On true belonging, aloneness & practice

By April 26, 2018 3 Comments

These are challenging times. One minute you feel on top of the world, the next you are ready to pack it in and hide in a cave. (I have been in search of the perfect cave. Spread the word.) “Belonging” has been on my mind. A lot. “Aloneness” (and loneliness), crazy physical workouts, human connections, and the incredible Brene Brown have pretty much formed the themes of my week. (Hindsight helps me draw themes for my week. And these inspire my blogs. I have written about this here.)

I am Brene Brown’s biggest fan. I have read all her books. (Currently reading her latest Braving the Wilderness. Highly recommended if you are in the business of being human.) I am only a few pages into the book and already feeling a profound shift in perspective. It is provocative, sad, liberating, and empowering all at the same time.

Much like yoga.

Brown is a phenomenal writer: authentic, simple, and human. Mostly, it is her vulnerability -the very vulnerability which catapulted her to fame in her first TED talk– that makes her relatable. Her revival of Theodore Roosevelt’s “daring greatly” quote  tops my list of most inspiring quotations. (He got me at “marred by dust and sweat.”)

In this new book, she has given new life to Maya Angelou’s words on belonging. They have also made my list. (I am easily moved. It is a curse and a blessing. Much like yoga.)

“You are only free when you realize you belong no place —you belong every place— no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”

Brene Brown is a social scientist, far removed from the “woo woo” universe of esoteric spirituality. At the same time, she is spiritual and woo woo-soft in her analysis of the scientific data. This is the perfect formula for my curious, paradoxical human experience. Her latest dive into belonging has touched me deeply.

“True belonging 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.”

This is profound for me because yoga feels like a spiritual quest for belonging: coming home to where I can be myself, within myself. The shortest, most tangible route is finding comfort in the physical body, primarily by becoming acquainted with every detail. This involves taking a good hard look at  the self. The only requirement is a healthy dose of courage that is nourished by a steady stream of trust: in my authentic self and the higher force that illuminates my path.

“Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion.” —Brene Brown

(Yes, I know, she is incredible. Are you putting together your own list of quotes yet?)

That connection to the power within, without, and all around is belonging. It is the thread that binds us together.

Spirituality and belonging are not abstract concepts that belong on inspiration lists. They are notions that encompass practical steps. And much like anything of value, they require work, commitment, and discipline.

Which takes me to heart-exploding, sweat-inducing strenuous workouts. Clearing any obstruction in the physical body makes room for energy to flow. The sweat is the manifestation of the physical act of burning what is stagnant inside. The fire that is cultivated by any physical practice is essential to cleansing the vessel that we call home.

Brown identifies four essential elements to true belonging. These elements are a daily practice too:

“1. People Are Hard to Hate Close Up. Move In.

2. Speak Truth to Bullshit. Be Civil.

3. Hold Hands. With Strangers.

4. Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart.”

(She is a genius. Who said scientists were boring?)

It is impossible to hate anyone close up. I make up all kinds of wild tales in my head. They fall to pieces upon the first hello. Technology is keeping us away from each other —and holding hands. Social media is the birth place of those crazy stories, born of assumptions and fear. Speaking truth starts with the self. It is the very essence of freedom. Strong backs help us stand tall. (Yoga practice helps.) And that soft front Brown talks about? I haven’t gotten to that part of the book yet. I imagine it has to do with vulnerability and openness. Empathy and compassion.

It takes courage —to dare greatly.

“The wilderness is an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.” —Brene Brown

Aloneness is what I need so that I can truly belong. That’s where most of the work gets done. “Loneliness” is a choice, often made in the midst of chaos and noise, from a place of fear. Much of it is fed by social media. It is reaching epidemic proportions and leading us astray.

I imagine balance is key. And practice. If you wish to start, find what helps you light that fire. The flames will clear the way for true belonging.



Leave a Reply