What is True Belonging?

Our physical distancing during Coronavirus is an opportunity to reflect on how we can bring renewed vigor to social connection on the other side of this.

We will get through it. The costs may be enormous. But whether we come out more fractured or more connected is up to us.

Here at Living Room Conversations, we’re rolling up our sleeves right next to you to ensure we tip the scales in the direction of true belonging.

This story invites us to take a hard look at the false belonging we’ve grown accustomed to.  Let’s use this collective pause to ask ourselves: Who’s outside of our circle of compassion? What will it take to bring them in?


“For the rest of the evening, as I looked around at what had felt like my community, I felt less safe, even though I identify as a progressive,” writes Brandon Rennels on AllSides.com recently.

He’s writing about Wisdom 2.0, a progressive-leaning conference held annually in San Francisco. At the 2019 event, Brandon was captivated by a mainstage talk, “Celebrating Political Diversity,” featuring Joan Blades, founder of Living Room Conversations, who leans progressive, and John Gable, founder of AllSides.com, who leans conservative.

“Living in San Francisco the word “diversity” is thrown around a lot,” Brandon recalls, “but I almost never hear calls for “political diversity.”

When Gable introduced himself as a Republican, dozens of audience members loudly booed. Unsettled, Brandon came face to face with his own bias. “As I am learning to see the prejudices I unconsciously hold towards other races, genders, levels of wealth,” he said, “I realize I have a blind spot around political views.”

He encourages his community of “spiritually-minded progressives” to consider the impact of their political blind spots, too.

For John Gable, who describes himself as “chronically unoffended,” the boos were relatively good-natured. But Brandon’s article moved him to write an article of his own.

After revealing himself as a Republican on stage, “I couldn’t walk 30 feet without someone stopping me to talk to me or even to thank me,” John writes. “One man said he’d been coming to the event for years and, as a conservative, this was the first time he felt comfortable. It’s something I heard all night long.”

Wisdom 2.0, for both John and Brandon, is an exceptional event that they highly recommend.  But for a mindfulness community that prides itself on accepting a wide diversity of people, their experiences are an opportunity to consider where that inclusion might fall short.

Our innate drive to belong is so primal that we’re often willing to sacrifice parts of ourselves in order to fit in. When Brandon saw the limits of belonging at the conference, he felt “less safe,” even though he was part of the in-group.

This isn’t true belonging. It’s “us vs. them,” where even the “us” might be one wrong opinion away from exclusion.

“We contain multitudes,” wrote Walt Whitman. True belonging respects not just the dignity of an opponent, but our messy contradictions, too.

How we respond to this global crisis will fundamentally shape our world. As we rebuild our future, let’s imagine what it feels like to sit inside a widening circle of compassion. Imagine knowing that belonging isn’t contingent on changing who you are, but more fully inhabiting who you are. Let’s build this world on the strongest foundation imaginable: transformational love.
Shannon Mannon
Newsletter Editor