I wanted to share some insights about the term we all know and use - ‘spiritual bypassing’ - one that was originally coined in 1984 by American psychologist John Welwood (1943 - 2019).
In his own words:
"Spiritual bypassing is a term I coined to describe a process I saw happening in the Buddhist community I was in; and also within myself. Although most of us were sincerely trying to work on ourselves, I noticed a widespread tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks."
Spiritual bypass: a inclination towards spiritual bullsh*t perhaps?
To spiritually bypass is to basically use spirituality and esoteric language/theories, to avoid, suppress or escape from the uncomfortable issues, wounds and memories that pepper one's life.
We are all guilty of it at some point, but the trick is to develop and fine tune your awareness so much so, that you can 'catch' yourself out faster and faster when you do slip down that slope unwittingly. And yes, it happens to even the best of us because we are all human and none of us is 'perfect' (because perfect doesn't exist as you know).
I often refer to SB as the "peace, love and mung beans" practice because I see so many spiritual seekers still caught up in "loving and lighting" everything into Oneness, when what they are really doing is pushing opportunities for growth and self development, further into their future.
There seems to be a reticence within the collective group to get down and dirty, to (gasp!) swear and appear unladylike, un-spiritual or un-shamanic, and to basically do the deep inner work that is required of anyone walking their soul's path, and it is this very avoidance that ends up keeping peeps stuck in an energetic whirlpool of never-ending Maya.
What we need to remember is that growth requires guts and often (quite literally) setting yourself ALIGHT in order to purge and purify what no longer serves you. You don't get to be all Boddhisattva and IN-lightened unless you have navigated your share of "dark nights of the soul" and traversed several rites of passage, because it is THROUGH these very experiences that one connects to their essence, purpose and personal power.
Yep, if you truly want to change, you have to be willing to step INTO the fire, not just dance around it in flouncing robes. To volunteer yourself to the Phoenix in fact and you must understand that to transform and alchemize, yourself on all levels, you MUST surrender all your illusions, all your human attachments and limitations, all addictions to lower vibration desires, behaviors and beliefs, and even, what you think you know and have learned (about yourself, others and the world). It's next level letting go, which is why each one of us has to be in the right space (within ourselves), to embark on this trip.
Truth is, spirituality can get real ugly sometimes. It can be messy, confronting and drive you to the edge of despair. Facing your shadow, being faced with your ego and having all your falsities and 'flaws' mirrored back to you, is NOT a comfortable space to be in, but be in it, we must; if we are to GROW. This is how we turn our knowledge into wisdom after all. Through the process of authentic, raw, embodiment. Think of the effort required by spring shoots pushing through hardened earth after a drought for example, or after a dry winter. They don't give up, they keep soldiering on and sprouting upwards because their primal energies drive them to, it's in their DNA. We are the exactly the same. We were BORN to EVOLVE.
So here are my top five ways to illustrate how humans like to play the spiritual bypass game. Have a read and see how many you can honestly own. I'll put my hand up first and say I know in the past I have been guilty of #1, #2 and #4.
1 Always being "up", "switched on" (with a remedy, quote or practice up your sleeve) and super-positive, is a very common form of spiritual bypass. It comes however with a heavy side serving of passive-aggressive and an inability to deal with negative emotions or anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. Nobody can be THAT happy, 24/7, and not have a down moment every now and again. That would just be too fake; and annoying.
2 Empaths are prone to spiritual bypass without realizing it. They need to be self aware of their vulnerabilities and any self sabotage tendencies because it is very common for empaths to play the "victim", because everything is so heightened for them. It's everyone else's fault that they feel as they do; they 'can't help' who they are etc. They can also use their gifts as an excuse to behave badly, irrationally or perpetuate unhealthy habits. This "victim" energy feeds into what is known as the "wounded healer" identity, a vibration that every healer of any modality, needs to clear in order to set themselves free from ignorance, arrogance, judgment, ego in all its guises and of course, from ancestral and karmic patterns. Take responsibility for yourself and understand life doesn't happen TO you; it happens WITH you.
3 In recent years, plant medicines have boomed in the yogic and spiritual circles as people seek to explore and expand their individual limitations of body, mind and soul. Ayahuasca, Hape, magic 'shrooms and the like, have become a regular addition to many people's spiritual practices, and whilst these medicines do have a profound ability to help one's soul evolution and connect them to the greater universe, constant use or reliance upon such substances, is another form of spiritual bypassing.
4 We all love reading our horoscopes and hearing what predictions our favorite astro-stars have in store for us, but alas, this too is a form of spiritual bypass because it encourages us to place our faith in something 'outside of' ourselves. If we just sit back like complacent minions and believe everything we read in this regard, then we are not exerting control over our own lives. And that is not empowering. When we don't trust our own intuition and lack assertiveness and clarity, we can find ourselves clinging to the "stars" as if they are gospel each week. Take it with a grain of salt and strive to develop your own celestial compass instead.
5 Apparently (some) believe that spiritual people can’t have a dark side because that would make them “un-spiritual" and less powerful or trustworthy or respectable. What a load of bollocks! I believe this makes them MORE capable of supporting others, BECAUSE they have experienced a myriad of situations and have shown that they are willing to show up and do some hard yakka when it's required. If you can't do this and expend a lot of energy avoiding facing and integrating your shadow self, you often (unconsciously) end up masking your true feelings with a sweet, ghee-wouldn't-melt-in-my-mouth persona. You can also start manifesting self sacrifice or martyrdom stories as well because the desire to be seen in a particular way by your friends, family and peers, becomes more important than how you see yourself.
Okey dokey. How many resonated for you?
With all that 2020 is offering us, we are all bound to fall off the wagon once in a while, so remind yourself when/if you find yourself falling asana-over-tantra next time, that this is all part of the plan: to experience yourself in human form, in a series of various experiences all designed to reveal who you are.
To support yourself next time something comes up that presents an opportunity for growth, avoid being the SB by trying to cultivate and open mind and heart, with yourself and the others involved. Accept that you do in fact, have a light AND a dark side and that doesn't make you any less of a human OR an inferior teacher/leader/activist/parent. Make time on a regular basis to face your own self delusion and cognitive dissonance - because these sneak up on us all - and look them square in the chops, thanking these aspects of yourself for showing you "the edge of your truth", in each moment. Stay grounded and real by asking people you trust, to keep you "in check" and to let you know when you are going off on a tangent or off the rails without realizing it, because we all need a helping hand now and again.
And most of all, FEEL your feels, acknowledge your pain and don't be embarrassed about sharing it with others because the only way 'out', is 'through', for all of us, and together, we learn, stumble, get back up and transform the BS and the SB, as we go!