We Need to Talk about Belonging

belonging_graphic-565x333“We are all longing to go home to some place we have never been — a place, half-remembered, and half-envisioned we can only catch glimpses of from time to time. Community. Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak without having the words catch in our throats. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power. Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Someplace where we can be free.” – Starhawk

This morning I did a Google search on the word belonging. I was disappointed by the immediate results. Six of the first nine links are definition sites (dictionary, thesaurus, wikipedia, etc.). The third entry is an article on Psychology Today on creating one’s own sense of belonging from March 24, 2014. A year ago. The fifth entry is an article from CNN about one research study done on the highly positive impact of creating belonging for college students through a particular intervention from June 1, 2012. The one brilliant gem is link seven, a pdf booklet called The Importance of Belonging, which was written from a human services perspective about providing belonging for people with disabilities who live in isolation. The same people I am striving to relate to every day at work in order to learn how to create and nurture belonging for all of us.

Belonging is in the middle of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Which means that it’s the third most vital need to our health and well-being, the first two being physiological and safety needs. And yet we aren’t really talking about it. We talk endlessly about physical health and safety. Think about it. How much media is about our health and safety? We also talk about esteem and self actualization, the fourth and fifth needs on the hierarchy. Yet we are just starting to research and talk about belonging, particularly because of Brene Brown’s TEDTalk on vulnerability, shame and connection going viral. As a culture we aren’t yet paying attention to its importance in creating a healthy society, where all of the needs of our human family are met.

Much of our conflict, addiction, depression and other mental-emotional human challenges could be solved by creating a place of belonging and connection for everyone. I think this could be the answer to bullying as well. This is why the work I do now is feels vital. We have to recognize that this is just as important as addressing disease and climate change. And that belonging is the foundation of social justice because social justice seeks to repair the impact of exclusion on various populations. We could do so much more long-term good if we were building communities rather than bureaucracies to address our deepest needs and greatest heartaches.

I had hoped when I googled belonging that I would see books, studies, projects, communities, etc. addressing this basic need. The first book that comes up on page two is a romance novel. bell hooks’ book Belonging: A Culture of Place comes in at link thirteen. There are other resources out there, but it says so much that they aren’t on the first two pages of the largest search engine in the world.

I look back on the arc of my first 40 years of life and I see that this has been the point all along. In the shadows of a narcissistic mother, emotionally absent father, and alcoholic stepfather, I was literally starving for a sense of belonging. The sex and relationships that led to my first two children were an attempt at finding belonging with someone, with anyone. Belonging was the basis of The Impropriety Society (I would argue more than sex), as well as all of the other groups I’ve been a part of. All of the people in my life who have suffered deeply could source their challenges in the hunger for belonging. Kids join gangs to belong. People join cults and terrorist organizations to belong. Women stay in violent relationships to belong. Consumers even follow brands to belong. The issues we have with materialism, race, gender, sexuality, religion, and all the other categories we use to divide ourselves, they can all be sourced back to this basic need for belonging.

We just want to belong. Each and everyone of us.

Unfortunately we spend a lot of energy trying to be exclusive with our belonging when its inclusion that brings the greatest reward and deepest satisfaction. If we’re going to improve our society and the lives of our human family, there has to be a cultural conversation about our needs for inclusive belonging and genuine connection.  Being conscious of this basic human need, as well as intentionally nurturing it within our communities, could change everything.

There is so much more I have to say. The muse is on fire and there will be more soon. I have been looking for the “hook” for my book and my new work in the world and now I know I have found it. Belonging. This is where my passion meets the world’s need. I can’t wait to see what we create together.

Thank you for listening. I pray you experience belonging in your life.
Please know you matter and you are loved.

Grief as Deep Activism

Recently I was introduced to the idea of grief as deep activism and today I experienced it in action.

“What has become clear is the powerful role grief plays in enabling us to face what is taking place in our communities, our ecologies, families, nations, etc. What I mean by that is that grief is a powerful emotion capable of keeping the edges of the heart pliable, flexible, fluid, and open to the world, and as such, becomes a potent support for any form of activism we may intend to take, indeed is itself a vital form of soul activism.” Francis Weller

This afternoon I attended the annual interfaith memorial service for those on the streets of the Old Town community who died in the last year. Operation Nightwatch in collaboration with several downtown religious leaders (Christian, Muslim, Native American, and others) led the service with prayers, music, poetry, and a reading of the names/lighting of candles for those who died.

I went into it thinking about this concept of grief as activism. I didn’t know anyone on the list of over 100 names. I’m certain I will next year, as it turns out more than 20 were once members of our center. But each of those names represents a life, a person. Someone who was once a mother’s child. Someone who has brought moments of exquisite goodness into the world. I believe each and every one of them are worth honoring. Every one is worth taking an hour of my time to hold them in my heart and mind as if they matter. Because they do matter.

There aren’t very many of us, people who will take the time and heart to share in this celebration and grief. There aren’t many of us who say with our actions that these humans have value in our lives. In a city of more than half a million people, there were only 50 people in the sanctuary, less than half a person for each person on the list.

Fuck. I used to think I was invisible. Now I understand that I really have no idea what it is to truly be unseen. I have always mattered to someone, even if in specific moments it was only my crazy mother or my children. I have had many friends, lovers, mentors, and people who believed in me. I know people will show up to honor me when I die. I am blessed beyond measure in this way.

But because I do know the pain of feeling invisible, and I now know the joy of finding my place, I want everyone to be blessed with belonging. I want everyone to know that they matter to someone. I want my local community to understand that these are our people and we need to take care of them!

Whether you break it down biologically, through quantum physics, or through spirituality, it all comes down to the absolute Truth that this is our family. We are all connected and we are hurting ourselves by allowing our people to suffer.

We all deserve belonging.
We all deserve to be witnessed in our lives and our deaths.
Damn it, we can do better than this.

Why I Adore Jesus – My Favorite Radical Mystic

Jesus Christ by k Madison Moore
Jesus Christ by k Madison Moore

I grew up in the Christian tradition, Baptist and Pentacostal versions, and I fell head over heels in love with Jesus. I loved singing happy birthday to Jesus on Christmas and I loved the stories and rituals of his life. I happily went to church 3 or more times a week, in addition to Christian school until 5th grade. Easter was hard for me because I felt his pain so deeply when I reflected on the crucifixion, and because I believed it was my fault, because I was told he would have died for just one of us. I couldn’t believe anyone could love me so much and I tried with all my heart to be a good girl for him. I prayed and talked to him regularly. I made sure I was “saved” by asking him into my heart over and over and getting baptized multiple times. I gave myself over to the powerful energies of Pentacostal practice and experienced altered states known as “being slain in the Spirit.” I spoke in tongues and shook with an emotional and spiritual power I didn’t understand, but enveloped me in the deepest love and connection I’d known. Even as a child and teen I was a mystic, driven by my longing for connection with the Divine.

Now I understand that I loved the archetype and mythology of Jesus intensely because he mirrors my own nature. Jesus loves God and commits his life to awakening others to their own Divinity. Jesus is so generous that he suffers great violence and gives his life for us. Jesus also prioritizes service and inclusion over money and social standing. He raises consciousness. And he embraces those on the margins of society. As a little girl and young woman, desperate to be saved from the traumas in my home, desperate for a sense of emotional safety and unconditional love, Jesus was a bright shining light in the darkness.

I know down to my bones that Jesus would have loved the communities I love – the tribes with piercings and tattoos who commune with the Divine through body rites; the single mothers on welfare or working minimum wage jobs, doing everything they can to raise their children to be healthy, happy and whole; orphans who have been ravaged by life and grief; the poor, the disabled and the addicted; lovers who express their longing for Divine union through their “alternative” sexualities; and so many more. Jesus was a Radical Mystic and Sacred Activist, rebelling against the status quo and striving for social justice in his world.

This is the trouble that I have with how spirituality has become just another commodity in our culture. With our plethora of spiritual and self-development teachers, I don’t see very many people like Jesus today. The people who teach, even the ones I respect, only teach to those who have significant privilege. Most of them are not serving, they are selling to people who are mostly white, mostly straight, and are all wealthy by global standards. Jesus would not ignore or neglect those who suffer from poverty, illness, violence, and addiction. Jesus would not abide the oppression of queer and trans people. Jesus would not sit on the mountain meditating while thousands die in the atrocities of war. Jesus would not focus on building his brand while millions or billions of his human family go without the basics of food, shelter and safety. Jesus wouldn’t be interested in teaching people how to make six figures with their gifts. Jesus would be inspiring them to take their gifts to the streets, to the margins, where they are needed most.

While I grew beyond the church and the dogma of Christianity by the time I was 20, I find that I still carry a deep abiding love and respect for Jesus Christ. Although I honor and find something to resonate with in all belief systems, Jesus remains my favorite spiritual teacher. He is my role model. The work that I have found – with an organization that serves the people in my community who live on the margins with relationship and spiritual community in addition to physical resources – helps me see that this is where I belong. I didn’t succeed with an executive coaching firm that charges several hundred dollars an hour for their services because those are not the people I am called to serve. I will not become a creative entrepreneur because I’m not interested in selling anything. Money never has been and never will be a motivating force in my life.

Like Jesus, I am driven by love and a desire to alleviate suffering by providing sustenance and belonging for all that are not getting their most basic physical and emotional needs met. I can no longer try to emulate the bright and shiny stars who spin where the spiritual and entreprenurial worlds meet, because I am not driven by the same fire. My new role models are those spiritual leaders who take their love to the streets to alleviate the suffering of others. Sacred activists. Radical mystics. Those who are willing to put everything on the line, even their lives, for a more just and loving world.

On Finding Belonging

If today is an indication of what I will experience regularly in my work life, then I feel as though I’ve found my heaven for the time being. I’ve certainly found my belonging.

My spirituality now permeates every aspect of my life and my spirit is thriving because of it. I started my day by reading Occupy Spirituality on the bus (the half hour of quiet time is great for study, prayer, contemplation, and other practices) and then led the staff reflection with a blessing from John O’Donohue shortly after my arrival at the office. Most of the staff showed up for my first time facilitating, which felt really special.

Then I passed out valentines I made for my team and the residence staff, with chocolate kisses. Later I was invited by the Activities Director to share a Valentine’s lunch with the residents at the assisted living facility. I passed out more valentines, which some of them really loved, helped serve up pizza, and sat down to eat and talk with some of the community members. I am ashamed to say that it was my first time openly engaging with a group of people who are disabled in some way (all of our residents have double or triple morbidity in physical disability, mental disability, and/or addiction). I’ve been stating the intention that I am committed to embodying radical inclusion in my life and the Universe has given me a work opportunity to live into that intention. I am also recognizing through reading Occupy Spirituality that it was Jesus who was my first role model in generosity, service, and reaching out to those our culture ignores and/or shuns. (I hope to write a blog post soon about how I am circling back to my original Christian faith in some ways – the faith of Jesus, not “the church.”)

After lunch I had a conversation with the Outreach Coordinator regarding the potential of using the framework of sacred activism to draw people to our volunteer program, and possibly reach out to faith communities that have a social justice practice. Toward the end of the day I took a few leftover valentine cards with messages like “We Cherish You” to lovebomb downtown on my walk to the bank to make a deposit (I make deposits twice a week because this place knows how to bring in the donations!).

My day ended with both my Executive Director and Pastoral Director telling me…again…how much they, and the entire team, appreciate me.

I am tired and I still hurt from a Fibro flare up induced by working both jobs last week. But it’s a good tired and a good hurt. I earned it doing things that make me really happy. I am not suffering. My heart is full of love and joy. My life is so good that I feel sated. I want for nothing. It’s an amazing feeling.

Joyful Connection in Sex Positive Events

I just found this draft of a post I originally wrote on April 1st, 2012 for my previous blog, when I was one of the hostesses for The Impropriety Society. Apparently I never published it and I should have because it speaks to a significant piece of why I was so motivated to co-create sex positive parties, both public and private, for five years. And it tells the stories of two super special scenes I was privileged to be a part of. It makes my heart happy to remember these moments and trust that I will have them again.


Awhile ago I hosted a going away party for a friend, that included turning her into a chocolate sundae. I was one of several women, as well as a couple men, who played with and tasted ice cream, home made whipped cream, candy, chocolate syrup, and other goodness on a beautiful woman’s naked body lying across my dining room table. We painted her in designs. We splashed each other as we played. And the laughter was out of control.

At the Imps holiday social, I was the spontaneous bridge between two fiery scenes on either side of our double cross. On one side was my partner, Eros, doing an impact scene with a friend of ours – a scene that I had initiated because I really like playing together as a couple and was interested in being a sensual top to a woman I adore in opposition to his meanie top. As we were getting ready to begin, another scene was coming together on the other side of the cross. Since I intended to stand in the space in the middle of the cross, I wanted to get consent to be so close to the other scene – which was three gorgeous women topping another gorgeous woman (someone who has flirted with me) for her first BDSM scene of any kind. Amazingly we ended up negotiating that any of the women were free to touch one another. I spent most of the scenes standing between these two women lost in pleasure, kissing them, touching them, and soaking up the energy flowing between 7 people having a joyful and incredibly hot experience. There aren’t even words for how magical it was.

By opening my home and my heart to holding space for people express themselves authentically, I am honored to be witness to and participate in a plethora of intimate, connected, deeply pleasurable experiences.

We shouldn’t need permission to be joyful, playful, deeply intimate, and really connect with one another in profound ways through our vulnerability in shared experiences. This is why I facilitate(d) events and gatherings – both with the Imps and in my own home. I seek to create spaces where people can be free – free to be their emotional selves, their creative selves, and their sensual/sexual selves with each other. There isn’t a lot of space in our world for people to be fully integrated humans in relationship to one another. I strive to create spaces that allow the most profound freedom possible.


I don’t know that I will continue with sex positive specific events in Portland, but I do know that I will continue creating spaces for people to be the fullness of themselves. Spaces where spontaneous, magical connections can happen between community members, as well as deep intimacy.  Re-reading this post reminds me how much bliss I experience in these spaces, both as a creator and a participant.