For the new year, I was asked to write a letter to my Zen teacher, requesting him to continue teaching for another year. I’ve never done anything like this, so I copied the suggested wording (which I actually really liked, formal though it was) and signed it with my given name and dharma name (in badly calligraphed kanji, I must add, but hey I tried!).
When I arrived for the first day-long meditation retreat of the year, and looked for where to place my letter, I was taken aback by the large basket in the foyer stuffed with ribbons, gifts and fancy paper. I may have gasped. I looked down and immediately felt embarrassment at the plain and basic little letter in my hands. Nonetheless, I didn’t want to not submit a letter, so I gulped and gently placed it in the basket.
Someone asked me a few months ago, why do I come here, to No Abode, every month? I replied, "because I feel a sense of belonging - I feel like I belong here." Well, okay, first I made a joke about coming only for the tea and cookies, but when I got serious it came down to this one thing: belonging.
Almost every time I meet with my teacher he welcomes me - literally saying to me, “Welcome,” each time. He says this so much that I’m finally starting to believe it. Maybe I really am welcome here and maybe he really does mean it (I sincerely think he does - I truly believe he welcomes everyone and everything).
This was a particularly difficult Christmas for me this year and after thinking about why I found it so difficult, I realized that a feeling (and belief) of not belonging was at the heart of it. It is this sense of belonging I most want to explore. When did this belonging become severed and why? What people, places and activities give me a sense of belonging? And why?
Buddhism teaches that all of us already belong and that we always have. Our belief that we are separate - from nature, from each other - is at the root of our suffering. We’ve just forgotten.
In the coming year, and for many years to come, I would sincerely like to remember.
Where do you feel a sense of belonging?
(What I'm listening to: Imogen Heap, The Listening Chair)