I have a theory about spiritual practices and lifestyles. First, I think having one (a spiritual practice and/or lifestyle) is a time-honored way of being in and experiencing this world. It’s just that spiritual practices and lifestyles have taken different forms and expressions under patriarchy, empire and organized religion. Second, when you come down to it, I think that all spiritual practices and lifestyles are just expressions and personal paths to finding and feeling like we belong. To a tribe, to a culture, to a land.
I suspect that for most of us, this desire to feel seen, to feel like a valuable and unique member of a community and for an overall sense of connection and belonging, stems from the Immigrant Wound. If you are reading this in the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa or as a first, second or third generation immigrant in another country, chances are pretty high that at least one of your lineages contains the Immigrant Wound.
I am an U.S. American and an enrolled tribal member (but in Canada! Ha! Can’t pin me down, can you?). I have the blood of the colonizer and the blood of the colonized in my veins— I hold both of those stories. I’m also a willful emigrant, living and raising my family in Costa Rica with a first generation Costa Rican partner.
Needless to say, I’ve had a lot of time and experience to think about and shape this theory.
When our ancestors immigrated to the Americas, whether by force, choice or in desperation, there was a spectrum of trauma involved. They were leaving their tribal lands for an unknown world and knew that it was extremely unlikely that they would ever step foot in the homelands, or see the family they left behind, again. They also knew that their descendants would have a missing link in the legacy passed down to them— cast forever as insider-outsiders, belonging to the mother land by blood but not by culture, custom or shared experience.
This is part of the Immigrant Wound.
We’re All Just Trying To Belong
Our immigrant ancestors set to work trying to create a sense of belonging and rootedness in their New World. They took over land and natural resources. In some cases the only way to satisfy their deep urge to belong was to “go Native” and surrender completely to the tribal ways of being on the land, with an actual tribe. Others needed only to possess a Native woman, by force or by consent, to feel rooted to the land, knowing their seed was being sown into deeply rooted soil. Still others had to inflict violence on the Native people, shedding the blood and decimating the numbers of the truly indigenous so that they’re own claim of belonging had room to grow.
In this day and age, however, the unhealed Immigrant Wound is much more likely to manifest in a spiritual practice or lifestyle. Those with this unhealed wound are looking to spirituality to find their sense of belonging. They’re copying or unknowingly parodying spiritual practices from Indigenous cultures— whether they are near or far. Feathered headdresses. Using words from languages they don’t speak to punctuate prayers— when actual native speakers of the language or discriminated against and penalized in English-speaking worlds for using that language, wearing bindis, and other outward expressions of “spirituality” that lend to their overall appearance/vibe but neglecting to take up the deeper practices that aren’t seen, heard or witnessed by anyone else. (This is cultural appropriation, just so we’re clear).
The Immigrant Wound may also perpetuate itself by spiritual appropriation through spiritual travel. Traveling to this culture and that country. Taking this international yoga class and that one too! While I myself love traveling and learning, there is an element of slippery territory if we are subconsciously traveling for the sake of finding somewhere — anywhere! Anywhere but where we are, that is— to feel rooted.
And while I find all of those above examples to be annoying, if not offensive, in practice, I also hold a lot of compassion for those just trying to find their way, trying to find their sense of belonging, just trying to be Rooted. Here.
It doesn’t matter if you once constructed a spiritual practice that was entirely based off of cultural appropriation. It DOES matter that you’ve since course corrected or at a place where you’re willing to open your eyes and consider how you can course correct.
For the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be publishing a series of articles on how we all can begin to feel more Rooted. Here. I’ll begin by discussing ways we can root into the land we live on and the home we live in and then we’ll move forward into discussions about how food roots us, how and why engaging in intentional hospitality is one of the most rooted and sacred things we can do and finally, we’ll look at ways we can begin to feel rooted (and safe and loved) in our own bodies.
In the meantime, this article series goes hand-in-hand with my newest offering— Rooted Here: Tending Our Ancestral Connections To Food, Home & Land.
Enrollment is now open and space is limited! I’m capping this class at 30 participants so we can get really intimate and deep with our work.