While the #BlackLivesMatter movement is gaining momentum and occupying the minds of compassionate hearts around the globe, we are experiencing a strange new kind of dismissal: Spiritual Bypassing.
Our black brothers and sisters are experiencing crimes against humanity and there is a huge group of ‘spiritual’ people (many of whom are ‘Karens’) who believe that expressing anger, protesting and demanding justice for the crimes against the black community is ‘Low Vibe’, and black people who are talking about the collective trauma’s of their community are ‘being negative’ or ‘Acting out of their ‘Pain bodies’ rather than living in the Now. (these people would do well to remember that Jesus himself flipped a few merchant tables set up in his temple in anger and set a powerful boundary in doing so)
This horrifying manifestation of denial is showing up in what you might know as ‘Spiritual’ Communities, but I’m most especially referring to the “spiritual/self-help” movement that sprouted in the ’80s (when baby boomers were reaching their 30’s) by such people as Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, and Louise Hay, who’ devotees (in their ‘maturity’) have been revealing their beliefs that all we need to do to solve our problems is to ‘think happy thoughts’, or to just ‘focus on what we are grateful for, or ‘just stay positive’. The ‘self-help’ movement helped empower the Karens all over North America,( who are terrifying and dangerous because of the lack of spiritual shadow-work they have done, and the amount of denial they are living in)
To dismiss another’s pain and trauma on the basis that they are in pain because they are not ‘spiritual enough’ is just plain wrong. It is spiritual bypassing and has no foundation in truth at all.
Spiritual bypassing is using “spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep personal, & emotional ‘unfinished business’, to have a shaky sense of self, or to belittle basic needs, feelings, and developmental tasks for themselves and others”
The foundation of spiritual bypassing is avoidance and repression; and for some individuals, spirituality serves as a way to rise above or handle the shaky ground beneath.
When spiritual practice is used to compensate for challenging traits such as low self-esteem, social isolation, or other emotional issues, they corrupt the actual use of the spiritual practice. In other words, using these practices to cover up problems seems like an easy way out, as opposed to working on the actual issues and etiology of the challenges.
Many of us know individuals who run away from problems by going on spiritual retreats. However, when these people return home, although they may feel enlightened for a short time, are eventually triggered by the issues that sent them on their spiritual journeys in the first place. All the fear, confusion, and drama are still where they left them, and nothing has been accomplished. This is because living a spiritual life means confronting every single one of your fears and abolishing illusion; which sounds fun but is said to be ‘a very straight and narrow path that very few choose to walk down’, and this journey is of life-long length, not weekend-retreat length.
This particular issue needs to be addressed because right now, we are ACTUALLY going through a spiritual crisis of the grandest kind- we are confronting the history of crimes against humanity.
Actual Spiritual work is the confrontation of ignorance that would cause these crimes and the conscious movement toward embodying and living the truth- that we are all one, and what we do to another, we do to ourselves.
This is Collective shadow work- which can be very uncomfortable and confusing to go through alone, but coincidentally, we are all in this one together. Individually and at the same time we are sifting through all of the darkness and pain that built the society we live in, that has been festering for hundreds of years to bring it to the surface and transform us, which every single mystical tradition has a template for: it is transformation through fire.
In the bible, it says about the truth, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on Earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.”
Truth is meant to cut through the illusion of grandeur and superiority that the ego would have you believe. Truth is meant to slice the fat from your vision and bring you to the humble realization that we are all human beings and we need each other.
The innumerable traumas of the black population and the systemic racism (that would make an environment so toxic it’s damn near impossible to grow out of the poverty cycle) need to be healed, and to Heal is Feel.
If you are someone who considers yourself ‘spiritual’ or ‘woke’ or of ‘high consciousness’ and are find yourself telling yourself that you are ‘detached’, or ‘raising above’ everything that is happening in the world right now so that you don’t have to feel the burn, I beg you, please reconsider these fires of transformation, as you might like it.
If your spiritual practice is making you shy away from this essential work, then your spirituality practice is making you weak when it should be making you strong.
Some signs of Emotional/Spiritual bypassing:
- Not focusing on the here and now; living in a spiritual realm much of the time.
- Overemphasizing the positive and avoiding the negative.
- Being self-righteous about the concept of enlightenment.
- Being overly detached.
- Being overly idealistic.
- Having feelings of entitlement.
- Exhibiting frequent anger.
- Engaging in cognitive dissonance.
- Being overly compassionate.
- Pretending that everything is okay when it’s not.
The only way we are going to create an integrated world is by healing and integrating the transformation lessons of these collective traumas together, which has been the ancient work of Indigenous, shamanic healers since the beginning of time.
Scientific Trauma-healing research is finally coming into the mainstream through people like Peter Levine, Bessel Van Der Kolk, and Gabor Mate and they are revealing that this work isn’t new at all- it is indigenous and archetypal.
Science now proves that trauma survivors heal in the context of good, safe, healthy, loving relationships with others who have the maturity and inner-strength to do so.
Indigenous healers know this and are actively creating community and opportunities to create new and healthy relationships based in mutual love and respect for another, with a focus not on SELF-care but COMMUNITY- CARE for the healing of personal and ancestral trauma that we are all collectively re-experiencing and coming into confrontation with.
The template for Self-care is not indigenous and sprung out of the ‘New-Age Self/Help/Spiritual Community’ which in turn sprouted from Christian Science Community (the cult that Ellen escaped from who don’t believe in medicine or going to the doctor) which operates on the egocentric belief that God exists to serve us, and we are to focus only on ourselves and our well being and that we are entitled to a materially abundant life filled with lots of comforts, security, and little-to-no struggle.
This kind of Spirituality has become a commodity to be sold in the same way that mental health care is now becoming capitalized upon. I just saw an ad on Instagram for a candle that is supposed to ‘ease anxiety’, not to mention the thousands of ‘woke’ people trying to get rich off of ‘spiritual’ or ‘woke’ t-shirts, and books spewing confused and bad advice.
True spiritual empowerment looks like the strength and courage of Nelson Mandela, or the conviction of Mother Theresa, or the grace of Gandhi, or power of Martin Luther King. We admire these people and will honor their lives forever because of the practical, tangible social change they caused when they were living in the divine spiritual truth of love. They did not just preach about the power of love- they lived it, and we have all benefitted from people like them.
I think its right to question the spiritual integrity of those whom we are receiving guidance from. Are the people who are leading this ‘New Age/Spiritual Movement’ are spiritual? How many members of the ‘spiritual influencer’ movement have the spiritual balls to do something to create real change not for themselves and the improvement of their personal lives, but the improvement of the life of another?
Instead, writers of self-help books are being sent on luxury vacations to the Grecian Islands together to celebrate the dollars earned by their publishing companies on all the advice given to self-help junkies (who each year spend over 12 Billion dollars a year on self-improvement books, CDs, seminars, coaching, and stress-management programs).
I know this because one of the members of this ‘Spiritual/Self Help community ( Canadian author ‘Humble the Poet’ aka Kanwer Mahl Singh) told me when we met.
I met Kanwer last July on the dating app ‘Raya’, and I was interested in him because he seemed like an intuitive, gentle, spiritual person working towards empowering his audience to be proud of their heritage, and I was tired of dating people who were unemployed and living in their parent’s basements.
When I met him for a date he told me about the extravagant ‘spiritual’ retreats he was sent on with other ‘self-help’ gurus in the Grecian Islands where he learned his secret to success, which he said was to ‘treat his audience as if they were in kindergarten because that’s how stupid they are’.
That’s when I tried to leave and he sexually assaulted me and I have laid four charges against him; two counts of physical assault, one count of sexual assault and one count of unlawful restraint.
Sadly, I am not the only person who has been sexually assaulted by someone in the ‘spiritual/self-help/self-care/yoga’ community. I have heard innumerable first-hand stories of horrifying assaults in the yoga community, the kirtan/sound healing community, the spiritual ‘retreat’ community. (Just google yoga & sexual assault and you will find plenty of news articles)
‘Spiritual’ communities are extremely vulnerable to the corruption of power, and the formation of ‘cult-mind’, where people abdicate their power of free choice in favor of the ‘wisdom’ of the ‘guru’ who exclusively has access to the knowledge of the Divine, as seen with Osho and the Rajneesh movement, and Bikram Choudhury and the hot yoga movement.
Sexual assault is a trauma, and the healing and transformation of trauma is serious work that requires a tremendous amount of compassionate care AND connection to spirit because our sexual energy is our direct connection to source.
You cannot tell a trauma survivor to simply ‘focus on what’s good in their life’ or to ‘start a gratitude journal’ to heal herself.
In addition to sexual-assault counselling and my regular Mental-Health Care regime I turned once again to Indigenous, Shamanic healers to recover my soul and regain my strength to face the horrifying realities of our culture’s history of sexual assault and sexual abuse.
There are specific shamanic practices to help someone recover from trauma and it is all based on somatic (body) work and connection with artistic practices to express oneself healthily, connect to the creative and healing power of spirit, and be witnessed compassionately because trauma-survivors heal in the context of relationships.
These practices include (but are not limited to) ceremonial womb healings, pelvic floor massage, Shake medicine, ecstatic dance medicine, massage therapy, water-therapy, ritual theatre practices, singing, herb & tincture makings, gardening, psychedelics and more.
When you decide to dive into the work that it takes to dismantle the systematic racism- you will most likely encounter your trauma, and the trauma your ancestors were victims of or perpetrators of. You will have to come face to face with your own inner biases, (and this is a plea) Please make sure you’re learning from BIPOC people who have been fighting the fight- when you feel triggered by things, sit in the discomfort and know that there are multiple avenues help you feel supported in your mental health. If you are seeking real spiritual guidance, the real transformation of spirit, real support in healing personal and ancestral trauma, look for it locally from someone in your neighborhood who has been practicing indigenous spirituality for years quietly (and don’t tell me you don’t have one because they are EVERYWHERE, you just have to look for them).
Look for and lift the BIPOC indigenous healers without thousands or millions of followers. Look for the ones who have been doing the work without seeking praise or ego glorification for their work.
Look for the ones who are educating others about Community Care and Providing Community Care! Support them. Hire them. Give them money. Help grow their businesses. Pay them to lead education on these issues. Pay them to create spaces to do their essential work.
(PLEASE add websites of indigenous healers to the comments of this essay and their location to get a list going!)
Please consider contributing to mental health services for the Black Community here: #BlackMindsMatter http://blackmindsmatter.co.uk/