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Author Sebene Selassie on interconnection and mindfulness

Sebene Selassie, meditation teacher and author of You Belong: A Call for Connection, says the difficulties of the pandemic proved the need for interconnection.

Learn more about You Belong: A Call for Connection, the 2021 Transforming Health Summer Read.

Hi, my name is Sebene Selassie and I’m a meditation teacher and an author.

I was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and we immigrated here when I was 3 years old. We were a kind of a lower-middle class Black family living in an upper-middle class White neighborhood. So I started experiencing kind of challenges with belonging, really.

I teach and write about belonging because for so long it felt like I didn’t belong. That led me on the path of meditation and eventually mindfulness.

We’re not separate, and all the great wisdom traditions talk about that. They talk about nonseparation or interconnection or love for your fellow beings. You know, it’s different language but it’s all pointing to the truth.

And so what I like to say is “Although we are not separate, we’re also not the same.” And we have to reckon with the fact that we each have our own personal histories, but we also have, uh, familial and ancestral histories and we are part of political and social trajectories. That exploration of that paradox — we are not separate, we are not the same — is the, the fundamental way that we can actually achieve a sense of belonging, not only to ourselves, but also to each other.

This pandemic really showed us the truth of our interconnection. You know, there’s no part of the globe that hasn’t been impacted by this. And it’s probably the first time, at least in recorded history, that we’ve had this kind of experience.

As a meditation teacher, I was extremely busy last year because everybody started meditating. You know, meditation apps started becoming super popular and people in my life who have known that I teach meditation for years have never shown any interest started asking me like, “How do I meditate?”

I like to encourage people who are first starting to really begin with starting to have a sense of the body. So if, even in a moment of overwhelm or anxiety, if we connect to the body, it actually connects us back to the present moment. Our mind can take us to the past, it can take us to the future, it can take us to worry and planning and grief and all of these things, but our body is always right here. So just feeling your feet on the floor, feeling your seat in the chair, all these things, um, connect us back to the present moment and to a sense of groundedness and wellbeing. And it’s always available.

There’s a way in which, um, this past year had people show up for challenges because we had to. We didn’t really have a choice. There was no one exempted. To recognize our interconnection and to take care of ourselves and each other through that. And to remember that that’s possible I think is really, really going to be helpful.

If we got through this past year then we can get through what’s next.

You belong. You are not separate. You never were. You never will be.


Staff reporting

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