WHEN SPIRITUAL BYPASS BECOMES SPIRITUAL MALPRACTICE, PART 2

“Racism and spiritual bypassing are harmful in and of themselves, and their combination compounds the harm. Add gaslighting (LINK), and you’ve got an exponentially toxic brew. In this case, the manipulative elements and dizzying doublespeak were staggering. There were acknowledgements that racism had in fact occurred, followed by denials that it did, round and round. There were fauxpologies followed by defending, round and round. There were expressions of caring for those who had been hurt, immediately followed by not-so-subtle digs at them, round and round.”

~ Camille Williams,

When Spiritual Bypassing Meets Racism Meets Gaslighting (LINK)

GASLIGHT - American Poster 6

The term GASLIGHTING comes from this film.

In Part 1 of this series (LINK), we explored the phenomenon of spiritual bypassing and its effect on individuals and groups. I referenced the article by Robert Augustus Masters, PhDSpiritual Bypassing: Avoidance in Holy Drag (LINK). I encourage you to read Part 1 and the Masters’ article before reading this post, which follows up on ideas already presented.

The focus of my book, CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY (LINK), and of much of this blog, is to promote healthy spiritual leadership in New Thought (and other) spiritual communities, in part by writing about the difficult, often overlooked areas which deeply affect how spiritual leaders operate, and how followers perceive leadership. For a spiritual community to be in alignment with the creation of #TheBelovedCommunity, it must have both healthy leadership and healthy followership.

The second article referenced in Part 1 is a powerful one by Camille Williams, a blogger and essayist. In When Spiritual Bypassing Meets Racism Meets Gaslighting (LINK), she takes a dive into some of the most difficult places in spiritual communityracism and Gaslighting, as affected by spiritual bypassing. Her article focuses on an online exchange on spirituality, but one can easily see the same dynamics in a spiritual community of any denomination. Note that all of these negative issues arise from a lack of emotional and spiritual intelligence in one or more of the parties involved. Healing is needed and involves deep personal work, both individually and within the community.

“Willingness to push past our discomfort in these situations (spiritual bypassing & racism) is literally the rock bottom least of our responsibilities, considering the risks, abuses and indignities black and brown people and other marginalized groups live with on a daily basis. I think it helps to give some thought beforehand to different ways we might respond, so that when it happens we can think on our feet and not freeze in deer-in-the-headlights fashion.”

~ Camille Williams

When you read Ms. Williams article, note the many resources at the bottom. She also writes:

“If spirituality is an important part of your life (as it is for me), and/or if you place a high value on positive thinking, and especially if you’re a Law of Attraction enthusiast, please read about spiritual bypassing beyond the paragraph definition. . .. We need to understand the nature of this thing so we can actively avoid it, especially if the thing being bypassed, denied or oversimplified is the reality of systemic oppression and how it impacts people from marginalized groups. Side benefit: understanding this can help us deal with everything else in our own lives more skillfully, too”

~ Camille Williams

Those of us in New Thought can be particularly susceptible to spiritual bypassing for a few reasons.

  1. Our emphasis on positive thinking and how our thoughts create our experience of reality can lead us to fail to recognize unhealthy behaviors and attitudes. It’s easy to live in denial by saying things like “It’s ALL Good!
  2. Our unconscious biases can easily overlook the experience of those outside our race, gender, or class. Privilege exists in the unconscious and often manifests in New Thought as a failure to take into consideration anything beyond one’s thoughts as cause to their experience. Instead of, or in addition to, the common question, “What about a baby born with a disease?” we might also ask, “What about someone born as an oppressed person, or into a subculture with no access to New Thought principles?” To fail to consider this is to diminish the experience of many people, triggering feelings of guilt and shame and perhaps “otherness.” It might help to explain why New Thought is less diverse than it could be.
  3. In New Thought curricula (as far as I have experienced) we do not teach opposing points of view, except perhaps to denigrate them. A prescient post by Harriet Hawkins speaks to this (LINK). Unlike, say, the Jesuits, we are not taught to be critical thinkers regarding our teaching(s) as they relate to other worldviews. This can lead us to become unquestioning and refuse to see the limits of some aspects of our philosophy.
  4. We want everyone to feel good all the time, so we often refuse to acknowledge issues and experiences which do not reflect that desire. We tend to have a high tolerance for dysfunction and a low tolerance for ambivalence and we tend to want to see all worldviews as equally valid, even when there is evidence to the contrary.

None of this is to say that all spiritual bypassing leads to serious dysfunction, although it is produced by dysfunction. But, serious dysfunction will rarely occur in an atmosphere of spiritual authenticity. The reasons above make many of us more open to spiritual bypassing to avoid what is unpleasant or difficult. It can also reinforce our unconscious biases, leading to behaviors which marginalize othersracism, sexism, or “otherness.” These are very often major factors when spiritual communities go into crisis or decline.

“All great spirituality is about what we do with our pain. If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it to those around us.”

~ Richard Rohr

 

“One way of measuring ego-strength and maturity of personality is to assess a person’s capacity to tolerate ambivalence. This capacity is closely related to the ability to feel empathy. It is all about tolerating otherness.”

~ Heidi M. Kolb

All of this comes together as a self-perpetuating system of unconscious behaviors, limiting our ability to really see ourselves and others, to feel empathy and express compassion, to be deeply present for others in our spiritual community and elsewhere.

SHADOW – PROJECTION – DENIAL – SPIRITUAL BYPASSING – NEED FOR CERTAINTY – EXCLUSION OF OTHERS – DENIAL – SHADOW – PROJECTION – DENIAL . . .  THE CYCLE CONTINUES.

Until we interrupt it.

While this must begin within each person, it is also a systemic issue – our culture is weighted with limited thinking and spiritual bypassing. It is time to face this and begin the process of leaving this particular set of limitations behind us. We will never be perfect at this, but we will get better at it. We know that we have no fear of a greater Truth being revealed – we welcome the healing potential of spiritual disruption!

As always, your comments are welcomed below. Please feel free to share this post with others who may be interested. If you like, you can sign up to follow the blog above and receive an email whenever a new post is published.

 

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 NOTE: I referred to an article by Robert Augustus Masters, and to several quotes from that article in Part 1 of this series in this post. At the time, I was generally unfamiliar with his work, other than an article on spiritual bypassing. I have since learned that he has admitted to abuse of students and members of a group which he led. I will not be referring to him or to his work again. – Jim Lockard October 2018

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A NEW YEAR’S REVOLUTION – SOME THOUGHTS AS 2017 ENDS

“It’s the end of 2017. Time to start making a New Year’s Revolution.”

~ Michael Ian Black on Twitter

I keep edging toward a realization that what we need – in New Thought spiritual community and in the larger world – is not just change but transformation. Think of change as rearranging the furniture and transformation, or revolutionary change as building a new house. We need revolutionary change, because the complexities of the world have grown and continue to grow at a rate which is outpacing our ability to effectively manage them. We are losing whatever coherence we have had with the rate of cultural change, and our organizations and communities are dissipating (coming apart). If that dissipation continues without evolutionary leadership to help the new emergence of what is next, then . . .

So-What-Am-I-Supposed-to-Do-HEADER

If 2017 has taught us anything it is that our manifestation of New Thought philosophy has often been inadequate to the challenges of our times. We are losing ground in many ways. A quick answer to this might be something to the effect of “Good! The system is breaking down – it NEEDS to break down – and we will keep doing what we are doing until the new system replaces it.”

While that answer may be both quick and satisfying, it is woefully inadequate. The earth is moving beneath our feet – tectonic changes are emerging in cultural evolution and those who are not riding the crest of change are falling farther and farther behind. Those people are angry, they are speaking out – sometimes violently, and they are even more inadequately prepared for what is coming than those “crest-riders” mentioned above. 2017 has shown these things in definitive fashion.

“The manifestation of emotional and psychosomatic symptoms is the beginning of a healing process through which the organism is trying to free itself from traumatic imprints and simplify its functioning. . . . when properly understood and supported, this process can be conducive to healing, spiritual opening, personality transformation, and evolution of consciousness.”

~ Stanislav Grof, Shift Magazine, June-August 2004

One way to transform our thinking is to see the “manifestation of symptoms” as an early stage of healing. This is true in cultural terms as well. We collectively face challenges which include political corruption, mass poverty, ecological devastation, terrorism, the refugee crisis, structural racism and sexism; the root causes for all of these issues are deeply and systemically cultural. The symptoms of these challenges, and the social and economic discrimination related to them are evidence of a deep universal pattern of healing attempting to emerge. Just as we often personally react with denial when symptoms arise, our culture fights the appearance of symptoms, delaying or denying any healing which may take place. Our Shadows, both individual and collective, hold us in place, driving us to try first to “return to normal” – an impossibility, but when we are in denial we lack clarity.

Poster - Jung - Shadow

“Any serious spiritual work brings up the shadow, the rejected parts of your own psyche, which have to be faced and accepted. It’s the process of inner purification. Other spiritual paths may focus on purification through diet or yoga or good living or correcting bad habits. Our particular Sufi path has a very strong psychological element, and the purification is analogous to Jung’s ‘shadow work’ in which the rejected parts of one’s psyche come to the surface to be confronted, loved and accepted. This begins the process of transformation. As Jung said, ‘One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.’ Then he humorously added, ‘The latter process, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.’”

~ Llewellyn Vaughan Lee

There is a temptation for students of New Thought philosophies to express their fear and denial by practicing a form of magical thinking – something to the effect of “it’s all good!” The confusion here is that while it IS all good at the level of Spirit, we are the ones responsible for manifesting good at the level of our own reality. The world is not going to heal itself without a shift in consciousness, just as you are not going to heal your own issues without a shift in consciousness. And any shift of any real depth is not going to happen without some profound and rigorous psychological and emotional work. Our real challenges are not surface challenges, they call forward our deepest selves.

“There is a lack of spiritual leadership in the world right now, so we shouldn’t be concerned what the world thinks of us. We have a religious concept that will revolutionize the world and we just need to stick with it.

“Persistence will bring success, but it is a positive persistence that keeps affirming spiritual reality in spite of material effect. This means continually using ‘constructive rather than destructive conversation,’ seeing the Divine in every person and surrendering the mind in complete abandonment to the idea of success regardless of relative condition or opinion.”

~Ernest Holmes, 1933 Commentaries: Lesson Seven

Here Dr. Holmes uses persistence as a term for rigorous and continual work. It is not merely “holding a positive thought,” in fact, we are taught not to hold thoughts at all – they must flow. What we seek is a continual and persistent stream of uplifting and powerfully emotional thoughts which flow into the creative process and become our belief system. Then, we naturally act from this new belief system and our experience is transformed.

“Living a life of fulfillment that offers something of value to the world starts with radical self-knowledge, self-awareness and self-acceptance. Our task is to be who we are at the deepest level of being “

 ~ Oriah Mountain Dreamer, THE DANCE

 

Beautiful Dance

We keep doing our spiritual work to elevate to the next level of development, and the next, and the next. There is no arriving, there is only the journey. The journey is either going somewhere or staying in place, and the universe does not accept staying in place, does it? The key role of spiritual community today and in the future is to be places where such deep transformational work can be done in a safe and supportive environment. What the world needs now is empowered and realized evolutionary souls to contribute to an expanding consciousness of compassion, love, and service. It needs a #NewYearsRevolution.

“The 20th century was the Age of Introspection, when self-help and therapy culture encouraged us to believe that the best way to understand who we are and how to live was to look inside ourselves. But it left us gazing at our own navels. The 21st century should become the Age of Empathy, when we discover ourselves not simply through self-reflection, but by becoming interested in the lives of others. We need empathy to create a new kind of revolution. Not an old-fashioned revolution built on new laws, institutions, or policies, but a radical revolution in human relationships.”

~ Roman Krznaric

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 

NOTE: I am honored to be a keynote speaker at BE THE VOICE FOR POSITIVE CHANGE GATHERING, an event in San Diego, California – January 19-21.

Here is a link if you are interested:

http://www.lornabright.com/gathering/

Positive Gathering Jan 2018

 

THRIVING SKILL: EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

“You are, after all, what you think. Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.”

~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is both a quality and a skill. It is a quality in that you possess it, at least in potential, naturally; it is a skill in that it requires cultivation and attention to manifest at high levels. I have blogged about it several times (LINK).

Daniel Goleman defines emotional intelligence (LINK) as “The capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.” EQ is one of multiple intelligences that we have as human beings. It is among the most important. It is different from IQ, or math and verbal intelligence. Have you ever known someone who was really smart intellectually, but really bad at relationships? That person probably has a high IQ and a low EQ. EQ forms the basis for Spiritual Intelligence (SQ) (LINK) which is essential for those on any kind of advanced spiritual path.

SQ21 Intelligences Pyramid

From DEEPCHANGE.com

“There is no change from darkness to light or from inertia to movement without emotion.”

~ C.G. Jung

Most of our human problems in relationships and in dealing with human issues (politics anyone?) are due to some lack of development in EQ. I call it a Thriving Skill because it is so essential to relationships of all kinds and, more importantly, to the development of true compassion (LINK).

Poster - Compassion - Hoffer Quote

Consider your experience on social media. Have you seen any evidence of a lack of emotional maturity there? Of course – in fact, our online discourse is filled with examples of people who cannot direct their emotions, and who fall prey to their most vile beliefs and actions under the relative anonymity of social media. Imagine Facebook or Twitter with a high level of EQ. It would be a very different experience. And, of course, there are many examples of high EQ online – but you must use your Thriving Skill of Discernment (LINK) to find and connect with them. This is very important in this time of great cultural transition.

“The central reality of our times is that we are in such a transition moment. This is not an easy moment as already human suffering and environment loss are widespread. It is not a guaranteed transition, as it will require tremendous human creativity, emotional intelligence, and spiritual strength.”

~ Mary Evelyn Tucker and Brian Swimme

The challenges in working with EQ are, first, how to increase one’s own level of EQ, and second, how to inspire others to increase their own. A paradox is that when one’s EQ needs development, one often resists either by being in denial about the truth and claiming high EQ for themselves, or by expressing pride in their low EQ – being rude, harsh, controlling and otherwise destructive. It is challenging for leaders to work to improve the overall EQ of a group or organizations – it can be a very touchy subject. Assuming that the leader(s) has a good degree of EQ, then a good approach can be a combination of modeling high EQ and setting agreed-upon standards for human conduct that will reflect higher EQ (whether that has been actualized or not). Through practice of adhering to such standards (such as: we are all respectful toward one another during meetings), EQ can be developed.

Wings Clipped

We must remember that very few of us had strong EQ modeled for us growing up. If you think about how many adults in your childhood expressed a high degree of EQ, the number will probably be small. If not, good for you! So we must assume that many of the people in our spiritual communities have a need to develop greater levels of EQ, including those in leadership. If we all had higher levels of EQ, our prayer-treatment request lists would be much smaller. Often what is needed is to pray for greater EQ for yourself and those on your prayer list.

“Back of nearly every discord or disorder, there is some subjective complex, or mental knot, that needs to be untied; generally, some suppressed emotion, which perhaps is centered around the affections – the likes and dislikes, the loves and passions, and everything which goes with them. These knots must be untied, and it is the business of the practitioner to untie them.”

~ Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind

It is said that our body is the storehouse of our emotional experience. Therefore, it is critical that we develop positive EQ and learn to direct our emotions more frequently to uplift and joy. Sadness is also a positive emotion, in that it comes from a healthy place within us – we are saddened by loss and separation. Enmity, condemnation, and most anger come from unhealed places with us. When these negative feelings take hold, we are incapable of generating compassion.

Increasing one’s EQ contributes to a host of benefits within and without. High EQ people are better leaders, better life partners, better friends, and better parents. Effort and energy put into developing higher EQ reap great benefits in every area of life – including physical health. Spiritual growth is largely a product of EQ and SQ (about which another blog post is forthcoming).

“When we practice generating compassion, we can expect to experience the fear of our pain. Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently toward what scares us. The trick to doing this is to stay with emotional distress without tightening into aversion, to let fear soften us rather than harden into resistance.”

~ Pema Chödrön

If we are to be about the work of CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY in our local spiritual communities, we need to be about the work of developing higher EQ within those communities. EQ becomes the basis for higher SQ, which is the higher-order intelligence that is needed to be agents for positive transformation in our world.

“DAILY PRACTICE: Push hard to get better, become smarter, grow your devotion to the truth, fuel your commitment to beauty, refine your emotional intelligence, hone your dreams, negotiate with your shadow, cure your ignorance, shed your pettiness, heighten your drive to look for the best in people, and soften your heart — even as you always accept yourself for exactly who you are with all of your so-called imperfections.” ‪

~ Rob Brezny

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

 

Note: I’ll be speaking and presenting a workshop based on my book, CREATING THE BELOVED COMMUNITY at the Music City Center for Spiritual Living in NASHVILLE, TN on Sunday, October 12th – here is a link to their website for more information about attending or watching on video (LINK).

THRIVING SKILL: DISCERNMENT

DISCERNMENT:

The ability to judge well; perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual direction and understanding.

One thing which has become increasingly clear to me is the almost universal need to develop discernment in these rapidly changing times. Of course, discernment has always been important – it is the ability to see through falsehoods and distractions to the deeper truth. There have always been versions of fake news, including the ways that we delude ourselves and live in denial of what we need to know to thrive. However, these times such skills are particularly important for two major reasons: we are bombarded by information via an increasing number of channels, and there is an increasing level of sophistication in the ability to convince people a falsehood is true.

“The first point of wisdom is to discern that which is false; the second, to know that which is true.”

~ Attributed to Various Authors

discernment

Discernment has a spiritual context. We are encouraged to see through the distractions and falsehoods to the deep inner Truth – that we are One. When we get lost in the tangle of warring ideologies, when we lack the emotional maturity to rise above the taunting of the crowds, we cannot see, much less experience, that Truth. We develop the kind of confused consciousness that will use violence to attempt to gain peace. True discernment is knowing when to speak and what to say; when and how to act; and when to stay still in silence.

When we become spiritual seekers who also seek to develop our discernment, then we can move toward the opening of our compassionate heart. We must learn to recognize truth, and its shadings or its opposite, when we see them. As Oriah Mountain Dreamer has written:

‎”Having compassion does not mean indiscriminately accepting or going along with others’ actions regardless of the consequences to ourselves or the world. It is about being able to say no where we need to without putting the other out of our hearts, without making the other less of a fellow human being. There is a difference between discerning & sometimes even opposing harmful behaviour and making the other wrong – less than we are, less a part of that presence that is greater than ourselves – in our own minds & hearts.”

~ Oriah Mountain Dreamer

compassionate-heart-cloud

There is a difference between believing in the power of the unseen and magical thinking. One recognizes the reality that everything in our visible experience of life is a projection of some form of consciousness – a part of the Infinite Mystery that we call Spirit or God. The other tries to identify the elements of the Mystery and give them some form of human characteristics – expecting some entity to redirect a hurricane for example.

When the hurricane turns or dissipates, the causes are a mystery, only explained in a limited way by our scientific knowledge, which itself is limited to what we can observe. magical thinking is a limited way of thinking and being – it may be a step on the path toward the development of discernment, by taking us beyond the limits of purely literal thinking. However, discernment cannot be mastered until the tendency toward magical thinking is released. Discernment requires great clarity and a deep recognition of the harsh truth that most of reality is a mystery – and being satisfied.

“The road to freedom lies not through mysteries or occult performances, but through the intelligence use of natural forces and laws.”

~ Ernest Holmes

At the level of our society, discernment includes the ability to parse real news from “fake news,” and to develop the inner sense to recognize when something is authentic and true or not. It also includes the realization that one will not be able to do that perfectly – so there is always room for some doubt, but the sense of doubt should not be allowed to expand so far that all trust in the world is lost. The too-often harmful certainty of the fundamentalist is due to his inability to accept doubt and ambiguity as a part of the human experience.

“Fundamentalism is authoritarian by definition–it accepts a vision of ‘the Truth’ that is sacrosanct, unquestionable, and, when found to be incompatible with reality, protected through the generation of ‘alternative facts,’ which themselves become unassailable truths within the enclave community that is built up to sustain the fundamentalism in question.”

~ Christopher Stroop

When we lack the skill of discernment, we are very much at the mercy of the reactions of our fear-based ego self to the world around us. Our fear-driven response system will expand what looks frightening or dangerous and shrink our sense of goodness, wisdom, and love. The compassionate heart cannot emerge from such a consciousness; and compassion is what is most needed in our world today.

We must use our spiritual practices to develop and expand our emotional intelligence, inner wisdom, and compassion; and this will lead us to discernment, which is, in essence, the ability to see deeply. From such a level of development, we are freed from the stormy seas of fear-based ordinary consciousness, and we rise above the turbulence inherent in that level of existence. Then we can truly be of value and contribute to the greater good from a place of deep wisdom and compassion. We can become the force of calm amid the storm. That is what is meant by raising your consciousness – that is why discernment is a Thriving Skill.

“One could say that the whole of life lies in seeing — if not ultimately, at least essentially. To be more is to be more united — and this sums up and is the very conclusion of the work to follow. But unity grows, and we will affirm this again, only if it is supported by an increase of consciousness, of vision. That is probably why the history of the living world can be reduced to the elaboration of ever more perfect eyes at the heart of a cosmos where it is always possible to discern more. Are not the perfection of an animal and the supremacy of the thinking being measured by the penetration and power of synthesis of their glance? To try to see more and to see better is not, therefore, just a fantasy, curiosity, or a luxury. See or perish. This is the situation imposed on every element of the universe by the mysterious gift of existence. And thus, to a higher degree, this is the human condition.”

~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

teilhard-de-chardin2.jpg

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Jesuit Priest, Paleontologist, and Philosopher

 

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard