By Deepak Chopra™, MD, Tiffany J Barsotti, MTh, Paul J. Mills, PhD
As the notions of “holistic” and “wholeness” became popular in recent decades, they also turned into a paradox. People who focused on holistic health, diet, and wellness found themselves to be cut off from people who didn’t care about such things (which is the majority). Trying to be holistic wound up making you separate, which is the opposite of being whole. The meditation/wholefoods/yoga people are a splinter group from the McDonald’s/Monday Night Football/TGIF people.
Perhaps a misunderstanding lies at the bottom of this situation. Wholeness people tend to feel that they are waiting for non-wholeness people to catch on, a little like non-smokers and teetotalers waiting for chain-smokers and beer drinkers to catch on. This divide disappears, however, once you realize that you cannot make yourself whole, while on the other side of the coin you cannot make yourself unwhole. Everyone is whole already.
A simple observation is enough to clarify why wholeness is inescapable. Imagine someone sitting at a computer doing a task. You cannot see the monitor, so you don’t know what their task is. The physical body you see is a person; the thinker responding to the computer screen is a person. The two must co-exist, uniting two sides of reality, physical and mental. This union defines everyone’s existence. You were born whole, and the only thing that separates you from a random stranger is what you decide to do with your wholeness.
Here we are looking beyond lifestyle, although that would seem to be the most glaring difference between people. Instead, how you use your wholeness primarily centers on something else: awareness. Someone in the meditation/whole foods/yoga group can be miserable, conflicted, and anxious while someone in the other group is content, loving, and secure. Clearly awareness is involved in this difference, but how?
The problem is that everyone, with the tiniest fraction of exceptions, lives as if they are not whole. There are all kinds of reasons for this, but chief among them is that almost everyone, however competent they are at the business of living, knows next to nothing about how awareness works. We live with mental activity every waking moment, but all our thinking, feeling, and sensing reveals very little about the nature of the mind itself. We are left with a version of “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” because the human mind is the source of the best and worst things that life has to offer.
To resolve this state of confusion, there have been quiet steps taken by researchers interested in holistic medicine, the wellness movement, psychotherapy, and spirituality. Different as these fields might be, each researcher has taken heed of what the groundbreaking psychologist Abraham Maslow called self-transcendence. Instead of being satisfied with an everyday life guided by the ego’s demands, duties, and desires, in the process of self-transcending (going beyond the ego) the individual begins to experience more holistic levels of their own consciousness. Maslow’s self-transcendence is akin to the concept of self-realization, often espoused by Eastern traditions.
The general public doesn’t’ yet realize that wholeness has become a surprising success story, which can be scientifically verified. Here are some highlights from a number of fields.
- Mainstream medicine is being surpassed by a better way to keep people healthy. As the scientific evidence grows, with over 100,0000 studies to date, complementary and alternative medicines have become much more accepted in the West. Something new is evolving called Integrative Health, where being healthy is a state of body, mind, and spirit.
- Spirituality has been brought into the fold. Supporting someone’s spiritual health is understood to be crucial for establishing wellbeing. A cue is being taken from Eastern medicine, in which meditation and yoga are as beneficial to wellbeing as any medical prescription, and much more useful in preventing future problems.
- Mediation works, in a very big way, but it opens the door to a wider domain. Beyond inner peace and quiet is wholeness, now generally called nondual awareness. Freed of all the demands of mental activity, a person experiences what it is like to be aware in a simple, present-moment fashion.
- “Who am I?” is being reframed. Instead of identifying with the “I” that constantly deals with the ups and downs of life, one learns how to remain centered in nondual awareness. An agitated state is exchanged for a steady state. “I am” is the baseline, not “I think, feel, and do.”
- Existence has become a solid foundation of life. It might seem that “I am” is a poor relation to “I think, feel, and do,” but the actual experience of “I am” brings about a deep realization. Awareness is the source of love, compassion, creativity, personal growth, purpose, and meaning. From this foundation, thinking, feeling, and doing are infused with spiritual value, and well-being is nurtured throughout the whole person.
Integrative Health is not an invention or discovery but a journey back to who we really are. It’s only natural to see that life is better when it is lived with far less attachment to the drama of pain and pleasure, ups and downs, failure and fulfillment. Nondual awareness brings the needed detachment that allows us to respond from a deeper self, one that is always connected to our source in pure awareness. These are profound matters, but the state of wellbeing is natural to the whole person. In that light, the surprising success of wholeness needs to be shouted from the rooftops, especially in the turbulent times we find ourselves in.