Since the beginning of my spiritual life in my family’s chosen religion, I have always believed in God. During years with both personal and professional ups and downs, I have either come closer to my beliefs and prayed for help, or I have distanced myself, disappointed and believing that my prayers had not been heard. But the sense of a creator or a higher power has never left me. A belief in God within a religion or in a personal practice of spirituality comes down to the prevailing desire that all human beings long for most in their lives—a sense of belonging.
In 2010, Brene Brown in her book The Gifts of Imperfection introduced the theory that “belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us.” In her most recent book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, she writes, “We seem to have forgotten that even when we’re utterly alone, we’re connected to one another by something greater than group membership, politics, and ideology—that we’re connected by love and the human spirit. No matter how separated we are by what we think and believe, we are part of the same spiritual story.”
Before I discovered the writings of Brene Brown, I defined the desire for a spiritual belief as the need for love and connection, which lessens the fear of feeling alone in the world. Because humans are wired to fear, both instinctually and logically, there is a continual vying for control of the brain and for the responding body to want the opposite of fear, which is love and connection.
Spirituality at Work
Recently, while attending a conference in California for 1,000 business owners and managers, I was pleasantly surprised by the presentations. The underlying program was based on self-care and personal development, and it included presentations about meditation, nutrition, storytelling, and yoga. A sponsoring company whose existence is dependent on product sales did not have its employees mention products once while on stage. Instead, they acknowledged their clients in attendance and secured the feeling of belonging with one another. The message was clear: Spiritual self-care and personal development shape and strengthen the inner workings of people who create successful businesses.
Recent research has explored the rise in spirituality. In an article written in January 2016 by David Masci and Michael Lipka for the Pew Research Center’s FactTank, News in the Numbers , highlights the notion that the feeling of spirituality is on the rise. “Americans have become less religious in recent years by standard measures such as how important they say religion is to them and their frequency of religious service attendance and prayer. But, at the same time, the share of people across a wide variety of religious identities who say they often feel a deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being as well as a deep sense of wonder about the universe has risen,” the authors state.
Whether choosing the path of religious affiliation or personal spirituality, the sense of belonging to something larger than us is certainly available to each and every one of us, every minute of every day. By becoming intentional about pursuing love and connection, can we decide to know, feel, and be in the presence of its influence. I understand that much of what we see around us in the media and on the internet portends that the world is running amok, but I disagree. Intentionally seeing the good in all things, we find a thriving spirituality, and, in many cases, thriving congregations filled with good people, giving and sharing their lives and belonging to something larger than themselves.
Quoting again from Brene Brown in Braving the Wilderness, “We are in a crisis of spiritual disconnection.” Yes, we can all feel the crisis, but then Brown gives us the hopeful message that we want to hear, that through braving our personal wilderness of disconnection, we can show up and stand for our beliefs to make this a better world, and we can, indeed, stand alone and still belong.
Everything begins with a thought and a feeling. I feel the connection of spirituality, and I know that we all belong to the same spiritual story.
Hilda Villaverde, PhD, holds a doctorate in religious studies with a minor in pastoral counseling through Emerson Institute. She is a business owner and author of five books, as well as an ordained minister and a public speaker. She presented at the inaugural Arizona Chapter HFMA HERe event in December 2013. Opinions in this article are the author’s own viewpoints.