I had one HUGE spiritual block that caused me issue for years and was especially hard to get over.
It’s a special type of Spiritual Bypassing, but it caused me so many issues I decided to write a post on it. Also, I’ve seen this same issue with other people, so I know I’m not the only one.
The issue is this:
A hurry to get enlightened, so we can be jump over the emotional issues/inner work and go straight to the good stuff
The thinking goes:
I have so many years struggling and fighting my thoughts. And then I discovered Meditation / Spirituality/ God/ Whatever floats your boat.
Hey man, it was awesome! I was sure enlightenment would fix my problems. That’s what “they” told me. (I’ll get back to who ‘they’ are)
But it’s been years/decades, and I’m still not enlightened! What the hell, bro? Did those sons of bitches lie to me?
WHY YOU LIE TO ME BRO?!!
I said above: That’s what “they” told me.
Here I mean all the traditional gurus, the orange/yellow robes from India/Japan/Oz. I don’t want to name names, as I’m sure the fault was mine for mis-reading or misunderstanding, but here’s a version of something I’ve read a million times:
You don’t have to worry about all these psychological issues as once you reach Samadhi/Satori/Zen they will all go away
This is what we’ve been taught for at least 100 years, so it cannot be blamed on any new-age guru.
But in the last few years, we’ve started hearing a lot about spiritual bypassing (while the term was coined in the 1980s, I only came across is a few years ago; and if you visit any meditation forum you will find many people who still haven’t heard it).
And so, we were sold a block of bullshit that basically said, “Ignore your emotions, as all this crap will go away anyway.” And it doesn’t help many teachers have been hostile to psychotherapy.
Like many, I swallowed the blue pill and ignored my emotions, often meditating for hours a day. I used to laugh at the stupid people stuck in the material world. “LOL Losers, I’ll be enlightened soon. You mofos won’t even recognise me. I won’t give you an autograph.”
10–12 years passed. That’s when it started to sink in: Maybe I’ll never get enlightened. And I will have to deal with this shit
I spent the next 5–6 years as a hard core atheist, not believing in anything except what science could prove beyond 100% doubt. In a way, those years I spent in the spiritual desert were good as I had gathered a lot of stupid beliefs, everything from angel healing to psychics to talking to ghosts (see my post on Magical Beliefs). All those idiotic supernatural beliefs were holding me back materially and spiritually.
And I don’t exaggerate when I use the words spiritual desert – Though I was gained control of my life and made some career progress, I felt spiritually deflated. It was only a HUGE spiritual experience in 2017 that brought me back to the path.
Even then, I hadn’t understood the concept of bypassing, so I kept hoping my pains would go away when I became enlightened.
It was only recently, while working with a coach who challenged my subconscious beliefs, did I come to realise: I’ve fucking turned the good old “I’ll be happy when I’m a millionaire and/or married to Gal Godot” into “I’ll be happy when I’m enlightened (and maybe married to Gal Godot)”
Where enlightenment was a stage where there would be no suffering.
And so, in a type of Spiritual Materialism, I stopped giving a hoot about the “Now” and started living in some future where I would be all enlightened and shit. And people would be like, “OMG this Shantnu dude so enlightened, bro. He’s like the Kim Kardashian of enlightenment.”
Ahem. Cough, cough. That’s when I realised my head was too far up somewhere no head should ever go.
As I wrote in my post on Toxic Positivity, this constant quest for happiness is a recent new age phenomena. All the ancient seers, from Stoics to Buddhists to Yogis, all said the goal of life was to a) Live a life in service of others b) Live a life of balance and tranquillity. Quoting Oliver Burkeman:
“And here lies the essential difference between Stoicism and the modern-day ‘cult of optimism.’ For the Stoics, the ideal state of mind was tranquility, not the excitable cheer that positive thinkers usually seem to mean when they use the word, ‘happiness.’ And tranquility was to be achieved not by strenuously chasing after enjoyable experiences, but by cultivating a kind of calm indifference towards one’s circumstances.”
― Oliver Burkeman, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking
The hurry to get enlightened means we miss all the small things along the way, the things that stop us from full spiritual awakening in the first place.
This quest to get enlightened “NOW DAMMIT” is yet another tantrum by the childish ego trying to control the universe and fate. Ultimately, we are here to serve the Universe and its goals, and not teach some state of personal happiness while the rest of the world is suffering.
LonerWolf call this an example of Spiritual Materialism:
Practising meditation with the hidden agenda of trying to avoid suffering by becoming peaceful or detached all the time (when the reality is that thoughts and feelings are always fluctuating like the ebb and flow of the ocean – the point isn’t to bypass or “kill” the mind, but to stop identifying with its contents).
Again, it is the belief that if I just meditate enough, I will never suffer again that is so harmful. It’s just a form of escapism.
The Enlightenment “Finish” Line
Many people treat enlightenment as a finish line:
That is, you cross a line, and you are 100% certifiably enlightened. You get your gold medal and never have to feel shit ever again!
To be honest, that’s how many teachers/traditions teach this, so I can understand the draw.
But as a coach told me: If we are embodied in human form, we will have to deal with all the problems of this body and the material world it resides in. To pretend otherwise is a form of spiritual bypassing.
And so the goal of spirituality becomes to live the best life we can, a life supported by the love of the universe, and in service of others. Rather than a selfish Me! Me! Me! Why ain’t I enlightened, dammit?! , our goal should be to live by our goals and values (however we define them).
My advice today
Do not focus on some “perfect” future state where you (and me) will be so enlightened and stuff.
Instead, focus on creating a life of equanimity and peace, a life not dependent on pleasures from external or future events, which includes enlightenment.
And focus on being in service to others, on living your life to your own highest goals and values. Live a life you can be proud of, a life where you feel few or no regrets on your deathbed.
Read about more Traps on the Spiritual Path