towards that today?
I trust that you see how this takes shape. Talk with your therapist about how you can create a life of deep value and satisfaction. Spend some time with this exercise and take the first step today to build a life that you adore.