couple of weekends ago, I spent a delicious three days with my sons, their partners, and my wonderful little granddaughter, who is not quite two years old. Since we live nearly three hundred miles apart, we had rented a house at a lakeside resort half-way between her home and mine, for our family gathering.

The first thing she did, when her dad carried her into the house, was scramble out of his arms and race off to explore her new surroundings.

It was a large, two-story house, with a living room, dining room, kitchen, and bedroom on the main floor, a sturdy, covered deck that led out to a beautiful garden, and three more bedrooms upstairs.

My granddaughter wandered around the entire downstairs with her hands clasped behind her back, like a very small general inspecting the troops, and offered up an excited play-by-play of her discoveries: “Door! Couch! Chair! Glass! Daddy! Up!” And, “What’s that?!”

As she named each thing, she patted it tenderly, talking to it in an intimate cooing babble that none of us understood, though we all felt her delight and wonder, her ecstatic appreciation, and found ourselves smiling wider and wider as she circumnavigated her new universe.

Eventually, she made her way out onto the deck and carefully climbed down the stairs to the garden, proclaiming her adoration for each bush and flower so loudly and with such glee that we trailed after her, helpless honeybees in thrall to the sweet mysteries of this tiny, pony-tailed adventurer.

Watching her, I realized she was making herself at home. Getting to know each room, each bit of furniture, each patch of grass and garden shrub — making all of it her own by adoring the rugs, the chairs and couches, the doors and dishes, the paintings on the walls (What’s that?!), the books on the coffee table, the wondrous fragrance of cedar railings.

She stroked and petted everything, snuggling into the world around her by naming it, delighting in it, loving it, being intrigued, astonished and bewildered by it — absorbing and being absorbed by all of it.

She was offering us a master class in the art of belonging.

We are born knowing we belong. Belonging infuses every cell of our bodies, and brings us into ecstatic, sensual relationship with our world. From the moment we discover the Other in the world around us, we are drawn to embrace it, surrender to its mystery, find our place of belonging with it and within it.

Belonging leads us to feel deeply at home in the world. Engaged. In love. Safe. Secure.

To know we belong is to know we are loved, wanted — essential to the well-being of the whole.

The breakfast table in our vacation home became more fully and proudly itself because my granddaughter loved it as she sat, coloring, on its polished surface; because I adorned it with a small vase of flowers; because our family ate our meals there, and enjoyed ourselves and each other around its generous girth; because we loved and appreciated its sturdy spaciousness.

And each of us became more ourselves because of our relationship with it — for the brief time that we were there, we belonged together.

So, why is it that, as we grow up, grow older, we sometimes feel like new immigrants who’ve been dropped off here by accident, through some failure in the cosmic delivery system? Why do we feel like refugees from a distant star, as though everyone else speaks a secret language that we can’t decipher?

Why do we feel exiled from the country of our belonging?

More urgently, how do we find our way back?

Our souls are the first home of our belonging. On a soul level, we are one with everything, so our experience is always one of belonging.

When we incarnate into the physical world, we enter a world that’s defined by boundaries and limits. We enter the world of form, in which everything and everyone we encounter is utterly unique, individual, discrete, unlike any other.

When we encounter Otherness, we long to merge with it, to feel that first, primal belonging by fusing with the people we love, or admire and want to emulate. The longing to merge is innate — we are born with it. But we misplace it by making objects out of the people around us, and trying to become one with them.

The longing to belong is holy desire — it’s the longing to be one with our souls. When we follow that longing inward, to the place where we are always at home, it naturally brings us into right relationship with the world around us as well. We belong as effortlessly as my little granddaughter did in our very temporary vacation home.

If, on the other hand, we abandon our souls and look to the Other for our belonging, we feel exiled. Lonely, invisible, isolated. Restless. Filled with a longing that can’t be assuaged.

When these feelings assault us, they offer us an important reminder that we’re encountering one of the central paradoxes of incarnation, in all its sometimes painful complexity.

These feelings are not problems to be solved, but rather, portals to the deeper truths of your soul, your incarnation, and the essential question of how, to whom, and where you belong.

In that aspect of your soul that dwells in essence and unity, you don’t have to do anything to belong — you belong because you are a fractal of the Sacred, a fractal of Wholeness, and belonging is the nature of your soul.

It’s within the boundaries of your life that you experience the pain of not-belonging.

When you disconnect from your soul, you feel lost — you feel as though you don’t belong. This disconnection happens for many reasons. You may be ill, or exhausted, and that leads to disconnection. You may be living a life that isn’t right for you, or that is not in harmony with your inner being. This will lead you away from your soul too.

Your responses to life’s experiences can contribute to disconnection. You may have lived through experiences of dislocation — of not being rooted in geography and place, or not being anchored in a loving family and community, or other forms of exile, trauma, or instability. Each of these experiences can lead to a pattern of turning away from your soul, looking to the world around you for safety and belonging.

Each of us needs rootedness and flow, stability and adventure, safety and freedom. If any one element in these seemingly contradictory pairs of needs is not met — if there’s too much of one and not enough of the other — it affects your first chakra, and your ability to be present in your body and in your life. That, in turn, affects the way you use your energy, and it shapes your relationship with the world around you.

You know that you belong, when you experience and live from your own center, and rest fully in your place in wholeness. You have to feel safe, to do this.

When you don’t feel settled and at home in your body, you move outside yourself to seek safety from others — loved ones, family, friends, society, even ideologies. You project onto them the power to bestow what only your soul’s presence can give you — belonging, love, acceptance, appreciation, and all the rest of the qualities of soul that are as essential to your life and well-being as air, water, and food.

So, when your childhood or adult experiences are ones of dislocation, this contributes to a pattern of moving away from your own center, out to the periphery of your energy field, where you can more readily tune into & parse other people’s feelings, thoughts, beliefs & ideas, to help you fit in. You think, ‘If I can just figure out how to fit in, I will belong, I will feel safe.’

The attempt to fit in is the sword that slices through belonging, because it takes you away from yourself. Instead of your soul being the clearest, strongest energy in your life, other people’s energy, ideas, feelings, & beliefs colonize your center.

And, with that, you experience the pain of not belonging.

So, how do you return to yourself, to your own belonging?

:: Take your energy back from everyone & everything onto which you’ve projected your belonging. You belong to yourself. You belong to your life. You belong to the Earth, to your soul. This isn’t just a lovely sentiment, it’s an energetic reality.

:: Commune with your soul. Talk with it about this excruciating pattern of wandering away from your center, in order to fit in. Ask your soul to be the clearest, strongest energy in your body & your life.

:: Commune with the Deva of the Earth. Ask it to fill your first chakra with its presence. Open up your feet chakras; invite more Earth energy in through your feet, up through the energy channels in your legs, into your first chakra.

The Deva of the Earth is one of the primary elements of your first chakra, and its presence is essential to your sense of belonging. When the elements that form your first chakra are out of balance with each other, bringing in more Earth energy will help restore harmony in your first chakra, and with it, a greater sense of peace & sovereignty.

:: Participate, joyfully, in the life of your world. You experience belonging through love, devotion, commitment, absorption.

Begin by extending your love to the objects in your home, and experience the love that flows back from them to you. Develop deeper relationships with the Devas of your home, your neighborhood, the geography and landscape of the place where you live.

Cultivate your relationships with the Devas of your hometown, your region, your country. Find out what they’re up to. Ask how you can participate in and contribute to their work of unfolding the patterns they hold for a peaceful, harmonious, loving, beautiful home, neighborhood, landscape, city, country.

:: Make friends with The Deva of Belonging. It will help you anchor the quality of Belonging in your body & your life, if you ask. Explore ways in which you can participate in its activity of unfolding the pattern of Belonging in the world.

:: Surrender to the gifts of this journey — it will take you to your own becoming. Hold both your painful feelings, and your deeper sense of belonging, in your spacious, generous heart.

There’s room for all of you, and for everything you experience — the grim and the glorious, the wounded, wounding, healing and healed.

Reclaim your belonging, first by reconnecting with your soul and then by loving your world from that powerful center of love, sovereignty and wholeness.