December 21, 2019

Spiritual Bypassing & Bullsh*tting: the Holier-than-Thou Facade of “Enlightened” Culture.

At times I find myself overwhelmed by this spiritual/wellness industry I’ve stumbled into—weaving in and out of trying to integrate and trying to break free.

Free of all the expectations of what it is to be “on the path” in this consumer-driven world today.

The world around that often seems so fake. The world around, I see straight through, yet feel so strongly pulled toward.

Finding myself in the Mecca of it all, Ubud, Bali, surrounded by so many others “on the path.” Clad in yoga pants on trend, with some yoga teacher training proudly in hand. Leading this retreat, that retreat, on some raw vegan/macro diet someone swears by. Self-professed “blissed out” yogis, speaking of enlightenment, as though it’s some sort of magical experience they’ve lived or some destination they’re well on their way toward.

Yet somehow, still, so many of us with this longing in our eyes, this void in our hearts, on the search, wanting more, doing more, pushing more, filling our time and minds with more, more, more.

And as I sit here in this café, flyers upon flyers of healing courses plastered on the walls, observing and listening to those around, reflecting on my own journey, my own healing quest, my own struggle, I begin to question it all.

What exactly are we looking for? Did our studies teach us nothing? Enlightenment is not something we can buy or sell. Enlightenment is not another goal to chase. Enlightenment is our very nature—that childlike, “free to be” state, before all social conditioning and external noise began to cloud our minds.

True “enlightenment” comes when we learn to be still, through welcoming all experiences, honoring the cyclical beings that we are, the beautiful, multidimensional natural disasters, created to feel, created to express, created to break time and time again, only to rebuild stronger, collecting all wisdom needed along the way.

Real bliss is not all bliss, for with bliss comes equal pain, equal suffering. You simply cannot have one without the other. True bliss is experienced once we learn to know and honor ourselves—our entire selves—the “good,” the “bad,” and the “ugly,” exactly as we are, in the moment.

There’s no need to search. There’s no need to do anything, really, other than relax into our being and make the choice to experience all life hands us with an open heart and open mind, continuing to move forward, one day at a time.

But sh*t, that’s all too simple. Simply uncomfortable. Simply challenging in this demanding, competitive world, where the pressure to be doing it all is strong. In a world where everyone seems to be selling us something, promising to change our lives.

In a time when the problems of the world can sometimes seem too heavy to handle, fueling our need to self-medicate, chase, and distract, in order to deal with life, our emotions, and this noisy external environment we find ourselves in today.

Surely there must be something to help us along the way.

So, we search. Search for tools to help us walk through life. This healer, that shaman, course after course, book after book, guru after guru. Hungry for more. Teach me how to be. Teach me how to be in this crazy world today. Tell me it’s okay. Tell me I’m doing enough to make a difference.

So, we create, express, and share all that we learn, in the hopes it will help another on the quest to know and love all of who they are.

The intention is often beautiful. But sometimes, this intention gets distorted along the way.

Often, as knowledge grows, judgment (I’m holier than thou), competition (my practice is better than your practice), and greed (more money, more followers, more knowledge) begin to rear their ugly heads, leading to further separation, taking us further from truth, further from love, further from peace, further from the unity our planet so desperately needs.

Often, as influence builds, ego follows, with “spiritual masters” sexually abusing and exploiting their followers at an alarming rate; offering trainings at ridiculously high prices; creating rigid, cult-like rules; hindering those from truly connecting with their own inner guide in an ego-driven, misguided attempt to share ancient teachings created to do anything but that.

Ah yes, the ego is one hell of a powerful force. A force within us all, no matter how many hours we mediate or how many “Oms” we chant—the ego is the force responsible for much of the chaos in the world today.

And much to my dismay, even within this spiritual world I find myself struggling to find my place in, even in this world of “wellness,” the ego—my ego, our ego—is still alive and well.

It’s tricky. There really is a fine line when sharing/selling anything, but particularly in the realm of  “spirituality” and “wellness.” A fine line that often gets crossed.

According to the Global Wellness Institute, “the wellness market, encompassing fitness, skin care, travel and nutrition was valued at $4.2 trillion in 2017.” And while I’d love to say this shift in focus toward health and wellness is all positive, it saddens me to see so many with more tools than ever struggling to center and find their way.

“Spiritual bypassing” (a term coined by psychologist John Welwood) refers to ways spiritual ideas, yoga, and other practices are used to avoid/prematurely transcend psychological wounds and low self-esteem as an alternative to working through the wounded aspects of our psyche. It is an alluring and dangerous shortcut that many of us “on the path” have taken or been tempted by before.

It’s a route frequently found in this Western world of yoga, where “enlightenment” and yogic practices are often sold as a way to escape or alleviate our suffering. It’s a phenomenon influencing much of what’s being shared and sold today. Scroll though social media for a minute, and, chances are, you’ll see it.

Ahh yes, good ol’ social media, that addictively powerful little tool most of us are, admittedly, on way too much, watching the often heavily filtered lives of those around us. The digital world that often leaves out the messier realness of this human experience, dangerously distorting the standards built into our minds.

And while I don’t want to discount social media’s ability to help us share and see real and inspiring messages, it’s important to recognize its capacity to be just another hurdle from truly being present and aware though the realness of life.

In my own personal experience, it’s surely been a challenge to both recognize and stay true to that inner voice and my own unique path, without being influenced, pressured, or distracted by all the noise we tend to want to fill our lives with.

Which brings me to question it all.

What are we selling? What are our true intentions in sharing what we share?

But most importantly, what are we buying into? What are we filling our time with and why? Who and what are we allowing into our minds? One of my favorite teachers once shared: “We allow people into our minds that we’d never allow into our home”—which really hit home.

Because ultimately, it’s up to us. We hold the power. We always have the choice to take small steps to change whatever it is we want to in our lives. We have the choice to tune it out. We have the choice to do the work and trudge though the murky depths of our being.

So while at times I’m turned off by the very “scene” that drew me in, deep down I see its purpose and recognize its role in my journey.

Deep down, I know what a privilege it is to have been able to dive deeper—deeper into my pain, deeper into my weaknesses, deeper into the layers of my ever-present ego, learning so many valuable lessons along the uncomfortable way.

Deep down, I know privilege equals responsibility. Responsibility to continue sharing all that is learnt in a way that creates space for others to reconnect with their own inner guide—paying forward what my teachers have taught me. Responsibility to continue sharing that regardless of where we are in life, we are all in this together.

Continue stumbling along, no idea where I’m going, trusting that all the right lessons, wisdom, and resources will continue to flow my way.

Continue working to build awareness as I walk through this life, using the breath to return to calm when my mind begins to whirl, using gentle movement to move stuck energy through my body, using nutritious food and plants to fuel my being, using all the teachings and tools gathered, as I continue along this journey.

I’m so grateful for those who’ve been brave enough to step outside what’s comfortable, outside of what sells and really speak the messy truth. The truth that this path of life is one hell of a bumpy road, that ultimately, we know best how to navigate. The truth that there’s no better place to be in life or our spiritual evolution than where we are right now.

I’m continually inspired by bold leaders in the industry, demonstrating it’s indeed possible to walk that fine line of selling wellness with grace—those sharing the much-needed tools from the heart, helping us needing support along the way, those truly living the yoga.

Thank you to those teachers who work hard to create space for us to unite with our own inner guides and with so many other beautiful souls on the path. I leave Bali once again, feeling deeply that we’re all in this together and it’s indeed all okay.

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