Wholeness January 5, 2024

In his recent article “Okay, Not Okay,” James Jarrett writes: “For many of us, to be human is to experience a sense that something is missing. Something is just not quite right.”

This statement is undoubtedly correct, but I have also experienced that we can do something about this. For me, the great value of spirituality is that through it I can feel whole, I can feel that nothing is missing. And, through naturalistic spirituality, I can do this without resorting to theological, metaphysical or supernatural notions. 

My spiritual practice is largely mindfulness: meditation and contemplation. I first learned to meditate when I was 17 and for the last 40 years, I have engaged in some form of mindfulness almost daily. Through this practice, I have came to feel a deeper and deeper sense of wholeness.

The feeling of wholeness, the naturalistic equivalent of holiness, is a wonderful feeling. I think most people experience this at least occasionally. I sure hope they do. 

One can, of course, gain a momentary sense of such wholeness through alcohol or other drugs, but it is momentary. And when the high is gone, one often feels more scattered, more ragged than before. 

Gained through spiritual practice, the feeling of wholeness is much more dependable, more stable. And there are really no negative consequences. With practice, one can spend more and more time in such a state.

Life, however, is highly dynamic, and unless one has found some monastic refuge, the demands of a dynamic life call to one. It is hard to answer that call without losing something of the sense of wholeness.

I am retired now, but for forty years I had fairly demanding, stressful work. I used to try to maintain a sense of wholeness at work, but It usually only took my first encounter with a client or my boss to unravel whatever wholeness I had collected through my morning’s meditation.

By the time I came home from work, the mind that was focused and unified in the morning was like confetti blowing in the wind. This is the time that many people grab a beer, glass of wine, shot of whiskey or a joint to help them regain some sense of wholeness. There were times when I did just that.

But thanks to my spiritual practice, I had other means at my disposal. Sometimes I would go for a long walk, either alone or with my wife. Sometimes I would do a half hour or an hour of yoga. When the tensions of work had gotten to me, I found that I needed to start with something physical before I could engage in meditation.

Of course, this was all after my two children had grown. When they were young, I didn’t have the luxury of such time to myself. And when they were teenagers, they could cause me more stress than work did. All that was a long time ago for me. I imagine, however, that some of you who are reading this are right in the midst of that stage of life. 

For such of you, all I can say is try to find your wholeness through love of your family. At this stage in life, one should dedicate one’s mindfulness to the needs of one’s spouse and children and all the little chores that running a household demands. (It’s hard, and I really wasn’t particularly successful at it.) And if you can arrange it with your spouse, try to give each other some alone time where you can practice some form of mindfulness, either alone or together. 

The bottom line, though, is that we have a power within us to pull ourselves together and experience a sense of wholeness. Harnessing this power is not easy – it requires discipline, work, and sacrifice, but the reward is great.

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