THURSDAY evening was the last class of term that I teach at Queen's University and signals the summer holiday break.

I wrote on the white board one of the ancient Chinese philosopher’s Lao Tzu quotes: “When you realise nothing is lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

Lao Tzu profoundly influenced Eastern thought with his teachings on simplicity, humility and inner peace, which can be found in his wonderful book the, Tao Te Ching. The book offers a deep, transformative perspective on life and dovetails perfectly with mindfulness practice. 

The class explored the quote and how it can apply to ourselves and most of all Belfast. 

At its core, this quote encapsulates the essence of contentment and the power of perception. It suggests that true fulfilment and abundance come from within, rather than from external possessions or achievements. To "realise nothing is lacking" means to recognise that everything we need for happiness and fulfillment is already within us. 

This mindfulness shift can profoundly affect how we experience life. For Belfast, this concept might resonate particularly well given our city's rich history of resilience and community spirit. Belfast, as we all know, has seen its share of challenges, from economic struggles to political conflicts. However, our beautiful city is also known for its strong sense of community, cultural richness, and a resilient spirit that has seen it through both rough and tough times.

In a practical sense, Lao Tzu's wisdom can be applied to everyday life in Belfast by fostering a sense of gratitude and appreciation for what we already have. This doesn't mean abandoning aspirations or goals, but recognising the inherent value in the present moment and the resources at hand. For instance, amidst the hustle and bustle of city life, taking a moment to appreciate the natural beauty of places like the Bog Meadows or the peace found in Colin Glen can cultivate a sense of wholeness and satisfaction. Moreover, in a city that has been transforming and evolving, there is a profound lesson in understanding that progress and success do not necessarily equate to material wealth or external validation.

Belfast’s regeneration, characterised by its burgeoning arts scene, thriving tourism and entrepreneurial spirit, demonstrates that fulfilment can also be found in creativity, community initiatives and cultural pride. Lao Tzu's quote encourages us to look inward and recognise our inherent worth and the richness of our internal landscape. For the class, we discussed how this could mean valuing personal relationships, community connections and cultural heritage. 

It invites us to see that the joy derived from a family gathering, the pride in local achievements, or the beauty of a shared history is a form of wealth that far surpasses material possessions. In a broader sense, "the whole world belongs to you" signifies the freedom and empowerment that come with inner peace and contentment. When we are not constantly seeking more, we are free to fully experience and appreciate the world around us. This can translate into a more mindful and present way of living, where every experience, big or small, is treasured. For Belfast, a city with a storied past and a dynamic present, this philosophy can be a guiding light. 

It reminds us that while economic growth and development are important, the true essence of a fulfilling life lies in appreciating what we have, fostering inner peace, and nurturing a sense of community and belonging. Lao Tzu's wisdom is timeless and universal. For Belfast citizens, embracing the idea that "nothing is lacking" can transform how we view our lives and our city.

By shifting our focus from what we lack to what we have, we unlock a sense of abundance and belonging that truly makes the whole world, in essence, ours.