“Happiness may arise from fortunate events but true joy comes from growth and goodness. Self-involvement alone is fleeting and ultimately sad; deepening ourselves and touching others triggers spiritual endorphins. Joy is the gift of being of use.” – Rabbi Wolpe
Indeed, the magic combination for true joy is deepening myself and touching others. This combination is also imperative for being of service. Goodness – or even a noble intention to “do good” – is not enough. If I do not prioritize my own growth, I cannot truly be of use.
The first time I heard the term “Spiritual Bypass” was June 2010. Off the Mat, Into the World (OTM) co-founder and psychologist Hala Khouri introduced the concept during my 1st OTM intensive training that spring. John Welwood – a psychotherapist, teacher and author known for integrating psychological and spiritual ideas – coined the term 30 years ago:
“Spiritual bypassing is a term I coined to describe a process I saw happening in the Buddhist community I was in, and also in myself. Although most of us were sincerely trying to work on ourselves, I noticed a widespread tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks.
“When we are spiritually bypassing, we often use the goal of awakening or liberation to rationalize what I call premature transcendence: trying to rise above the raw and messy side of our humanness before we have fully faced and made peace with it. And then we tend to use absolute truth to disparage or dismiss relative human needs, feelings, psychological problems, relational difficulties, and developmental deficits.”
I would add that, in my experience, people (myself included) can dismiss both our own needs, feelings, problems, difficulties and deficits – and, those of others. So if I want harmony with others – whether in service to them or in personal relationship with them – I have to do my internal work. I must regard that work as sacred, imperative, liberating and promising.
My work right now is with unresolved anger. I am a classic PTSD case. I have faced many wounds from my past and have devoted much energy to understanding them. However, surrounding many of those wounds, I bypassed processing my own emotion because I felt I was to blame, or, because I jumped straight to the spiritual approach of understanding, having compassion for and forgiving those who harmed me.
Both cases plant unprocessed anger. Even with a thorough intellectual understanding of the harmful events, the emotion itself has been stuffed. And sometimes, it can burst out sideways during totally unrelated challenges. Friends can get caught in the middle as I reckon and wrestle with the “raw and messy side” of my humanness. When this happens, I do my best to make amends. The responses can vary from forgiveness and reconciliation, to abandonment of the relationship. When I hurt someone, I feel like crawling into a hole and hiding my harmful self from the world. I avoid old friends and new acquaintances. I feel myself retreating, and then…
…I pull myself out of the cave.
As Rabbi Wolpe observed, if I do not stay devoted to my growth, and, engaged with the world, I cannot be of use to others. I have faith in the process; I believe in being authentically messy and unhidden throughout it. I can’t expect everyone in my life to be willing or equipped to navigate the tough times with me. So, I feel super grateful that there are many who are and do. I have allies on similar journeys and we encourage each other to keep it real. And along the way, I offer all of my experience and solutions when I am holding space and facilitating process for others.
I started this “Full of Shift” exploration 24 days ago. (For background, see “The origins of ‘Full of Shift: 30 Days of New Energy’” below.) “Make Room” emerged as the theme of the first two weeks. But since last weekend’s New Moon, “Bring It On” has moved energetically into said room made. Last week flew by. It was busy, exciting, fulfilling and – dare I say – joyful.
Following are my daily “Full of Shift” Facebook posts from Week Three, with additional reflections.
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Sat, 01/12/13. Day 16. “Full of Shift: 30 Days of New Energy.”
The moon is waxing toward full. Time to bring it in. Bring it on!
Whatever “it” is. More will be revealed.
REFLECTIONS: Suffice it to say, this Saturday was much different from the previous weekend’s spiral into PTSD hell.
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Sun, 01/13/13. Day 17. “Full of Shift: 30 Days of New Energy.”
Each morning, as soon as I open my eyes – even before I prepare for my daily “Full of Shift” chanting practice – I say a Jewish prayer. The “Modah Ani” says: “Good morning, everliving sovereign. Thank you for restoring my soul to me in mercy. How great is your trust!”
Some mornings, right after saying this, I roll my eyes and chuckle. I add, “I think you’re crazy – but I’ll do my best!” Because on those mornings, I feel I must be fooling this everliving sovereign pretty well, if it believes I deserve the trust to go back out into another day on this earth and make the mistakes that I do!
This morning, it went like this: “Good morning, everliving sovereign. Thank you for restoring my soul to me in mercy. How great is your trust!” <Roll eyes. Chuckle.> “Seriously! I am grateful that you restore my soul and give me your trust, day after day. I must be doing something right! And by ‘right,’ I mean that I could be doing EVERYTHING wrong, and you are merciful enough to believe I deserve another day to try again. Thank you. I will do my best.”
I think a lot of this (if I may say) “self-mercy” awakened in me this morning because of the powerful words I read before bedtime last night. Details will be in the Week-Three “Full of Shift” blog. For now, thank you Sri Swami Satchidananda, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Rumi and Josh Schrei.
REFLECTIONS: Here are the pre-bedtime quotes which shifted my heart to mercy.
“You should have a close personal relationship with God. God is nameless, formless, abstract; you cannot simply go and hug space. That is why most people need a symbol. Develop your relationship with that. Marry yourself to that representation of God. Think of it day and night. Devotion cannot be compared with any other approach. It is something super. When you develop that kind of devotion you rise above all doubts.” – Sri Swami Satchidananda
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” – Rumi
“with every breath we take and every word we speak in this life, we show exactly who we are to the One who knows us best and loves us most. that love, the ocean on which we float, is infinitely patient, infinitely kind, and wants nothing more than for us to be in peace and harmony.” – Josh Schrei
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
Note to self: Devotion, love, peace, harmony, gentleness, mercy.
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Mon, 01/14/13. Day 18.
Back on track with the pre-dawn ritual, yay!
Over the past 17 days, there have been great losses; and there have been great gains. What did I think would happen when I committed to chanting the following prayer 108 times each morning? “Lead me from unreal, to real; lead me from darkness, to light; lead me from death, to immortality.”
REFLECTIONS: A friend recently shared, “Every time you subtract a negative from your life, you make room for a positive.” Related – another friend shared this idea from Thomas Mann, “Space, like time, engenders forgetfulness; but it does so by setting us bodily free from our surroundings and giving us back our primitive unattached state.”
The first two weeks of this exploration were themed “Making Room;” and indeed, there were subtractions so that I could be freed from certain attachments. I am feeling the grief of some loss. At the same time, I am feeling amazed with new connections, attitudes and habits finding their way into that space.
Still, I must diligently continue processing the emotions from the falling out with friends two weekends ago. I have been feeling unforgiven and unforgiving. Anger has been stewing. And it must be remedied. So I am seeking new ways – beyond yoga and talk therapy – to address, process and stay on top of my emotions. I need to find the right prescription to remedy my anger, so to speak.
When I started this 30-day process, I truly did not know what it would yield. But wow, the longer I stay true to it – even with the pain of loss and the discomfort of transformation – the more intense, valuable and mind-blowing are the results.
In addiction recovery programs, there is a practice of becoming ready to be relieved of character traits that no longer serve, and then praying for them to be removed. I think that’s the most remarkable thing happening here. The losses of externals (or the waning of attention on certain externals) are a direct result of releasing internals that have been working against me.
The teachers that have appeared along this journey thus far have been tough cookies. Pretty much socking me in the gut so my eyes open wide to truth, light and the everlasting.
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Tue, 01/15/13. Day 19.
The roots of this 30-day observation rose from this question – “How will I sustain my total well-being in order to serve others and live life on purpose?” The answers sure are coming.
REFLECTIONS: I stopped by Rock Creek on my way home from the doc today. Misty rain dropping, swollen waters rushing, fallen trees decaying. The smell of wet earth soothes my soul. Without fail.
Remember that quote by Satchidananda, above? This. This is my god. I hereby marry myself to nature as my representation of god. I will think of it day and night. My devotion will be super. I will rise above all doubts.
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Wed, 01/16/13. Day 20.
High energy today. Taught Sunrise Flow & Meditation at 7am, chanted the 108 post class, then, came home for tea and breakfast and to-do list doing. And doing and doing and doing.
REFLECTIONS: I had to laugh (at myself) when I saw this Karma post on Facebook. Phew. At least I can laugh now. Took a few days to recover from a big, bitchy snafu. Telling on myself again…nothing to hide.
After a super productive day, I had tea with one of the students from my New Year’s Eve “Let Your Intentions Flow” yoga workshop. She wanted to talk more about her experience as connected to the chakras. This was very life-affirming – that I am still useful and of service to some (or maybe many), even after screwing up with unforgiving others.
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Thu, 01/17/13. Day 21.
For this 30-day exploration, my daily affirmation is: “How will I sustain my total well-being in order to serve others and live life on purpose?” (Yes, it’s in question form.) Today I was pondering – what comprises “total well-being?”
REFLECTIONS: “Total” includes spiritual, emotional, psychological, mental, physical, material, financial, relational, communal and familial. “Well-being” comes from healing, growth, change, stability, balance, flexibility, willingness, confidence, empowerment, meaning, purpose. How do I make choices in future work, education, relationships and so on that are sustainable – in other words, that don’t max, stress or burn me out!
On another tangent…as Swami Satchidananda said, yoga cultivates an easeful body, peaceful mind and useful life – even for baseball players! I took a sample Competitive Team Sports Yoga practice to trainer Fred Carmen at a local sports training facility this afternoon. I prepared my 1st-baseman set – overall alignment for fluid mechanics; ankles, hips and twists for power hitting and efficient fielding. Traditional yogic breathing to heat, hydrate and sustain energy in the body and balance the mind. All of this, plus, intention setting for accessing The Zone at will. Easeful, peaceful, useful.
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Fri, 01/18/13. Day 22.
Yes, today is the day I would typically post my week-end “Full of Shift” blog. But it’s been a lovely, sunshiny, yummy day off with friends and I think I’ll blog tomorrow. Or the next day. You know…Shift Happens.
REFLECTIONS: What’s that? Up in the sky? It’s a bird…it’s a plane…it’s…SuperSun! Welcome back, Sunshine!
Further thoughts on my inquiry, “How will I sustain my total well-being in order to serve others and live on purpose?”
1 – Stop lying. To myself and others. About effort, emotions, money…in friendships, at work…always.
2 – Know my purpose. Seek clarity. Say yes to opportunities.
3 – Stand in my truth. Values, relationships, professional skills. When I stand confidently, energy and action awaken!
4 – Take responsibility.
5 – Know my triggers. Know what condition I am in. Know the conditions I am going into.
6 – Know the remedies that work effectively to decrease my triggers. Practice them without fail. Just as someone would not go off their medication, I should not go off my regimen of yoga and meditation!
Speaking of conditions…I thought I might leave town for inauguration weekend…but…here I am! Ready to brave the crowds with yoga, yoga, yoga. Teaching Beginner Hatha tomorrow 10:30am (and a private in the afternoon); rocking Faith Hunter’s Spiritually Fly practice Sunday 11am; and hitting Megan Davis’s Vinyasa class Monday 12:30pm. Also, hoping to stay reflective and to do some journaling (writing for me). Have a great weekend, y’all!
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Sat, 01/19/13. Day 25.
I was moved to tears by the sweetest OM at the end of this morning’s Beginner Vinyasa class…such soulful intention from these amazing beings.
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Sun, 01/20/13. Day 24. (Today.)
OM NAMAH SHIVAYA!
For 24 days, I’ve been asking myself, “How will I sustain my total well-being in order to serve others and live on purpose?”
Today, I’ve been up since 6am, asking, breathing, chanting, praying, listening.
And – this is happening…(see photo, below)
REFLECTIONS: After I posted this status and these photos on Facebook this morning, a friends commented, “Love your coffee table/writing desk/intention altar!” Me, too! I set it up last night so I could awaken to its energy and influence this morning, knowing I wanted to get a lot of reflection and writing done today. It worked! Today I:
– Practiced my morning Sadhana at 6:30am with the 108 chants and New Energy incense.
– Completed my 2012 “clearing” journaling (aka moral inventory, recapitulation, karma cleansing…whatever you might call it!).
– Had breakfast.
– Drafted this blog.
– Went to Faith’s “Spiritually Fly” yoga class with my friend Deb.
– Did my Chakra journaling.
– Ate lunch.
– Took a super hot shower.
– Practiced Yoga Nidra with my Jonathan Foust CD followed by a self-guided visioning journey.
– Journaled my journey.
– Talk with my sister in Tennessee.
– Played on Facebook.
– Ordered organic, MSG-free Chinese delivery and ate dinner.
– Completed this blog (as soon as I hit publish)!
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Thanks for reading. OM Shanti.
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The origins of “Full of Shift: 30 Days of New Energy”
Over one month, from the Full Moon of 12/28/12 to the Full Moon of 1/26/13, I intend to awaken before dawn, light a stick of my new incense (a holiday gift, appropriately branded “New Energy”), practice Pranayama (yogic breathing) and chant 108 repetitions of the “Asato Ma” prayer (“lead me from falseness to truth, from darkness to light, from things that die off to that which is everlasting”). As with all of my other intention “projects,” I am not trying to force a specific outcome – simply to ask how I can bring New Energy to my life, to listen to any answers, to witness the subtle yet abundant shifts of late, and to see what evolves.