Spirituality, even though it is fluid, and at times confusing, has become a focal point for change. Change not only in places of worship, but within individuals themselves. Spirituality has many different definitions that range from a less subjective experience, spirituality as a lived experience, to an intellectual pursuit - understanding the word of God. No matter what lens one chooses to look through at any given moment, there are themes that are seen and felt within the context of what spirituality is. Two key themes are connection to and relationship with spirituality.
I had the pleasure of reading Dr. Brene Brown’s newest book Braving the Wilderness, (2017). In reading Dr. Brown’s work other works over the years, Braving the Wilderness takes a sharp left turn. Dr. Brown wrote about belonging in both The Gifts of Imperfection (2010) and Daring Greatly (2012). A definition of belonging comes from Daring Greatly,
“We are psychologically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually hard-wired for connection, love, and belonging. Connection along with love and belonging (two expressions of connection), is why we are here, and it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”
In Braving the Wilderness her definition of belonging is altered, “Is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”
Dr. Brown moved from belonging to others (first definition) to true belonging—belonging to self (second definition). For me, there is a difference between belonging (true or otherwise) and fitting in. Fitting in might sound, or look like the following: Being somewhere you really want to be, but they don’t care one way or the other. Being accepted for being like everyone else “I have to be like you to fit in,” “Put up or shut up,” and finally being reduced (being sorted). Fitting in requires someone else to sort you into a community. Sorting takes place when an individual does not have a sense of self, or community. An individual has no home and a place to rest his /her head. An individual does not know how to protect him or herself, needs another to protect, and makes one feel whole and complete. Sorting leads to be stuck in the wilderness with no way out. One example, I fit in when playing dodge ball (I was picked last for a team as I not very coordinated). Fitting in is a social sorting function where belonging is a personal function.
Belonging is being somewhere you want to be, and they want you. Being accepted for you “I get to be me if I belong,” (when we raced, I was picked first for a team as I was quite fast as a teenager), and belonging keeps one in touch with humanity. When one belongs two shifts happen, 1) you come to understand that you belong to yourself, and the second shift comes out of the first,2) no one sorts you.
If one believes in the foundations of spirituality, connection and relationship, then two questions need to be asked: Do I fit in or belong to spirituality? Do I have someone sort me into which group I am to be in, or do I sort myself?
The sun, moon, and Earth do not fit in with each other, they belong with each other. In a similar context, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob knew long before Dr Brown and myself that recovery/spirituality is and will always be about belonging because I choose to belong to recovery. Conversely, fitting in is foundational for the substance use community why? because when I no long of any substances, or have the means to get substances, I am no longer part of the community I am socially out-casted. On the other hand, belonging is the foundation recovery community, why? It is a choice.
Belonging to self, is braving the forest to discover who I am in relationship and how I am connected to a personal spirituality. The journey is sometimes dark, lonely, and scary, yet each time I forged the forest, I always found and came home to a new discovery, I am perfect in my imperfections, I belong to humanity, and I belong to the great beyond.
I wish you a wonderful journey into the forest and welcome you home to you.