The transformative experience of wholeness

My life has been blessed and guided by transformative experiences of wholeness.

Here’s a brief story about one of them:

Scarcely a year after the 9/11 tragedy shattered the world we thought we knew, I hailed a cab at 4:30 AM on the empty streets of lower Manhattan.

I learned that the driver was from Pakistan. Informed him that I had many friends there.
Soon he was sharing about his life.

He had recently lost his sales job of several years. Cab driving wasn’t all bad, he said. If he chose, he could take an extended vacation to be with his wife, daughter, and two sons. Post-9/11, they returned to Pakistan. As Muslims, it was easier and safer for them there.

When he asked me about my work, I spoke of promoting interfaith cooperation all over the world on behalf of the United Religions Initiative. He expressed his admiration for URI’s effort to bring people of different faiths together to work for peace, justice, and healing.

Since I was a child, he said, I’ve felt that more than a Pakistani; I was ultimately a citizen of Earth. And more than a Muslim, I was ultimately a child of God.

I responded by telling him that I had often said the same thing, replacing Pakistani with American and Muslim with Christian.

Inconceivably, our world seems far more shattered today than it did in the near-aftermath of 9/11. Defying so much evidence to the contrary, I continue to believe in humanity’s inherent wholeness, part of a far larger wholeness that encompasses the entire Earth community, the entire Cosmos.

That belief inspires and guides my life and my work today, as it has for the nearly five decades of my adult life. It’s reasonable to wonder how I continue to sustain this belief in our wonderful and wounded world.

For starters, I carry that moment in a cab with a complete stranger, and countless similar experiences, as totems of our inherent wholeness. As a reminder that we all share a primary identity as citizens of Earth, who come from the same source, no matter how differently we may understand that source. I choose to see our unique identities as diverse expressions of this fundamental wholeness to be experienced, respected, celebrated – unity in diversity, e unum pluribus, e pluribus unum.

Though that moment in a cab was as mundane as any moment can be, it was also sacred. It opened through a perception of difference into a deeper unity, a wholeness that embraces and transcends the world of sensory perception and scientific inquiry.

It was sacred in a manner expressed by these words of the great poet William Blake:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

Moments like my cab ride, often unexpected, provide an opening to the sacred dimension of life. They help us see the sacred in the mundane. To place the material reality of our place and particular moment in time in a much larger context beyond space and time.

Moments like these, sacred openings, invite us into the space of absolute belonging, where we are each and all embodiments of an intricately and undeniably interconnected whole. They have the power to transform our lives, our vision, and our ways of working in the world. For the better.

Sacred openings invite an experience of wholeness – of our whole selves and of the greater whole we are privileged to be a part of. If we are alert to them, they can surprise us even in some of the most mundane moments of our lives.

And we can be deliberate about cultivating sacred openings.

That cultivation is a core commitment in CFP’s work. One expression of this commitment is a series of retreat-workshops we’re developing to experience and explore wholeness from the inside out. If you’re interested in learning more about this dimension of CFP’s work and hearing about a few simple sacred opening practices, stay tuned for my next blog. In the meantime, may you be surprised and elevated by the mundane-sacred opening into an experience of wholeness in your life.

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