Holistic health, diet, and medicine have made the term “holistic” more familiar today. The era when anything “holistic” was considered fringe is long past. But the central concept of wholeness remains misunderstood.
You cannot aim to be whole, learn to be whole, or make yourself whole. You are already whole as far as your body is concerned. There is constant unified coordination between trillions of cells that organize thousands of organic processes into a working whole.
Understanding organic wholeness in complete detail is beyond anyone’s current intellectual grasp, and is likely to remain that way. The only working model of a neuron, it has been said, would be a neuron. The brain resists any simple reduction, in other words. But the wholeness of mind and spirit is even more baffling, as I address in a new book, Total Meditation. I based the title on practical consideration, to distinguish how meditation can be holistic rather than occasional.
Countless people start meditating only to quickly drop it or else to return to it when their day is particularly stressful. I think this high dropout rate can be turned around simply by offering simpler techniques that encourage the mind to do what it naturally wants to do, which is to stay in balance all the time, regardless of daily pressure, stress, worries, and overwhelm. These challenging times make the need even more urgent.
But there’s a deeper message about meditation that has barely been received despite the popularity of Yoga and meditation in general. This deeper message has to do with wholeness and how it works. In the ancient Indian tradition, two diametrically different approaches reached the same aim, which is to exist in wholeness as your normal, constant state. The first technique (known in Sanskrit as Neti, Neti) works by the process of elimination.
The word Neti translates as “not this,” referring to the false identity we carry around with us.
The ego, the everyday “I” that we automatically refer to, is built up as an accumulation of experience and memory. “I” can be defined as a collection of tags, such as age, gender, race, religion, income, marital status, etc. The tags are endless, and we unthinkingly collect more of them as life unfolds, so that “I” feels unique, accomplished, complete, and whole. But if looked at closely, you are not these tags. Winnow them down one by one—”I am not this, not that, not this, not that”—and that objectified “I’ begins to shrink.