People seek modern-day, alternative, spiritual practices for many reasons.
People want safety to show up as themselves first and foremost. No matter how broken, tattered, confused, authentic, different, or raw they are.
They want recognition. They want to see and be seen. They want connection, to hold and be held. They want insight, direction, support, community, resonance, rapture, and a place to belong.
We want spaces to show up and process our cosmic and wild experiences. We want to witness others’ transformations and be seen in our deaths and rebirths as well. We want to bounce ideas about new worlds, past lives, creative pathways, and community building.
We want our hard and human questions to be answered.
We want a bridge from the Earth plane to the cosmos and a tribe to share that road with. We want something to believe in that is ancient, mysterious, expansive, and all-encompassing in its nature—something that is utterly divine and also wholly and fully applicable to the human experience here on the ground.
Deep down, we all crave that space where the totality of us is welcome despite differences. We want a place for our big, vast, expansive, spiritual selves and our tiny, limited human-self to come together and merge in holy matrimony.
Spiritual communities and circles serve this purpose for many.
Together, we have strayed away from abusive, religious circles that demonized or shunned us for having a wider spectrum of beliefs. We have come from lineages and ancestries that taught us to act in a certain way that we inherently and organically reverted from.
We have been the black sheep, the underdogs, the ones who see and feel and know and understand so much more than many of our previous spaces, and today, teachings are reciprocating back to us.
We have escaped abusive relationships, outgrown toxic patterns, have dwelled in deep spaces of liminal in-between, and witnessed some otherworldly magical happenstances.
Many of us have traversed some of the heaviest of hardships and have stories to tell. We have bore witness to our own dream-time prophecies, predictions, and creatrix-like tendencies and have gifts to offer.
We have questions and answers, innovative ideas and offerings. We have visions, prophecies, practices, services, spaces, understandings, and teachings to implement and share.
Our spiritual communities have allowed us to break through the spaces where we didn’t previously fit.
They have allowed us to expand without the fear of being too big, too bold, too loud, or too much. They have given us reassurance and comfort in our confusion and support in our grief. They have allowed us to shed the skin of some of our broken and hurting pieces and summon the bravery and strength to be more with our higher, holy selves.
While I’ve been blessed to witness the upside, I have also just as equally been deep in the shadows.
I have seen and experienced firsthand the shadow side of the new age teachings in spiritual communities.
I wonder if, somewhere along the lines, we have forgotten what we came here and gathered for initially because, more often than not, I find these spaces to be directly mirroring the abusive religious circles many of us slammed the doors on in the first place.
Some of these communities are posing as a threat in the same way those spaces are—if not worse and more.
My concerns with the new age teachings in spiritual communities are growing rampant. There was a time when I thought that as a collective, we were growing beyond these concepts and waking up to the detriments, however, somehow, I find myself circling back to this space.
This obviously tells me that we have work to do.
We not only have predicaments to overcome, but we also have hard realities to face and get through.
Since we were the ones to foster these circles, we have to be the ones to continuously dismantle and rebuild them when they are no longer in service to our highest and best version of humanity.
This means breaking down the teachings and beliefs that are no longer landing for many of us or offering applicability.
This means considering the cancellation of theories that only make sense in our heads but not in everyday, on-the-ground reality.
This means calling out where we have abused our power and used our privileges as leverage to control, manipulate, or hurt others.
This means being honest with ourselves about where we dismiss, bypass, gaslight, or perpetuate further trauma for either ourselves or others. And, at large, this means acknowledging and understanding how we have justified ourselves and others’ behaviors just because they were a part of our community and posed no visual threat.
We need raw and brave f*cking honesty in these circles, fiery and fiercely burning truths. We don’t need any more fluff and glitter. We need to be tender and also confrontational with ourselves and others. We need to be authentic and compassionate to ourselves and others, and yet, we need to call each other out when we have spiraled out too far.
If our spiritual beliefs and practices stray us further away from the realities, concerns, struggles, of others, then we may have gone too far in our privilege and blind separation.
If our spiritual beliefs become something that don’t also meet us in our homes with our families, in our workspace, when interacting with the cashier or the schoolteacher, then we have lost touch with humanity.
Here are some key concepts that many of us are aware of, but I feel are still important to recognize and watch out for when either cultivating or nurturing an already established spiritual group:
1. Spiritual bypassing
Spiritual bypassing can be defined as the use of spiritual practices to avoid facing unresolved issues, wounds, tasks, or the different realities of others.
I have met others who proclaim that there is no longer any such thing as spiritual bypassing. However, in my honest opinion, refusing that spiritual bypassing exists is a privilege and a cop-out.
We are long overdue for simple and honest acknowledgement and recognition toward one another. We can honestly never get enough of that, and we are seriously capable of embodying a deeper level of compassion.
So, why are we abusing our personal leverages to escape aspects of reality?
An example of this would include telling a woman in an abusive relationship that she needs to pray about it instead of offering on-the-ground, practical resources and support.
This is right up there, next to spiritual bypassing. Essentially, we do this by devaluing another person’s experience and not considering it as real.
I see this happen when somebody has endured deep trauma, and we bring up concepts to justify it such as: soul contracts, karma, reality being an illusion, changing perception, and so on.
While those concepts might have truth, they don’t have the substance we need when abuse, trauma, hardships, or challenges are at play. Oftentimes, in these communities, they are right there at the forefront.
We have got to stop taking away the validity of others’ experiences and let their stories and truths be known.
3. Law of attraction
Telling people that they created or attracted their suffering is just complete and utter bullsh*t. This is yet another cop-out and dismissal.
Instead, we need to be getting to the root of our systems, structures, and organizations that support abusers and enablers. Making others try to feel accountable for literally everything takes responsibility away from the perpetrators—which, if you ask me, is the real thing we need to get under control.
4. “The world is your mirror”
No, I’m sorry. It just isn’t. It is another dangerous concept that enables abuse and predation and pours heavy guilt onto victims. I don’t see women being abused because of their unresolved inner- perpetrator issues. I see them being abused because there are assholes in the world whom we need to get under control.
5. Victim consciousness
Before we royally f*cked up the etymology of words, this just simply meant “victimhood.”
Now, because new age teachings have truly inflated their ego, power, and pride, we have twisted it up to mean “somebody who is creating their own suffering.”
Somehow, we have forgotten that there are real victims of domestic and sexual abuse, assault, oppression, poverty, segregation, and so on. We have turned against our own people who want to fight for their rights by insisting yet again that they are somehow responsible for all of their suffering. This, in turn, inflicts more trauma and never holds abusers or systems accountable for the perpetration in the first place.
6. Victim blaming
When we tell a victim “This happened because you weren’t paying enough attention. You kept asking for it. You weren’t taking the appropriate steps. This is actually your fault.”
This takes away an integral piece of real stories that we need to hear when we are breaking down structures that are detrimental to us. Yet again, it perpetuates the cycles of trauma, enables the perpetrators, and avoids support for the victims.
7. Premature forgiveness and forced positivity
“Have you tried forgiving your abuser?”
No. No, he/she hasn’t, and they don’t need to. It’s not their job like whatsoever. How does that help?
“Well, if you just look on the bright side…”
Actually, no. Right now, somebody needs to be with the dark and heavy. It’s called processing emotions and reality. Not only is it of zero value to expand beyond our pain without processing it, but it is incredibly dangerous as well.
8. Lack of boundaries
This falls in line with everything above. You don’t have to be a savior/hero/everyone’s healer/guru-type of spiritual person. It literally is not your job, unless you are getting paid and want that type of work.
We aren’t here to blur lines to make room for everyone or see the childhood wounds and struggles in our abusers, predators, or psychopaths. We don’t have to empathize with those who have hurt us at the risk of our own safety and well-being.
What we need is solid recognition and honoring of our space and boundaries. We need to know it is okay to draw the line, cut people out, say no, and remove ourselves from toxic situations without impeding guilt that we’ve done something wrong for doing so.
9. Unsolicited advice
Spiritual folks are really great at this: telling us what our real struggles, concerns, and withholdings are, when they have never even merely stepped a foot in our shoes, when they have never balanced or dealt with our own personal struggles. It usually is something like: “Have you tried praying? Maybe don’t work two jobs. I think this is teaching you something.”
Unsolicited advice is usually a violation of one’s space and boundaries. It is also a passive way of saying: “I know what is best for you, although I am not you.”
Come on, seriously. Let’s not.
10. Energy siphoning/leaks
Unfortunately, I feel this one goes without saying and stands directly next to lack of boundaries.
In spiritual spaces, we tend to open up to higher truths and possibilities. When we get there, we just need to be sure that we aren’t taking on other people’s stuff.
You know, their unprocessed emotions and pain. We don’t have to process other people’s emotions, and we don’t have to hold free space for others.
We need to hold one another accountable for doing that on our own.
When we don’t tend to our own energetic hygiene, we tend to allow others to harvest on our energetic life force and set up camp in our auric field.
This leads to lethargy, heaviness, unwanted emotions, and ultimately, a door for predation. And predation is a whole other subject in itself when it comes to observing and watching out for the shadows in spiritual communities.
At large, we have got to be accountable for our energy and behavior and hold others responsible for theirs as well.
And if you ask me, we have to make our beliefs and practices something that will make us better conduits of the divine, not just for ourselves but for one another, in service. If, at any point, our practices have turned us astray from humanity, then we must largely reconsider, deepen, integrate, and truly face our shadows.