chapter Three: belong
As we shared with you at the start of this journey, the earth changed the day you arrived. From that moment on, you were bonded in a reciprocal relationship with the planet and its inhabitants.
You have always mattered deeply to this planet simply because you exist.
You have always belonged to a natural community.
your natural community
Think of your natural community as an expanded view of the beings who have influenced your life. The human and other-than-human beings who have supported, nurtured and loved you from childhood onward. The beings who demonstrated unconditional love to you and beautifully showed you the meaning of abundance and compassion. Consider the climbing trees that expanded your perspective, the humans who encouraged your curiosity, the birds who reminded you to sing your own song, or the moss that allowed you to feel luxurious support. There are so many examples in which your natural community has influenced you, held you, loved you and encouraged you. You have been part of a much larger community all along, a natural community that has deeply enhanced your life.
invitation to journal
When you have time to sit quietly with your journal, allow this idea to integrate by doing the follow exercise.
Connection to community through the natural world feels playful and easy. It allows us to be seen, heard, felt, witnessed and celebrated for our true nature.
Take some time to reveal to yourself the rich natural community to which you belong.
Who are the beings that surround and support you? Create a list of the beings in your natural community from as far back as you can remember until today. Name the animals, humans, plants, trees, land, mountains, rivers, oceans, lakes and microorganisms that are your natural community.
When you consider each of the beings on your list, how does this redefine community for you?
When you desire the world to be made of soft again
Go into the forest and sit among the trees
Listen to the ravens
Listen to the leaves,
The water from the creek
And come here again and again
To this place
Away from the noise and haste of humankind
Come here to this moment
This time and pause
Then bravely bring it back into the world
~ Lisa Shatzky
write your story of Belonging
Now that you have expanded your traditional idea of community, how might you experience belonging differently? Allow the idea of greater belonging to saturate your body for a moment.
Let your imagination soar and allow yourself to step outside of both the well-worn stories of your life and the things others have told you about your life. Feel into what your existence has meant to this planet and what this planet has meant to you.
We invite you to write the story of your life from the vantage point of being raised by Gaia in a vibrant natural community.
These questions may help you get started:
- What changed on this planet the day you were born?
- What have you learned from the natural world along the way?
- How does Gaia show you that you’ve always been seen, heard and held?
- Who are you now for having lived on this vibrant planet all these years?
To gain a deeper understanding of how to create your story of belonging, read these sample stories.
Press play to watch Deborah and Naomi share behind-the-scenes stories about creating Raised by Gaia and living a Gaia life.
In this video, Naomi and Deborah share how powerful writing your story of belonging can be and what they had to move through before they could write their own.
As we apprentice ourselves to the way of nature, we begin to understand that all of life is in a continuous cycle of giving and receiving. It is the honouring of this cycle that makes us feel at home in ourselves and in relation to the rest of nature.
— Toko-pa Turner
Naomi’s Story of Belonging
I was born in the middle of a massive storm. A blizzard welcomed me, and I welcomed it. Together, we celebrated the transformative storm of labour and the deep blanketing calm that followed my birth. I had no idea until writing these words that Gaia was showing me that whole time, who I am in this world. To be both seen and felt for my wild immensity and deep calm, is a gift from Gaia that I have not opened until today. I now see that this is the power of writing our Gaia Story.
Gaia continued to show me more of myself as I grew, and I took refuge in her natural world. From a very young age, I was free to roam our 20-acre property in Nova Scotia. The other-than-human world seemed to allow an ease in the connection to myself that I would not understand until many years later. In my formative years, I learned that the communication within nature was a wordless exchange that moved intuitively through my little body, offering me the grand sensation of being alive, with very little story or resistance to my natural state.
I befriended many other-than-human creatures on the banks of rivers, in the thick of the forest and on the edges of the meadows. These creatures taught me about true reciprocity in relationships. I remember having a feeling, very early on, that everything was interconnected, and that the natural world offered me a feedback loop of life that felt real and true.
Gaia invited me to explore myself as she did the same. As the water from the stream cooled my feet, my feet were being felt by the stream. As I saw the world from the top of the tree, the tree was also seeing the world through my eyes. As I played in the ocean waves, the waves were playing with me. As I gazed into my animals eyes, they were gazing back. I came to trust a natural simplicity, a wondrous, wordless communion and an inner knowing that I was a deeply important expression of the natural world. This was a knowing that I would later cover up to fit in, but it is now clear that it has never left me.
As I write this and invite what was taking place alongside my human upbringing to seep into my conscious awareness, I am allowing a wave of remembering that Gaia has never stopped modeling to me, the pure expression of life that moves through us all.
Deborah’s Story of Belonging
I was born in a hospital, in a Canadian border town in early winter. The season had just changed and the land was sleeping when I arrived. It was a calm and spacious time on the land, and that penetrated the walls of my home. I felt both welcomed and that there was enough space for me.
From the start, the air of the Great Lakes filled my lungs, and the sun and sky inspired my reach. The scent of leaves composting under the big trees in my yard was my first exposure to the cycle of life, and I sensed that I was a part of something magnificent.
When spring came, my body felt the vibration of the plants emerging from the soil. As those plants grew around me and the trees were covered in green, I felt a rising in myself.
As I grew, I sought out trees and leaves and water and, without even knowing it, many invaluable lessons. I played on the edges of lakes and felt the power of the waves tumble me. I climbed strong trees and felt my strength increasing. In those trees, the fear of falling was replaced by a trust in the branches of my body to support me as the branches of the tree did.
My natural community of trees, tadpoles, wildflowers, grasses, birds and insects was always willing to let me play. They unconditionally embraced my curiosity and showed me a fabulous new world each time I communed with them. One spider in particular allowed me to see my deep courage and profound respect for life simultaneously.
The natural world surrounded and filled me. It encouraged and witnessed me. I was never alone and never overwhelmed. I felt a sense of balance and peace both around me and inside of myself.
The older I got, the more I was drawn into natural spaces to renew myself. The combination of fresh air in my lungs and the activation of my body as I moved through waterways or trails enlivened me. I felt safe, seen, and understood in those spaces. I felt like I mattered when I was hiking, mountain biking, swimming and snorkeling. When I witnessed the life around me, I felt witnessed. When I was breathing hard, I felt the abundance of fresh oxygen nourishing and healing me. When my tears fell, I felt the earth beneath me catch them. When love raced through my heart, I sensed the trees soften to share the moment with me.
Today I stop a lot and just look, smell and feel my way around the natural world. As much as I am grateful for what I sense, I feel appreciated. As much as I am curious, I feel like a curiosity. As relaxed and enlivened as I feel, I know I add value. I know I am home here. I know that I belong.