Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity. Pema Chödrön
Evolving & Belonging
Sometimes the darkness creeps in like a night shadow that takes our breath away. Many of us in these troubling times are feeling deep sadness, grief, and overwhelming fear. We want to push the feelings away, to go back to a simpler time, when there was more laughter, joy, and the lightheartedness of spring. Perhaps it’s just me that feels the tears so close to the surface, the words from deep inside so hard to speak. The exhaustion of pushing down the sadness and fear of the world can be overwhelming.
We long for the light, for answers and solutions to the problems of our world, but they just seem to keep growing! If you’re feeling lost, confused, fearful, and overwhelmed, know that there is much to feel and much to grieve. There are many of us that are experiencing these overwhelming feelings. We are not alone!
Perhaps our salvation lies in knowing that we're not alone. Can we find solace and know that many of these feelings are not personal, that they live in the collective shadow and the field of unresolved past in our culture. When we share our grief, our sadness, our fear with others it lightens the burden and opens the possibility of mutuality, the sense that we belong, that we are deeply interconnected and interdependent.
Science and religion both teach that we are all interconnected, and thus interdependent. And at the very core, we are all One. But how do we live as if we know this? Ram Dass
Sharing our fears and emotions does not mean wallowing in suffering. It calls on us to feel deeply, honestly, and authentically, to stop trying to avoid feeling the pain, to let it come up to the surface and say, Yes! There is pain, fear, anxiety, tension! Often the pain of holding down the pain is worse than actually feeling it in our body and heart. As Ram Dass said, how do we live into the Oneness that all the great masters, mystics, and minds have been pointing to for millennia? By recognizing our own pain and suffering we cultivate empathy and compassion towards others. If we look deeply we see that no matter how great our differences, we still have more in common than not…
We rely on the air to breathe, the earth to grow our food, the water to quench our thirst and the sun warm us and light our way. Without these basic elements, we could not survive. So to recognize our oneness and interdependence we can look to nature, of which we are an integral part, to see how we are all connected. When we feel and experience ourselves as part of the web of life we open ourselves to belonging to something much larger than ourselves. But, what if we have a belief that we don’t belong, a common feeling among many Westerners?
Life is a constant balance between these two forces, belonging, the force that relates to your environment, and becoming, the force that leads to personal development. Thomas Hübl
I’ve spent many hours pondering this idea expressed by my teacher, Thomas Hübl. When he talks about becoming, I think of our evolutionary growth, how we learn, grow, and mature, physically, emotionally and intellectually. Belonging goes way beyond just feeling accepted by others, it’s about feeling felt, seen, heard, and supported in our very core.So there’s a kind of dynamic tension between becoming and belonging. Our social capacity, which is a reflection of our sense of belonging, starts with our early childhood experiences and the nurturing we did or didn’t get from our caregivers. If we felt seen, heard, loved and embraced we developed the confidence to grow, develop and interact with others. If we didn’t get the nurturing we needed we must learn from others how to regulate our emotions, sensations and thoughts in order to feel like we “fit in”.
Belonging often feels threatened when either we or someone close to us accelerates their personal growth. I can’t tell you how often, in working with couples, one of the partners tells me how they feel they are outgrowing their partner and one or the other feels abandoned, left behind and has a sense of not belonging. Because of the fear of abandonment we will often suppress our becoming, our growth, for fear of losing our sense of belonging. This often starts in early development. Of course this happens when our relationships become habitual and we lose the wonder, curiosity and newness of relating and start interacting from an “already, always, knowing” of the other, which kills the vitality, creativity, exploration and openhearted joy of just being with another. Belonging is not just about fitting in!
Fitting in and belonging are not the same thing. In fact, fitting in is one of the greatest barriers to belonging. Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be in order to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are. Brené Brown
So, if belonging is about being authentic and you’re feeling fearful, overwhelmed, exhausted and alone, don’t suppress your emotions, feel them, love them and be grateful that you can feel. Reach out to someone you love and share what you’re experiencing, not to bring them down, but to see if maybe they aren’t also having some overwhelming emotions coming up in their life. And then share what you’re grateful for in them and in your life. Bring some wonder and curiosity in a moment of authentic relating. Relationship is a noun, a thing frozen in the past. Let’s move from frozen relationships to alive, in the moment relating, which is a verb and always dynamic and in the present. In this way we stop being prisoners of time and become creators, being our longing.
In April I will be teaching a new class on Relational Intimacy. I hope you will join us for this journey of evolutionary relating…
With love and gratitude, Michael & The Well of Light Team
You, sent out beyond your recall, go to the limits of your longing. Embody me.
Flare up like a flame and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.