A woman wears a white knit hat and pulls it down over her face. You can see her nose and part of her mouth that's pouting. She wears a coat and a wool infinity scarf. There are ferns and a natural landscape in the background.

Why Don't I Feel Whole?

At the start of the pandemic for a couple of months, I participated in a daily global meditation with Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Wherever you Go, There You Are. 

There were close to 2,000 of us tuning in to meditate together as we navigated separately the strangeness of that time. A young woman asked a question during the Q & A at the end about how she could feel whole. She teared up and I could see the hurt and frustration in her eyes.

How many of us actually feel whole?

And wouldn't it be great if we could snap our fingers, sit on the meditation cushion, or take a pill that would immediately induce a sense of wholeness within us?

The woman was asking a question that pretty much everyone feels or has felt at some point in their lives. How can we feel whole? Why do we always feel that we're not enough?

I believe that much of our feelings of brokenness come from living in a society where we're bombarded by images that point to how inadequate we are. The truth is that we're not broken or woefully inadequate, but we constantly feel we don't measure up when we fixate on people who we see as smarter, more beautiful, and more accomplished. Even our respective religions--if we believe--tell us that somehow we are flawed. There is a shame, deep shame in not measuring up no matter how much we try.

Yet wouldn't it be great if we could walk out of our story of brokenness as if it was a movie? Or a skin we could shed just like that?

Self-love is a continuous practice and some of us get a headstart over others due to our upbringing. If our parents or caregivers constantly criticized us or if they didn't accept themselves, then it would've been hard for us to create that sense of wholeness from thin air. 

A Buddhist meditation teacher I had once said that "self" is a verb, not a noun. This is good news for us because it means we can remake ourselves whenever we want, that we're always changing and growing. If today we made some mistakes in our view, then tomorrow is a blank slate and all is possible. 

Perhaps we could start this journey to see ourselves as whole by being attentive to where we perceive wholeness in our life. Where are the places where we feel things are working for us, and that we'd like more of this?

And while we're at it why not focus on joy and see how this emotion fills us up. Some of us don't believe we deserve to be joyful. We see others struggle and think that we must take on the energy of their pain. Yet when we dip into the well of joy this can fill us up, resource us, and give us the energy to help others and be there for them.

Enjoying the small pleasures isn't frivolous but an inherent experience of being human. 

We may enjoy some music or a piece of art. Maybe we sit down and write a list of what we're grateful for or where we find joy.

We can then begin to craft a movie about our lives that is powerful, thoughtful, and also entertaining. 

Take a few moments to write down or just be aware of the times you don't feel whole. What does it feel like in your body? What prompted this feeling? How can you learn to be aware of these feelings, yet not give in to the dark thoughts?

And, in time we may do what this poem talks about as we realize that we were whole all the while. 

Love After Love

by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.