Am I willing to drop into wholeness?
I get this image of diving into the water from a cliff.
And once in the water, being engulfed, surrounded, enfolded, enveloped.
The sounds of the outer world are muted by the healing waters.
And then we re-emerge from that watery cocoon, ready for the next stage of life.
In 2006, Emily and I traveled to Turkey where I was speaking at a conference for Interpersonal Acceptance and Rejection.
Prior to the conference in Istanbul, we traveled south through Ephesus and down to Fethiye. While in Fethiye, we took a three-day Mediterranean “cruise” on a small yacht. This was right before being kidnapped, but that is a story for another time.
The Mediterranean story – if I can get your attention back from that other story – is about a defining moments on those beautiful Mediterranean waters.
We shared our yacht with 4 Aussies who were all about having a very good time.
At one point, the captain stopped about 100 feet from the shoreline and told us that the cliffs we were passing were wonderful for cliff diving.
I’m all about having a little adventure and I probably take more risks than Emily would like.
But these were very high cliffs. Cliffs in the 60-75 feet range.
The captain slowed the yacht, and one of the Aussies dove off and did a depth check. He signaled that all was good and for us to join him.
Amidst some nervous laughter and “No way!” utterances from our group, I jumped over the deck and swam to the shore and followed the only other idiot on the boat who thought this was a good idea.
We climbed up the back side of the cliffs and then stood looking out over the sea, our little yacht below us.
The sun was bearing down. A breeze gently nudged us closer to the edge.
The Aussie waved to his friends, looked at me, smiled, let out a battle cry, and dove into the depths.
I crept close enough to the edge to see him disappear for a little while…and then re-emerge with a shout of exhilaration.
As I stepped closer, I started to get cold feet.
If you’ve done anything that has given you a heart-freeze of fear and trepidation, then you know that waiting around and thinking more about what you’re afraid of doing is not really a recipe for success.
But, that’s what I did.
On this particular cliff, you couldn’t just jump. You had to get a running start to clear the rocks directory below you.
What if I slipped on the loose rock before taking off?
What if the Aussie missed some underwater protrusion in his depth check?
What if I got turned around in the air and landed harshly?
What if my legs got split apart before hitting the water?
You know these moments, don’t you?
We all have them. They need not come from an imposing Mediterranean cliff jump.
They’re subjective to the person.
Fear of heights.
Fear of spiders.
Fear of being in groups of people.
Fear of speaking in front of a group.
Fear of dancing.
Fear of being vulnerable with your partner or spouse.
Fear of reaching out to an estranged friend and saying you’re sorry.
Fear of getting fired from your job if you do what is right.
Fear of standing up to the workplace bully.
Fear of rocking the boat.
Fear of leaving your job to chase that dream that you know you’re supposed to chase.
Fear of daring to let yourself dream at all.
Fear of dying.
Fear of losing possessions.
Fear of trying for fear of failure.
Fear of failure.
Fear of intimacy.
Fear of others getting to know you.
Fear of rejection.
Fear of paper clips.
Face it, we needed a moment of levity.
Fear of a meteor hitting the earth.
Fear of war.
Fear of being drafted into a war.
Fear of letting others down.
Fear of not having what it takes.
Fear of growing distant from your children.
Fear of being a “bad” parent.
Fear of living an unfulfilling life.
Fear of missing your purpose in life.
Fear of not being loved or loveable.
Fear of spending your days toiling in unfulfilling work.
Fear of not getting better from a chronic illness.
Fear of drowning.
Fear of ____________. You fill in the blank.
Our fears are highly personal, but we probably could put them in a handful of larger categories to which all of us can relate.
The point is that all of us face times in our lives when we’re on the edge of a cliff of sorts.
It’s just too bad we all don’t have a boat full of Aussies cheering us on.
Because they’re really effective.
With a lot of hooting and hollering, they lifted my eyes away from the fears.
I turned from the cliff and walked back about 10 steps. At this point, you couldn’t see what you were jumping into. Just a blue haze on the horizon.
Muscles engaged, decision made, I launched my body over the edge.
I vividly remember the lapse of time between jumping and hitting the water.
Falling from a height of about 20 meters means I would only be airborne for two seconds but he would be moving at a speed of 20 m/s or about 45 mph. I’m glad I didn’t have access to google and the splat calculator at that time!
I could go further down a rabbit hole with the splat calculator because it’s really amazing and does the math for you…
Back to those two seconds of amazing.
They were exhilarating. Cortisol pumping. Adrenaline flooding.
So good. So, so, good. And better every time I think of them.
I could sum up a lesson from that day – and one I repeatedly learn – with these words:
We are afraid until we jump.
Until we jump.
Then, there is a sense of exhilaration as we free fall.
Followed by our entry into the waters.
And total immersion.
That moment. Those moments.
Now in the water. A type of silence. A new listening takes over.
In the water. All the way in.
Back to being submerged in fluid just as we were in our mother’s womb.
A type of homecoming.
If you’ve ever jumped into a body of water and been submerged, you know what I’m talking about.
If you’ve ever seen the film Big Fish, you’ll remember this metaphor of water.
It’s not uncommon in literature – classical or contemporary – to bring us back to healing waters, to jumping in, to being immersed, to coming back to where we started.
In those moments of immersion, space and time feel different to our senses.
We have a different perspective. We hear things we haven’t been able to hear. We see what we haven’t been able to see. We feel what we haven’t been able to feel.
We know what we haven’t allowed ourselves to know.
And then, our lungs tell us that it is time to rise.
On that day on the Mediterranean, I floated back to the surface, took in a delicious breath full of oxygen, and basked in the cheers and laughter from our Aussie friends.
I had dropped into wholeness.
No, wholeness isn’t about jumping off a cliff.
Wholeness is always waiting for us.
And no, wholeness is not even the water or the jumping or the facing of fears.
It’s what we know when we are in sync with our lives instead of trying to fight life or run from life or make life what we want it to be.
Wholeness is what is always there waiting for us to come home.
Facing our fears – diving off that cliff, being emotionally available and responsive to your loved ones, taking that next step toward your dreams, risking rejection – these often put us in a place where we unexpectedly and thankfully drop into our wholeness.
We use language like, “I feel so alive.” “I’m at peace.”
But these things themselves are not wholeness.
Wholeness was, and is, and will always be there, welcoming us.
If we begin to use the conduit as a substitute for wholeness, we’re destined to be imprisoned by it and disappointed in it.
Think of the adrenaline junky, the guy trying to prove himself with greater and greater exploits, the positioning and comparing on social media, dependence on drugs and alcohol, the workaholic, the parent living life through their children, the student consumed with grades, and the list goes on and on.
Wholeness isn’t something we gain, or earn.
It’s just there.
Ready to be accessed. Ready for us to drop into it and live from it.
Maybe you feel like you’ve only had short glimpses of it. You know what it feels like to live from your wholeness, but right now you feel anything but whole.
We’re all in the same boat, friends.
In this post-concussion, post-traumatic brain injury, post-concussion vision syndrome phase of life I’m in, whole is not how others might describe my life.
I have many days when I feel sick all day long, when I can’t drive, when I can’t ride a bike, when I can’t handle light, when debilitating headaches cross my eyes, and I have to lie down in a dark room with my eyes closed. I miss important events. I cancel meetings at the last-minute. I’m not dependable. I’m not able to be consistent.
Right now, I’m writing, recording, and publishing this podcast using my iPhone and a Bluetooth keyboard because I can’t engage with a computer screen. I have my left eye closed so that I don’t lose balance and get so sick that I can’t continue. I take a lot of breaks.
That doesn’t sound or look like wholeness.
It looks – and sometimes feels – a whole lot like life took a big ole shit on me for the past two years.
However, I have never lived a more abundant and meaningful and full and joyful and peaceful life than the one I’m living right now.
The irony. The paradoxes of life.
Through my brokenness, I dropped into wholeness.
Don’t worry, I have and continue to fight against life, just like the rest of us. But those are the really bad days and moments. They lead me to break once again and to stop trying to make life do what I want it to. They lead me to acceptance and wholeness. Not resignation. But wholeness and its ensuing wisdom, right action, and vibrancy.
I don’t need to go cliff diving, or ride my bike, or feel better, or see better, or make the ringing in my head stop to live a whole and full life.
Friends, that is freedom.
This not a trite cognitive assent that you say to yourself and then all of a sudden you’re there in the sweet spot.
It is a practice. It takes practice.
I engage in the practice throughout every day because I have to do so in order to stay engaged with life and to be able to show up more and more.
It’s a practice that we all already know. Many of us have forgotten. We have filled our lives so full of noise and we are controlled by our egos to the extent that we are like puppets on our societies’ strings.
It has taken brokeness to wake me up. But it doesn’t have to be that way for everyone.
Wholeness is really as close as your next breath.
I know, breathsensing and bodysensing have become really en vogue lately. Maybe you’re too familiar with the ideas to engage with them anymore. Familiarity has a strange way of breeding contempt. So, if you need to, wait a bit and I’m sure they’ll become less popular soon enough when people move on to the next fad.
But, as they have for thousands of years, and will for thousands more, the practices that include breathsensing and bodysensing have a very natural and instant way of bringing us home to our wholeness.
Of dropping us into wholeness.
A practice called Integrative Restoration saved my life and has connected me to life in a greater way than when life was going the way I wanted it to go. In future podcasts, I will provide specific examples and some helpful how-to’s, but for some instant access, just google Integrative Restoration or go to www.irest.us .
Integrative Restoration has been such a life-changer for me that I have completed the first two Levels of training (two five-day intensives in Southern California ) and am now going through the certification program, which feels a lot like getting another masters!
Standing on that Mediterranean cliff, I could not have predicted the future “cliffs” I would face in my life. Nor can you.
But wholeness is ready for you to drop into it right now.
I’ll finish today’s podcast with a poem by Hafiz. If you haven’t met Hafiz, I’m happy to introduce you. He has been a good friend to me in this season.
“So Many Gifts”
There are so many gifts
Still unopened from your birthday,
There are so many hand-crafted presents
That have been sent to you by God.
The Beloved does not mind repeating,
“Everything I have is also yours.”
Please forgive Hafiz and the Friend
If we break into sweet laughter
When your heart complains of being thirsty
When ages ago
Every cell in your soul
Into this infinite golden sea.
A lover’s pain is like holding one’s breath
In the middle of a vital performance,
In the middle of one of Creation’s favorite
Indeed, a lover’s pain is this sleeping,
When God just rolled over and gave you
Such a big good-morning kiss!
There are so many gifts, my dear,
Still unopened from your birthday.
Wholeness is waiting.
It’s your birthright.
Open a few of those unopened presents today, friends.
Sending you the best thoughts and wishes that you might have a wonder-filled day. Fully present. Fully alive.