L E T T E R from Jac – Spiritual Bypassing – The Broad Place

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L E T T E R from Jac – Spiritual Bypassing

Spiritual Bypassing if you’re unfamiliar with it, is very common. It’s when spirituality is appropriated in order to avoid deeper emotional challenges, true transformation,  and doing the actual work of understanding yourself as a human being. John Welwood created the term decades back, describing ‘Spiritual bypassing is a term I coined to describe a process I saw happening in the Buddhist community I was in, and also in myself. Although most of us were sincerely trying to work on ourselves, I noticed a widespread tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks.” 

Spiritual Bypassing presents as ‘being optimistic’ in the face of a crisis. There’s nothing wrong with being optimistic, but when it’s used as a way to bypass real emotions and experiences, or to tell someone in a hierarchal fashion to ’see the positive’, it’s just plain spiritual bypass. It’s when spirituality becomes a crutch in someones life, instead of encouraging courage, bravery and love. It’s when someone’s behaviour is ethically wrong, but you are told to ‘be less judgmental’. It’s passive aggression towards anyone that doesn’t hold the same views as you. It’s when someone is being a bigot but signs off ‘love and light’. Spiritual Bypassing usually involves someone losing their moral compass and accepting behaviours they would never accept in other areas of life, because they are ‘trying to learn the Universal lesson in this one’. It can also present as self delusion and grandeur in teachers, and is usually used as a means of suppressing students. It is attachment to a teacher, or Guru, and failing to take the teachings and integrate them, but just continue on a treadmill of the teachings. It’s when spiritual teachers abuse their position of power in regards to their treatment of their students. It’s in statements like ‘we shouldn’t even have to self isolate, people just need to drink more juices and take better care of their immunity’. It comes at times with Cognitive Dissonance where you have an uneasy feeling ’something isn’t right’ but might be scolded for thinking that way by a community. It’s always, always, ego-based thinking.  As a note, Spiritual Bypass is something I am very familiar with having done it. I think it’s incredibly important right now to understand it. We are in the face of a pandemic, global anti-racism movements, and huge social movements, and spiritual bypassing is RIFE right now. 

We can’t meditate and yoga our way to a more equal society, but we can meditate AND also act. Change and evolution is why people engage in spirituality in the first place, so it’s time to take that intention into more action than involving just oneself. 

Jac x

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