I’m participating in Sharon Salzberg’s 28-Day Real Happiness Meditation Challenge again this year, and my plan for this blog series is to write a poem or reflection on each day’s practice. You can find all the responses on the landing page.
In the meditation today, we imagine ourselves surrounded by “the most loving beings you’ve ever met” or perhaps those we’ve never met but who inspire us, perhaps our ancestors, or teachers, or beings from history or mythology, perhaps animals, pets. These beings are offering us lovingkindness and we are in the center of their circle, receiving the energy of their attention, their care, their regard.
As I was meditating, I was reminded of a dharma talk from last June, on belonging and longing. (I can’t figure out how to link to these audio recordings, but if you go here https://naturaldharma.org/resource/dharma-sunday-recordings/lessons/2023-dharma-sunday/ , it’s the 19 June 2022 talk)
Lama Willa Baker spoke of longing, belonging, and being, and she said:
“So longing can be an expression of the heart, an acknowledgement of the pain of separation, and a surrender to our deep need for connection. Longing to belong is a kind of a devotion to the possibility of wholeness. So maybe when we long to belong, what we are really seeking is to be in the wholeness with another or with others to feel wholly seen and to be able to see. … This willingness to witness others in their full catastrophe, and witness oneself in one’s full catastrophe, as beloved and as belonging primordially to each other, not as something that we construct, but as something that is deeply true.”
She goes on to question the idea that meditation is a solitary practice, something we do alone:
“But actually we’re not alone at all if we’re really practicing. We’re in this place of deep intimacy, the intimate space, in which it’s possible to become intimate with the whole universe. I might say it’s a kind of digified being that is non-separate [non-dual]. It paves the way for this vast sense of belonging. This is a view or a framing that we primordially belong to our world. We don’t have to construct a situation where now we belong. By extension, because we share the this same non-dual matrix with other beings, other living beings and creatures, human and non-human, we primordially belong to our planet, to the ecological web, to one another.”
And then she warns that this cozy feeling of belonging to the planet doesn’t, however, make us somehow self-sufficient, like “because I am in relationship to the vast belonging I don’t need anyone else or anything else.” We need reciprocity, connection, to witness and to be witnessed “in our full catastrophe” (I love that phrase, which I first heard as the title of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Full Catastrophe Living, 1990). We need circles of care, loving groups that we’re part of, that might include humans and/or other animals, maybe even other forms of being. We can’t go it alone, and in fact, realising our “primordial belonging can help us see more vividly that we need to ‘go it together,’ because we’ve always been together in this vast expanse.”