Sunset at the beach is an experience of surrender for me; all thoughts are diving in the sea, like the sun. Just before the dark blue of the night falls and just after the bright yellow of a sunny day goes to rest, here comes the red. Red lasts only for a while, much less than the yellow and blue, and that’s why we pay so much positive attention to it; it’s going to soon disappear, so we must enjoy it as it lasts. Sunset is one of the rare moments that I am completely present and mindful. Today, as the sun was setting, I just finished reading a chapter from the book “Heal Thyself: Lessons on mindfulness in medicine” by Saki Santorelli, the director the Stress Reduction Clinic at U Mass Medical Center. The chapter’s title is “shattered but still whole” and before I even began to read through, I felt that there was a hidden promise in these words. I was captivated; How can something be shattered but still whole?
The other night I dropped a wine glass on the floor. It smashed into hundreds of little pieces which scattered around in all visible and invisible places. A shattered glass cannot be whole. It can only be shattered. That’s what my eyes tell me. That’s what makes sense. But Saki Santorelli doesn’t refer to glasses, plates or ornaments. He talks about his experience at an art exhibition for artists with disabilities. The sculptor who had created the centerpiece of the exhibit, had lost his leg some years ago , was unable to wear prosthesis and continued to sculpt with one leg. Santorelli writes” he had sculpted a sphere out of stone, most probably marble or granite. We are told that it was perfect, with an uninterrupted, smoothly polished surface. After the sphere was completed, the artist smashed it and then put it back together with bolts, metal fasteners and bonding agents. Now-full of fractures-it is sitting in the middle of the gallery, in the middle of America, labeled SHATTERED BUT STILL WHOLE”.
If we are lucky, we get born almost perfect, with uninterrupted, unwrinkled, unbroken bodies and souls. Life begins and with all its miracles, it also inevitably contains hardship, adversity and hurt. The unwrinkled soul slowly starts to see its first lines and feel its first wounds and a body may have to endure illness and pain. Every difficult experience creates cracks and breaks on our souls. Depending on what each of us is going through, the breaks may accumulate and eventually make us feel shattered. Or often, it all happens suddenly, unexpectedly. We never have thought that we‘ll be the ones to fall ill, or to experience loss. The cracks become deeper, more definite. But then, contrary to the glass example, real magic happens with humans; the shattered pieces reunite, urged by an incomprehensible force.
YOU then find the strength to fight, to hope, to believe. You realize, that you are all your little pieces, which you previously didn’t like or found difficult to accept. You get to understand, that you are all your experiences, including those ones that shattered you. You decide to look beyond what’s obvious, and embrace the hidden potential you didn’t even know you had. Because you are human, you can be shattered and at the same time be whole. You may not be smooth and uninterrupted anymore, but your cracks are part of what makes you a masterpiece.
The strength to honor and embrace our wounded selves is transformative. Non acceptance is what really fragments us; it blinds us from seeing that we are still WHOLE, beautiful and powerful to create.