Let’s just say that we’re skeptical about rushing in to fix things.

We Unitarian Universalists understand the urge to restore what once was. Nothing is more human. Who doesn’t want to reverse the damage? Who doesn’t hold on to the humpty dumpty hope that all can be put back together again? But our faith teaches us that this is just not how the world works. Transition and change rule the flow of life. There is no going back. The current of time is just too strong.

And so the wholeness offered us is not that returning our lives to their original state but working with what remains to make something new. The shards are not pieces of a puzzle that needs put perfectly back together, but building blocks waiting to be molded into a yet to be imagined form. To be made whole again is to be reorganized, not restored.

Another way to put this is to say that there is freedom in the breaking. The cracks make room for creativity. That’s not to minimize the pain. And it’s certainly not a way of justifying tragedy as “part of God’s plan.” Rather, it’s a call for us to perceive the broken pieces of our lives as more than just a pile of worthless and ruined rubble. “Look closer,” says our faith, “that ash, if worked with, can give birth to a Phoenix.”

So, what piles of rubble in your life need revisited? What longing for what was needs let go so a new wholeness can emerge?

And how might you break open even further? Because that’s part of this too, isn’t it? “Your broken pieces are more than rubble” is not the only counterintuitive thing our faith tells us about wholeness. It also urges us to “Crack wider!” 

As odd as it sounds, we were meant to be broken, broken open to be exact. Over and over again, our faith reminds us that protecting our personal wholeness is only half the game. The equally important part of life’s journey is about letting in the wholeness of world!

It’s about cultivating cracks on purpose. It’s about becoming intentionally exposed. As Leonard Cohen famously put it “Cracks are how the light gets in.”

Broken hearts hurt but they also let in and allow us to connect with the pain of others. Protected hearts may seem safe, but our armor only ends up being a prison. It’s one of the most important but paradoxical spiritual truths there is: Broken people end up bigger people.

So, in the end, maybe that’s our most important “wholeness question”: How are your cracks inviting you to become larger? What cracks do you need to cultivate on purpose?

Our Spiritual Exercises

Option A:

Name Your Names

Israeli poet, Zelda, speaks powerfully to this month’s theme with her poem, Each of Us Has A Name. With it, she reminds us that our wholeness is not so much a matter of holding tight to your one true name, but embracing the many names given to us by the experiences of our lives. The full poem can be found at this link, but here’s a taste:

Each of us has a name given by God

and given by our parents…

Each of us has a name given by the mountains

and given by our walls…

Each of us has a name given by our sins

and given by our longing…

So, this month, you are invited to reflect on how these universal experiences have “named you.” Spend a few hours or a few days going through Zelda’s poem line by line, stopping after each one to think about how that experience imprinted itself on your and added a dimension to your wholeness, for better or worse.

It helps to think of each of these experiences as completing the sentence, “You are…”  So here’s an example of what you might ask yourself as you work with each line:

  • What name was I given by “God”(or Love)? How did my first God experience complete the sentence, “You are …”
  • What name was I given by my parents? How has my relationship with them completed the sentence, “You are …”
  • What name was I given by the mountains? How has my experience with nature completed the sentence, “You are …”
  • What name was I given by my “sins”? How has my experience with my shadow side or mistakes completed the sentence, “You are …”

Come to your group ready to share what surprised you about the exercise and the 1 or 2 most significant insights it gave you.

Alternative Approach: You can streamline and focus this exercise by reading through the poem multiple times until a single line pops out for you. In other words, don’t engage each line but instead find the one line that engages you. Come to your group ready to share why you think it stuck out for you and where it led you.

Option B:

Test to See Which Wholeness is Yours

Some personality tests help us identify our strengths; others our unique ways of perceiving the world. The Enneagram aims to capture us in our wholeness. It helps us understand ourselves at our best and our worst. It is also based on how we deal with stress and fear, or to put it into the language of this month’s theme, how we maintain and restore our wholeness in the face of stress and fear.

So this month, as your spiritual exercise, engage the Enneagram and what is says about the best and not-so-best of your whole self. Here are some ways into the work:

Read About the Various Enneagram Personality Types:

Take the Test: Choose one of these or try them both…

Come to your group ready to share what your reading and test taking helped you realize about the work of embracing your whole self. Talking about our growing edges as well as our strengths is never easy. Be sure to pay attention to how easy or difficult it was to be gentle and generous with yourself.


Option C:

The Wholeness of Another

This exercise invites you to explore your experience of wholeness by learning about the wholeness of others. Hearing how others talk about their lives clarifies our own. So pick 2-4 people to interview this month about wholeness. We suggest that you use the following five questions:

  1. When was the first time you thought to yourself “I’m complete”?
  2. In what space or place do you feel most whole? How often do you spend time there?
  3. How has your understanding of wholeness changed with age?
  4. What was your proudest moment of maintaining and standing up for your wholeness?
  5. What part of yourself hasn’t been let out in a while?

If these five questions are too many or not quite right, then alter the list any way you like. The Your Question section below contains additional ideas. The important part is to ask each person the same question or questions. The contrasting answers and differing perspectives enable new insights to emerge.

Who you pick is also a value part of the exercise so pay attention to the feelings and motives that arise. Are you nervous or excited? Are you only picking people you are comfortable with? Do you see the topic of wholeness as a chance to go deep with someone or impolite because it is too intimate of a topic? Are you surprised that you you’ve never talked with these people about this before?

Come to your group ready to share not just your reactions to the answers you gathered, but also your experience of choosing your questions and interviewees. 

Option D:

Find Wholeness in Our Recommended Resources

Our recommended resources are full of wisdom about what it means to be a people of and a person of wholeness. Engaging these resources and finding the one that especially speaks to you is a spiritual practice in and of itself.

So, if none of the above exercises speak to you, engage the recommended resources section of this packet as your spiritual exercise for the month.

Set aside some regular time throughout a week to go through them and meditate on them until you find the one that most expands or deepens your understanding of sanctuary. After you’ve found it, consider printing it out and carrying it with you or pinning it up so you can continue to reflect on it throughout the weeks leading up to your group meeting. Come to your group ready to share where the journey led you.

Your Question

As always, don’t treat these questions like “homework” or try to answer every single one.

Instead, make time to meditate and reflect on the list and then pick the one question that speaks to you most. The goal is to figure out which question is “yours.

Which question captures the call of your inner voice? Which one contains “your work”?

What is it trying to get you to notice? Where is it trying to lead you?

  1. When were you first invited into a circle that helped you feel whole? How does that story still direct you today?
  2. Is wholeness for you a solitary or relational journey?
  3. When did you first discover that repairing the world is one of the best ways to put yourself back together?
  4. In what space or place do you feel most whole? How often do you spend time there?
  5. Who taught you that wholeness does not mean perfection? Who helped you with the work of embracing brokenness, rather than trying to fix or hide it? How have you passed on that lesson? Does someone in your life need that lesson now?
  6. How has your understanding of wholeness changed with age?
  7.  What was your proudest moment of maintaining and standing up for your wholeness?
  8. What part of yourself hasn’t been let out in a while?
  9. Masks hide our wholeness but sometimes they keep it safe. Has that ever been true for you?
  10. Was it ever easier for you to live through someone else than to become complete yourself?
  11. Can you name the three most prominent aspects of your shadow side? What are you learning about accepting and embracing them? If your child or a significant young person in your life asked you about facing their shadow, what advice would you give?
  12. When was the last time you felt “most me”? Did you promise yourself anything in that moment? Did you tell yourself something to never forget?
  13. Has empathy ever been a doorway to wholeness for you?
  14. What if it’s about belonging not becoming? What if wholeness is a matter of noticing we’ve already arrived?
  15. What’s your question? Your question may not be listed above. As always, if the above questions don’t include what life is asking from you, spend the month listening to your days to hear it. Or maybe the question or call you need to hear is waiting in one of the quotes listed below. Consider looking there! 

Companion Pieces

Recommended Resources for Personal Exploration & Reflection

The following resources are not required reading. We will not analyze these pieces in our group. Instead they are here to companion you on your journey this month, get your thinking started and open you to new ways of thinking about what it means to be part of a people of Wholeness.

Word Roots

Our understanding of “whole” comes through the old Germanic and Norse languages: hal, haila which give the sense of entire, unhurt, uninjured, safe; healthy, sound; genuine, straightforward, undamaged, complete. Our word for health has similar roots.

Wise Words

My father is a professor and I learned from him that you don’t really know something until you teach it to another. We don’t really know our own wholeness until we see the wholeness of another or work to serve wholeness in our world. Wholeness, a sense of our own fullness, a spiritual realization of our own strength and beauty, is given when we give of ourselves…  We heal our own aches by healing the aches in others. We put back the pieces of our own souls by helping others redeem their own wholeness.

Rev. Anya Sammler-Michael

Caring for others completes us.

Rev. Scott Tayler

You Are Not Enough

Alexis Engelbrecht, Soul Matters Family Ministry Coordinator

The phrase is everywhere. Though the words may vary, the essence remains: You are enough.

You have what it takes. If you just believe, anything is possible. You can do it.

May I suggest that you are not enough?

I am not enough. Each of us, as individuals, is not enough.

Alone, one can feel overwhelmed and hopeless. Alone, one must fend for oneself. Alone, one is left to only what one’s personal experiences and knowledge.

No – I am not enough… but… when I am with another, my tears can be accompanied by the comfort of companionship. When I am with another, one seemingly impossible challenge is divided by half. When I am with many, the work is shared.

Our insights and wisdom multiple with the presence of others at the table.

We cannot be everything at once. Instead, when you are with me, and I am with you –

when we are part of this community grounded in Love – we are enough…we are whole.

We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly embracing each other.

Luciano De Crescenzo

He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him in!
Edwin Markham

Communion Circle 

Mark L. Belletini

The earth.

One planet.

Round, global,

so that when you trace its shape

with your finger,

you end up where you started. It’s one. It’s whole.

All the dotted lines we draw on our maps

of this globe are just that, dotted lines.

They smear easily…

One cannot live in the world; that is, one cannot become, in the easy, generalizing sense with which the phrase is commonly used, a “world citizen.” There can be no such thing as a “global village.” No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, one can live fully in it only by living responsibly in some small part of it. Where we live and who we live there with define the terms of our relationship to the world and to humanity. We thus come again to the paradox that one can become whole only by the responsible acceptance of one’s partiality.

Wendell Berry

Wholeness does not mean perfection: it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life. Knowing this gives me hope that human wholeness — mine, yours, ours — need not be a utopian dream, if we can use devastation as a seedbed for new life.

Parker Palmer

If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.

The Gospel of Thomas

To be whole is to make manifest a unique face of God in the world.

Mary Rose O’Reilley

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

‘Finding yourself’ is not really how it works. You aren’t a ten-dollar bill in last winter’s coat pocket. You are also not lost. Your true self is right here, buried under cultural conditioning, other people’s opinions and inaccurate conclusions you drew as a kid that became your beliefs about who you are. ‘Finding yourself’ is actually returning to yourself. An unlearning, an excavation, a remembering who you were before the world got its hands on you.

Emily McDowell

It is easier to live through someone else than to become complete yourself.

Betty Friedan

If I am to let my life speak things I want to hear, … I must also let it speak things I do not want to hear and would never tell anyone else! My life is not only about my strengths and virtues; it is also about my liabilities and my limits, my trespasses and my shadow. An inevitable though often ignored dimension of the quest for ‘wholeness’ is that we must embrace what we dislike or find shameful about ourselves as well as what we are confident and proud of.

Parker Palmer

Happiness is just one part of our existence, wholeness is to embrace all that is within us. It’s to embrace our shadow qualities, to embrace our self-doubt, fear, anxiety, as well as the brightness, joy, and curiosity. It is all welcome.

Dan Putt

You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done…you are fierce with reality.

Florida Scott-Maxwell

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Jellaludin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks

As a Unitarian Universalist, I have come to see that universal salvation is not just for all of us but for all of me. There is no crevice inside of me that love cannot touch.

Paula Goldade, UU and Wellspring participant

Sometimes I think I have organized the inner crowd. For a brief, breathtaking moment, I feel completely whole. I understand that I am comprised of many selves that make up a single chorus. To listen to the music this chorus makes, to recognize it as music, as something noble, varied, patterned, beautiful — that is the work of a lifetime.

Dani Shapiro

Each of Us Has A Name

Zelda (translated by Marcia Falk)

Full poem at 

Each of us has a name given by God

and given by our parents…

Each of us has a name given by the mountains and given by our walls…

Each of us has a name given by our sins

and given by our longing…

Here is the ultimate irony of the divided life: live behind a wall long enough, and the true self you tried to hide from the world disappears from your own view! The wall itself and the world outside it become all that you know. Eventually, you even forget that the wall is there — and that hidden behind it is someone called “you.”

Parker Palmer

In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions: When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?

Gabrielle Roth

One Body

Rev. Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Unless you can feel it,

the one sinew running through our breath,

the one nerve in which we all throb,

unless you know in the worst terrorists


and see in the most foreign face

your own heart looking out at the world,

unless you know in your gut

the demagogue, the refugee, the infidel

as part of yourself,

unless you feel in the loveless the Beloved

surely as in you,

you do not yet inhabit your body

and can’t yet be

the one

we already are.

Joy Harjo

Full poem found at 

Video meditation using poem: 

Remember the earth whose skin you are:

red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth

brown earth, we are earth…

Remember that you are all people and that all people are you…

You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.


The Healing Moment (on belonging to the whole)

Elizabeth Tarbox

Full meditation (words and audio) at

“when I am here at the edge of creation, breaking with the small tide over the sand, the need to do good rolls away… I am with the broken stubble of the marsh grass that holds on through the wrecking wind and the burning flood. I am with the grains that mold themselves around everything, accepting even so unworthy a foot as mine, holding and shaping it until it feels that it belongs…” 

On Easter and Wholeness

Spring and Easter don’t preach the same sermon. Spring promises the inevitability of relief: The cold will end on its own and the flowers will naturally bloom. But Easter tells us that wholeness won’t come without work. Whereas Spring says sit still and watch the mud transform into beauty, Easter says get busy and make friends with hard, dry earth. Dig in and don’t be afraid of blistering your hands. The pain, sorrow and bloodied soiled is not redeemed by the seeds; it is the seed. So don’t run

away from the it. Don’t wait it out. Instead, trust it. For, if you do the work of befriending those wounds and that defeat, it will leave you whole.

Rev. Scott Tayler

Songs and Music

The River

written and performed by Coco Love Alcorn

Rhythm and Roots Choir:

UU Choir version:

“Water heal my body. Water heal my soul. When I go down-down to the water, by the water I feel whole.”

32 Flavors

Alana Davis’ cover of Ani Difranco’s beloved original

“I am 32 flavors and then some!”



“We’re more than our bodies

We’re more than where we call our home

We’re more than our money

We’re more than a salient song…”


The Beatles

Jon Batiste cover:

“Take these broken wings and learn to fly…”


Covers of Leonard Cohen’s masterpiece on wholeness in the midst of defeat

Bastian Baker:

Allison Crowe:


Leonard Cohen

Cover by Camille O’Sullivan:

“Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

More “Wholeness Songs” are found on our November Soul Matters Spotify playlist. Click here to check them out! You can also explore the playlists from other months here.

Videos & Online

Video – The Art of Kintsugi

Article on Kintsugi:

Another video:

Making the World Whole Again (by starting in a surprising place)

Soozi Holbeche

The Wild Inside

The story of Arizona state prison inmates who train wild horses and discover that the work (and the horses) help make them whole.

Private Parts

Sarah Kay

On sharing all the pieces of ourselves and finding a wholeness in the offering.

The Fat Joke

Rachel Wiley

“I am deserving to exist as I do!”

For Women Who Are Difficult to Love

Warsan Shire

As video meditation:

As meditation put to dance:

True You – Invisibilia Podcast

What happens when you discover a part of yourself that is so different from who you think you are? Do you hold on to your original self tightly? Do you explore this other self? Or do you just panic?

Our Better Nature – Hidden Brain Podcast

Bringing Earth Day and wholeness together in an exploration of the physiological and psychological benefits of spending time in nature.

Nature, Joy, and Human Becoming – On Being Podcast

On our bond with nature and its ability to return us to wholeness. “There is a legacy deep within us, a legacy of instinct, a legacy of inherited feelings, which may lie very deep in the tissues — it may lie underneath all the parts of civilization which we are so familiar with on a daily basis, but it has not gone; that we might have left the natural world, most of us, but the natural world has not left us.”

Using The HEART Strategies When White Fragility Shows Up

Dr. Amanda Kemp

Understanding white fragility as step toward wholeness.

My Fragility: Trauma, Race and Coming Back to Wholeness

Dr. Amanda Kemp

The Urgency of Intersectionality

Kimberlé Crenshaw

Intersectionality and the Hope of a Better View of the Whole

Blackness & Belonging – Healing Justice Podcast

Prentis Hemphill

An interview with leading healer and teacher within the Black Lives Matter movement who works at the intersection of healing and justice and works to address trauma, move through conflict and center wholeness. 


On the Art of Finding Yourself

Melli O’Brien

“Your task then, is not to ‘find yourself’ but to find out whenever you leave yourself…and get lost in those stories. Notice them, then let them go…”

What Does it Mean to Be a Man? – On Being

“Society rarely provides space for men to be whole…Very rarely are cis-men given space to interrogate and create their own definition of masculinity that includes being emotionally/mentally sound and whole… The emotionally damaging “masculinization” of young men starts even before young men have a keen sense of self…”

The Elusive Art of Inner Wholeness and How to

Stop Hiding Our Souls

Essay on Parker Palmer’s A Hidden Wholeness

Maria Popova

My Ancestor Owned 41 Slaves. What do I Owe Their Descendants?

On reparations as part of what social wholeness requires: “Because slavery was a societal institution, enshrined in the Constitution, and had societal consequences that have not been fixed, its reparation must be societal…”


The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

Edward E. Baptist

A groundbreaking effort to tell our whole history, demonstrating that America’s economic supremacy was built on the backs of slaves.

The Body Papers

Grace Talusan

An award-winning memoir from the perspective of Filipino-American immigrant on finding and holding on to wholeness in the face of trauma: “Grace Talusan writes eloquently about the most unsayable things: the deep gravitational pull of family, the complexity of navigating identity as an immigrant, and the ways we move forward even as we carry our traumas with us.”


Love after Love

When grief threatens our wholeness and how we survive.


About the beautiful and hard won wholeness of “a fatherless family.”

Hidden Figures

The story of inspiring and pioneering women who made their mark at NASA. A testament to how none of us can be whole until the whole story is told.

Black Panther

“Ryan Coogler’s film is a vivid re-imagination of something black Americans have cherished for centuries — Africa as a dream of our wholeness, greatness and self-realization.” NYT Magazine

The Yes Men Fix the World

Serious truth-telling, silly pranks and a sincere desire to start repairing the wholeness of the world.

Inside Out

A family movie about embracing and needing all the parts of yourself. A celebration of the whole “committee in your head”!

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on the monthly theme by liking our

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Find musical inspiration

on each theme by following our monthly

Spotify Lists:

Find support for bringing the

monthly themes home and into your family life with

Soulful Home: A Guide for Families:

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