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The Anatomy of Wholeness
“To be healthy is to be whole.”
When renowned physician, author, and speaker Dr. Gabor Maté describes his Compassionate Inquiry methodology he begins by asking what it means to inquire.
“If genuine, an inquiry is an open-ended exploration. It requires, first and foremost, humility: allowing, with Socrates, that we do not already know the answer or, better yet, the very real possibility that we haven’t yet happened upon the right questions.”
His gift is asking the right questions, as he does in his urgent new book: The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture.
In unveiling what we most need to face, he offers pathways to healing; A process he describes as “a natural movement toward wholeness.”
“The word health originates in a word for wholeness. Whether one looks at it from a medical or spiritual point of view: To be healthy is to be whole.
As I pondered what I saw with my patients and in my own journey, I realized that the fundamental issue is not: How do we become whole? But, how do we lose the wholeness that is our birthright and our nature? Then, how do we come back to it?”
Our conversation is an exploration of how our experiences shape that path; Beginning from early childhood through inevitable trauma and healing.
The indispensable role connection plays stood out to me.
We often discuss the question: How do we contribute to each other’s vitality? I was curious how he might answer it…
“The spiritual teacher A.H. Almaas says: Only in the presence of compassion do people allow themselves to see the truth. What keeps us from vitality is our fear of seeing the truth; Because the truth, at some point, was so painful and there was no support. So, we lose our capacity.
How do you contribute to somebody’s vitality? Be compassionate towards them. Give them safety so that they can become vulnerable. It's that vulnerability that makes us vital.
Even before that, I would say: How do we show up as vital in other people's lives? That has to do with the work that we do internally. If I want to promote your vitality, I better be present to my own and see what's blocking it.
The answer is, on one hand, to seek to reconnect with or experience our own vitality. The other is: How do we connect with each other in a way that allows us to mutually feel safe?
We don't have to work at being vital — That emerges. That's our essence. We just have to make space for it.”
Dr.Maté’s illumination is among my greatest lessons from his esteemed work: It is life-giving to see and affirm each other’s wholeness.
Whereas society often focuses on the negative aspects of our nature, he invites us to be the best in it.
Whose sense of wholeness can you acknowledge today, including your own? How might you assure them that they are enough exactly as they are?