The spiritual critic: most of us have met them. Many of us have been one at some point, or maybe are one now.
Often the spiritual critic is unaware of this trait within his or herself. If you talk with them about it they may rationalize their behavior as the yogic way, explaining away any “holier than thou” judgment they may be sharing by quoting the yoga sutras, a rule in Sanskrit (Indo-Aryan) literature.
Inevitably, as we walk a spiritual and yogic path to self-realization, many things come up and questions arise. Through the questioning, we often find ourselves faced with things that no longer serve us. The only road to take is to change and alter our behavior. As we change, old habits begin to fall away and are replaced by new practices.
We begin to see the world with new eyes.
The sense of self begins to associate more with this new way of being and before we know it, what is healthy can become toxic if the ego sneaks in and attaches itself to your new role as: activist, yogi, vegan, devotee, teacher, student, healer, Buddhist…etc.
I recently attended a satsang (Sanskrit for true company, a gathering of teaching and learning the “highest truth”) and the question came up:
How do we travel our own spiritual path without dragging others along with us?
Our families and friends may not feel pulled to be yogis or vegetarians or eco conscious. They may not care about the earth or animal rights the way we do now. How do we exist with these people whom we care about and not alienate them in the process?
The answer is really simple: lead by example.
I had friends who were vegetarians before I was. I continued to eat meat and they never judged me. They never made me feel bad about my choice. They did their thing and I did mine. Over time, I was affected by this and was essentially drawn in by their quiet consistency. It motivated me.
“It is more important what comes out of the mouth than what goes in.”
Friendships often change as we go through a period of spiritual maturity. New people show up in our life and some past relationships fall away naturally as priorities shift. The family members and old friends that stick around present a golden opportunity to “walk our talk”.
We are divine beings that have chosen a human experience as a way of matriculating through our karma, or past life mistakes. We are here to work it all out so we don’t have to keep coming back to repeat it. All our paths are unique as we all have different lessons to learn. The world of Maya (Sanskrit for illusion) is designed to distract and move us off of our existential path. This is where we have the opportunity to use our wisdom guided will.
Through spiritual practice our intuition becomes stronger, it is then easier to discern when faced with temptation. Your friend or loved one may not have all these tools of strength available to them yet. Instead of being critical of their choice, choose to be empathetic. Opt to bless them and to hold them in the light.
I live in Los Angeles and one of the things you cannot avoid here is driving. And for me, driving is still one thing that can push my button if I allow it. Traffic is unpredictable, people are distracted and everyone seems to be in a terrible rush. The aggression many exhibit when powering a vehicle is a symptom of what they are feeling inside.
When I step back and allow myself to observe it all like the “cosmic dance” it is it does not affect me. And I remind myself “They know not what they do.”When the car next to me cuts me off I don’t take it personally. They are doing the best that they can with the tools they have available. And it has nothing to do with me. I can only adjust my reaction to it.
Practice compassionate detachment.
Next time someone you care about comes to you with a dramatic problem, listen with open mindedness. Ask yourself before wading in with opinion:
Is what I am about to offer true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?
If we all asked ourselves these three questions before speaking, so much misunderstanding and pain could be avoided. Then, detach. Trust the person has the resources to arrive at the answer they are seeking.
By practicing compassionate detachment, you are protecting yourself while honoring the other person in knowing and accepting the truth for them: that everything they need is within.
Remind yourself that it is not your role, nor should it be your mission to change people. Meditate on truth and you will become a channel of divine will, only to succeed — never to harm, and the spiritual critic will naturally fade away, only to be replaced with peace.
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Asst. Ed: Meagan Edmondson/Ed: Bryonie Wise