Yoga, spiritual bypassing and activism

Yoga and sedentary lifestyle

Yoga, spiritual bypassing and activism

Spiritual bypassing; When the abuses committed by Yogi Bhajan came to light in early 2020,  I began to ask myself certain questions, which were amplified by learning about the existence of conspiracy theories in relation to the pandemic. Theories welcomed with the approval of a part of those who belong to the wellness sector (within which yoga is included). Writes Paula Colantonio.

Pepa Castro wrote an excellent article about this confluence between conspiracy theories and spirituality called “spirituality” that I recommend reading.

As a practitioner of different types of yoga, Yoga Nidra teacher/trainer, and co-founder of  Yoganet, I feel the need to reflect out loud and engage in conversation on these topics.

The questions that arise and motivate me to reflect are various. But in this article I would like to focus on the following:

1- How is it possible that a “spiritual leader” revered by so many people has turned out to be a  serial predator? 

How could he act so with impunity and on that scale? Did nobody notice anything? How can it be that many people still consider him a holy man and display his photo on altars with the number of testimonies that have come to light? What’s going on?

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2- How is it possible, that being the meaning of yoga the union, part of our community seems indifferent to the suffering of others? 

As if it were not with them what happens in their environment. If they were emotionally anesthetized or dissociated, they respond to situations of abuse such as the one indicated above with denial of the facts or with phrases that allude to the “neutral mind”, or that “everything is in perfect divine order”, or that technique works and that is enough ”, and they even argue that to keep their vibration high they need to avoid people or“ low vibration ”situations. As if they lived in an ivory tower …

In the search for answers, I find several very interesting and useful psychological concepts. One of them, that of spiritual bypass or spirituality as an escape. The term was coined by psychologist John Welwood in the 1980s. It signifies the tendency to use spiritual beliefs and practices to avoid facing unresolved emotional issues. It is something we do with ourselves and with others. Everyone. To a greater or lesser degree. That is why it is so important to realize.

In ” The risks of spiritual bypass ” Fabiana Fondevila masterfully delves into the subject:

Quoting Welwood he explains that “when we fall into the ‘spiritual bypass’, we use the goal of enlightenment or liberation to rationalize what I call premature transcendence: attempting to rise above the crude and untidy side of our humanity before we have truly faced it. and have made peace with him. And so we try to use the absolute truth to disqualify our relative human needs, our psychological problems, our relationship difficulties or developmental deficits (Spiritual bypassing.)

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Yoga, spiritual bypass and activism
Yoga, spiritual bypass and activism

The truth is that there is nothing instantaneous in the process of spiritual growth. Those who achieve maturity in this field do so through years of inner work and transparency, knowing that they are small and fallible every step of the way. In Welwood’s terms, in them the fruit falls from the tree under its own weight, rather than being prematurely pulled from the branch.

There is in these spiritually aged beings – be they monks, teachers or street sweepers – a quality of integrity and rootedness. They are not fleshless souls nor do they appear to be. They are not, nor are they intended, beyond anything. That is why they are able to embrace the complexity of those around them with love, and show the way to a real transcendence, without shortcuts or illusions of holiness, with a simple human vocation ”.

Beautiful and moving. It is not about “avoiding” the experience of being in the world. It is compatible to feel spiritual beings and at the same time very human with a body, a mind and emotions . Life is an adventure, a story, a journey to experience and learn.

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The flower of Life

Joseph Campbell, a great thinker, writer and teacher, after analyzing hundreds of myths from all cultures, discovers the underlying structure of all of them, a monomyth that he calls the “ Hero’s Journey ”. And the exciting thing is that this structure is not only present in ancient myths, but also in scripts, novels, movies and in our lives.

Each one @ is the hero or the heroine of their own journey. Throughout our personal history we experience a series of stages and challenges (Spiritual bypassing) that allow us to grow and mature in all aspects (including spiritual). As much as I meditate, I need to experience life with all its color palette and emotions. There are no shortcuts on the spiritual path. The fruit ripens slowly, as Wellwood expressed above.

And on the way of life we ​​meet others. Life is in relationship. It does not start and end at our navel. I like to think of existence with the symbol of the flower of life. I imagine that each @ is a dot that is related to other dots. A web that weaves itself and that can be as beautiful as this magnificent figure. But for there to be harmony, you have to get involved actively, lovingly and intelligently.

I can spend all day meditating, but if that leads me to isolate myself in my ivory tower, if I care very little about what happens in the world, if I avoid mixing with people of “low vibration”, if I do not take the side of those who suffer, if I close my eyes to the abuse… what am I doing?

To get involved or not, that is the question.

With our actions and decisions we are writing the collective script in this great theater of the world or shared dream. It depends on us whether the world we live in is a happy dream or a nightmare; a heaven or a hell.

That is why I vindicate the need for greater activism in our sector.  May we be able to get out of ourselves , get into the mud and put our gifts at the service of a more just, loving and compassionate world. Spiritual bypassing.

May a more committed yoga emerge with force, at the service of the challenges facing society, the healing of the planet, justice and freedom.

A yoga with the feet on the ground, the lucid mind, the awakened intuition and connecting and honoring our heart, our inner Teacher.

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Anna Andersonne
Anna is a mother, yoga teacher, and psychologist. At YOGA LOAD she is the heart of the editorial team and writes about yoga, true happiness, and sustainability. Her articles are published in the Yoga Journal, Happy Way and GingerMag.