Basic Belonging

It seems that when we consider the idea of belonging our first inclination is to think of belonging through our relationships with one another. This is certainly an important aspect of the human yearning for belonging. And, what if just by virtue of being alive we belong? In a recent teaching session with my mentor, Meg Wheatley, she shared an image of several spiral galaxies captured by the Webb telescope, and an image of a single plankton magnified 2,000 times it’s microscopic size. Meg lifted up the exquisite beauty and order in these images.

David Whyte’s poem, Self Portrait, begins with this question: “It doesn’t interest me if there is one God or many gods. I want to know if you belong or feel abandoned.”1 Our conversation in our teaching session explored this question through the telescopic lens of the vastness of space that contains all the components of life, and the microscopic lens of miniscule organisms that provide 50% of the oxygen in our oceans. 

We belong to both the vastness and the microscopic. We belong to the earth. We belong to the very essence of life itself. Images both vast and tiny demonstrate a foundational order with which we are inextricably interconnected and absolutely dependent. The Navajo concept of the Beauty Way is about the natural harmony and order of life. Through this understanding of the deep time connection we have with all that is, we can access a sense of basic belonging. We belong in the universe. We belong in our solar system, we belong to the earth. We belong to the web of life. We belong to each other. 

I access this sense of profound, basic belonging through a daily meditation practice. When temperatures allow, I can sit on my back porch and meditate with my eyes softly gazing upon the world. Without any effort, I witness birds, bees, butterflies, spiders, leaves falling, dogs barking, chain saws whirring, the scents of the season. I am one with all of this. And when I need to meditate inside, I see the objects on my altar that remind me I belong on this earth: rocks, metal, water, flowers, fire, incense … all remind me I am alive, I have not been abandoned, and I belong. And so do you.

~ Rev. Jan Taddeo


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My Covenant Group

I’m not one to belong to groups. I didn’t have a want or need to belong to one. My Covenant Croup is the exception.

I’m in a covenant group at UUCG. I have been part of this group for over a year. These meetings have become important to me.

We come from different backgrounds. We live different lives. But, we have come together to share our thoughts and beliefs. 

We trust each other and that in itself is a huge accomplishment. We can discuss anything within the group knowing that it will stay there. What happens in the covenant group, stays in the covenant group. 

They have helped me get through many of the difficult days that I have had this past year. I thank them dearly. I love them all. They are my small family within a larger family at UUCG. I belong to this group and that is a good thing.

~Rita Romero

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I have a part inside of me that understands that every other human and I belong to each other. Granted, that part of me understands that this is a lofty notion, and so it often remains quiet . Other parts of me have spent a good deal of my life, especially my younger years, schooling in all the “indicators of the other.” Indicators of the other are those things I was taught to see, hear or otherwise perceive that mean “I’m not like that” or “they are not like me.” When one of these indicators shows up, I learned to internalize that I and this “other” do not belong to each other. On some level, this was about safety. These “others” were deemed as dangerous by those who taught me, somehow. As a grown up, a senior citizen now, holding membership in a community that aims to be radically welcoming . . . I am well skilled at automatically labeling people with “indicators of other.” No thought is required, and my body will begin to take on behaviors that silently exclude “the other.” 

Here’s the hard work. I am walking around with a built in process that I learned as a child, unconsciously, and it moves me to act in ways that send signals to some people: you are not welcome around me. No thought required–until I start to engage with that part of myself and say to myself: Let’s not apply that label today. Let’s see beyond this label. Let’s see who this is. Let’s listen a bit longer. Let’s ask some questions. Is there really a threat here? 

Over the years, I’ve been able to retire a lot of the labels with which I was taught to judge people. I’m still working, though. That quiet part of me still reminds me from time to time: You belong to me.  I belong to you. Belonging is the only “label” that matters.

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Belonging to Myself

Most of my life I belonged to everyone else but myself . I was molded to put my needs on the back burner to take care of everyone else. I couldn’t live my life. 

My mother suffers from borderline personality disorder. She raised me to put her needs and wants before my own. Verbal and mental abuse was my childhood. I learned to do things on my own and not ask for help because help was never given.

I belonged to my children. I gave them all the love and encouragement that I could give. I broke the cycle of my childhood and put their needs and wants in front of mine. 

I also spent seventeen years of my life not only taking care of my children, but I also took care of my mother, sister and nephew. My son once told me that I don’t have two children, I actually have five. Well, he was right. 

Then something happened in my life that made me put myself before everyone else. That something is breast cancer. I gave the responsibility of my mother to my sister. I’m not her slave anymore. Believe me, my sister is definitely not her slave. On my way to belonging to myself. 

I had to learn to let go of my responsibilities to my family. They had to start taking care of themselves. Let them go! Let them go! Let them go!

I’m learning to put my mental, physical and spiritual being first. It’s all new to me, and, you know, I like it. One more step to belonging to myself.

Breast cancer has changed my life in many ways. Many things are horrible but there are also good things. I finally belong to myself and that is good. 

~Rita Romero

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The Belonging of Silence

Our sense of belonging is often tied to our five senses. Things that I see belong to me and my experience, and so, in a way, I belong to them. I know what a rose looks like, a mountain, a beautiful tree, a hot car, a funny clown. It works that way with my other senses, too: the things I hear, smell, taste and feel both physically and emotionally. Those sensory experiences are part of my belonging.  I belong to them and they belong to me, and you and I share so many of those experiences together, which helps us belong to each other. 

It is also true that as a small child, those older people around me helped form what I perceived with my senses–as well as what they left silent and did not name. They named beautiful sights, sounds, tastes, smells and feelings. In some cases, they gave me encouragement to experience a perception that at first might not be so positive (I’m thinking about collard greens and barking dogs and roller coasters). They also just left some things silent. Who are the people we describe as attractive or beautiful? Who are the people we can call friends? What are the feelings that are welcome and “normal?” In the silences, there is a belonging, too. The silences left in my experiences are the very places to explore. When I find them and when I dare to name them, a new field of belonging opens up for me and for others. 

This is what I think the work of radical welcoming is: it is finding the experiences that have been left silent in my life and choosing to open to them. To see. To hear. To taste. To smell. To feel. All those beings and experiences that I have excluded because I have left them in the silence. The silence invites us into a larger world of belonging.

~Bob Patrick

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Through a Lens of Belonging

This past weekend, I was blessed with the opportunity to lead – or I suppose it would be more accurate to say accompany – two young children on a walk through the woods.   We carried magnifying glasses so that we could observe more closely all of the fascinating wilderness that we encountered.  It became clear very quickly that, although the magnification was the same for all of us, we each were seeing the trail through our own unique lens. 

One of the children wanted to examine and touch and collect everything, and the other wanted nothing more than to run free in the wild.  (Both of them considered the grown-ups’ pace considerably too slow.)  It was apparent – even through their very different perspectives – that they each felt a profound sense of belonging to the natural world they were immersed in and surrounded by.    

When we look at the world through a lens of belonging it inspires us to care about (and care for) all that surrounds us.   What lens are you viewing the world through today? 

~ Christiana

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Secret Belonging

There are times that you belong to a group but you won’t admit it . You spend most of your adult life denying it. Well, that was indeed me. 

I would hear a name and memories would flood my mind. I had my work, children to bring up, and family to take care of. I can’t give in to my secret belongings.

What can I do to quench my desire for belonging? Do I really want to? No, I don’t! I will just keep it with the skeletons in my closet. It is safe there.

Well, one day my life changed and I find that I have found my courage. My children are grown and I’m not working. I have time on my side. But, I won’t open the closet just yet, I’m not ready.

On a rainy day, I hear a voice coming from my closet. The voice is faint. I slowly walk towards my closet. Should I open the door or should I run? My secret belongings are just past that door. I can’t deny it anymore. 

I open the door and I hear a name. A rush of cold air hits me as I confront my belongings. It calls to me, “Jean-Luc, Jean-Luc Picard”. It is time!

Yes, I admit it. I’m a Trekkie. This is my secret belonging. I am a fan of Star Trek. 

When Data died,  I cried as if a part of me died too. I talk to the TV as if they can hear me. I live and breathe Star Trek. 

I hold my head up high when I tell people that I’m a Trekkie. I belong with my fellow humanoids. It feels right. 

Live long and prosper!

~ Rita Romero

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