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Our Need for Belonging

Dear All,

December is traditionally a month of celebrations, family gatherings and feelings of belonging. This year is different. We are likely not with our extended families or even our children who live out of town. There's a gloominess to this year's holidays but also a sense of deep gratitude if we are healthy and working, as opposed to so many of our friends and neighbors who are experiencing illness, financial insecurity and loss. It's not easy to acknowledge our feelings of disconnectedness, especially now. Meghan Markle wrote an Op Ed in the NY Times which focused on the need to ask each other the simple question; how are you really?

In the Tiny Loves section of the Sunday Times, a young woman wrote:

"When my friends ask me over FaceTime how I'm doing, I tell them that I spend a lot of time crying. It's easier than admitting that I can't seem to get out of bed before 2 pm. Or wash the dishes that are stinking up my sink. Or get done any work that I normally love doing. But it's more honest than "good". Sometimes they laugh and say "same" and sometimes they look down and I don't know what to say. The rest of the conversation limps along. I apologize for being a stranger. They call me every week anyway."

These are challenging times even if we are lucky enough to have homes, jobs and our health. We yearn to gather, to hug, to feel that glorious feeling of belonging. We long to belong because we’ve tasted it… We’ve been with someone we love, had a feeling of gratitude, stood in wonder at some amazing event in nature, or felt a moment of compassion towards another person. We've felt what belonging feels like and we want more of it. It feels like safety. Like love. The urge for belonging is fundamental and yet we allow ourselves to feel separate. We need to trust our innate belonging. When we feel it, there’s nothing out there that threatens us. When we feel at home with our inner life, our actual world can be at peace. John O'Donohue, the great Irish poet and philosopher reminds us that

"Our bodies know that they belong, It’s our minds that make our lives so homeless." To become more in touch with our belonging, we need to become more aware of our bodies. The way to confront the fear of not belonging is to drop down from the brain into the heart, where love is always present. In the words of Swami Maharaj, "Our mind creates the abyss. Our heart crosses it." It's all about love. And connectedness. And presence. Over a year ago, I started The Gathering to bring women together, to create connections with one another while meditating, doing yoga, writing, eating, drinking, laughing and just being real. I wanted to provide a place of love and belonging. Who knew that 2020 would shake us to the core, challenge us in almost every area of our lives? We need to be good to one another these days by asking open ended questions, listening deeply and being empathetic. And we need to continue to gather in new ways. In her book The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker offers simple, thoughtful ways to create gatherings, in whatever format, that are meaningful and satisfying. What could we have more of if we made getting together intentional? Gatherings are to authentically connect whether we are together in person, on the phone or on Zoom. Parker writes that gatherings “crackle and flourish when real thought goes into them and an invisible structure is taken into them and the host has a generosity of spirit to bring the intention into being.” The other night I hosted my company's holiday party on Zoom. Our employees were not particularly interested in the event, assuming it would be stilted, forced and a bit stupid. With thought and intention, I was able to create an event that exceeded their expectations. I played music while everyone came on, we played a game that required interaction and most importantly I started with a clear intention that the evening was designed to create a sense of connection and a spirit of fun and lightheartedness. And that's what happened. Gatherings can help us. Intentional gatherings can save us. We can create a sense of belonging by being present, focusing on others, appreciating what we have and letting our hearts open fully. Make your holiday gatherings meaningful and special by being intentional, no matter where they are or who they are with! And enjoy them fully because gatherings matter deeply. When we gather, we can cultivate that sense of belonging. Sending you and your families love for the holidays. Look forward to seeing you on Sunday!

With love and light,

Nora Plesent

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