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  • Writer's pictureThalien Colenbrander


Updated: May 11, 2023

"You are only free when you realize you belong no place—you belong every place—no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great" — Maya Angelou

I grew up feeling "different" and often still do. Maybe it’s because of my multicultural background or because I grew up in a transient community of expats in which chameleons stood a better chance of being accepted. Or maybe it’s simply because my sun is in Leo and my moon is in Aquarius, which calls for an expert-mingler disposition while being a loner at heart.

Who knows.

Whatever the reason: the quest for belonging has been – and will continue to be – a key theme for me. I've come to understand it’s one of the key themes that my soul has been given to explore in this lifetime. A fate and honour I fully embrace. It has torn me apart, made me contemplate ending it all – my desperation hurling itself against the four corners of my mind like a wild animal.

To the same degree, it has seen me on empty beaches stone-cold sober, crying out, beaming from ear to ear in ecstatic union with all that is. And then there’s the mediocre flavour, which I often find hardest to digest. The “meh” middle ground of subtle dissonance. If you know me personally, this won’t surprise you. Fire and wind are my core elements. I crave intensity and need the pendulum to swing way out of its orbit before I can find – and appreciate – the centre.

The difference between fitting in and belonging is an important one, and I wish I’d learnt it sooner. Brené Brown's discernment is spot on, I think:

“Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be, in order to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn't require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are."

Here’s the thing, though. The business of fitting in vibes extreeeemely well with la condition humaine. Like reeeally good. Like aioli with patatas bravas. And since I am human, my herd-nature will continue to look for ways to fit in. When I’m 79 I will still be doing this. So am I going to judge and self-shame myself for the next 40 years on all those numerous occasions? Not, I would hope. It’s not about stopping trying to fit it. It’s about awareness. It’s the minds stories that set us apart, that makes us suffer.

Because the heart doesn’t suffer. It breaks, yes. And it heals. But it doesn't suffer, it simply feels.

I’ve learned there are three layers to a moment: my experience, my awareness of the experience, and my story about the experience. When I let go of the stories (easily detectable as they invariably include the words should/ought and create shallowness of breath and tension in my body), I find deep solace in common humanity. Realising nothing is personal. Divine intelligence is working full-time behind the scenes of my life. I don’t need to understand any of it. I just need to open myself to the experience. Just know myself to be a perfectly imperfect vessel and let it flow. Follow my curiosity, give my time and energy to whatever lights me up, and flow with circumstance.

Just let it flow.

All this to say, the topic of belonging resonates DEEPLY with me and in my opinion is a foundational aspect of living a soul-led existence. And, so unsurprisingly, it will be a key theme during The Soul Retreat 12-14 May 2023* at New Life Portugal. I can’t wait to share, teach and learn more about this topic that is so close to my heart. I hope you'll join me.

*4-night option also available!

xx Thalien

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