Hearts come home at Christmas – embroidered delicately on one of my Christmas decorations, made me ponder, made me reflect on belonging. It has come up a lot for me recently. My father died a few years ago, my sister lives far away as does my mum, my boys are slowly leaving home and I divorced their father ten years ago, I was born in Africa and my mum is Swedish. I was brought up in London and live in Somerset. At a time when ex-patriots are being sent back from the USA and the UK as well as many other countries, the march of nationalism begs the urgent question – where do I belong?
I live in a Somerset village where there are two or three dominant surnames echoing among the hills and rooted deep in the clay of the earth. Families belong to the land, memories are tied to the land, its changes and how it has served them through generations.
On the occasion of my 50th birthday I felt literally drawn to the place of my birth, Kitwe Zambia – I took a bus to the hospital where 50 years earlier I was born. I wanted to enter, find the room, find the doctor and find the time when I came into this world and landed on this red, hot earth which hides diamonds, rubies and emeralds.
I felt a strange longing, a subtle recognition of the smells of bodies, dried fish, earth and other unperceived and unnamed objects and wafts on the wind. I felt I belonged, a white face among black, a privileged woman among those who had never travelled, never worked and never seen what I had seen. I belonged.
I watch my mother flying back to Sweden as soon as she can, having lost her anchor, my father, her boat steers her home, where her heart is – the land she recognises, the language that flows easily from her tongue, the subtle social hints that belong to her.
I watch my son return from university and nestle in his boyhood room, with his cat in his space, where he belongs, his internal sat nav draws him inexorably home.
We move, we uproot ourselves, we travel, we change partners and even families. The subtlety of belonging is lost.
Lonely and adrift, we search for belonging in community. Somehow, we got lost in the understanding that we can relocate, break up, start again, lose someone and just carry on, recreating our belonging again and again. I detect a brutalisation of our needs and wants, a brutalisation of the subtler aspects of being human which are connected to being joyful, safe and feeling necessary.
We seek refuge in the oasis of belonging.
Since 2007 I have been creating communities, first here in the village, a yoga and wellbeing community, then nationally, with retreats and now globally, we create communities of teenyoga teachers, who come together to celebrate the empowerment of our future leaders through yoga. Because I’ve discovered that to belong is to feel joy.