As is my habit, I am currently reading two books at the same time: The Border by Don Winslow, and Grounded Spirituality, a brand new book by Jeff Brown. And, as usual, it is no accident that I’m reading them at the same time because, boiled down to their essence, both of these books speak of the same thing: human pain, and our many ways of avoiding it.
The Border is a fictionalized (but oh, so close to the bone of truth) story about the drug trade along the US/Mexico border, as well as the drug cartels, drug kingpins, street traffickers, addicts, politicians, money launderers, and even, oddly enough, real estate tycoons.
Grounded Spirituality is a non-fiction book about doing the healing we all must do to live comfortably inside our bodies, and alongside (not despite) our emotions. The premise is that most of our Westernized spiritual paths are taking us further away, not closer to, our bodies and our souls.
In The Border, people escape pain through (depending on which side of the drug trade you’re on) power, control, money, material goods, and sex; or heroin, opioids, fentanyl, etc.
In Grounded Spirituality, people, including the author, have tried to escape pain through transcendent spiritual practices, out-of-body meditation practices, and “the world is an illusion” type belief systems.
The means of escaping pain in the two books is vastly different. But the end result is the same: disembodiment, fragmentation, living our lives as mere pieces of the whole we once were.
There is no denying that we are a culture of pain. We are also a culture that doesn’t allow time or space for pain. And therefore, we are a culture that provides countless ways to escape pain. The end result is a culture of disembodiment that stuffs and hides and projects its pain, leaking it out into the world in all kinds of ways from passive-aggressive interactions with family to mass murder in a house of worship or school.
We are all human. We all have pain. We all have trauma. We all need healing.
But instead, what we are all doing is escaping. (Oh, yes, me included, being on a path is not the same as having arrived.)
We cannot heal the crisis at the US/Mexico border with a wall, or more laws, or more border patrol agents. Because we do not have a drug crisis, we have a PAIN crisis, which is spinning off into a variety of other crises. As Don Winslow himself said at an author event last week, we must work on this issue from the demand side, not the supply side. Because as long as there is demand, there will be supply. To reduce the demand means helping people find healthy ways to address, manage, and heal human pain before it consumes them.
This, to me, is everything about why I wrote Embodying Soul: A Return to Wholeness, and why I believe it’s time to take seriously this topic of embodiment, rather than thinking of it as yet another spiritual technique.
Soul embodiment is not an escape. Embodiment is not avoidance. Embodiment might be the hardest thing we’ll ever do. Because in order to make our bodies safe enough to come home to, we have to first see them as they are, with our pain, with our trauma, with our choices, all with the lights on.
To love our world and our country is to love humanity, in its wholeness, and that begins with ourselves. The only viable path to healing our society collectively is to heal ourselves individually. One step at a time, back to ourselves, back to our wholeness.
And now, back to reading.