Cat From The Mat

Belonging: An Inside Job

“The need to belong is who we are in our DNA.”

- Brené Brown 

The concept of belonging is a universal human experience. We are neurologically wired to belong, since it means survival. I remember feeling the peer pressure to “fit in” at school. Those moments fluctuated though, because it was dependent on what others thought of me, rather than on what I thought of myself. The school climate can be challenging, but what if you don’t feel like you belong at home?

Researcher and author Brené Brown explores this topic. She has interviewed kids about how tough it is to feel alienated among classmates. However, they all agreed that not being accepted by your family is a far more painful reality.

As babies, you are dependent on others to help meet your many needs, one of which is belonging. You want others around you to not only mirror who you are but to appreciate your contributing presence. It helps build a sense of self, which is why children must be self-centered as they develop. However, if this self-knowledge does not get established, it can lead to a pattern of people-pleasing or constant insecurity, both of which require external circumstances to dictate whether or not you are “acceptable.”

Brené makes the point that you cannot negotiate belonging outside of yourself. If you look externally for validation, then you become dependent on others to determine your self-worth. Belonging is truly an inside job.  

So how does one measure belonging within?  Is it the quality of self-trust?  Is it the ability to be authentic, regardless of circumstances?  Or is it a practice of knowing your essence with cultivated compassion to delve deeper into the unknown parts of self?

The world at the moment is full of people who are shouting, hoping to be heard. We seem to be splintered into factions unable to agree on what is a shared reality, which can breed metastasized fear. However, common enemy intimacy is not true belonging. It’s a false sense of connection. Sharing an ideological bunker is a superficial attempt to bond.

It takes courage to be vulnerable with someone with whom you disagree. Authenticity is the need to stand alone in your beliefs even if it means jeopardizing your connection with others. When you belong, you feel at ease, safe, and supported. This helps the nervous system stay in a healthy stress range. Feeling at home in your own skin, no matter where you go, is a self-generated process.

As we celebrate independence this month, I invite you to notice if and how you your community, your family, and most importantly to yourself. If you believe in yourself, then you can begin to identify with your relatives, friends, coworkers, and even angry strangers.  Perhaps freedom is that ability to be you, regardless of extrinsic pressures. Liberate your reliance on others first so that you can stay self-anchored, from which you might become more curious about understanding the outer world.

Happy Self-Belonging!


Cat From the Mat

July blog 2018

Mourning Has Broken

And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive.  And you may not even be sure, whether the storm is really over.  But one thing is certain.  When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm is all about.

- Haruki Murakami

My past nine months have been tumultuous.  As the shock of the stormy year begins to wear off, I am left with humble gratitude along with the stirrings of acceptance.  I share this personal information out of my appreciation for my yoga and empathy skills.  When the rubber needs to meet the road, my long-standing  on/off the mat practice has proven to be effective in finding ease.  

In August of 2017, my mother Tish was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer. It came out of left field, as she was an unlikely candidate.  However, it did explain why she was feeling exhausted for most of the year, not to mention the ten pounds of liquid stored in right her lung, making breathing quite arduous.  After hospital visits, specialist research, and a couple of hurricanes, she had surgery in September to remove the lining of her lung.  

Soon after in October, I was then diagnosed with breast cancer.  While still in disbelief, I had a rapid learning curve to understand my options for treatment.  In receiving guidance from all sorts of women who had already been down this path, I was inducted into a not-so-secret society of strong cancer-surviving women. I had a double mastectomy in November, which was to be followed by months of convalescence.  However, two weeks after my first operation, my mother found out that her cancer had spread and unfortunately went into hospice.  I flew down to my hometown New Orleans (NOLA) to spend time with Tish as we all were trying to wrap our minds around the unbelievable concept of her dying.

Read more: Mourning Has Broken

Mind the Body Gap

“Pain is inevitable.  Suffering is optional.”  This saying implies a choice.  It also speaks to the mind/body relationship and the possible disconnect between the heart and the head.  When I am emotionally in one place and telling myself that I should be in another, I can feel pain, which is real. But what if the suffering is just my own resistance to reality? 

We live in a culture of chronic pain management, an industry that has grown since the 1970’s.  Having surgery, popping a pill, or numbing ourselves with alcohol can be short-term strategies to help alleviate acute symptoms.  However, the pain may come back in another form, since the origin of the discomfort may not be fully addressed.  Our bodies will speak to us until we listen.

Read more: Mind the Body Gap