I’m in the process of putting together my next webinar for professionals and I find myself orienting to the subject of belonging, to the importance of feeling that we belong to something more than our individual selves. One of the practices I’ve followed for a while now is an adaptation of one that comes from David Spangler, the founder of Incarnational Spirituality and Lorian.org. The practice is called “heightening” and it focuses on offering acknowledgment and appreciation to the world around us.
Above and beyond being a practice derived from a spiritual approach, there is something deeply practical about actively acknowledging and appreciating ourselves and all that we encounter in the environment around us. From a psychological perspective, it is deeply important that we feel ourselves to be part of something bigger than our individual selves and that we find our connection to that “something more” that adds meaning to our lives.
Imagine a time when someone looked at you with delight in their eyes, a smile on their face, and expressed their pleasure in seeing you. You may have noticed that you suddenly felt more alive, more energized, as though all the lights inside you suddenly lit up. What if you noticed that the lifeforms and objects around you are made of the same “stuff” as you and are all alive in their own particular ways? If that’s an idea that’s too far out for your taste, then stick with what you consider to be living beings—plants, animals, insects, all the lifeforms in nature. For me, I consider everything alive in a certain way because all of us on this planet are made up of the same kinds of particles that we think of as comprising life as we know it. And, in my world view, everything is conscious and aware, although in a wide variety of ways.
Following is a practice I have adapted from Spangler’s process of “heightening”. Even as my take on it may be somewhat different from his, I’ve found it to be a meaningful practice that nurtures my sense of being part of an ever-expanding community of reciprocity.
- Begin by taking some time to settle in, allowing yourself to arrive to the natural home base that is your internal center of gravity. Settle in there and notice what it’s like to be aware of your own core presence. Notice the sensations of settling in, and the quality and tone radiating from you as you settle in even a bit more.
- Now, choose something that can be the focus of this practice. It may be a houseplant or crystal, maybe a living being of some kind, perhaps a tree if you are outdoors, maybe the living soil. Or, you may choose an object such as a favorite statue, a favorite mug, whatever comes to your attention now.
- Next, take some time to send acknowledgment and appreciation to whatever you have chosen, allowing your heart to express this energy as your thoughts and feelings flow outward. I recommend focusing in the heart brain for this, as the qualities of heart awareness naturally orient to acknowledgment and appreciation.
- Take as much time as you need to offer your acknowledgment and appreciation, noticing the quality of your energy and the tone of your experience.
- When you are through, imagine that the object of your attention has actively received your gift of acknowledgment and appreciation and that this process has enlivened the life in that lifeform or object in the same way it would enliven you if you were the recipient of this kind of experience. Notice what you experience if you then imagine that your acknowledgment and appreciation are acknowledged and appreciated by your recipient, as well.
- Then, as you prepare to complete this practice, take a little time to notice how it feels for you to be connected in this way. Notice what you experience in your body and psyche, along with the resonating quality and tone of your internal experience, to feel perhaps a deeper sense of connection to the world around you.
One of the things I often say to colleagues who meet with me for consultation is that I never work alone, that I never feel alone. I find that practices such as the one above have offered me an experience of always being in relationship with the world around me. As you explore this practice, notice what it offers you. Your experience may be different from mine, so pay attention to whatever meaning arises for you as you play with this offering.
As with all these practices, please remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion and to pat gently on the head any judgments that may arise, allowing them to move on through without your having to do anything about them.