21 Days Of Belonging

Posted by Michelle Long on Sep 8, 2020
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Dear friends,

Thank you for practicing Belonging with me these past three weeks. Here is some of what I heard and learned from you:

Early on, you shared beautiful reflections on what belonging feels like to you. One of you said: “Belonging is being home, it is where the heart is. Where it is safe. Love and kindness, warmth and peace. A welcoming embrace.” One of you wrote to say it is surprising where you do feel Belonging deeply - and also how you don't feel it where you'd think -- "my work colleagues, professional society, family (!)"

Together we looked at the land where we live. A few of you learned for the first time who was indigenous to the place you now call home, and one of you shared your tears and a poem you’d wrote years ago, with the line: “The soil of our agrarian roots nourished with the bone and flesh of indigenous peoples.” One of you wrote, “Sometimes for me it is through the door of devastating sadness and grief that I can find my way back to the door of gratitude....and I am grateful for indigenous worldviews that are still intact at this moment....as spiritual ballast for all the Great Transition we're in now....bowing to all those who actually know how to live in balance with the Earth....” This elicited a response from another of you who said, “Your message helps shape who and how I want to be.”

We heard how some of you talk to the flowers as you water them, thank the plants for cleaning the air and providing shade, and even tell the radio thank you for the music. We related to one of you who reminded us that naming a cow “beef”, objectifies her. That it becomes so much harder to cut down a tree if I name her, or to treat an animal with indifference if we don’t look for the individual in each. And how Jane Goodall early on wasn’t taken seriously in her chimpanzee research by colleagues because she described the individual personalities of the “someone(s)” she was observing. We heard that naming in Spanish makes this more intuitive because to be has "ser" (Being) en "estar" (location) - most nouns that are alive or came from an organic source, use the 'Being"!

We heard beautiful stories of allowing oneself to be vulnerable to the natural world around us, and how one of you did it quite by accident during a home remodel, where you became “exposed” to the outside for a period of time and how that changed you. We heard one of your daily mantras for living, “in humility be present, in simplicity live, in love, grace, mercy and compassion impart hope”.

We saw beautiful pictures of life’s bounty in the fruits and vegetables ripe near you. We heard of your care for the people offering what you need locally. We also heard of your sadness as fires were burning and farms were being affected.

We shared our fears imagining having to leave our homes because of fire, war or other natural disasters…imagining what we’d pack, where we’d go. We felt into how much more real this is now for all of us. One of you shared you had already become a climate refugee from a hurricane. One of you said, “Phrases and thoughts swirling in my mind and heart: uninhabitable, uprooted, education, family, home, shelter, refugee, faith, belonging. May our spirits be brave and our hearts kind.”

You expressed your gratitude for links and resources for how to support others going through these kinds of changes now. One of you said, “A friend/co-worker's home was threatened by the fires here in CA and we had the opportunity to host them at our house for a few days. And clicking on the links, I had the opportunity to purchase a bed/sheets for some newly arrived refugees. Grateful for these opportunities to practice welcoming others at times of need.”

We shared our inspiration around inter-faith dialogues. We heard from one of you about the healing, bridging and illuminating you feel in visiting others’ sacred spaces: “…what moves me is a felt sense of the past and present belief of the people and the honoring of the space. Often, in these experiences, I am joined by people from other faith traditions. When that happens, I've found that it makes these times richer and more poignant.” And from another, “I must confess I have not been too tolerant about other people's faith practices and criticized them. Having read this reflection, I realize how even not speaking about my disagreement is a beginning of respecting another person’s faith. Today I will try to visit another person's faith site, and actually try to bridge this gap.”

We shared numerous books and videos to expand from what we think we know and what we’re taught and to hear from voices inside the dominant narrative. We shared new “ah-has” we had about how different genders navigate the world - and we dreamed together, a world safe enough for all of us to walk without fear. One of you said you make the small act to “always acknowledge anyone I pass”.

We shared our work with people who are addicted, in trauma, in prison, and otherwise system affected. One of you shared a devastating video about how much adverse childhood experiences affect us. Another of you said, “Prisoners, widows and orphans we could all easily be at one point or another, if not particularly, then metaphorically. In identifying with the oppressed, persecuted and marginalized we may experience the fullness of our shared humanity. But of course we must have eyes to see, and such vision only exists in our hearts.”

We shared our overwhelm and pain, walking in another’s shoes through a daily experience of racism. One of you said, “I can’t imagine what it’s like to have to experience this physically every day. I guess that’s why some people don’t want to think and feel and imagine the experience what it’s like to deal with generations of systemic racism.” And we shared how these resources further stoked the fire in us to end injustices. We also reflected gratitude for Toni Morrison's ability to articulate both her liberation and beauty, and the obvious, though not always so clearly articulated, point, that many people are walking through the world with a kind of neurosis related to some false / taught notion of supremacy.

We reflected on the challenges of speaking to family or others who come from very different political views, and one person shared that they changed the approach toward having a conversation about basic desires and, “What do we want in our lives?”. This person asked everyone to list 3 things they want most in the world right now and found we've all been wanting pretty much the same things for our family, lives and friends. We all could agree that we thought others deserved these things too. Love, Compassion, Respect...”

We reflected on how we could make our workplaces and schools and communities more welcoming and we shared times when we felt we belonged. We reflected on belonging to ourselves. One of you shared Brene Brown’s quote that, “Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we will ever do.”

As we celebrated some of the videos and the commitment to “bridging” beyond the “old, familiar arguments”, one of you pointed out that, “We are powerful creators as capable of creating beauty and joy as of violence and pain.”

Finally, one of you wrote how these sharings were bringing you tears of compassion and grief… of “what have we done?” And you said that you were experiencing this Belonging Challenge as an “invitation to feel” because you trust that actions that look from the outside like 'belonging' would flow naturally from such a connection to life.

To that I say, Amen.


Finally, my deep appreciation to everyone behind the scenes here at Service Space who made this journey possible.....

Going forward, any of you might consider continuing daily, small, consistent actions either by going deeper and spending more time with the prompts these past few weeks, or by creating your own challenge.

With love,

p.s. I will soon be creating a Belonging Challenge for businesses and organizations. Feel free to email me if you have interest in participating there too...!

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Comments (1)

  • Michaele Premet-Rosen wrote ...

    Thank YOU, Michelle 🙏