”The value of drawing is that it slows you down, you spend time looking…and you discover things.” Betty Churcher, Australian art educator and gallery director, Brisbane Writers Festival 2014
I love that quote. Just reading it takes me to a sacred place inside. To my own fourth dimension where the questioning and the pondering happens.
This is what part of my belonging journey is about. Since I’ve been focussing on belonging and connecting here in Australia, my perspective has changed. It seems that simply the act of thinking about the layers of belonging has encouraged me to search out ways to make it happen. In other words, focussing on belonging is helping me find like-minded people. Not necessarily other serial migrants or people who feel they don’t belong — though they may be those things — but inquisitive people who are open, engaged and want to grow. People who have taken the blinkers off.
On top of this, Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point has me thinking about context. Context changes the way we behave. Gladwell explains how Princeton University psychologists conducted an experiment with seminary students. The students were asked to prepare a short talk, some on the parable of the Good Samaritan and others on aspects of religion or religious vocation. Before the students headed to another building to give their talk some were told they were late and should rush and others that they could take their time. On the way, all passed a man doubled over in pain.
Who stopped to help? Only 10% of the students in a rush compared with 63% of the students who weren’t.
”What this study is suggesting,’’ Gladwell writes, ”…is that the convictions of your heart and the actual contents of your thoughts are less important, in the end, in guiding, your actions, than the immediate context of your behavior.
Is this what Albert Einstein meant when he said: ”Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.” ?
I believe it’s important to slow down, acknowledge context and question ourselves and those around us so we can bring our convictions forward.
It turns out this idea of context is important to belonging too. As a journalist I’ve developed ways of meeting people and talking to, well, everyone. That was the context within which I found myself in other countries. That was how I found my friends and moments of belonging. But the last eight years in Brisbane, I’ve been overwhelmed learning about babies, raising toddlers and now figuring out my young daughters. I didn’t stop writing but I was working on introverted pieces.
By starting The Belonging Blog I’ve changed my own context. It’s given me purpose and direction when I’m talking to people, just as I would have had when I was chasing up a story as a reporter. And at the Brisbane Writers’ Festival this past weekend, I asked questions about belonging and met lots of inspiring people and kindred spirits. You may remember I had a similar experience at the Sydney Writers’ Festival.
Now, I’m an optimistic person but perhaps I wasn’t applying this optimism to my sense of belonging?
I’ve recently discovered there is an entire field of psychology called ”positive psychology”. Even the US Mayo Clinic has written about links between positive self-talk or positive thinking and increased life span, lower rates of depression, more resistance to the common cold, reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and better coping skills during difficult times.
As James Clear writes in The Huffington Post, a study by Barbara Frederickson, a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, showed that positive emotions increase the number of possibilities we can see, allowing us to develop new skills whereas negative emotions, like fear or anger, limit the choices available to our brains.
What’s fascinating is that Clear suggests writing, as well as meditation and play, as ways to boost positive emotions. In one study, students were spilt into two groups where one group wrote about an ”intensely positive experience” and the other group about a control topic. Three months after, the students who wrote about something positive had fewer illnesses and better moods.
So maybe the act of writing about belonging as acceptance, inclusion and embracing diversity has changed me?
Maybe I’ve become stronger just by pursuing the idea?