The Craving for Wholeness That Drives Our Actions

Technology beckons with endless distraction, but it is better to resolve that gnawing emptiness than ignore it
March 18, 2018 Updated: March 28, 2018

There’s a sense of incompleteness in many of our lives.

We have felt it since adolescence, if not since early childhood. It’s a feeling that something is wrong with us, missing, or disconnected from the world.

It can give birth to loneliness, a sense that we don’t fit in, or a sense our lives lack purpose.

We crave connection and intimacy with others. Sometimes we seek it through online social networks, but this is like eating cardboard instead of food. It may temporarily make us feel full, but it is not nourishing.

Technology drives us to use dating apps to find the perfect someone, but the dating doesn’t bring intimacy. We look at photos of what other people are doing in the world, read about their adventures, and feel like we’re falling short.

We wake up each morning and reach for our phones, seeking distraction through something interesting, exciting, any kind of dopamine hit. We settle for this convenient blip over the difficult and meaningful action of living rich and fulfilling lives.

Our technology invades every moment of space and quiet, filling every gap with videos, songs, podcasts, audiobooks, short online reads, news, social media, quick tasks, messages.

We don’t wait in grocery lines, we peruse our online world. We don’t chat with the lady waiting beside us at the DMV, we “like” and swipe.

We fill our craving for connection with consumption—buying, eating, and watching—to gain a fleeting satisfaction that is long gone by the time our credit card bills arrive.

This sense of incompleteness, this gnawing feeling of need that lurks in the quiet moments we are alone and undistracted, is rarely faced head-on with eyes wide open. Instead, it is left ever-present but unacknowledged and unseen.

The tragedy is that if we could stop—even for just a moment—and allow ourselves to feel the discomfort of that disconnection, we could take a different path.

We could find a wholeness, a unity of our being that comes from being self-aware and then extending our awareness beyond ourselves.

Here’s how:

  1. Pause, and be still and silent for a little while. Let go of all distractions, don’t follow urges to do something or entertain yourself.
  2. Feel the discomfort of your being. Feel the uncertainty of who you are, what you should be doing, and what gives you meaning in the world. Allow yourself to fully feel it; be present with the feeling.
  3. Notice the goodness in your heart. It’s your kind heart, which can be tender and doesn’t want to be hurt, that loves and wants to be loved back. It is always present.
  4. Widen your awareness to everything around you, and notice how you are a part of it—interconnected with all of it. Your wholeness is in this connection to everything around you. Allow yourself to start to feel that and to trust it.

You can rest in this awareness. You can learn to trust it, to trust yourself, and to trust your world.

Our sense of completeness is not outside of us, in our phones or online, or in what everyone else is doing. It can’t be found on TV, in food, or in shopping for stuff. We don’t need to look to any of these things to reclaim that wonderful, loving, gorgeous sense of wholeness—over and over again.

Leo Babauta is the author of six books, the writer of “Zen Habits,” a blog with over 2 million subscribers, and the creator of several online programs to help you master your habits. Visit