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You Belong

When I was younger, I liked to meditate outside, on buses or in parks. I mentioned this once to my teacher, who said, “I think you should learn to sit at home, Paul.” In time, I discovered why. As a kid, I never truly felt I belonged at home and would use any excuse to stay away. By meditating outside, I was continuing the same pattern of running from my problems, rather than learning to take up space where I am.

The story goes that Mara, the voice of self-doubt, came to the Buddha while he was meditating and said, “Who are you to sit there while the world is on fire?” The Buddha touched the ground and said, “The earth bears witness to my right.” In other words, if you have a human birth, you have a right to take up space and find your own happiness. You don’t need to justify your existence by putting out anyone’s fires. You simply belong.

Deep down, of course, most people think belonging is conditional on something else: being successful enough, attractive enough, popular enough, etc. In politics, people often make speeches about who belongs based on race, religion, or history. But it’s all bullshit. If you were born, you have a right to be here. The world has to find room for you. And when you strip away the hatreds and prejudices, you realize there is ALWAYS enough room.

In Buddhism, this quality of finding room is called upekha. Sometimes it’s translated as “equanimity,” but it’s not passive neutrality. Upekha means having an awareness spacious enough to include complexity, contrasting emotions, and different identities, so that when a thought or feeling arises, you can say to it, “Okay, you can be here, but you can’t take up all the space. I get to keep my spot too.”

In the end, the belonging we’re looking for starts within, by learning to occupy our bodies fully with awareness. It is here — not “out there” in reasons and justifications — that you will truly understand your right to be.

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