Spiritual Directors International

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The Ebb and Flow of Wholeness

Guest Author: 
Karen Lee Erlichman, D.Min, LCSW

The Unbroken

There is a brokenness
out of which comes the unbroken
a shatteredness out of which blooms the unshatterable.
There is a sorrow
beyond all grief which leads to joy
and a fragility
out of whose depths emerges strength.

There is a hollow space
too vast for words
through which we pass with each loss,
out of which darkness we are sanctioned into being.
There is a cry deeper than all sound
whose serrated edges cut the heart
as we break open
to the place inside
which is unbreakable
and whole,
while learning to sing.



The journey toward wholeness invites us into a compassionate relationship with our own brokenness. Being in community creates a sacred space in which we can tenderly hold this paradox together. Poet, artist and activist Rashani writes in the above poem, we “break open to the place inside which is unbreakable and whole.”

Years ago, in my first experience with a Circle of Trust ®, I found a community in which my soul felt safe enough to reveal (to myself and others) the textures and terrains of my own brokenness. Over the years of participating in, and later facilitating, Circles of Trust ® and other retreats, this breaking through of true soul/self has yielded a profound experience of healing into wholeness.

In Judaism there is a Hebrew phrase that is said as an intention for healing, “refuah shleimah.” It translates as “may you experience a full healing of wholeness and peace”. Wholeness is not a fixed place in which we arrive. Rather, the soul’s path is a lifelong journey toward wholeness in which, as the poem says, we continue to experience a “shatteredness out of which blooms the unshatterable.” My own personal experience with grief, loss and rebirth affirms this ebb and flow of brokenness and wholeness.

It is not only a privilege to offer retreats for others to explore their own journey toward wholeness; it is also an invitation to hold space with the spirit of authenticity. As Valerie Brown and I prepare to co-lead the Journey toward Wholeness retreat this spring at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, NM, we bring not only our skills, tools and practices; we also offer our own lived experience of listening to the unfolding stirrings of Spirit within and around us.

One of the daily wholeness practices I love is chanting. This chant, recorded by spiritual director Wendie Bernstein Lash, is simply the word ‘shalom,’ which means wholeneness and peace, and is also a way people greet each other. (I post the chant here - at the bottom of the page below the comments -  with Wendy’s permission. Please take a moment and play it now. ) By chanting it over and over, and perhaps even including some focused breathing, silent pauses, and body movements, I set a sacred intention of stepping into the divine flow of wholeness.

At this historical moment in our collective global experience, it feels like so much is at stake. So many cultural and spiritual traditions teach about the transformative power of gathering in sacred circle to replenish and renew ourselves. For example, Jewish tradition teaches about the imperative of tikkun olam, the healing and repair of the world. We breathe into these ancestral legacies, and in journeying toward wholeness as a community, we activate our collective healing capacities. Now more than ever, we are called into the circle together. I look forward to seeing you there.

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