Yoga, avoidance and spiritual bypass

What is a spiritual bypass? In the eighties (throwback) John Welwood, a psychologist and teacher, researched ‘spiritual bypass’. A spiritual bypass can be described as not acknowledging your true feelings or emotions in a bid to be more spiritual or loving or compassionate. Denial, basically. This really got me when I heard this recently because I had been trying to put into words how a spiritual practice (yoga, prayer, meditation, tai-chi, journaling, a gratitude diary) does not mean that you have no boundaries and should not “feel the feelings” or minimise feelings or set clear boundaries about what is acceptable/unacceptable for you. Sure, it would be lovely to be like a Shaolin monk and a vessel of patience and not let anything get to you. Sometimes, it is not always possible and may take days, months of even years to process feelings, thoughts and emotions.

Yes, I have a spiritual practice, but that does not mean that I am an endless fountain of love or patience. I struggle sometimes when I hear people say so easily “You need to accept it” or “Just breathe in and let go”…easy for some. Irritating for me when I hear it because I am 90% accepting of situations, people and circumstances and I am easy going. By the same token, I have my boundaries and will fight for what I believe in.

I have been regularly meditating for a couple of years now and it has helped me to still what was a very sad and busy mind. But, when I started regularly meditating and practicing yoga, I started to feel angry. Angry after yoga and meditation and really confused. Where was all this anger coming from? I spoke to several of my yoga and meditation teachers and they basically said
“It’s normal. Your body and brain is still and allowing feelings and emotions, not yet processed, to process. Sit with the anger.”

Finally, I have been sitting still let anger and other feelings I have been holding onto to seep out of my body. By stilling my mind, I have gotten to know my body and brain better and to be able to instinctively understand and respect my feelings and my boundaries. I am able to recognise when I have fuel in my emotional tank to give to people, and when I need to protect myself and stop. I feel like through a regular meditation practice I don’t numb my feelings anymore. Instead, I sit with it, recognise it and choose steps to make my way forward.

So, I share my journey today to encourage you to enable your spiritual journey to support you, rather than hinder your thoughts, feelings and emotions and to choose your response rather than react.

Yoga is not here to turn you into a unicorn. Yoga is here to support you in a practical way with everyday living. xo

Photo by Khadeeja Yasser on Unsplash

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