There's something illuminating in developing a practice that reminds us of the ways we are connected to one another and held by life itself. Through a guided visualization and reflective prompts, this simple gratefulness practice focuses on tuning in to the constellation of your belonging.
The writer and scholar Sebene Selassie writes, “You belong. Everywhere. Yes, you—with all your history, anxiety, pain. Yes, everywhere—in every culture, community and circumstance, you belong in this body. You belong in this very moment. You belong in this breath…and in this one. You have always belonged.” Our founder, Brother David Steindl-Rast says it this way, “That we belong is a given fact.”
There’s something illuminating in developing a practice that reminds us of the ways we are connected to one another and held by life itself. Through guided visualization and reflective prompts, this simple gratefulness practice focuses on tuning in to the constellation of your belonging. You may try this simply as a visualization or, if you have paper and pen, you might also write or sketch your responses.
A constellation or, of course, a pattern of stars is a rich metaphor for thinking about the ways we inhabit a shared orbit, even when we feel alone. When we first learn, for example, that the stars shine during the day, but we simply can’t see them, it’s a revelation. You may even remember when you figured this out as a kid or someone explained it to you.
The stars don’t actually go away during the day. It’s what some scholars call a kind of threshold understanding, because once you know it, you cannot unknow it. What if it were possible to understand our own sense of belonging in this threshold understanding kind of way, in a way that we cannot unknow?
This simple practice supports that, or at least plants a seed to explore that. It’s a practice of naming, revealing and appreciating the sometimes invisible constellation in which we each exist. It’s a practice also of re-membering ourselves, so feeling, again, our membership in the cosmic family of things, if you will.
So to get started, I invite you, if you’re comfortable, to close your eyes, and to take a few breaths that allow you to arrive to this moment with as much ease as possible in your body, in your heart.
I invite you to bring to mind a constellation. A constellation can take many, many shapes, of course, but for the purposes of this practice, imagine one that’s a spiral. So you are at the center and around you are these concentric circles of light.
As you visualize this, start at the outermost ring of this constellation and allow yourself to look back at your life and the lives that came before you, and name some of the people who paved the way for your being alive today. These might be familial ancestors or historical figures, writers, activists, leaders, who made your existence a possibility. And whether you’re writing their names down or simply bringing them to mind, take a moment to give thanks for the sacrifices, choices, and the love that they made in order for you to exist.
Following your spiral inward, in your mind’s eye or in your journal, bring to mind some of the people whose work in the world allows you simply to be kept alive and connected. People who grow your food, develop medicine, build roads, deliver your mail. And as you think of them, or write them down, offer your appreciation. You can do this silently. You can also speak it aloud in your own home. There’s some power in that.
As you continue following the spiral toward the center, name some of the friends, family, or colleagues to whom your life is tethered. Include those who may be very close to you now as well as some who have been in your immediate orbit at a different time in your life. Don’t try to name everyone, but allow yourself to make note of whoever arises. And simply offer your thanks.
After naming these human connections, try bringing to mind a specific way that you are connected to and supported by all of life — the earth, the ancient trees, water and air, the faithful moon — and add these to your constellation.
I invite you to pause and just take this in for a moment. Again, whether you sketched it out or made a list, or you’ve envisioned this in your mind, take stock of this constellation.
Where are the places where it’s shimmering? Where are there places where there are gaps?
Return to the image of the constellation with you at the very center. If your eyes are open, you might close them and imagine again the shimmering stars that encircle you.
You are at the center of this spiral constellation, this network of support and interconnectedness. I invite you to consider this: You live and breathe within this light; you exist in this network of interconnection; and even on your loneliest day, this constellation is alive and shimmering, as present as the stars in the daytime sky. That you belong is a fact.
Sheryl Chard is the Director of Education at Grateful Living. She is a lifelong educator, passionate about designing innovative and beautiful spaces in which people are inspired to learn and grow. She has spent nearly three decades teaching and leading in schools and organizations, creating transformative learning experiences rooted in both scholarship and heart. In 2013, she founded the Sofia Center for Professional Development, whose professional offerings support and honor educators in their sacred work.
When not engaged in this work she loves, Sheryl can be found connecting with beloved family and friends, traveling to new places whenever possible, creating ritual and ceremony, or camping by a river several miles down a mountain trail near her home in New Mexico. Throughout all, she embraces the lifelong learning and blessings offered by aspiring to live gratefully each day, by over and over saying grace.