Whole & Part

If you want to become whole, let yourself be partial.
- Lao-tzu, Tao Te Ching
translated by Stephen Mitchell

I've been intrigued by this quote from the Tao Te Ching for quite some time. When I first read it, my mind equated it with Aristotle's notion that "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts," leading to the idea that working together as a group obtains results that could not be done individually. I was happy believing in this for awhile.

Then last year, while thinking about this quote in the context of intimate relationship, I hit upon the idea that it could mean stepping back once and a while to let your partner shine brighter then you. My thought was that to become partial within relationship can produce a momentary connectedness, leading to wholeness. Here is what I wrote:

Relationship is a fragile union between dark and light, 
allowing one to momentarily eclipse the other in a celestial dance. 
Let obscurity become the perfect offering as you 
surrender to the burning light of another.

However, lately I've read and reread this quote from the Tao over and over, and decided that I still don't understand its true meaning. The Tao is elusive, and if you continuously read it you'll notice that your understandings of the words change as you grow and develop into a different person.

Yesterday reading through my journal, I found a quote written down from Dorothy May's Archetypal Reiki: Spiritual, Emotional & Physical Healing that seems to explain the meaning of the Tao quote in terms of my life experience today:

When our dreams have been shattered, when we feel fragmented, we must hold on to one thing that is stable in our lives and know that unconscious forces are working to create yet another wholeness.

The shattering in our lives (inner or outer suffering) is the result of new information and learning taking place. This conflict invites God, All that is, The Divine, The Great Spirit, The Beloved, etc., into our lives to heal and help us form a new wholeness.

From this context, to act within whole consciousness, you must allow yourself to shatter into little pieces over and over again so as to continually build yourself anew as a living image of creation. Just as a caterpillar dissolves into liquid to make a butterfly, if you find yourself shattering into parts or feeling only partially yourself, know that eventually a new wholeness will emerge as beautiful as before.


  1. Or quite possibly the new wholeness will be even more beautiful than before.

  2. Your post is beautiful and enlightening. Thank so much for writing it.

  3. Thank you for sharing this, Beth. I have pondered this myself. It immediately brought my mind to this-

    "You humans, so little in your eyes. You are truly blind to your own place in creation. Having chosen the ravaged path of independence, you don't even comprehend that you are dragging the entire creation along with you."
    (pg 138, Sarayu in The Shack)

  4. I like this and remember a sign I put on my door at my old job at my college, "We are only dancing particles" from the WU LEI Masters. I like to contemplate my self as shattered, blowing in the wind, partial, particles and feel my control ego self flinch at the idea. It is sooo good for me to do this.
    Hello to being partial, wholeness may be over rated. Joan Tucker


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