Cultivating Belonging

There is a healing, nourishing, life-breath within connection.

Kelly Burkhart, Life Coach

Photo Credit: Unsplash via Pixabay

It is one of the most fundamental needs we have as human beings – to feel connected – to ourselves, to the world around us, to our community. Grounded in a sense of connection we feel loved. We feel like we belong – something essential to the social animals we are.

In fact, our lives are so dependent on connection, that without the most basic connections, we can’t survive. If we are still breathing, then we are connected. Even if we can’t feel it. And the challenge can be just that, noticing it and feeling it.

Over the last few posts, we’ve been exploring the core human needs, signals that indicate one or more of them are depleted, and developing practices that ensure our core needs are met and anchored into our being in a way that allows them to become lasting resources.

Concluding with this need of connection right after the winter holidays was no accident. It’s a time that is idealized. Expectations of joy-filled gatherings with family and friends abound. Sometimes our actual experience meets those standards – sometimes not. If we’re experiencing a season of loss, grief, separation or loneliness in our lives, the holidays can prompt a reflexive response that magnifies those feelings.

Whatever your experience was of the last several weeks, I hope the practices here help you return to peaceful, reliable connection and ease.

Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness, stresses the importance of directing our practice toward what we need in this moment or season of our life. For example, if we’re feeling a sense of failure, cultivating experiences of success is the most helpful response. The more we make a daily practice of listening deeply to our hearts & our lives, the more readily we can recognize what need is calling out to us.

So what are some of the signs that experiences of connection are what’s most needed? Watch for indications of feeling excluded, ignored, inadequate, lonely, or resentment. They can show up in sudden & strong ways, or may linger, subtly beneath the surface.

If connection is the medicine you need today, this month or this season, here are some suggestions for how to cultivate the experiences that will nourish.

Try something different. There’s a lot more to connection than having one primary partnership relationship. If that’s what you long for – great, and remember to open yourself to other layers of connection as well. We all have a tendency to dismiss the every day, routine sources of connection and in the process, miss out on a rich source of love, support and community.

Enrich your connection with yourself. Make a practice of noticing what’s going on inside you. What do you feel today? What do you need today? Is some younger part of yourself calling for healing attention? Is your future-self encouraging you to take action on something? Developing a deep awareness of your internal life is the primary and most important experience of belonging – a foundation essential to all other levels of connection.

Open to connection with Spirit. This is a label I’ve given to the vast category of the web of life, seen & unseen. Trees. Plants. Oceans. Rivers. Nature. Along with Ancestors. Spirit, the Divine, Loving Presence, Higher Power, the Great Mystery – whatever you name this unnameable presence. Try this. As you eat a meal, pause and trace the line of life that made that meal possible. Cooks, grocers, clerks, truck drivers, farmers, plants, bees, rain, sunshine, earth, and the web of life that holds it all – to name just a few. Can you for a least a moment feel into the bond of that connection? Practice with this for a while and the deep well of love you experience may shock you.

Engage with others. There is a wide-ranging network of support in the living beings around us. From the person who makes our coffee, to friends, the clerk at grocery store, coworkers, family, partners, pets and even all the social systems created & supported by the people around us. And there are varieties of connection available among them all – from appreciation, camaraderie and companionship to deep love, trust & support. Next time you feel alone in the world take a moment to think about the hospitals, emergency medical staff, paramedics, electric, water, gas & roadway systems that support & carry each of us, every day.

Connection, love, belonging – it’s a two-way street. We’re enriched by the experience whether we’re giving or receiving the appreciation. Remember to open yourself to both sides. When these moments come along, open to them, feel them, let them sink in, stay with it. Let them anchor deeply into you.

When we’re vulnerable this can be a brave and courageous act, to come back into our hearts so we can open to the ways that unseen connections are holding us. It’s always important to notice the ways we’re connected and even more so at the times we feel separate and vulnerable.

But the fact is that connection is available to us in multi-faceted layers every moment. The very air we breathe is provided by the trees, shrubs, plants and grasses, that are kept alive by the sun, the earth and the rain. Every breath we take connects us to the network of life around us.

Living in this human body, with all its amazing capabilities, creates an illusion that we are separate. It’s a powerfully convincing illusion. But it’s an illusion nonetheless.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

~ Rumi

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  1. Winnie Ennenga January 15, 2017 at 7:03 am #

    Thanks Kelly, I’m thinking about all the men and women all over the world who’ve created and sewed and planted and harvested and imagined … I am part of that too, everyday, and grateful for all the ways we connect.

    • Kelly January 23, 2017 at 6:14 pm #

      Thanks Winnie. There’s such an amazing net of connection holding us when we feel into all those layers. Glad you’re feeling it too!

  2. Linda Gotsch January 15, 2017 at 9:29 pm #

    I enjoyed this exceptionally beautiful post, Kelly. Thank you for the reminders.

    • Kelly January 23, 2017 at 6:14 pm #

      Hi Linda! Thanks and I’m glad this was helpful!

  3. Laura Matthews April 27, 2017 at 2:47 pm #

    Kelly, this article was so important and beautifully thought out and written. Connection to those around me has always been a grounding force in my life. Thank you so much for your post. Laura

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