The Happy Heart School

Living lifelong human care, development, education, learning and service for all.

The Participation of Non-belonging

The participation of non-belonging
for Dr May Lim, Dr Tan Bhing Leet,, Ms Ann-Marie Morrissey, and the most heartful 2016 class of SiT-TCD Bsc, Occupational Therapy students:


“We are best friends!” – Keith Cham, 9 years old.


It didn’t occur to me until just now that this has been my participation in much of the world in my life.


It is until we understand the alienation, isolation, rage, anguish, despair of non-belonging, that we can be said to be fully participating.


Understanding requires participation. How can we understand full inclusion if we are not willing to participate in the non-belonging of the marginalized, the outcasts, the stranger, the other?


It isn’t about inviting someone in. It isn’t about accommodating someone. It isn’t about creating new worlds, new systems.


Full inclusion is about participating in the heart of the other. And allowing the other to participate in the inner hearts of our own deserts, mirages and oases.


Our own inner hearts where we haven’t actually even ventured into, because it requires the participation of separations and differences, and the countless acceptances of our own imperfections, primarily insecurities, ignorances and arrogances about ourself, the other and the world.


We can’t know everything.


Neither can we solve everything.


We can’t expect plastic peace or plastic beauty or a plastic life.


Life is very living. Very unexpected. And largely, very guarded. And so we will need to learn to befriend, and unguard, and risk the pains of betrayals, shaming, and abandonment.


In the end, we are mostly left to ourselves in facing all such departures.


Do we face life with cynicism, anger, bitterness, despondency, or do we grow strength and understanding and learn to stand on our own two feet.


And reclaim our own inner truths, our identity that only we can articulate? And stand by our own way?


Can we stand by our own individual philosophy about our own lives?


Can we stand by our own lives?


Without the need of the approval of the crowd? Or even one other person in this world?


The resilience is forged entirely by getting through non-belonging.


What is that which is giving me peace and ease is this- that I have fully participated because I had experienced the deep pains of non-belonging.


That I didn’t bolt.


That I stayed. That I stayed until I understand the lesson of non-belonging and non-participation.


That I understand it in my own paradigm. My own words, my own symbolisms, my own expressions, my own applications in my own life.


So I understand today. Participation actually isn’t about belonging. It is about staying.


Staying until the door of the other opens, after all the catapults and armours and barricades are all exhausted out.


After all the rage and unbelief are all directed by the other at my own heart, and I am tested and forged by that fire, that asks one question – will you leave after I have loved you? After I have let you in? Will you close the door? Will you open the door only on certain conditions? Will you bolt the second it gets uncomfortable? Will you theorize me? Will you turn me into a datum in your research of life?


When both doors of two strangers hearts are open, there is a safe passage that has been forged by fire.


By the searing intensity that only a mutuality of love that is truthful can remain.


This is participation.


The conversion from non-belonging to the safety and freedom that only true belonging can offer.


It is specific. Person to person. Not roles to roles. Not projections to projections. Not agenda to agenda. Not cv to cv. Not career to career. Not even narrative to narrative.


Participation is staying until all the aggression is dissolved. Until all fears of rejection, pain, confusion, war and fear of fear subside. Until compassion and gentleness is able to hold stable peace. And the mindfulness, the penetrating insight of non-judgment, converts the pain into love. Into understanding that love is loving even though the other is not reciprocating. That love stays. That love forgives. That love releases. That love is joy. That love can bear all. That love can sustain all. That love triumphs over every circumstance. Because love can love through any adversity, even hatred.


By staying. And not giving up.


Until all separations are seen, the pains experienced, and the boundaries dissolved. By insight, and then by choice. That we are all the same. Understanding our common humanity frees us from any more judgment.


And allows us full space, peace and freedom to just love.


And embrace all that we encounter.


Peng-Ean Khoo

October 3, 2016


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