Behind the house, there were some hills covered with green grass and huge trees that gave shade when the sun was hot. The air was clean and fresh. I took a deep breath; it felt like a blessing after having spent all summer in Barcelona’s sticky and humid heat. I was in the south of France. My first holidays since three years. There were about ninety people, most of them were French; some Spanish or German. I would spend the next ten days with them to meditate. I had never seen them before and felt nervous and insecure. How would it be to stay together for such a long time? How will I manage to cope with this situation?
The bell was ringing. 6 am – it was time to get up and go for the first meditation. I awkwardly crawled out of my dormitory bunk, brushed my teeth and went downstairs to the temple where we meditated. I smiled at the people at the entrance. They returned a grim look. I sat down on my zafu – the meditation cushion – and meditated. Some bird’s song broke the silence every once in a while. Then, the sun rose as an amazing red ball shining directly into my face. It was a beautiful morning.
After the meditation, we went for a silent walk. I just felt happy and light. I could feel the smile on my face. The people around me walked with severe faces. For a moment, I thought whether it was inappropriate to smile. Nobody else seemed to do it. The following days, I always had a smile on my face while the others were distant and grim. I started to feel guilty and questioned myself. Was my smiling appropriate? Was there something wrong with me? Did I need to be serious because everyone else was it? One part of me feared to be criticized and rejected. What should I do? I went for a walk alone. From a distance, the people were small little dots. Why should I give up on smiling? I couldn’t find a reason. I was enjoying the meditation as I always did. What was the worst thing to happen? Maybe I’d stay alone for the retreat. I could cope with this. I decided to stay true to myself and to resist my urge to adapt.
Two days later, I sat down at a different table for breakfast. I looked at the people who surrounded me. The energy at the table was joyful. We couldn’t talk, yet we communicated with eye contact and smiled at each other. From that day, we spent each meal together. On the last day, a lovely elder lady from this table came to me. We hadn’t talked a lot because I couldn’t speak French, and she only spoke a little bit of Spanish. She gave me a flower and said, “Thank you for your smile.” Suddenly, I was very happy that I hadn’t listened to my fears. I didn’t connect with many people but with the right ones. And I had released my survival strategy to fit in that has accompanied me since my childhood.
What are your survival strategies to fit in?
Sometimes, we learn difficult lessons in life, and we try hard to fit in. We also live in a society that tells us that there is only one standardized way to be or live. I was used to adapting and fitting in. Many years, I believed that it was the only way to be accepted and appreciated. I feared to show up as I was. I gave in to the pressure of my family or partner and fulfilled their expectations. However, with this strategy, I didn’t allow myself to experience true belonging. I also didn’t allow me to be happy. Belonging requires showing your true self, even if your knees may be shaking at first. You can never control what the other person will do. They may like you or hate you. That’s up to them. But the people who like you as you are, are the ones you belong to.
This retreat also taught me another precious lesson. Maybe you can’t see the right people at first but if you stay true to yourselves and show up the right people will find you. The nice French lady stayed in contact with me and sent me a picture she had painted that showed my smile. I felt very grateful for this present. And we are all looking for lasting bonds that nurture and support us, aren’t we?
How about you?
- Do you want to belong?
- Where do you still work hard to fit in?
- How could you change this?
Do you fit in or do you belong? I’d love to read your comments below.
Do you want to read more? Check the article Do you enjoy the beauty of the moment.
Copyright © 2014, Natalie Jovanic. All rights reserved.