The 100 Day Reality Challenge

Deepening Your Sense of Belonging

Deepening Your Sense of Belonging

Welcome! In a culture that values independence, we sometimes forget that our survival and ability to thrive depend on interrelationships. In your mother’s womb, you floated in the warm embrace of amniotic fluid and received a steady stream of nutrients through the umbilical cord. Perhaps you heard her sing lullabies to you then, so her voice became familiar before you were even born.

Sadly enough, even in the womb you may have felt let down. A surprising number of people trace their earliest trauma to the anxiety their mother felt while bearing them or to toxins she ingested that diminished their well-being. So we not only depend on each other from the start, but we need also to treat our interdependence as the sacred gift it is. Whether we have been marvelously supported or terribly mistreated in the past (most of us experience a mix of each), we can now choose to live gratefully so that our sense of belonging grows ever stronger.

Step 1

Close your eyes and feel the pulse of your heart. At this moment, your heart is sending blood to your lungs to receive oxygen and then to nourish every cell of your body through an intricate system of arteries. Equally amazing veins draw depleted blood back to your heart, where the cycle starts anew with each cycle of beats.

Here in our own hearts, then, lies a fundamental sacrament that all human beings (as well as many other creatures) have in common. Just as the nearness of the Mother’s heartbeat encourages her infant, so our own heart brings us a certain assurance against loneliness. By its continual supply of sustenance, it supports our very life. By beating in company with the hearts of others, it reveals us to be in relationship, even if we live alone in a far-flung corner of the world. And by its rhythmic sympathy with the ocean waves, the cycles of seasons, the orbits of planets, it unites us with our world and worlds beyond us.

Can you feel this companionship now, in your own heart? Give yourself enough time to experience – rather than just think about – the degree to which you belong. A single stream of love unites the vast diversity of life in our universe.

Step 2

To which part of this vastness do you feel closest? You may think of another person, living or dead, but don’t restrict yourself to human relationships if someone else comes to mind: a woodpecker who visits your bird feeder every morning; a tulip poplar who lets you lean against its trunk when you’re lonely; a stone you carry with you everywhere. “The world is charged with the grandeur of God,” writes Gerard Manley Hopkins, and you can find friendship in the most unlikely places. You may even feel closest to an all-pervading Presence that goes by many names and yet again is beyond naming.

Write down the name (or, if a name isn’t appropriate, a reminder) of the one you’ve chosen. Now let all the goodness of this relationship flood into your heart. What have you received from this friend, for which you’re grateful? What have you given? Your ability to give is, of course, part of the continuum of gratitude as well. Gifts flow to you and also through you to others. As you enter into this give-and-take, you enter a universe grace-filled and fully alive.

Clearly name the gifts you receive through your friendship. Once you have done so, go one step further and ponder the gift your friend is, in and of himself or herself.

You may feel joyful while doing this exercise, but it’s also okay to feel sad: for instance, if the person closest to you has passed on. Just bear in mind that the sadness is directly related to the extent of your love. No matter what, you can hold on to the gift of love between you and another. Love is an indestructible power. Allow yourself to feel that power of love for a little while, before going on.

Step 3

In the Gift People message board, record your gratitude for your friend. (Don’t think any less of your choice if it’s not human. The more aware you become of the living nature of our entire Earth, the better you'll be able to heal the alienation that allows people to exploit her.) In keeping with the spirit of belonging, read and appreciate the reflections of others as well.

Click Gift People message board to open a new page. To finish, close the message board page, come back here and click "OK" below.

Step 4

Earler, in Step 2, you chose as a source of gratitude someone close to you. Perhaps your circle of loved ones is wide, and you had a hard time narrowing it down to one. Perhaps, on the other hand, you find yourself lonely at this time and could barely come up with a single link of belonging. This practice has infinite versatility, though, no matter who you are and where your life has taken you. You give and receive – and therefore have room for gratefulness – with every single person (or animal, star, stone, etc.) you meet. Even the cruelest person you know teaches you, by contrast, about mercy and forgiveness.

To catch a glimpse of the extent of your relationships, visit the Power of Ten feature. Notice that you can go back to any image you choose, once you have reached the end of the slide show. Take your time with it. How do you feel as you realize you’re right in the middle of such grand as well as microscopic magnitude?

Every time you gratefully appreciate a friend or loved one, as you did today, you build a more peaceful, loving community on Earth. You can knit this community even more securely together by telling a friend about this practice. And thank you for supporting our website as we foster a network of grateful people.

tell a friend

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