It was thirteen years ago, in the month of May, when I drove from London to Wales for a long-weekend getaway. It was a beautiful drive and a great change from the hustle-bustle of city life. In the preceding eight days, I’d been in four different cities — Nice, Poole, Manchester and, of course, London — for work and had only eaten one Indian meal, that too was at my home. The rest of the time, I ate foods like pasta, pizza, sushi, Chinese etc. So, the moment I checked into my hotel, I felt a strong urge to eat Indian food.

Some of my favorite restaurants back in London were Benares, Punjab, and Red Fort, the first two being my usual go-to places when in town. I was searching for something similar, a nice and quiet place for a good Indian meal, but while there were plenty of “curry houses”, I couldn’t find the kind I was looking for. The concierge gave me a couple of options with great confidence. But, food is one of those things, you can’t rely on the confidence of an unknown person, no matter how pro they are in their field.

What is “wicked” for them, might just be “crooked” for you. Nevertheless, in the absence of any alternative, I let them book a table for me and settled for whatever sounded right. As expected, it wasn’t as “wicked” as the concierge had made it out to be. But, the meal wasn’t bad at all, nothing to write home about, although certainly nothing to criticize either. After all, at the restaurant, they served what they promised they would — Indian food.

As soon as I got back to my hotel, the concierge asked me about my dinner experience. It was “amazing”, “very nice”, the food was “delicious”, I told them and made way to my room. I opened my bag to see what book I was carrying and there were two sitting there. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne and Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. I’d already finished these. Buying a book every time I was at any airport in the world, was the little ritual I’d been doing since 2001.

I looked around and found three magazines sitting politely on a table, next to a small tray of chocolates. Two English and one Welsh (the magazines, I mean; the chocolates were an assortment of milk, brown, and dark). I browsed through the pictures in the Welsh magazine, for the wise ones say, a picture is worth a thousand words. After absorbing a few thousand words, so to speak, I picked up the English one and read a beautiful article. This article, speaking about the Welsh way of life, introduced me to a magnificent word that has stayed with me ever since.

Hiraeth.

Loosely translated, hiraeth means homesickness, but, the author said, it was the incomplete meaning of this unique word, if not wholly incorrect. Hiraeth, she said, meant yearning for your home, craving to go back to a place you belong, and above all, philosophically speaking, hiraeth means longing for a home you never had.

Hiraeth, then, in my mind could easily sum up the essence of human existence. We spend our life in longing and yearning, imagining a home, a place that exists in our mind only. Because I feel, when people say that they want to love and be loved back, when they feel lonely, or when they are hankering after that position, essentially what they are after is the feeling that they have arrived home. Or in other words, that, they finally belong somewhere or to someone.

Brené Brown writes in The Gifts of Imperfection:

I’m convinced that belonging is in our DNA, most likely connected to our most primitive survival instinct. Given how difficult it is to cultivate self-acceptance in our perfectionist society and how our need for belonging is hardwired, it’s no wonder that we spend our lives trying to fit in and gain approval.

It’s so much easier to say, “I’ll be whoever or whatever you need me to be, as long as I feel like I’m part of this.” From gangs to gossiping, we’ll do what it takes to fit in if we believe it will meet our need for belonging. But it doesn’t. We can only belong when we offer our most authentic selves and when we’re embraced for who we are.

Falling in love is nothing more than discovering where or to whom you belong. Whether you are in love with someone, a cause, your work or even God, you experience this deep sense of stability, security, and peace in your bones when you feel that you belong. Even self-realization is finding your belonging in your true self, for a higher purpose. It is when your highest state of consciousness comes looking for you, knocks on your door and claims you. You belong.

To make someone feel belonged is also the greatest service you can do for any human being. For the simple reason, that belonging makes them feel important, worthwhile and loved. It requires a benevolent attitude, some sacrifice, a bit of understanding, a lot of patience, and a great deal of empathy to truly make someone feel loved. Belonging becomes all the more crucial when the honeymoon phase is over in any personal or professional relationship. Great partnerships at all levels thrive on this very sense of belonging. And, this bond is forged by a combination of some dos and don’ts.

The dos I have covered numerous times in various forms. That is, give attention, be gentle, show compassion, cultivate empathy, and so on. I don’t think I’ve ever explicitly stated the don’ts. I found them nicely summed up in Sisu: The Finnish Art of Courage.

In 1945, Norwegian psychologist Ingjald Nissen identified nine “master suppression techniques”– strategies to suppress others by manipulation or humiliation. Berit Ås, Norwegian politician and Professor Emerita of social psychology, later reduced Nissen’s original nine techniques to five.

They are:

1. Making someone feel invisible by ignoring them – for example, not giving them credit or stealing their ideas.
2. Ridiculing someone – publicly commenting on, or laughing at, someone’s personal traits.
3. Withholding information from someone – for example, not telling them of a meeting, but still blaming them for missing it.
4. Double bind – punishing and belittling someone regardless of what they do.
5. Heaping blame – embarrassing someone or insinuating guilt.

All of these can really destroy someone’s self-esteem or exclude them from your life. But, the first and third are particularly cunning. The rest can be a matter of arrogance, ignorance, conceit, a bad attitude, but with the first and the third point, one is being manipulative and insidious. Anyone engaging in either of the five shows they are deeply insecure within or don’t have the courage to handle conflict. Distrust grows when we withhold information from someone. Transparency is the hallmark of great relationships. Indeed, it is synonymous to truth, it’s the same as trust.

Rather than making someone invisible by ignoring someone, it’s better to have the courage and wisdom to accept the differences and learn from them.

Mulla Nasrudin was having an argument with his wife and it was starting to turn ugly.
“Watch your language, woman,” Mulla said, “I’m warning you. You’ll bring out the beast in me.”
“Beast!” She scoffed at him. “You think, I’m afraid of a mouse?”

Each one of us has someone in our life who somehow is able to rattle us when we least expect it as if they have the key to our mind and they can simply unlock the cage and bring out the beast in us. And yet, we must take responsibility for our actions and words.

Find your belonging and devote yourself to it. Your life will never be the same again.

Oh, and by the way, the first thing I did when I arrived back in London was to head for a nice Indian dinner. It was stuck in my head. I drove straight to the restaurant and called my friend and colleague who lived in the same building as me to join in. A meal usually tastes better when you share it. He was flustered, at first, that I hadn’t checked with him before leaving for Wales. He said he could have accompanied me. But it all ended on a sweet note (no pun), as it usually happens with most men after a good meal. After all, we had work to do the next day.

Peace.
Swami
P.S. We are coming up with exciting changes in the Black Lotus app. We have crystallized our vision and taken your feedback into consideration. All existing black lotus users will receive an email today and I’ll share more details in my next post.


Editorial Note

Are you falling in love? Are you seeking a promotion or God? Are you raising a family or the roof in search of a good time? Ultimately, all you’re looking for is a sense of belonging.

We want the security and comfort of knowing that we are safe with somebody or something – we matter and we belong.

Here’s what Jen Pavich, a life coach, has to say about a sense of belonging, self-acceptance and living with yourself easefully:

From an early age through much of my adulthood, I felt like an outsider. I’d always been the odd one in every herd I’d ever run with.

The stories I told myself about why that separateness existed varied depending on the situation and involved everything from age, economic factors, gender, marital status and more. There might have been some truth to those stories but they weren’t the whole truth.

It wasn’t until later, after I’d begun studying belonging and doing some personal growth work, that I began to realize that our sense of belonging doesn’t come from outside of us, it comes from within.

What I was doing all of those years was fitting in, rather than belonging. Hiding certain parts of me allowed me to fit in, but it left me feeling alone even when I was with people I cared about.

What I know now is that belonging is the opposite of that: it’s allowing yourself to be vulnerable and let people see you for who you really are.

It means that to truly feel our sense of belonging, we need be fully ourselves and let ourselves be seen that way.

Would you like to know how to heal yourself, powerpuff yourself to live your best life and belong? Keep reading!

 

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Why do I feel like I don’t belong anywhere?

Building a sense of belonging 1

Have you noticed that we are forever searching for a place in our hearts, in others’ hearts and lives, a place that gives us happiness? We want to matter, we want to belong to someone or something.

We have come to believe that being wanted or being popular is somehow an indication of how important or loved we are. In other words, the more indispensable I am to someone (or even some organization), the more I’m wanted and the more I’m wanted the more I feel loved.

But that’s not the case. What then gives one a sense of belonging and shows you how to heal yourself?

Perfect harmony. No ailments, afflictions or discord. Only joy, peace, bliss. They call it Utopia, Siddhashrama, Gyanaganj and what not: the best place.

How do I achieve a sense of belonging and meaning?

Contentment vs comparison

Every sane person, at some point in their life, is plagued by a persistent feeling of emptiness. Everything is there but nothing is, you feel. There is no real reason to be unhappy and yet happiness is nowhere to be found. Living with yourself becomes challenging.

And yet, the fact of the matter is, if you have a reason to be happy, you’ll be happy. And reason boils down to one thing: meaning.

If your life has meaning, if your relationships have meaning, you’ll be fulfilled naturally. Meaning is the only light that dispels the darkness of emptiness.

And there are three ways to find meaning in your life:

  • Goodness
  • Service
  • Suffering

They show you how to powerpuff yourself enough to live your best life! But how? Ah, but that’s the secret of happiness.

How do I feel a sense of belonging to my own life?

Life belongs to those who love it. Your life has a life of its own. If you love it, value it, protect it, it would want to be with you. It will become yours.

But, if you are going to hurt it, it will fly away from you, far, far away. Life is frightened and hurt, when you shoot arrows of jealousy, complaints and selfishness. Every time that happens, it distances itself from you. And, when your own life moves away from you, no one or nothing in the world can make you happy then.

Be kind, be gentle. It’s all about how you handle life as opposed to how your life ought to be. Life is what it is. If you deal with it compassionately, gratefully, delicately, you will discover that it’s every bit beautiful, that it belongs to you wholeheartedly.

You feed life, love it, protect it and it’ll belong to you. It will move at your command then. Living with yourself becomes easy, self-acceptance is a breeze then.

Because the answer to the question, “Why are you hurting me, Life?” begins with the question, “Are you hurting life?”

Does our sense of belonging in society come from society’s approval?

Quite interestingly, though not surprisingly, almost all of us want to be in the good books of others. We want others to think highly of us. There’s a certain sense of fulfillment and accomplishment when others approve of your own opinion about yourself.

The funny thing is they too are working hard so you may see them and think of them a certain way. Both want to create an impact on the other person to ultimately accomplish the same outcome: feel good about oneself.

This urge for others’ approval is one of the strongest urges, it’s almost innate. Because since childhood, we are constantly seeking approval of others. Our sense of belonging comes from this approval.

One of the definitive ways to rise above others’ opinions and find our own sense of belonging is to turn inward. And, how exactly to turn inward, you may wonder?

Begin with the question – what is your opinion about yourself?

Why is self-acceptance vital to living a peaceful life?

Most times, we seek a sense of belonging outside. We look outside our source for fulfilment when it has been inside us all along. This video shows how ultimately, only God and you matter. Everything else is just a distraction.

Timeline:

  • 0:10: You are living in conditioning
  • 3:27: You are searching because you are not comfortable with yourself
  • 6:55: Ramamkrishna Parahamsa’s simplicity
How do I build a sense of belonging at my workplace?

Do you feel unseen at your workplace? Has your self-esteem taken a hit, as a result?

Building a sense of belonging 2

There are some people who seem to get more respect from their colleagues, juniors, and bosses than others. Some who are more political and manipulative may extract a behavior of respect but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are respected.

Having said that, in my observation spanning over two decades, I can tell you that when it comes to the idea of respect at work, the singular most important factor is just one word.

Competence.

Competent people command more respect naturally. If you are competent at what you do, a shark, an absolute expert, you will be respected. Of course, if you are competent and you can communicate it to others, it’s a killer combination.

The sense of self-belonging and confidence in such people is equally strong. Does that mean competent people always rise to the top?

Ah. There’s a lot more to the story of respect, including:

  • Social Respect
  • Professional Respect
  • Personal Respect