Connectedness Evaluation (Spiritual Tool #7)

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My favorite season is upon us! Leaves are preparing for their colorful flight, pumpkin spice lattes are in high demand, and there is a crispness to the air that invigorates my spirit and warms my heart. Not only does autumn bring a multitude of holidays—especially for Canadians like myself who are living in the United States (two Thanksgivings!)—but it also brings the end of summer holiday chaos and the beginning of familiar routines. In fact, I find the month of September often feels more like a New Year than the first of January…so this year I decided to treat it like that 🙂

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Instead of creating a New Year’s resolution—which we all know are rarely kept—I decided to consider this Autumn New Year as an opportunity to re-evaluate my daily life and specifically to try something I have been casually developing over the last six months. It is called a “Connectedness Evaluation.” It is still in its preliminary phase, but I’m excited, so I want to share it with you!

I have noticed over the years that it is not uncommon for day-to-day routines to shift toward something that no longer matches our values, interests, dreams, or optimal well-being; yet, we often do not recognize it’s happened until we find ourselves discontented and not knowing why. For instance, we may start spending more time with a significant other or group of friends, but it happens at the expense of our contemplative, alone time; or our work schedule may change, making it difficult to engage with a spiritual community that was important to us. Whatever the reason—and I’ve heard an abundance—it is not uncommon for our daily routines to shift, leaving us feeling disconnected. However, it is possible to right that balance; we just have to figure out what needs to change.

One method for figuring this out is to complete a “Connectedness Evaluation,” which is based on my definition of spirituality (i.e., “A feeling of Connectedness to something greater than oneself, experienced through cultivating a relationship with oneself, one’s community, one’s environment, and one’s perception of the transcendent” [Koss & Holder, 2015]) combined with current health research indicating the importance of all four Connectedness relationships in human life.

For most of human existence, daily life automatically involved all four Connectedness relationships. We lived in tight-knit communities; we frequently spent time in nature, likely to grow and hunt our food; we had more silent, contemplative time, since we did not have the option of streaming music, podcasts, and Netflix; and we likely engaged in a communally practiced religion that automatically secured our perception of the transcendent.

By contrast, in today’s society it is feasible to see no one but the takeout delivery person, experience no nature except through TV, etc. We now live in a society where Connectedness—a fundamental part of the human experience—is optional. Therefore, it is our responsibility to actively create a lifestyle and make choices to cultivate Connectedness. This requires commitment, but from my experience it is well worth the effort. (It is the basis of my blog, after all!)

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So, what is this Connectedness Evaluation exactly? Despite the long introduction, it is quite simple. It involves considering the four Connectedness relationships (i.e., personal, communal, environmental, and transcendent), then examining how we have previously cultivated these relationships, how we currently cultivate them, and how we would ideally like to cultivate them in the future.

For example, in doing a Connectedness Evaluation for my “Autumn New Year,” I realized I have not been prioritizing hiking, meditation, or conscious breathing as much as I would like, so I am now making more of an effort to include these practices in my daily life.

If you would like to try a Connectedness Evaluation—I particularly recommend it for people who are feeling a sense of discontent in their lives, although I suspect anyone could benefit from it—you can simply consider what I just described, or you can try a more formal approach using the following table:

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There are no correct answers, so how you assess your evaluation is up to you! While part of me hopes it will induce big “ah-ha” moments for you, more realistically I hope it can simply be viewed as a new perspective through which to consider your life and motivate positive change.

Additionally, as I mentioned before, this idea of a Connectedness Evaluation is still being fully developed, so use it at your own discretion and please send me feedback if it helps in any way 🙂 If I don’t respond right away, it’s hopefully because I’m meditating…or eating a pumpkin scone while enjoying the crisp fall air 😉

Happy “Autumn New Year” and happy evaluating!

Sarah

P.S., Here is an example table based on my own experience:

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P.P.S., Here is the Connectedness Evaluation as PDF: Connectedness Evaluation

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