In the yoga realm we often hear the phrases “love and light to all” and “we’re all one” and “just relax”. And while those ideas are incredibly well-intentioned and often important, they can lead us into the trap of passivity. In other words, they can lead us to spiritually bypass the work that needs to be done.
In the 1980’s, Buddhist teacher John Welwood coined the term “spiritual bypassing” which means “the tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks.” Essentially, a person engages in spiritual bypassing when they use spirituality as an excuse to not do the work. For example, as a yoga teacher I could easily look at the #blacklivesmatter movement and say that I will meditate on the matter and send positive vibes to those in need. While this might be a good starting point, it is not enough, and to tell myself it is enough would be to spiritually bypass the issue.
To avoid this bypassing, I must instead step into the work. That might mean attending protests, signing petitions, consuming educational material, having difficult conversations, and ultimately using my platform as a teacher as a space for the BLM discourse.
So, how do you avoid spiritual bypassing? The first thing to know is: you’d don’t always. No matter how hard you try, you’re probably going to overlook things from time to time -- that’s why bypassing is even a thing; it’s so hard to see at times that it slides under our radar. With that in mind, be gracious toward yourself. Know that you, too, are a mere mortal capable of mistakes. Showing up and trying your best is truly all you can ever do.
In order to detect when we’re bypassing, we must remain aware. In regards to the BLM movement, ask yourself:
As Rachel Cargle so articulately puts it:
“Meditate AND call your senator.
Go to yoga AND to vote.
Breathe deeply AND donate to causes that matter.
Go on a retreat AND go support small businesses.
Enjoy your essential oils AND check people on their bullshit in the community.”
This is all hard and uncomfortable work. But it’s also a more important practice of yoga than standing on your hands will ever be. The greatest teachers, afterall, note that the greatest power of yoga isn’t achieving advanced posture, but rather achieving true compassion for all.
If you’d like to learn more about spiritual bypassing and yoga as relates to BLM, check out the following short video from Light Watkins (founder of The Daily Meditator, and host of the podcast Light’s Daily Dose of Inspiration): https://www.instagram.com/p/CBW9Edxg7CJ/
Brooke is a contributing author for Tada Rugs. Tada Rugs is a 5x7 yoga mat disguised as an artistic area rug that you never have to put away. Tada is short for tadasana, or mountain pose, and our own backyard in the San Juan Mountains of Durango, Colorado is where we find our inspiration. Check out our new designs, enter for a chance to win a new Tada Rug, and be sure to follow us for deals and insider specials! Like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, or contact us through our website! Tie a room together and bring your practice home.
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