Each of the 12 Practices in Practicing Wholeness are summarized below. Pre-readings, conversation starters, suggestions for taking the practice into circle participants’ daily lives; and, ideas for sharing interim reflections with the circle are all provided in the downloadable Practicing Wholeness Facilitator Guide, available upon request (see options after the summary of practices).
DEEPENING SELF-AWARENESS, or increasing awareness of our beliefs and assumptions about who we are and how the world works.
PRESENCE - Presence is placing our attention on this and every moment as it occurs. The nature of our undisciplined minds is that we spend most of our waking moments literally “lost in thought,” placing attention on our past experiences, or on imagining what might happen in the future. Presence offers us release from regret associated with the past; freedom from anxiety associated with concerns about what might happen in the future; and, creates an opening for can come forth in our lives and in the world.
COURAGE - In the 4th Century, B.C., Aristotle referred to courage as “the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible,” a sentiment echoed by C. S. Lewis centuries later when he observed that courage is "not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point." In recent years, positive psychologists have built upon the idea of courage as a virtue, one that includes the emotional strengths of bravery, perseverance, honesty, energy and enthusiasm. In Practicing Wholeness conversations, we focus on the courage it takes to bring our whole selves to our relationships at work.
AUTHENTICITY - Authenticity challenges us to consider how our deepest beliefs and values are consistently expressed in our actions and in our relationships. This is the authenticity referenced by New York Times columnist, David Brooks, when he wrote about Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s distinction between “resume virtues” and “eulogy virtues.” The Rabbi saw these virtues as two sides of our nature that are in a constant state of tension, requiring us to integrate them in the way we live our lives. He challenges us to resist the messages received from others, in order to discover and act on our own inner values.
INTEGRITY - One definition of integrity is "adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty." Another takes us in the direction more related to Practicing Wholeness - "the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished." Author and philosopher, Parker Palmer, offers us a way into this deeper meaning of integrity, in his book A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life. There, he tells us that we are born as whole human beings, but that over time we learn to live "divided lives," hiding the parts of ourselves that others might ridicule, reject or find unacceptable. In Practicing Wholeness, we focus on overcoming the consequences of hiding from ourselves and others.
STRENGTHENING RELATIONSHIPS, or creating human connections that foster openness, trust, creativity and collaboration.
TRUTHFULNESS - There appear to be many reasons why we may not tell others the truth as regularly or as often as we might like. Our own fears and insecurities can play a role, in that we are hesitant to risk hurting another’s feelings or provoking their anger. We may have concerns about being wrong, losing face with family, friends or colleagues, or even that we might be abandoned or lose our jobs. And yet, no way of being is more powerful in strengthening our relationships than practicing truthfulness in its many manifestations, from telling the truth to ourselves to telling the truth to others; being open to the truth of others; and, being seekers of the truth.
FORGIVENESS - According to Harvard Medical School Professor of Psychiatry, George Vaillant, forgiveness is one of eight positive emotions (the others being love, hope, joy, compassion, faith, awe, and gratitude) that deepen our self-awareness, and strengthen our relationships with others. If forgiveness has such power in our lives, our relationships, and our organizations, how can we use its power to transform our negative emotions of anger and resentment, and our counter-productive actions of spite and revenge? An important first step may be to begin to see forgiveness not only as a positive emotion, but as a choice we make when we perceive that we have been wronged, falsely maligned, or abused in some way.
COMPASSION - In its Latin roots, compassion means “to suffer together,” while in common usage, it is defined as the response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help. True compassion evokes a response of reaching out to others and taking action on their behalf. As the Charter for Compassion states, "Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity, and respect."
GENEROSITY - It’s not surprising that generosity is both the entry level practice in Buddhism and, to at least one developmental psychologist, the highest level of human advancement. Buddhist teacher and author, Sharon Salzburg, explains that, according to the Buddha, “Generosity is the beginning of the path” toward awakening spirituality." In parallel with this perspective, psychologist Richard Barrett sees generosity as the most developed of his “Seven Levels of Consciousness.” Generosity opens us up to the potential for love, joy, compassion and equanimity in our lives; greater personal health and well-being, strengthened relationships, and higher levels of human development.
EXPANDING PERSPECTIVES, or increasing our capacity for seeing reality whole, rather than fragmented, and realizing the validity of how others see the world.
HUMILITY - According to the Oxford English Dictionary, humility is defined as “the quality of having a modest view of one's importance.” This definition, derived from the Latin humilis for “low” or “lowly,” appears to be the most common usage in everyday language. From this point of view, humility’s synonyms include meekness, submissiveness, and timidity. An alternative root for humility, however, comes from the Latin word humus, meaning soil or earth. From this perspective, practicing humility ensures that we will be grounded, sure-footed, and connected to the earth during our travels; aware of our strengths, as well as our limitations and obstacles; reliant on others for what they know and can bring to the journey; curious about the path ahead and what it might contribute to our own and others’ learning; and, exhilarated by what an expanded view might show us about who we are in the world.
UNITY - While most of us have some intellectual sense of oneness or unity, it is rare to sustain a deep, personal, ongoing experience of our own interconnectedness with all of life. Many of us have glimpsed oneness or self-transcendence during experiences of awe and wonder when we encounter nature’s beauty, the face of a loved one, or the tiny hands of a newborn baby. In those moments, we often transcend our usual sense of separateness, while being flooded with the perfection of unity and wholeness. Abraham Maslow called these moments “peak experiences,” in which we momentarily transcend personal concerns. In such heightened states, he claimed, “one feels intense joy, peace, well-being, and an awareness of ultimate truth and the unity of all things.” Even more challenging than being aware of unity is operating consistently from that expanded perspective in our daily lives, or practicing unity.
EQUANIMITY - Equanimity, which comes from the Latin, æquanimitas, meaning “having an even mind,” can be defined as “a state of psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed by experience of or exposure to emotions, pain, or other phenomena that may cause others to lose the balance of their mind.” It is, according to some researchers on the topic, both “an effective state for responding skillfully to whatever is arising in the present moment,” and, “a healthy trait that can be strengthened over time and integrated into one’s character.” In many ways, equanimity is making the practice of presence our sustained way of being in the world.
CELEBRATION - Often, we think of celebration as commemorating special events or honoring the people in our lives. We celebrate holidays, birthdays, graduations, and other accomplishments by participating in ceremonies, rituals, and other formalities. Beyond marking special events, however, celebration can be experienced as an attitude of appreciation, gratitude, and reverence toward life that we bring to our daily activities; a worldview that we can choose to adopt; and a way of being in the world that we can achieve through practice. As the 12th practice in our cycle of opportunities to demonstrate our wholeness by "acting as if” we are already whole, celebration might well be defined as a way of being joyful in the absence of an external event (“joy without cause”), or living our lives joyfully, even in the face of great sorrow or suffering.
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