On Being Whole

On Being Whole  —  it’s nat­ur­al to seg­ment our­selves, but that does­n’t make it help­ful. Some ideas on wholeness.

My first and most pop­u­lar book,

This End­less Moment.

Learn to live a full and sat­is­fy­ing life. 

Would you con­sid­er writ­ing an arti­cle on how we can bal­ance the spir­i­tu­al side of our lives with the every­day mun­dane world of mak­ing a liv­ing? In oth­er words  —  a blend­ing of the two that allows use to com­bine both in to liv­ing a more ful­fill­ing life?

Why, sure!


The short answer is, the issue goes away when you stop think­ing of the two as dif­fer­ent or mutu­al­ly exclusive.

Here’s the long answer.

In the West, sev­er­al hun­dred years ago, dur­ing the “Enlight­en­ment,” (a joke, because not many seemed all that enlight­ened,) both knowl­edge and “life” got divided. 

Pri­or to the Enlight­en­ment, “the Reli­gious,” (and espe­cial­ly Doc­tors of The­ol­o­gy) were the only ones edu­cat­ed enough to have “all the answers.” 

They had, by fiat, control of the bodies, minds and souls of the populace.

With the Enlight­en­ment “Sci­ence,” came to the fore­front, and we got Doc­tors of Sci­ence, and Doc­tors of Med­i­cine. As the Uni­ver­si­ty gained more pow­er, the Church lost some. 

The ini­tial reac­tion of the Church was sim­ply to excom­mu­ni­cate those who pro­posed sci­en­tif­ic the­o­ry that was seen as con­tra­dict­ing the Bible. If the per­son did­n’t recant, they tossed ’em to the Inqui­si­tion and declared ’em heretics. 

Real­iz­ing belat­ed­ly that sci­en­tif­ic the­o­ry was actu­al­ly ver­i­fi­able, fry­ing, boil­ing, flay­ing and dis­em­bow­el­ing became less the pre­ferred method for the Church to express dis­plea­sure. The Church, methinks, has much to account for…)

Ultimately, the Church opted to carve things up into sacred and secular. 

They gave “body and mind” to the Doc­tors, “the sec­u­lar world” to the Sci­en­tists and “the sacred and the soul” … well, they kept that for themselves. 

Back then, the Church pre­tend­ed that they alone pos­sessed the keys to the king­dom, so the gen­er­al pop­u­lace (and fear­ful sci­en­tists) con­sid­ered the Church to be the arbiter of “the ulti­mate”  —  this being accom­plished not by log­ic, but through fear of excommunication.

The Church” carries much less weight in most circles these days, but the detritus of the past is this  —  people have trouble dropping the artificial distinction between “spiritual and mundane.”

This prac­tice of carv­ing things up to bet­ter under­stand them is a dis­tinct­ly West­ern prac­tice. We have cre­at­ed small­er and small­er areas of expertise. 

A friend of ours did her PhD. in whale genet­ics. She was able to fig­ure out the mito­chon­dr­i­al DNA rela­tion­ship struc­ture with­in dif­fer­ent pods of Wright whales, some­thing no one else had been able to do. 

When she pre­sent­ed her dis­ser­ta­tion, there were sev­er­al hang-ups, not the least of which was that there were only 2 whale geneti­cists in the world who could be trust­ed to fig­ure out whether her “mark­ers worked.” 

Geez, not even enough for a bridge game (unless you invite a whale.)

We have become a culture of experts unable to communicate “across fields of expertise.”

As a for­mer mem­ber of the cler­gy, I know how the game is played. 

I remem­ber think­ing that only cler­gy could do cer­tain things. I felt a call­ing (notice the lan­guage – called into ser­vice, ordained, set apart, etc.) to “be of ser­vice,” and I believed that call to be from God. So, I had to go to sem­i­nary, get ordained and don the outfit.

The “mad monk” ca. 1983

It took me until I was 45 to build up suf­fi­cient steam to leave moth­er church, nev­er to return. 

But I had blown off the “divi­sion of knowl­edge” baloney a decade ear­li­er, and I invite you to do the same.

Con­sid­er this: in the West, why does there seem to be a short list of “spir­i­tu­al things” and a long list of the sup­pos­ed­ly sec­u­lar or mundane? 

I think that part of the answer is that, in the West, we are human do-ings as opposed to human be-ings.

In the midst of my 2‑year Mas­ters in coun­selling I went to my super­vi­sor with a ques­tion about doing excel­lent ther­a­py. She sighed and shook her head and said, “You don’t do it, you be it.”

To learn that lesson meant to let go (at that point) of 31 years of conditioning.

Our cul­ture tells us that we “do” spir­i­tu­al things in “spir­i­tu­al places” and in pre­scribed “spir­i­tu­al ways.” 

This jibes with the notion that our bod­ies are at war with our spir­its, that sex­u­al­i­ty is un-spir­i­tu­al, that there are “cleans & dirt­ies” and that our sec­u­lar work is “filthy lucre”  —  at best, it pro­vides the mon­ey to fund the real, spir­i­tu­al, impor­tant stuff.

So, if you want a way around this, here it is. Enact your spirituality in everything you do. Stop carving up your life into compartments. Work on seeing all of life as lush with spirit and soul.

This is cap­tured in the Zen and Bud­dhist and Taoist idea, “chop wood, car­ry water.”

If I choose to engage with my tasks and with the peo­ple I come into con­tact with in a full, deep, hon­est, and “soul­ful” man­ner, how could this not be described as prac­tic­ing my spir­i­tu­al­i­ty in the world? 

If I make the oth­er choice, then I am cut­ting myself off from my roots for most of my week, just show­ing up and doing my job, putting in time and wast­ing my life. And then try­ing to make up for it with some church here, some prayer there and a lit­tle med­i­ta­tion in the morn­ing to help me sur­vive anoth­er day of the life I have cho­sen for myself.

Because here’s the kicker: no one makes us do the job we do. The “I have no choice, I have to work and this is the only job I can do” is simply crap.

I, and only I, decide who I am rela­tion­ship with (and how) and what I do and how I spend the 24 hours per day I’m given. 

If I choose to bore myself, anger myself, just put in time, or oth­er­wise fart around with that time, I need only look in the mir­ror to see who is caus­ing my distress.

I remem­ber back fond­ly to the orig­i­nal run of Kung Fu, with David Car­ra­dine. This was, for many peo­ple, a first, some­what West­ern­ized look at East­ern thought. 

What I loved most was watch­ing Kwai Chang Caine enter a town, and imme­di­ate­ly get a job. Now, remem­ber, he’s a Shaolin Priest. Yet there he is, week after week, “chop­ping wood, car­ry­ing water.” 

And not get­ting fired, not sleep­ing on the job, and emphat­i­cal­ly not grip­ing about the work­load. He just shows up and does his job, and in that process is afford­ed oppor­tu­ni­ties to “be of service.”

And that may be what we all need to be: Eastern Westerners/Western Easterners.

This week, look at the com­part­ments you arti­fi­cial­ly cre­ate in your life. If you hate your job, get some train­ing or just go do some­thing else. What, you think you have for­ev­er? Or if you are mak­ing your­self mis­er­able over aspects of your job, change your attitude.

If you think there is a sep­a­ra­tion of “worlds” that keep you from being who you are, get over this thought.

If you think that there are no lessons to be learned and no light to be shed on the sit­u­a­tions and the activ­i­ties of your life, give your head a shake. 

And if you are dis­re­gard­ing your body, your sex­u­al­i­ty, your eroti­cism, your humour – because you think parts of you are un-spir­i­tu­al, give your whole self a shake.

And then, chop wood, car­ry water. Cel­e­brate your life and your body as a uni­fied whole.

Because any oth­er sto­ry is frag­men­tary, at best. 😉

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