TRENDING: a lot of the women, reading similar books and listening to tele-summits on “Infinite Goddess Power & Unconditional Harmonious Love for an Unfolding Universe in Times of Change for the Modern Change Agent,” are knocking themselves OUT to do the “right” spiritual thing. To be flexible, tolerant, socially responsible, forgiving, more giving. Powerful potential there—right? Yes!

And… but… beneath their spiritual path can be some deep sorrow, shame, terror, rage—all the things we carry in our shadow. All the things we’re entrained to avoid. Some of us avoid our “negative” states by numbing out—shopping, working, shallow interactions, drugs, food. Some of us avoid our pain by trying to be spiritually “good.” And that’s spiritual bypassing.

Seeking holistic or “alternative” solutions to illnesses is not spiritual bypassing. That’s a varied approach to healing and it’s smart.

Taking planetary alignments into consideration, bringing love into politics, and nature consciousness into commerce is notspiritual bypassing. That’s spiritual practice.

Seeing global upheaval as a spiritual passage is not spiritual bypassing. That’s a wisdom tradition.

Spiritual bypassing is when we use spiritual practices to avoid things that we deem to be unpleasantly unspiritual. Psychologist John Welwood coined this great term and defines it as: “The use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with our painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs.”

Using positive thinking to gloss over our sorrow. “Oh, there’s a gift in everything.” Yes, there is a gift in everything, but first, attend to your devastation and then you’ll find the true gift.

“Everything happens for a reason.” Also metaphysically accurate. But what good does that theory do for your wounded self? Tend to the wound, and you’ll get clear on the reason it occurred.

“I’ve done the work, I’m much more evolved than…” Maybe someone has done the work. Perhaps they are more evolved than so and so. Still, this could be a bypass over deep-seated “worthiness issues.”

Ironically, it can be hard to discern the truth in a group of apparent truth seekers. I’ve hung with New Age authors who were just plain mean and addicted to their image. And… I’ve been to a few AA meetings with friends and man, was it ever refreshing. People were just upfront about being messed up. “Yep, Alcoholic. Here I am. Need to make a LOT of amends.” The Spirit has no pretenses.

Instead of medicating with Marlboros and martinis, self-helpers might be doing it with metaphysics and macrobiotics.And unlike boozing it up to drown our pain, the side effects of neurotic psychoanalyzing or faux flexibility are difficult to spot. We don’t end up in rehab from too much meditation or therapy—we just end up in more workshops.

Think of that friend you have who has a not-so-loving relationship with her body, but because she eats “health foods” and talks a good “body positive” talk about just wanting to be strong, we cheer her on. But really, she’s got self-destructive motivations and a mild eating disorder disguised as a holistic wellness routine. On the surface, positivity and wellness goal keeping present so nicely that it can be hard to see when healthy actions are hooked to unhealthy ambitions.

Like too much of anything, spiritual bypassing can numb us out from our Truth—which is where the healing answers wait to be found.

Of course, not all seeking is distraction. Not everyone who’s focused on Light is avoiding their dark side. For so very many of us, the aspiration is very real. We’re not running from or bypassing anything. We’re using our spirituality to deal directly with every part of our lives—the painful parts, the blissful goodness, and the mystery of everything in between.

We’re experimenting, we’re living into our Truth, we’re growing upward. And we test and exploit ourselves. Not because we’re weak or defective, but because that’s what students of life do—we sign up to learn the truth. And when we’re done bypassing it, our spirituality blooms.

With Love,