Do you think spiritual people shouldn’t be angry?
Is your friend still sleeping on your couch even though he said he’d only stay for three days (and you haven’t said a word)? Are you helping out at the weekly event again even though you’re sick as a dog? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this list is for you.
Now that we are exposed to many paths through the magic of the internet, we absorb spiritual ideas from different levels of consciousness. What’s true at one level may not be true at the level we’re hearing it.
Here are 10 often misunderstood ideas that can block our deeper awakening.
1. Be a good person.
We don’t have to try to be good. The more we get to the truth of who we are, the more goodness we express. Covering self-doubt or self-loathing with a veneer of niceness makes us untrustworthy. Others can sense the fakery, even if they can’t articulate it. For example, when I call my mother because I should, the conversation stays superficial and I can’t wait to get off the phone. But when I call her because I want to, the conversation connects and I’m in no rush to leave.
2. Be selfless.
Trying to be selfless is a recipe for disaster. It’s like walking around with a sign on our foreheads saying, “Use me.” When Bill Withers sings it, it’s hot because the singer feels right with his desire to be used. When we’re trying to be selfless because we want approval, it’s not hot.
3. Your teacher, priest, rabbi, imam, or shaman knows better than you.
If your teacher isn’t teaching you how to uncover your own wisdom, get away. Teachers are necessary because they are further down the road. They see where you are and what you need for growth, but if they encourage dependency and leave you disempowered, nope.
4. You must always communicate with kindness and compassion.
About 15 years ago, I encountered “nonviolent communication.” While the technique itself has merit, the person using it said the nonviolent words while trying to passive-aggressively control the whole room. Spiritual communication techniques, if co-opted by covert needs, don’t make us less of an asshole. In fact, they make us more of one because we’re pretending to be all love and light when we’re not.
5. Spiritual means orderly and calm.
For control freaks (my people!), there’s a fine line between doing every action from a place of devotion, and micromanaging our environment to make it perfect before we can get centered. Yes, it feels better when the yoga mats all line up and the bed is made, but the universe couldn’t care less. Let’s stop outsourcing our need for order on God. Have you ever felt the holiness of a Prince concert at Madison Square Garden, every musician playing full out, the crowd screaming with joy? Have you seen the apparent chaos that is the natural world, the way it works without our intervention?
6. Your truth is what matters.
The need to assert our truth can also disguise a need for control. If everyone thinks their truth is the truth, then we compete to out-truth each other, sacrificing real listening and depth. When it comes from our deepest self that is one with everyone’s deepest self, truth just is. Nobody’s dying to hear what our egos come up with as our truth of the day, but many people are dying to feel connected at that deeper level where our shared truth resides.
7. You’re above messy emotions.
Emotions are not problematic, but our reactions to them are. I thought I was chill until I got feedback from a friend that he experienced a painful, high-pitched whine when I got uptight and clamped a lid on it. If we express our emotions in real time, they eventually come out less messy and pass like a cloud on a windy day. Down the road, we can choose when to express—not because we’re pretending to be someone we’re not, but because we can feel what each moment calls for.
8. Do nothing. God or the universe will bring you your good.
Sometimes it’s right to do nothing and wait for clarity, and sometimes it’s passivity and a refusal to take responsibility for our lives. We are not beggars waiting for crumbs from an unreliable universe. Our desires, if they come from our deepest self, are God’s desires. It’s on us to do the work to align with our deepest self and act from there. An external God has nothing to do with it.
9. What’s mine is yours.
In the grand scheme, yes. But if we’re letting folks walk all over us in the name of being spiritual, it’s time to learn to set boundaries. Being generous from a place of overflow is divine; being generous from the need to be liked is not. I once lent someone $5,000, though a little voice said not to, because I wanted to be liked. After paying a small portion back, she left town and never paid back the rest, even after getting a large settlement from her former job. I learned a good lesson: to listen to that little voice instead of my need to be liked.
10. Kill your ego.
For all my driven perfectionists (oh hey, tribe!), don’t punish yourself when your ego or shadow shows up. Don’t wield insight like a two-by-four toward yourself or anyone else. Freedom and awakening happen gradually, and we are already perfect in our imperfection. When we notice the next thing in an endless series of f*cked up things about ourselves, let’s welcome it and ask it what it wants, what fear it has at its core. Let’s celebrate that we now have more freedom to make conscious choices and be less of an asshole, which is more than enough.
Author: Marie-Elizabeth Mali
Image: Jem Yoshioka/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Lieselle Davidson