Spiritual bypass and the more I learn, the less I know.

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.

Retreat from the world or into the world?

A couple of weekends ago I had the opportunity to lead 7 souls on a retreat focused on lovingkindness. It was a beautiful weekend of connection and solitude, soothing and challenging ourselves, being immersed in beauty and nourished by amazing food.

One person said, “Thank you for holding this exceptionally enlightening and powerful retreat. You gave me something powerful, and I am so much stronger and healthier emotionally and physically because of it.”

I adore leading retreats, and I have been feeling pulled in another direction. This year is my 10th anniversary for the Embracing Balance Retreat, and it was my very first retreat I led after only 2 years of teaching. I loved retreats so much that at certain points in the last 10 years I wanted to run a retreat center. When I dive into something I dive in all the way!

A couple months ago I reached out to the over 100 people who came on the Embracing Balance Retreat to let them know this was going to be the last year. I felt called to do something else, but I was not sure what. Honestly, I am still not entirely sure, and I am excited to live into what emerges.

After this past lovely and inspiring retreat I am ready to take a complete break from leading residential retreats. The last year and half has been intense, and I am learning to listen to what that intensity to trying to teach me. Right now it is telling me to stay in the world. Work with folks in town, do workshops and retreats that keep us engaged in our daily lives rather than taking us away from our lives.

This is not to discount the power of removing ourselves for our world for a period of time. In fact, the retreats I lead often fund my own personal retreats. So thank you for coming on retreat and supporting my time for restoration, awareness and re-filling my bucket so I can come back even more engaged!
Most likely, I will feel pulled to lead retreats again. I am interested in listening to these internal forces that are talking to me, and to see where they lead me.

For now I am honored and excited to see you for the last residential retreat, Embracing Balance, May 19-21, and I look forward to the first daylong retreat on March 18, focusing on Equanimity.

If you have never been on retreat, I encourage you give yourself this gift (whether residential or daylong). Retreats offer us time to slow down, unplug from the external to tune into the internal, restore and rejuvenate our systems and take the time to tune into how we want to be in the world and where we want to direct our unique gifts.