Wholesomely Whole

by Christopher Lovejoy on January 27, 2013

Wholesomely whole seems redundant, but its emphasis on whole makes me wonder about a link between wholesome and whole.

Where being wholesome would have me be sensible in spirit, being whole would have me be wholly present (holy?)  in body, mind, heart, and soul.

I trust that being whole (in body, mind, heart, and soul) and being wholesome (in spirit) makes being resilient and flexible much easier and more enjoyable.

My innermost intention is to welcome the ultimate outcome by living the supreme virtue, where following my bliss can be experienced and sustained naturally and effortlessly.

In making good on this intention, I live and grow ever closer to the ideal of being wholesomely whole.

I live and grow ever closer to being as rooted and grounded and elastic as a palm tree – or as fluid and flowing and flexible as water.

Tao Te Ching, Verse 22

This might seem like a rather odd question in the way that it calls attention to itself, at least from the perspective of everyday life, but I invite you to trust the intent of it …

Are you resilient and flexible, from within and without, in response to obsessive, compulsive, submissive, aggressive, regressive, repressive, destructive, explosive energies?

In light of what follows, just how soulfully resilient and spiritually flexible would you care to be?

The flexible are preserved
unbroken:
the bent become straight;
the empty are filled;
the exhausted become renewed;
the poor are enriched;
the rich are confounded.

Therefore,
sages submit themselves to the One.
Because they don’t display themselves,
people see their light.
Because they have nothing to prove,
people trust their words.
Because they don’t know who they are,
people recognize themselves in them.
Because they have no goal in mind,
everything they do succeeds.

The old saying that the flexible
are preserved unbroken is surely right;
as you align truly with wholeness,
everything comes to you.

Edited slightly to enhance flow and reflect more inclusive language

Ref: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao

First, a case is made for being resilient and flexible.

Second, a case is made for being wholesome.

Finally, a case is made for being whole.

My Impressions of the Verse

My overall impression of this verse is favorable, but it does give me pause.

Might I ever do well to hold my ground, stay the course, and be unyielding?

But then I think of palm trees swaying and bending under the gale force winds of a storm, holding their ground, staying the course, and never once giving up their place in the world.

The flexible are preserved
unbroken:
the bent become straight;
the empty are filled;
the exhausted become renewed;
the poor are enriched;
the rich are confounded.

There’s a time and a place to let go, to be empty, to allow yourself to be receptive.

There’s a time and a place to melt, to be as water, to allow yourself to go with the flow.

There’s a time and a place to bend, to be flexible, to allow yourself to be pliant and supple.

There’s a time and a place to convert, to be as vapor, to allow yourself to rise and drift away.

If the preservation of a sound body, mind, heart, and soul is your intent, it pays to be adaptable.

Therefore,
sages submit themselves to the One.
Because they don’t display themselves,
people see their light.
Because they have nothing to prove,
people trust their words.
Because they don’t know who they are,
people recognize themselves in them.
Because they have no goal in mind,
everything they do succeeds.

All is vanity – or so we’ve heard.

This portion of the verse, however, would have us put vanity in its place.

On the way to sagacity, be attractive if you must, but take care not to hide the light of your love; have something to prove if you must, but take care not to appear right too often; put up a solid front if you must, but take care not to get lost behind your facade.

Set a goal if you must, but take care not to lose your life or love over it.

If willfulness is for those who think they know better than the Tao,
willingness is for those who know the Tao as their ultimate guide.

The old saying that the flexible
are preserved unbroken is surely right;
as you align truly with wholeness,
everything comes to you.

Align (not attain) is the proper word here, as I am always already whole.

Presumably, as I align myself and continue to align myself wholesomely with wholeness, I attract and manifest what I need and desire to remain wholesomely whole in body, mind, heart, soul, and spirit.

In deed, this alignment is a safe presumption – a birthright even.

Implications for Personal Fulfillment

For me, verse 22 raises some interesting questions …

If I stay flexible, might I not be in danger of becoming a doormat?

If I remain wholesome, might I not be at risk of becoming vacuous?

If I stay whole, can I even be certain that everything will come to me?

I once heard a catchy radical phrase that expressed the ultimate in flexibility, and I must admit, when I heard it, I was compelled to ponder the consequences of embracing it whole-heartedly, but as I went deeper with it, I seriously wondered whether I could even apply it to my life.

The phrase? Let everything be okay.

If you flinch, or feel the impulse to fight or flee, let this be okay.

If you become aware that someone is lying to you, let this be okay.

If someone is trying to manipulate you into compliance, let this be okay.

If you realize that someone is walking all over you, let this be okay.

If you succumb to an impulse to resist or react, let this be okay.

These are scary invitations.

They invite you to be aware of what’s going on inside you, to accept (acknowledge and experience) your pressure points, to be responsible for buttons pushed and boundaries crossed with responses that affirm your dignity – calmly, warmly, kindly, and/or gently (ideally).

Admittedly, letting everything be okay is most comfortably applied when you’re feeling good – feeling good about yourself, feeling good enough, feeling good about the world – and this is where the innermost intention to be wholesomely whole seems to come into play.

Being sound and sensible – i.e., living the supreme virtue in deference to harmony with the Way – is what the Tao Te Ching is ultimately all about; in thought and deed, it’s what being reflective and receptive is about, what a wise and prudent intelligence is about.

If I intend wholesome means, am I not at risk of seeming vacuous, of lacking insight? Perhaps I am, at least from another’s point of view, but then, if I follow a policy of letting everything be okay, someone somewhere may (eventually) do me the favor of sharing this with me.

Otherwise, what I don’t know won’t faze me.

And if I should keep to the intention of being wholesomely whole, can I really be certain that everything will flock to me or flow to me? Perhaps not, for how would I ever know this could be so if I did not trust and stay true to the intention in the first place?

I reserve a sacred space in the heart of my soul for my spirit to entertain vulnerability in the absence of clarity, certainty, safety, or security, even as I wear the vest of my expectations lightly (or remove it altogether in a gesture of trust and good will).

Ah, to have a heart and soul attached to no thing and to have a mind and spirit open to all things.

Next up: Open Up and Trust (Living Naturally)

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This post is one of many in an ongoing series that began here.

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