Spirituality and Design

One year ago I would have never imagined delving into a talk about spirituality. As a self-proclaimed atheist with a strong sense of contempt for the evangelical and dogmatic ways of organized religion I probably would have laughed.

I look back on this close-minded and cynical state with grace and a grateful spirit for the growth I have sought since has been one hell of a journey I would never take back.

Defined by the beloved Brene Brown, “Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose to our lives.”

For years that power was something I could not define, an answer I did not know. As a studious, answer-driven Valedictorian, this didn’t jive with me. I chose to disregard it because I didn’t have an entity to put to the name. I did not have a “God”.

Life is not black and white. Through Human-Centered Design I was awakened to a sense of empathy that has always burned deeply inside of me. I love hard. Manifesting those emotions into words isn’t something that is easy or something I thought I was capable, again just one year ago.

Hmm…that makes two things I have yet been able to define. Thinking what I’m thinking? That’s because they are one in the same. This love I feel for others and for myself is what drives me, that connection. Wait…the Brene Brown quote. IT’S ALL COMING TOGETHER.

That was it. I was flooded with emotions. All kinds. Confusion, bliss, love, sorrow. As of recent I have been swallowed whole by the Jungle. I am it and it is me. The definition of what it means to be spiritual is everywhere, intertwined in our nature. Every interaction, every sly smile, every heartbreak, grief, bliss and failure is rooted deeply by one thing, connection. I became hyper-aware to literally EVERYTHING. I have always had a sort of “spidey-sense” to other peoples energies and for the longest time this was interpreted as a negative trait. A sensitive, over-thinking girl that lacked the depth it took to understand and express her inklings. I feel strong now, empowered with a deep sense of self-trust and worth. I speak, feel and seek truth. Before I was merely trying to create or justify unhealthy relationships with a skewed sense of truth. Falling victim to BS.

Human-Centered Design focuses on just that, humans and the connections they posses — whether that be to other humans, animals, a service, an interface, etc. is not the important part, the important part is merely that it exists. Choosing to disregard that is only closing doors, never opening them. I reach my “best” design solutions when I feel I can see the other person. If I can understand you, walk in your shoes, share a beautiful connection that is honest and open, only then do I have a shot at solving your (and probably many others) problem. I resonate deeply with Massimo Vignelli titling himself a problem-seeker rather than problem-solver. If I can identify the issue without you giving it to me at face value, THAT, my friends, is empathy. That is understanding. Anything else can be considered a trend or makeshift solution to an issue that is not yet understood...aka BS. Connection spreads like a web — our thoughts are much stronger than we give them credit for — trusting that and leaning into intuition rather than a rigid design brief will propel your design decisions much faster than a fat slab serif typeface with a kick-ass color palette (disclaimer: those things are great but they should come LAST).

This connection, the one that is almost impossible to explain, the one that keeps you going, the reason I am writing this, the thing that keeps you up on your phone looking, what some would consider mindlessly, at Instagram or Facebook, it is what we all are striving for. We are fighting the same fight. To belong, to be loved and to feel a sense of worth. We receive these things through connections. Connections with others, with self, and with our Jungle.

For some that Jungle is God, some it is Allah, it could look like Nature and Mother Earth, and others it merely looks like their self. Like me, some are still exploring it — I think my Jungle looks like all of those things and more.

Opening our minds to what exactly “spirituality” means to us and realizing that this inextricable connection is what drives our purpose, our passions, and our fire is everything. Feel it, honor it, and let it fuel all of your values, wild child. Live free, live brave and live well. It is ok not to have answers, in fact you shouldn’t have any for you must dig in and figure out the problem first.

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