Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Accepting Wholeness

I love the title of Mark Epstein's book Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart. (1998: broadway books, ny) It speaks to my thoughts on wholeness, that we are already whole and somehow learn to segment, judge, discard, ignore and repress so that we feel ourselves (or others) to be incomplete.

If I accept my "faults" and "weaknesses" -- those attributes that are judged as less-than, and include them in the whole picture that represents me along with the open, loving, functional attributes, I see myself as an entirety. I make choices, I have had experiences, I have learned this and that -- including yogic ideas and practices -- and throughout these times that which is my being has been whole. Even in the worst of times or the best of times, that being is beyond the attributes.

Epstein reacts to the Dalai Lama's statement that "All beings are seeking happiness. It is the purpose of life." After a while he comes to see that, "Completion comes not from adding another piece to ourselves but from surrendering our ideas of perfection." He recognizes that this statement refers to the misplaced idea that we can seek completion and thus happiness through accumulation, either outside ourselves (from other people, relationships, or material goods) or inside ourselves (self-development, status).

A friend has been going through a great deal of trauma with her adolescent son. He is suffering as many teens do with self definitions; and the pressures to feel or look or act or accomplish in a specific way seem inextricable from "success" and thus "happiness." The happiness does not come, the judgments pile up, the soul retreats. I feel sad about this situation, and wonder if our society could shift away from what Epstein calls "psychological materialism."

Yoga practice really helps with bringing an open space in which to accept a self that includes the entirety of "strengths" and "weaknesses" and encourages a person to drop the judged quality there. What may seem "strong" may be a block to something else, what may seem "weak" may be where the deepest waters run.

Note: I also recommend Epstein's first book, thoughts without a thinker.

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