Belonging: Self and World

Belonging: Self and World

Would having a deep sense of belonging help you have greater well-being?

We are offering a four hour afternoon retreat soon on this topic.--See below for details. It felt timely to write a little about my dance with the subject. 

Belonging. A simple and complex quality that often goes untouched in the conversations that sweep by, and through me, as I navigate my days.

Yet it’s a felt sense I am enriched by.  
I notice when it arrives, streaking by or lingering, depending on where my attention is.
It’s not a steady state.
I’ve learned not to chase it, or hold too tight. (most of the time)
To simply allow it to rise up, surprise me with delight and deep tenderness-- and move on through.
Circling the wagon of my soul- so to speak.

When I am attentive to it I notice the fullness, and joyful presence it brings, and how that spills out generously into the rest of my life.
Fleeting and deeply felt. Again and again.

There are many rich and delicious words written about belonging. My absolute favorites are by John O’Donohue.

His words linger in the often unreachable, wildly vulnerable places in me.

Here is a bouquet of heartfelt snippets I hold close.

“We live in a world that responds to our longing; it is a place where the echoes always return, even if sometimes slowly… The hunger to belong is at the heart of our nature. Cut off from others, we atrophy and turn in on ourselves. The sense of belonging is the natural balance of our lives… There is some innocent childlike side to the human heart that is always deeply hurt when we are excluded… When we become isolated, we are prone to being damaged; our minds lose their flexibility and natural kindness; we become vulnerable to fear and negativity.”

Makes so much sense to me. The hunger that I temper with distractions-- moment to moment, day by day. You?

“Perhaps your hunger to belong is always active and intense because you belonged so totally before you came here. This hunger to belong is the echo and reverberation of your invisible heritage. You are from somewhere else, where you were known, embraced and sheltered. This is also the secret root from which all longing grows. Something in you knows, perhaps remembers, that eternal belonging liberates longing into its surest and most potent creativity. This is why your longing is often wiser than your conventional sense of appropriateness, safety and truth... Your longing desires to take you towards the absolute realization of all the possibilities that sleep in the clay of your heart; it knows your eternal potential, and it will not rest until it is awakened.”

This one is a favorite.
It reminds me of why I love and am nourished by contact with infants.
The eternal is reflected in them when I have the deep pleasure of gazing into one’s eyes.
The sense of knowing that is exchanged in that eye contact.
Their presence and other-worldliness.
The momentary gift of the invisible mystery made visible.

“Our hunger to belong is the longing to find a bridge across the distance from isolation to intimacy.”  So simple, not so easy.

“In post-modern culture there is a deep hunger to belong. An increasing majority of people feel isolated and marginalized. Experience is haunted by fragmentation. Many of the traditional shelters are in ruins. Society is losing the art of fostering community. Consumerism is now propelling life towards the lonely isolation of individualism. Technology pretends to unite us, yet more often than not all it delivers are simulated images. The “global village” has no roads or neighbours; it is a faceless limbo from which all individuality has been abstracted. Politics seems devoid of the imagination that calls forth vision and ideals; it is becoming ever more synonymous with the functionalism of economic pragmatism. Many of the keepers of the great religious traditions now seem to be frightened functionaries; in a more uniform culture, their management skills would be efficient and successful. In a pluralistic and deeply fragmented culture, they seem unable to converse with the complexities and hungers of our longing. From this perspective, it seems that we are in the midst of a huge crisis of belonging. When the outer cultural shelters are in ruins, we need to explore and reawaken the depths of belonging in the human mind and soul; perhaps, the recognition of the depth of our hunger to belong may gradually assist us in awakening new and unexpected possibilities of community and friendship.”

Reading his words makes me feel less crazy. How I think, feel, wonder are affirmed. And this was written in 1998. In some ways he was pre-sighting here. 

Can understanding and cultivating a deeper sense of belonging help us nurture and creatively pursue greater equity and care for all people, and the more than human world?

What is your belonging story?

If these words resonate let them live in you, wander your heart/mind. Notice how you can be touched by the conversation he is having with us.

June 1st we are offering an afternoon to wander and wonder about belonging. A time to reflect on this beautiful subject, to connect with others, to be present. And to sing a little, move a little, and embody your sense of belonging. 

Click HERE for details and registration.


Carol Delmonico