Do you grapple with belonging? I do. I’ve probably done this over many lives too. So these are just my field notes from the journey as I am still travelling, but the grappling comes in cycles and I suspect that belonging has its own cycles and rhythms as well.

In the Beginning…

We are born into a family; we are born belonging. Yet we must struggle with the family system into which we are born—its beliefs, its assumptions about life, its way of doing things—in order to individuate and grow. Though, to paint the fuller picture, I have to add that some people never question, never leave home, are happy in their family and that’s fine for them. I’m not judging. I just don’t find too many people like that in my private practice as a Soul Coaching® Practitioner. I attract the grapplers.

The Hero’s Journey

You are probably familiar with the concept of the Hero’s Journey. We heard about it from Joseph Campbell and others. The Hero is everywhere in popular culture and in our communal psyche as well. From the Greek’s Ulysses, the Bhagavad Gita’s Arjuna to Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz or the superheroes in our comic books, we know this journey’s script well.

At its core it is the journey away from home, away from belonging, where we, as individuals, move into the “dark forest” of original experience. We have to work through it all, find meaning in our life’s experiences and we return, forever transformed. We are transformed because it isn’t just an ordinary road trip but it is a “journey of initiation” that awakens our spiritual knowing. But this is where many of us wander off this archetypal path. We don’t return.

I’m Outta Here

We reject the beliefs and attitudes of our family, the rhetoric of our institutions, or the politics of our governments and we leave. We say we are “loners” or that we just don’t join committees or groups or organized religion or that we don’t get involved in political groups and we enjoy our freedom… Until the longing returns. Always on the outside, a part of us longs to belong. We yearn for something inexplicable that is just out of reach, just beyond our ability to articulate what we feel in the dark, fertile soil of our being. What is that longing?

There’s No Place Like “Home”

I suggest it is “home”. It is the feeling of being home, where the people in your family and community are there for you. Where we shovel someone’s driveway because they can’t, where kindness and respect is the norm and where we create sacred space in our rituals, our celebrations and shared holidays. But home isn’t necessarily a place we can return to, any more than those “perfect” places exist. It is a place inside your Self.

So shovelling someone’s driveway is really an act of self-care within you. Sharing holidays and creating rituals for ourselves becomes our “home”. I know it’s not easy, it may be the longest and hardest journey of all, but I suspect that the feeling of belonging can only be fully felt after we come home to ourselves. Of course we can feel it before then, in small and many ways, but I’m speaking here of the journey, the deep inner return. Once we can do that, then outer belonging, so essential to our existence and wellbeing as humans, can truly help us thrive. We cannot remain alone and be healthy. We are born into our human litters and that is how we know and experience the world…in groups.

“To be human is to belong. Belonging is a circle that embraces everything; if we reject it, we damage our nature.” John O’Donohue*

We Pause for True Confessions

As a honorary Hermit, I hate that I have come to this conclusion. And there are many people, groups and institutions that were once a part of my life that are no longer there. And the pain of that loss is just the same as family losses because if we are not walking a conscious path, we just recreate “family” in every group and in every encounter.

I’m working on changing my “unbelonging” status and in many ways I already have. (Hey, once we invoke the alchemical question “Why am I here” there is no turning back!) I’m now actually “involved” with my professional family that reflects an aspect of home in it’s best sense—loving, kind and respectful, with healthy boundaries (I love my Soul Coaching family!). So while I’m coming along, I have to admit that I don’t have it all figured out but I suspect that if I can change the pattern of relating to groups and organizations, then it won’t be long before I can deal with organized religion and other unfinished business from my past. But it’s all good. I’m in an on-going inner journey home.

How About You?

Okay, that’s my issue (the cross I bear?) but what’s yours? Have you made peace with your family? Sometimes there is no peace that is possible, so we have to make the peace within ourselves. Have you found a way to belong? Have you found your inner voice so you can find your way home? One of the maps I use is Soul Coaching®. What maps have worked for you?

Post below and share your own journey with belonging. I’d LOVE to hear from you!


*John O’Donohue was a light that was taken from us far too soon. He writes deeply, in flowing poetic prose, articulating “being and longing” in a way I can only hope to some day emulate. If you, too, feel an inexplicable longing, read his book Eternal Echoes.