By: Amy Bernier
Almost a week into covid recovery, during a slow walk in the woods, I was reflecting on wholeness. Here is one definition from good ole Webster “the state of forming a complete and harmonious whole or unity.” This aligns with my yogic definition of wholeness – increased awareness of one’s obstacles to one’s true nature and using yoga tools to return to center. It is so interesting how one word can mean so many things to so many people, more on that later.
Coming back to my walk, I was musing about the multitude of emotions that come up when you are under the weather for any reason, or you are worried about your family members and their illnesses. I had mentioned to my son who is also ‘in recovery’ about the koshas from yoga philosophy, the layers of our being. When something is array physically, such as the body responding to a virus- it can impact the other layers, absolutely the prana or energy layer as well as the emotional and mental layers. It may also be a bit harder to check in with the bliss layer when you are feeling sick. I think this was a meaningful conversation for us, giving us both permission to feel a bit ‘grumpy bump’ as he described it, out of sorts and anxious.
My new insight on wholeness, wisdom that often comes through for me when ambling in the woods, was that we deny ourselves true wholeness when we do not allow for the whole spectrum of our emotions. Fear and anxiousness keep knocking on my door. But when I truly allow these feelings, they are not so big and scary, they are just part of the whole. I allow them in, give them some space and they are in the company of some higher vibrational feelings such as trust and love. This relates back to the koshas, increased awareness of all of ourselves, including some subtle shifts that can gently guide us back towards wholeness.
Another definition of wholeness: ‘the state of being unbroken or undamaged’ does not sit as well with me for this reflects a perfectionist mentality or an inability to be vulnerable and truly authentic about our current reality. On the flip side of this definition of wholeness that whispers of an inflated ego is a deflated ego prevalent in today’s times. How often do we or society tell us we are broken or damaged goods, where then is the possibility of the attainment of any sort of wholeness? Society, secular or religious might tell us conversion, membership, or years of therapy may be the only key to wholeness. Yoga tells us there is no fee or big leap, we were born free and whole, and dear I say holy.
In fact, Jon Kabat-Zinn says the meaning of wholeness is found in the words holy, healthy, and healing. He describes wholeness as a dynamic process and not a fixed state. I love this! It speaks to me of a wholeness that is not concrete it is much more fluid and invites the qualities of acceptance, grace, autonomy, and possibility. Perhaps the mind or the body are feeling overtaxed or neglected, what small shifts could bring one closer to center? For me, just a few deep breaths can help me allow for all, the so-called good, the bad, and the fluid field of neutrality that the vast array of emotions and thoughts fall back into.
One last take on wholeness points us back to unity. The insight here from my favorite theologian, Fr. Richard Rhor: “We realize that everything belongs, and everything can be received. We see that life and death are not opposites. They do not cancel one another out; neither do goodness and badness. There is now room for everything to belong. A radical, almost nonsensical “okayness” characterizes the mature believer, which is why they are often called “holy fools.” We don’t have to deny, dismiss, defy, or ignore reality anymore. What is, is gradually okay. What is, is the greatest of teachers. At the bottom of all reality is always deep goodness, or what Thomas Merton called ‘a hidden wholeness.’” A hidden wholeness, sweat nectar for the seeker soul. The irony is that there is truly no seeking required, outwards anyway, the wholeness is already within, and it has your name written on it. Now claim it, but don’t hold too tightly to it, allow the mystery and the wholeness to be a continued place that you can return to again and again. Home again. Holy and Whole.
Amy Bernier – Yoga Teacher & Writer
Amy Bernier has been working in the health promotion field for over 20 years. She has her master’s degree in Exercise Physiology and has been a certified yoga teacher for over 15 years. In 2015 she obtained a certification as a yoga therapist, from the Yoga Life Institute of NH. Because of Amy’s interest in sharing pearls of wisdom from the yoga tradition and how these teachings can bring easy, peace, acceptance, and grace into all our moments, she has begun work on a book entitled You are not Broken, a Yogi’s take on WHOLENESS. Of late she has become passionate about weaving therapeutic yoga with the healing word of God.