Albert Einstein said, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”
This statement feels appropriate to the way I walk through the world right now. I am reading the book, Spiritual Bypassing, by Robert Augustus Masters (I highly recommend it!) and I am coming to terms with how frequently I attempt to bypass my body and mind using spiritual ideas.
I remember going through a traumatic experience and constantly looking for the lesson in it rather than simply going through the pain of it. I was waiting to see what the experience meant, or what I was going to learn or how going through this trauma was going to make me a better person and teacher. I used my spiritual and meditation practice to move away from the pain to the treasure that awaited after the pain was gone. This bypassed the very real pain I was in though in order to focus on the time after the pain.
I share with students when I teach lovingkindness that I used this practice for years to dissociate from my anger. I could do this meditation practice while angry and repeat the phrases, “May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be at peace.” Soon enough I was not angry anymore, and for years I believed this was a good thing. I do not believe this anymore because anger can be a force for good, for resistance, for motivation and for creating change. Yes, it can also be destructive, abusive and oppressive, but anger does not have to be those things.
This weekend I had a wonderful massage, and near the end of our time our conversation turned to Trump. The kind and compassionate therapist shared he believed we needed to love Trump. He shared that Trump was providing us with an opportunity to look into our individual and collective shadows. The commonly heard spiritual message of “Love trumps hate,” feels like a bypass to me. I shared I needed to do the opposite right now. I needed to own and claim my anger because I have used love, compassion and spirituality to move away from it, away from action and away from looking at pain and trauma in my individual life as well as the collective world.
Yoga is about wholeness. The root of the word comes from yoke, and union is another common translation. When we are whole we are not just love and light and healing and happiness. If we are to truly hold all the parts of ourselves it means holding our anger, rage, divisiveness, fear and hatred just as we hold the parts of ourselves that we enjoy and we want to project into the world.
This book is both inspiring and frustrating as it shows me ways I continue to use my practice to leave myself instead of come towards myself more fully. The frustration comes from spiritual bypass itself because I should be above and beyond spiritual bypass. The inspiration comes from the honesty that I can look at myself and see there are more layers to peel back, and there always will be. From that inspiration comes gratitude for the teachers, books, students, friends and family who help me grow my consciousness, awareness and capacity to look with clear seeing (as clearly as I can) at myself. I do not know if this gratitude is another way of wiggling out of discomfort into bypassing, and I will attempt to be open to comes next.
If you are curious about the intersections of spirituality, spiritual bypass and social and racial justice check out the new on-line book club, Moving with Balance Towards Racial Justice, Genevieve Hicks and I are co-facilitating starting Thursday, March 30.