Michael, a diligent and very active member of a spiritually based community, that encouraged it’s members to turn to God and use meditation when faced with anger, depression, hurt, or anxiety. Like others in the community, Michael was taught that Spirit would transmute his feelings for him and bring about the peace that he seek. Yet despite his faithfully following as instructed, he still doesn’t understand why he still is feeling depressed, having anxieties. ‘What I’m I doing wrong’, he asks himself repeatedly. Michael isn’t the only example of someone who is on the spiritual path and are experiencing what Michael is experiencing despite being diligent, faithful to their spiritual practice. What Michael and many others like him are experiencing is ‘spiritual bypass.’ The question becomes just what is spiritual bypass?
Spiritual Bypass: “occurs when a person or persons use their spiritual practice in an attempt to avoid dealing with and taking responsibility for their feelings.” Like other addictions, spiritual bypass also is an addition. Understand this, anything, any actions (alcohol, drugs, TV, food, shopping, anger, and yes meditation, as well, as prayer) used to avoid or embracing the responsibility of our feelings is an addiction. The skeptic would immediately, say that I’m saying one should not pray or meditate. But however, that is not what I’m saying or advocating. What I am saying having the right intent of one’s prayers and meditations is vitally important. Truthfully speaking anyone of us can meditate or pray for ‘two distinctively different reasons‘. Reason one is to avoid pain. Or on the other hand, reason two ‘is to become open to love‘. If I meditate and pray to connect with myself, getting out of the head of myself, rather connecting and being the heart of myself connecting in the loving part of oneself. Rather than avoiding the pain, through connection with myself self, I seek to discover what is the source of my anxiety, pain, or distress. Using meditation in this manner, along with or in addition to prayer I’m not avoiding or running away fro the responsibility. Rather I’m embracing, as well, as acknowledging that the distress is there, but at the same time opening myself up to discover the action I can and must take to. If this my intent for my meditation or prayer, then I will become more centered. Therefore, my meditations are very helpful to my spiritual growth.
However, looking back to the example of Michael, the misuse or addiction causing uses of meditation result in something entirely different. First, there is a failure of truly discovering the root causes that is creating the pain, distress, or anxiety. In Michael case, later he discovered, after using the meditation, and prayer with the right intent he was actually treating himself the way his parents treated him. He identified with that treatment. And because he embraced that identity, for so long he failed to connect with the inner child of himself, the loving part of himself, the centered self within him. It was easy to ‘give himself over’ to someone or something else, even though spiritually he became a seeker. Instead of ‘Inner Bonding’ meaning truly bonding completely with himself, Michael was ‘Bonding Outwardly’, looking outside of himself for taking the pain, distress, anxiety away. Fortunately, Michael eventually began to Inner Bond, and the more he did, like any of us, he became more centered, and developed a greater embrace of his Inner Child, as he is on the road to overcoming Spiritual Bypass.