What Does It Mean To Be A People of Wholeness?

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 strenths 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!