852nd Week: Wholeness and Shifting Foreground to Background and Background to Foreground

As I prepared to write this week’s practice in conscious living, it became clear that I needed to take two of my three feline family members to an emergency vet on different nights during the week. One of the things related to being in an emergency facility is that there is plenty of time to wait. It’s first come, first served and there’s no way to rush the attention needed in emergency visits.

To help keep my feline friends calm, I needed to draw on the calm part of myself—to bring the calm aspect of my wholeness into the foreground of my experience. This got me to thinking about offering a practice around the importance of embracing our wholeness so that we are able to remember that all aspects of being can shift from foreground to background and, also from background to foreground. In these emergency experiences, I remembered that I’ve developed a much deeper relationship with being calm and centered and that, even when this aspect of being drops into the background of my awareness, it’s always there to invite forward when I’m able to do so.

It’s helpful to remember that trauma can add an energy “punch” to some aspects of our wholeness so that when they move into the foreground of awareness we may find ourselves activated in ways we hadn’t expected and which we may have a hard time managing. A year-and-a-half ago, when one of my feline family members had a dental emergency, I found myself catapulted into a very young part of my wholeness. What I noticed this time around was that the efforts I invested over the last year dealing with what got pulled into the foreground last year made a noticeable difference, for which I have been very grateful. I was calm in a way I wouldn’t have predicted, given my previous responses.

One of the metaphors I’ve used to talk about wholeness and its foreground/background dynamics is the kaleidoscope. When you turn the tube of a kaleidoscope, the pieces of colored glass shift into new patterns. Some colors that were hidden suddenly appear and others disappear, and the pattern never looks the same twice. For me, this has always illustrated the dynamics of our wholeness and the underlying fact that even though activated and perhaps distressed states may pop into the foreground of our experience, all our other resources and capacities are also always there, aspects of our wholeness, impossible to lose even when they are in the background of our awareness.

So, for this week’s practice, I invite you to take a few moments to bring to mind the resources that you have carried into your present-day life. A colleague of mine likes to ask people to become aware of what in them got them through difficult times. This aspect of wholeness encompasses resources and capacities that are always there, right in the background of awareness, even when they aren’t evident in the foreground. When you spend a bit of time focusing on what’s right about you, what resources you have carried into your life, they tend to move more into the foreground of experience.

I would also invite you to put a metaphorically “gentle arm” around any of the less-than-ideal aspects of your wholeness that pop into the foreground from time to time. Usually, these are adaptations to dysfunctional patterns experienced while growing up or are responses due to trauma of some kind of another. Even those expressions that are called “protective parts”—aspects of self that give you a hard time, are critical, or in other ways seek to keep you from expressing yourself—are adaptations to earlier experiences. The key thing to realize is that they are indelible aspects of your wholeness and aren’t going anywhere. The key is to work with your process enough so that they tend to drop into the background and no longer dominate your present-day experience.

A powerful addition to acknowledging and accepting our wholeness is deeper self-acceptance, and I’m increasingly convinced that the more we can do this, the more we will live into more empowered present-day experiences. To be able to be kind to ourselves is a profound gift of healing and when we understand that we can never be anything but whole—that we can’t “delete” anything about ourselves—we move toward a kind of freedom and liberation that allows us to more comfortably track the foreground/ background dynamics of our wholeness in action.

Please remember to bring along curiosity as you explore your relationship with your wholeness. And, especially remember to pat gently on the head any judgments that may arise, allowing them to move on through without having to do anything about them. Be as kind to yourself as you are able to be. It is a powerful gift.

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