Moments of Belonging, with Scott Shigeoka

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We took a moment to catch up with our dear friend Scott Shigeoka about this month's Question. He's an incredible designer, artist and story-teller with a heart for the human, so we were curious to learn a little bit about his perspective and his own experience. Below are his thoughts on three simple questions from this month's toolkit. We hope you enjoy connecting with him through the answers below! 

Feast: How do you define belonging?

Scott: Belonging means feeling connected to others in a deep way. It's that feeling where we achieve vulnerability and are able to express the parts of ourselves that require courage to share because we are without fear of consequences. Belonging is being fully heard and seen. It is two ways. Belonging is not just about the way you feel. It's about the way you make others feel. It is something to be gifted and shared. It is something you can even give to yourself. Belonging makes you feel tethered to those you love no matter if they're far across the world, or no longer in this world because they have transitioned beyond. It is deep and spiritual, and it thrives with enough trust and safety. Belonging isn't conditional on your identities, experiences or circumstances. No matter where you are in life or what you've done — bad or good — belonging is something that everyone is worthy of. Even those who have hurt or are hurting deserve to belong. It is clarity. It is content. Yet, belonging is an ecstatic and blissful state of being. It is this beautiful piece of the human experience that reminds us to be, for long periods of life—it isn't beshorting. Belonging follows forgiveness and yet doesn't require permission. It reminds us to breathe. It comes in moments of expansion and extroversion, and in the most intimate of moments too when we're inches away from our lover's face, eyes interlocked and our fingers woven like a prayer. Belonging can't be faked, and it can never be depleted. Belonging is boundless.

Feast: What's your earliest memory of belonging?

My earliest memory of belonging is back home in Hawaii. I only had a few years of life within me at the time. My body so tiny it could barely hold the smallest bodyboard made. I remember taking it out into the ocean with my grandparents sitting on a towel on shore watching me paddle out. The wind was hitting my hair and the water was warm around my toes. The sun was out, and my body was protected by the lathered sunscreen. Around me there were other surfers and bodyboarders on the beach. I moved over the rolling hills of the ocean, the ones that marked the moment in between two sets of waves. As the next one rolled in, I watched a few people catch a wave together. I'm not sure if they knew each other or not. One other wave comes in, and a surfer catches it on his own. He doesn't tell anyone, "I got this." There was this unspoken understanding, we just knew he had to take it. All around me, scattered across the beach, were surfers of all genders, ages and backgrounds. I didn't know the names their parents called them, and have never met any of them before. They were strangers. The most familiar thing to me out there in the ocean was the water itself. It's the place my grandparents would always take me after we picked mangoes from the tree in our backyard. That feeling of belonging hits its peak when a set of waves come in, and I know that my wave is coming in my direction. I look back towards it, and I can feel everyone's eye on me. They're not judgmental, they're eager to watch me go. They're screaming, "paddle, paddle, paddle!" And I paddle as hard as my little legs can, my tiny feet and toes hitting the surface of the water. It sends splashes of ocean over my head until suddenly the whole ocean is over my body—my wave pulling me slightly back, then up, then carrying me over it. We crash down into the surface but I keep the head of my board up, just like my grandpa taught me, and it catches. I'm flying down toward the shore. The head of my board hitting the surface rhythmically like a song. I'm flying toward my grandparents. I'm moving faster on the wave than my feet could take me on the ground. I smile. Pure joy. I look toward my grandparents and they are smiling too, which is a rare sight. I imagine the other surfers and bodyboarders now far behind me, cheering and proud of a young child catching a wave.

Feast: What practices or events make you feel closer to those around you?

Scott: I've done this with family, friends and lovers. I ask them to sit comfortably in front of me. We square our shoulders, facing each other. I set a timer for five minutes and before I click "Start," tell them the directions. We're going to look straight into each others eyes. We're going to see new parts of each others' eyes that we haven't seen before. We're going to try to see beyond the eyes' surface and get as deep as we can. We'll try not to laugh, but we probably won't be able to help ourselves from smiling when the other does too. We do it in silence, and if it feels right, we can do it while holding each other's hands. There might be a moment, probably around the three minute mark, when one of us starts to cry. It may spark the other to tear up too. It might feel like an hour-long five minutes, or it might feel like we want to go for another hour after our five minutes are up. It's a ritual that can be done after asking each other deep questions (like these ones) or we can do it before we ask questions because you can bet we're going to ask each other questions after staring into each others eyes. It's going to bring us together in a new way, no matter if it's someone I share the same bloodline with or someone who I roll around the bed with. We can do this in the comfort of a home or out in the openness of the outdoors. At the end, we'll honor each other for taking the time to be with each other and gazing into the eyes of another. We'll honor each other in whatever way that feels right. It might be a short or a long hug. It might be a kiss. It might be placing our hands together and bowing. It might be a smile or a collective breath in. And now, after the instructions are read, I click "Start." Four minutes fifty nine...four minutes fifty eight...four minutes fifty seven...stop thinking. Just be present in the eye of the other. I reach out toward their hands. I smile. They do too.

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Jerri Chou