Restoring Wholeness

Yesterday was a travel day for me. I’m going to cut to the chase. It was eleven hours, and three flights, that ended with me arriving home to Utah in body, yet without suitcase. It left me pondering what it means to arrive emotionally. Or in spirit, not just body. It left me pondering wholeness.

Wholeness is at the root of most spiritual traditions. Underneath the hoopla, and underneath the details of procedures and rituals is most often an intent to restore wholeness. This wholeness implies a relationship on several layers. With self. With other. Among the “us” of whoever “us” is. This wholeness implies a relationship with trying on the possibility of “other” making no sense.

Wholeness is not just at the root of spiritual tradition and practice. I would suggest it is also at the root of family, team, community, and organization. The work, again underneath the hoopla and hoop jumping, is about creating encounters of meaning and purpose, of imagination and curiosity, of honesty and transparency, of humility. Many of us are learning many things about the nuancing of how to do this. I know it is a big hunk of my life’s work and the life work I bring to others.

Lately, in part due to some work and travel, I’ve been feeling the impact of arrival / departure of said travel. With intent to be honest with myself, and to be honest about sharing a simple metaphor for the way that many of us experience movement / arrival / departure, I notice I’ve been referencing the transporting device from the original Star Trek series. That’s the one with Captain Kirk, played by William Shatner. The Chief Engineer was Scotty, played by James Doohan. The transporter was the device that “beamed” people from one physical location to another. It turned the body into cosmic bits and then, when all was well, restored the bits to the whole body. In the show there were often moments when the transporter malfunctioned and not all of the person’s bits made it.

Lately, in travel, I’ve been feeling like some of me is still in that last stage of transporting. My body is here, but my psyche is a bit somewhere else. I’ll cut to the chase of that too — it’s because our body’s aren’t the only thing that travel. Our psyches do also. And not always at the speed of an airplane carrying us across multiple time zones, or just across multiple contexts even within the same time zone.

So, personal practice of getting ourselves through the transporter matter. Here’s an example most relevant to me today.

I woke at 5:30. Brain kicked in. I’m thinking about my lost luggage and hoping the airline will deliver it today. I’m traveling again tomorrow and need it. I’m in a short window of home. I’m thinking about seeing my kids. I’m thinking about projects that need tending. I’m thinking about the three meetings I have scheduled today. I’m tempted to forgo any self care and just get to the list of todos. It’s go-time, which does have a certain adrenalin filled attraction. It also has a bit of malfunctioning transformer in it. I can feel myself not quite here.

So, rather than just push through, defaulting to the natural compulsion of speed, I went to my routine. A bit of journalling. It’s still before 6:00 after all. And then meditation. Twenty minutes. Just to be more still. Not to go directly to planning and execution mind. But rather to create some pause. It feels like letting the transporter do its job. And, as I’ve know many times before, the stillness was what I most needed. To let my cosmic self reconfigure in the fullness that is today.

Spiritual traditions, and health traditions, and communities have long been pointed at an overall well-being as the intent and purpose. Under that lays wholeness, which is just a fancy way of returning to something that already inherently is. For me, yup, I hope my suitcase catches up to me today. But I also know the wholeness I most rely on is not found in a Samsonite black roller bag. And that it’s something that needs deliberate attention, particularly when crazy busy.

Toward Wholeness

It isn’t knew to be seeking wholeness. Many spiritual traditions for eons have been encouraging this, to get the inherent wholeness that underlays the outward expression of this life. In physics, it was David Bohm who pointed many of us to the “implicate order.” Ken Wilbur is another who has been pointing many of us to understanding the integratedness of the personal and the communal, the subjective and the objective. The thing behind the thing behind the thing — that turns out not to be a thing. Wholeness is the gold in that treasure hunt.

This weekend I was glad to co-host with my friend and colleague Quanita Roberson. This was our tenth hosting of a weekend retreat that we call QT. There were nine of us in a weekend of deliberate curiosity together. Play together. Slowed pace together. Quality time together. Wonder. Wander. Mystery.

In this time of QT, most of what we talk about begins with a set of symbols through which the intent is to move toward more of a wholeness orientation. Inner and outer. Personal and communal. We are deliberate about inviting a range of symbols. Sometimes it’s a formal set of cards (like Caroline Myss’ Archetype Cards). Sometimes the symbols are stories that we share (like, what is the “yes” that brought you here). Sometimes the symbols are a round of sharing dreams from the previous night.

It’s in this last one, sharing dreams, I’ve learned particular pattern that shifts us from a light playfulness to a rather serious journey toward wholeness. It has a few steps that have quite subtle relevances.

When a dream (or dream snippet) is shared, spoken out loud,

  1. The wholeness starts with the invitation for anyone to speak / share a statement, “If that were my dream…,” This is deliberate. We aren’t offering dream coaching or divining for the dream teller. That would be interesting, I suppose, but has never been the purpose for me, nor the skillset. “If that were my dream…,” invites picking one detail that stands out. The lake. The hammer. The connection to mother. The pink towel. No wrong answer.
  2. The next move for the person identifying the detail is to say a few sentences of why the interest. Again, there are no wrong answers in this, because it is personal. There are no wrong answers in the personal journey that is toward an inherent wholeness. For example, “If that were my dream, the detail of the lake stands out to me because when I was a boy, I used to spend time as the lake with my cousins, my sister, and my grandparents.” This steps invites an emotional connection. Or sometimes a naming of a principle from past waking life experience (e.g., “Joy matters.”)
  3. The next move is to bring the access to the emotional connection forward to current waking life learning and experience. For example, “That memory as a boy at a lake with family was a joyful time of my life. It helps me to see some of the joy that I currently have (or that I’m currently missing) in my life now.” It’s this last step that invites and encourages people to be wildly associative, and, well, quite frankly, productive in a move to wholeness, by being willing to explore what is personal.

For most of us, this movement toward wholeness requires being a good noticer. It means speaking as honestly as possible about what it is like to be them, and to speak with willingness to wander in some transparency. It means being willing to get wildly associative, using symbols in front of us (cards, stories, dreams, a phrase from a poem, etc) to explore the inner territory, the personal (that is always connected to the outer). It means giving ourselves permission to wonder how any moment in time and experience is connected to a longer arc of time of who we are being and becoming, or, how the longer and more complex arc is connected to the simplicity of just this moment of now.

Ah, toward wholeness. I know there are many ways in. I’m grateful for that. This invitation to build associative capacity, to recognize that all of it is in each of us — I find that to be true — creates a rather different and healthy kind of feeling in an among groups of people. I’m glad for that too.

It’s all about encouraging ourselves and others to move with this attention. Just as it has been for so long.


The flip side of lost, is found. The flip side of end, is beginning. It feels important to witness both. They go together. They always have. This morning, I reflect on a hunk of important time.



Seven years ago
we chose

With dreams.
With friends.
We were moved, together.

Sadly, those dreams weren’t enough.

What we also had,
both of us,
were not-resolved-enough wounds,
oddly amplified,
in our together.

I will remember
that we were important
in each others lives.

Perhaps, we lived into what we could.

that chapter of life is clearly over,
to be tucked into other old experiences,
but also released.

Remembered for the path created together.
Remembered for the learning.
Remembered for the love.
Remembered for the pain, too.

But also,
for the medicine
of release.

Seven years is what seven years is.

It’s time to release into
the simple joy of
gentle breeze in morning,
just for the way it feels so kind and curious
on my legs and face.

And the joy of
the fog that lifts
clearing sight
for utterly good human being,
with ample love,
for self, for other, for memory,
and blessing.

Associative Ability

As a kid, I loved math. There was something simple about times tables. I can still see the light green papers used at my elementary school. They were long lists of simple multiplication questions. 4 x 3 = ___. 9 x 3 = ___. Nothing higher than 12. I remember being timed on such tests. Both to completion as well as to see who was the fastest. Something in me loved it. I suppose because I came from a card playing family, those kind of numbers came pretty easy to me.

In math, an “Associative Property” is the one that invites some moving of parts into a different order that still yields the same answer. For example, (2 x 3) x 6 = 2 x (3 x 6).

In my young adult life, I loved psychology. I didn’t have a clear picture of what I would come to study in university. In my family system, I was among the first to get to go to university. I landed in psychology. Because, I think I liked figuring things out beyond the numbers. And of course, I was making sense of a few things in my own experience, trying to understand what it meant to be me, and what it meant to be community. I loved the nuancing of all of that.

In psychology, an “Associative Ability” is the ability see and learn the relationship between unrelated things. It’s an ability to connect things and make meaning from them. It gets interesting here doesn’t it. Not in 5th grade math anymore. In my professional life, Meg Wheatley became one of the best examples of this for me. Her 1992 book “Leadership and the New Science” showed just this kind of associative ability. She connected leadership with such seemingly unrelated topics as biology, physics, and chemistry.

There’s one more layer to this associative journey that I’m learning these days. I have several friends that I would say have fantastic associative ability. Some just know stuff that’s impressive. They connect ideas. We connect ideas together. Or, they are willing to connect ideas in a way that sounds like, “Hmm…, I don’t know if that’s connected. How is that connected for you? Let’s explore it a bit, shall we.”

The most interesting form of this associative journey with friends is very much a deeper psychological, epistemological, and well, spiritual and poetic orientation — everything is connected. Indigenous traditions have been telling us this for, well eons. Science is catching up to slowly change our human collective psyche to stop reducing things down to parts and rather to dwell in inherent wholeness. It takes some work, definitely.

With these friends, with some shared associative ability, and with an orientation to relatedness, one of the things that I’m most appreciating is the radical honesty that grows from associative ability. Psychologically, it just feels more healthy and helpful. Rather than, “…can you believe how narrow that person is…” (the gift of people that trigger us usually points to an unresolved or denied aspect of ourselves — check out yesterday’s post with quotes from Pema Chodron), there is kindness and brilliance in the associative ability of finding that quality, “narrow,” in self. It sounds like, “…yes, I can find the part of me that is narrow and protective….” Or, flip this associative practice to a societally uplifted quality such as brilliance, “…can you believe how brilliant that person is…” starts to sound like, “…yes, I can find the part of me that is brilliant…”

Associative ability that pertains to humans being humans being together means that we’ve really grown the ability to start anywhere and follow it everywhere, with utter relevance always waiting patiently for us at the edges. It’s fun. It’s also enlivening in a way that feels like a lot more than just fun. Those are rich conversations when we go agenda-less, yet through growing associative ability, are so harvest-filled.

I’m glad for math way back when. It gave me a medium to work out some of what churned in my soul as a kid. I didn’t stay with the math side of association — didn’t become an engineer. But I did follow the consciousness and psychological side of association — and became the teacher, guide, community engager, and leadership development person that I am.

And I’m glad for friends, with whom we together learn to see much bigger worlds, both within us and in the outer.