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Home » Inspiration » Spiritual practices

Where Do I Fit In?
by Carolyn Cooper

I am one person among 6 billion people living on the planet. I live my own individual life, of course. But I also live as a member of a family, a work or study group, a community, a society, a nation, a civilization and the world. How can I become more conscious of these concentric, simultaneous lives that I lead? In the grand scheme of things, where do I fit in and how do I fit in? I feel that my happiness is intimately linked to these questions.

Here are some scenarios to assist you in pondering these questions in terms of your own life. Then, if you wish, you can enrich your individual reflection by sharing your responses with friends.

The CEO of a telecommunications corporation slashes jobs and streamlines the range of products in order to avoid bankruptcy. The players, who may live in a variety of countries, are the CEO and Board of Directors, stockholders, creditors, auditors, workers, buyers and users of products, other suppliers, advertising agencies, and industries which transport and market the products and incorporate them into their own products.

Where do I fit in here? Am I one of the players? How aware am I of the economic web in which I live?

One thing I can do to become more aware of how I fit in: I can remember the people who produce what I am using, and take care to use efficiently the resources I have.

Other suggestions:

During clashes between Israeli and Palestinian supporters in New York City, a girl drags a young man back from a taunter. The taunter is also dragged back by a companion. The young man's rage and frustration pour out of him as he stands on the sidewalk and, utterly beside himself, hurls insults at the other side.

Where do I fit in here? What do I feel when looking at an intractable political situation? How do I feel towards the various players-the populations and their leaders? How do my feelings and reactions affect me and those around me?

One thing I can do to become more aware of how I fit in: In less dramatic, but difficult situations, I can observe my automatic reaction, whether looking for someone to blame, feeling victimized, or trying to see other points of view.

Other suggestions:

"Anyone who works comfortably at the kitchen counter, or takes dishes out of a dishwasher and places them in a convenient overhead shelf, or dusts the house in an hour, not a day, owes something to the domestic engineers." From Home, p. 171, by Witold Rybczynski. (The "domestic engineers" refers to a group of forward-looking American women at the beginning of the 20th century-Lillian Gilbreth, Christine Frederick, and Ellen Richards.)

Where do I fit in here? I am definitely a beneficiary! How good it is to pause and feel appreciation for the intelligence and effort that underlie the comfort and convenience of my home

One thing I can do to become more aware of how I fit in: I connect the personal pleasure I get out of developing my home with the pleasure those pioneers must have got as they analyzed and solved problems of household management.

Other suggestions:

A New York City subway scene: I am sitting beside a stranger who is buried in his newspaper. I see that the woman standing in front of us is pregnant.
"Would you like my seat?" I ask, as I stand up.
"Oh, thank you." She sits down with a sigh.
The stranger, looking up from his newspaper and starting to rise, says to me, "Here, please take my seat."
"Oh, no thank you. I'm getting off at the next stop."
"Let me give you my newspaper then."

Where do I fit in here? How aware am I of the people around me and of what catches my attention -weird behavior, someone needing help, a cute child, elegant appearance?

One thing I can do to become more aware of how I fit in: I can observe the people around me and be ready to interact with a smile or some appropriate gesture.

Other suggestions:

Some friends are discussing various themes for a project we want to do together. Several of us have very strong opinions about what we should do. I do not like one of the themes being recommended. I find myself thinking that perhaps I just won't say anything and won't take part.

Where do I fit in? If I just drop out without expressing my view, what effect would that have on the group? If I am a part of the group, do I have a responsibility to take part in the discussion and decision-making?

One thing I can do to become more aware of how I fit in: I give myself a few minutes to sort out my own feelings and the reasons for feeling that way, and then I express them as clearly as I can to my friends, letting them know that I consider myself an integral part of the group.

Other suggestions:

Summary of aspects of the scenarios:

All describe in some way how I, as an individual, am connected with other people and my surroundings. Sometimes that connection is obvious, while at other times it is not so clear. Sometimes, although I am aware of the connection, I don't want to acknowledge it. How would it be to take the opportunity that any situation offers me to respond consciously to this connection, and thereby expand my own sense of who I am?

My life is a tiny thread in the web of life-past, present and future. Each thread touches another one, so all the threads are, finally, connected. I cannot choose not to participate. What I choose to do is to participate consciously.


I am looking at my amaryllis plant that is growing so fast I can see how it changes each day. I let my mind fill with wonder and joy. I ask the mystery of which I, the amaryllis and everything else is a part for the wisdom to embrace wholeheartedly the pain and joy of living, so that no matter where I am or what I am doing, I remain conscious of my place in the whole.

If you have a favorite practice that brings you back to a sense of participation and interdependence, please tell us about it by e-mailing us.

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