🌻 Awakening Wholeness, Connection & Spirituality
The Remarkable Convergence with Science
Many of us feel there is more to life than we can hear with our ears or see with our eyes. We may sense something amazing and inexplicable that transcends our individual selves. We may experience a sense of awe or wholeness that affirms our aliveness and existence. We may seek to find meaning in our lives or feel we’re here for a purpose greater than ourselves. We may yearn to experience connection with each other or with something larger than any of us as individuals. We may seek entryways toward moments of transcendence.
We can seek wholeness, connection, and spirituality without being religious (Miller, 2021; Kendler, 1997). According to a growing body of scientific findings, we are wired for connection. The human brain is innately equipped with a capacity to connect (Miller, 2021; Fredrickson, 2013). And for many people, some form of personal spirituality or transcending the human self is an important contributor to wellbeing. It can build our resilience, our ability to cope with stress, capacity to cultivate our character strengths, and potential to pursue life goals (Vieten & Lukoff, 2022; Niemiec, et al 2020).
There are many pathways toward experiencing wholeness and connection.
On a person-to-person level, during the isolation of the COVID pandemic, many of us felt isolated or a heightened sense of aloneness. We missed connecting with others, even casually, in ways we were used to. The research of psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, PhD, has shown that experiencing even casual micro-moments of connection with other people can improve our well-being, health, and longevity (Fredrickson, 2013). She coined the term positivity resonance, explaining that when we show caring and invest in each other’s wellbeing, even for a moment, this can affect our bodies and our brains in positive ways.
Fredrickson explains that when we share positive emotions, whether mild or strong, this positivity resonance can foster personal wellbeing, overall health, empathy and perspective taking, as well as interpersonal understandings, social resources, and connections (Major, et al, 2018; Fredrickson, 2013).
Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson tells about a moment when she was doubting herself during her freshman year at Harvard, and a total stranger walked up to her and simply said: “Persevere”.
Jackson explains in that brief moment of connection everything changed for her. As Barbara Fredrickson (2013, p. 18) has pointed out, in such interactions “for just a moment, you become something larger than yourself.” Sharing even brief moments of positive emotions can inspire us, awakening the spiritual dimensions of our lives and increasing our understanding of the world and our place in it. In many spiritual traditions, such moments are seen as blessings of connection that come through us, rather than from us (Berns-Zare & Hayman, 2023). Blessing each other with compassion, whether in ordinary everyday encounters or with intention and mindfulness across spiritual traditions and practices, can awaken vitality, meaning, and caring connections in daily life.
While some people may see it as a search for meaning, awe, or wholeness, spirituality is a compelling and universal aspect of the human experience. According to positive psychologists, spirituality is a character strength that recognizes that some aspects of life are beyond our human capacity to comprehend. This strength can invigorate resilience, wellbeing, and a unifying view of oneself and the world (Vieten & Lukoff, 2021; Niemiec, et al, 2020; Peterson & Seligman, 2004).
When we understand spirituality as a character strength, we may be more able to discern its presence in our lives. This presence may be within established spiritual and religious contexts or outside traditional spiritual paths, such as experiencing awe in nature, music, or visual design. Whether inside or outside traditional religious or spiritual practices, some common themes emerge – from cultivating inner stillness, equanimity and wellbeing to experiencing expansive states of awareness and moving beyond a sense of separation toward connection (Taylor, 2019).
🤔 Here are a few inquiries you may choose to consider in your own life:
- When do you feel moments of wholeness or spirituality?
- What practices or activities help you feel a sense of connection with others or the transcendent?
- How can you cultivate more spiritual or meaning moments in your life?
An abundance of practices, spiritual paths and alternatives invites us to notice the energies and life’s transcendent possibilities between us, all around us, and beyond us in ways we may not have even imagined. Many humans seek to understand these mysteries, mixing our deeply personal experiences with understandings gained from groundbreaking science and research.
Recently, I had the honor to co-write a chapter in a book about awareness of spirituality in the context of a Jewish perspective. While this article discusses the experience of wholeness, connection, and spirituality via a more neutral perspective, these final words are based on my own take, from a Jewish renewal viewpoint. From this lens, I am inspired to understand each of us as sparks of light and all of us together shine more brightly than any one of us alone – we are more than simply the sum of us. Our interconnections with each other and with the vast energies that connect us all are among the great mysteries of life.
Would you like to learn more about my book chapter in Torah Without End?
© 2023 Ilene Berns-Zare, LLC, All Rights Reserved
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. No content is a substitute for consulting with a qualified mental health or healthcare professional.
Send your comments and suggestions to Ilene!
Click here to send Ilene an email with your thoughts about this blog post.
- Berns-Zare, I. & Hayman, T. (2022). Naso: Awakening to God’s protection and presence. In M. Strassfeld (Ed.), Torah without end: Neo-Hasidic teachings and practices in honor of Rabbi Jonathan Slater. Teaneck, NJ: Ben Yehudah Press.
- Fredrickson, B.L. (2013). Love 2.0: How our supreme emotion affects everything we feel, think, do, and become. New York, NY: Hudson Street Press.
- Kendler K.S., Gardner C.O., Prescott C.A. (1997), Religion, psychopathology, and substance use and abuse; a multi-measure, genetic-epidemiologic study. Am J Psychiatry. 154(3):322-9. doi: 10.1176/ajp.154.3.322. PMID: 9054778.
- Major, B. C., Le Nguyen, K. D., Lundberg, K. B., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2018). Well-being correlates of perceived positivity resonance: Evidence from trait and episode-level assessments. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 44(12), 1631-1647.
- Niemiec, R. (2018). Character strengths interventions: A field guide for practitioners. Boston, MA: Hogrefe.
- Niemiec, R. M., Russo-Netzer, P., & Pargament, K. I. (2020). The decoding of the human spirit: A synergy of spirituality and character strengths toward wholeness. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 2040.
- Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification (Vol. 1). Oxford University Press.
- Taylor, S. (2019). Is there common ground between spiritual traditions: Transpersonal psychology and the perennial philosophy.
- Vieten, C., & Lukoff, D. (2022). Spiritual and religious competencies in psychology. American Psychologist, 77(1), 26.
Ilene is a Featured Author on PsychologyToday!
Read her blog series Flourish and Thrive: Navigating transitions with mindfulness and resilience.
How will you awaken wholeness, connection, and spirituality in your life?
Tap into your strengths, purpose, and potential to flourish in life and work.
If you’d like to discuss how Ilene Berns-Zare Coaching can help you achieve your goals, contact Ilene.
Coaching with Ilene Can Help You Call Yourself to Action
Ilene Berns-Zare, PsyD, PCC, CMC (ICF Credentialed), CEC, is an Executive and Personal Coach and Speaker. Ilene helps people live their best personal and professional lives by bringing mind, body, and spirit into flow with strengths, purpose, and potential. She inspires clients to find fresh perspectives and access their full potential as creative, resourceful, whole persons. Find Ilene online, set up a free discovery coaching consultation, and access free resources at https://ibzcoaching.com/.
Please share this blog with anyone who might be interested in reading it!
We would love to hear from you! We are interested in your suggestions for this newsletter, your reactions to this one, or providing more information about coaching.