Tag Archives: belonging

Further Realizations

My Mom helped me with an analogy last night when we were talking about my deep urge to find a spiritual path. When I talked about what Jack Kornfield said about needing to “take the one seat” and dig one’s well deeply, as opposed to flitting around sampling nectar from every source but never making any real progress, she said that a river has many tributaries.

I could tell from the moment she said it that this analogy would make for some delicious brain food.

In some truly insightful ways, a spiritual path is like a river; flowing to the Oneness of the Sea; following the terrain by taking the lowest position; feeding, washing, healing and inspiring beings along the way; becoming deeper, wider and calmer as it moves along; finally to lose and find itself completely in the Ocean of the All as One.

And is any river fed by only one source? Does any river purposely dam up the inflow from any particular spring, creek or brook? Does it refuse to accept rain that has blown in from a certain area, or reject melted snow for its chill?

I can see how Kornfield’s recommendation to follow one path deeply rather than many paths shallowly is another way of saying to be a river, to have a course and a way rather than to simply spread oneself thin until one is just a scattered collection of puddles that evaporate quickly in the midday sun.

But each of us must travel our own path, and so to give it a label is deceptively simplistic. “I am a Christian.” “I am a Buddhist.” Does that really mean anything at all, other than what the listener assumes it implies based on their own personal understanding?

In the book A Chosen Faith by John A. Buehrens and Forrest Church, D. H. Lawrence is quoted on the subject of religion: “A person has no religion who has not slowly and painfully gathered one together, adding to it, shaping it; and one’s religion is never complete and final, it seems, but must always be undergoing modification.” This resonates with me deeply, having begun my gathering in earnest at age 13 and never having settled or called my basket full. I bristle at the idea of being choked into unconsciousness by a label, church or path that does not allow for my full participation with eyes and heart open.

The authors then summarize Lawrence’s opinion as it relates to traditional concepts of religion vs. this more fluid approach: “For him, religion has little to do with a body of beliefs or practices; it represents a gradual process of awakening to the depth and possibilities of life itself.” And indeed this is also my view; religion has to move with the terrain also, has to respond with compassion, be informed by humility, and participate in harmony. Anything that attempts to be a rock in the way of the flow will be worn down, turned to sand, and washed out to Oneness with everything else.

I am water.

And yet I desperately crave fellowship, guidance and validation (or thoughtful challenge). I see others who take on labels finding such things. But what does a person have to give up to belong?

Self-Esteem or Belonging?

On a discussion forum recently someone brought up the issue of low self-esteem — feeling ugly, worthless, low.

I think in the past 30 years I’ve come from the deepest pits of hell to a peaceful grassy hill (which occasionally dips down into a dark swamp) on this one.

I clearly recall sitting in the hallway of my high school, crying my eyes out because I believed I was hated, ugly and worthless. I think it was freshman year, and it must have happened at least four or five times that year.

Somewhere in my brain, I thought it made sense that my extremely public distress was going to cause someone to realize how wonderful I was, invite me to hang out, and I would have friends.

By the time I graduated, I had a boyfriend, I’d been captain of the cheerleading squad, I’d been secretary of the student body, I had enough self-esteem boosting experiences under my belt that I no longer cried out for random help in the hallway.

But was it a build-up of self-esteem, or was it that I belonged to different groups, had a place among certain people, and was accepted?

The days when my self-esteem feels lowest now are when I’ve spent a lot of time at home surrounded by children who are whining, criticizing, and using every trick in the book to undermine me and get me to give them cookies and cake for dinner. At those times I feel like the world is against me, and there is no one in my immediate vicinity who actually wants, likes or needs ME.

When I’m feeling high self-esteem it’s because I’ve felt like I’ve been able to help one of my children with something, a neighbor has stopped to chat, someone has liked one of my blog posts, or some other indication that I belong in the world and that people are able to get some joy from my existence.

So when I think of the suggestions I passed along to the forum poster, I don’t think any of them were wrong: avoid magazines that make you feel lousy, for instance, and try to spend more time around people who make you feel good for who you really are. But I think I forgot one.

Know that you belong, and that your belonging brings others joy. Pay attention to those moments when you really know your belonging, and when you really see the joy you bring. Let those moments be your shining truth when the sun goes behind the clouds.

Now someone please remind me of this when I’m slogging through the swamps.

The Last Puzzle Piece

My 8 year old daughter and I recently did a 300 piece puzzle together.  It’s a really cool one with animals doing all kinds of silly things, the kind of puzzle where you grow attached to the various little characters and scenes within the whole picture.

So when we got to the end and we were missing a piece, I was quite disappointed.  “Great, we lost one!” I said (probably too loud) and proceeded to spend the next two minutes looking all around, even in other rooms, since the baby is notorious for taking off with little important bits and eating/losing them.

Just as I was giving up in despair, my 8 year old giggled and produced the piece from under her seat.  Grrr.

Now, she comes by this joke honestly, as it’s a tradition for my Dad to pull this trick on my Mom and I, but when he does it, he is standing at the ready as we put the last couple pieces in.  He doesn’t let us look around for it, he just swoops in and takes the glory of putting in the last puzzle piece.

My daughter and I discussed how this trick might be more fun for all in the future, and causing Mama extra stress is not part of the equation, but the whole experience made me realize that though there are 300 pieces in the puzzle, the most important and special one is the LAST one.

And how, don’t we all want to feel like the last puzzle piece?  There are billions of people in this world, many, many individuals in our communities and families and schools, but don’t we each want to feel like the one who will be missed if we aren’t there?  Don’t we each want someone to panic and search desperately for us?  Don’t we want to feel so precious that the whole project of life will be incomplete without us?

How often do we intend to make someone else feel like the last puzzle piece?  Our child, our partner, a dear friend?  And is it something we can do for a stranger in the grocery store, to look into their eyes and smile like they are the small bit we’d thought was lost but then we found it?  What joy!

I hope when you are here at Wise Way Tribe, you feel me reaching out across the time and space that separates my typing from your eyes moving across the screen, and that we can meet with a true connection.  I hope you know that your presence makes my puzzle complete.