You’re not going to get it right. Spirituality is about recognizing what is beyond the physical dimension. To recognize what is beyond the physical dimension, you must be conscious instead of unconscious of it. For this reason consciousness is the cornerstone of spirituality. As a fractal of source consciousness, you are a mirror of the greater universe. This means consciousness is not about “going out” it’s about “going in”. It is inevitable that you will become conscious of yourself. But consciousness is not comfortable. It doesn’t feel good to see things about ourselves that we don’t want to see. It doesn’t feel good to recognize truths that we don’t want to be true.
One of the most painful things about this path is to recognize things about yourself that aren’t “as they should be”. And the reason you think things should be a certain way is because you’ve been taught that they should. Every spiritual tradition, just like greater society, comes complete with all kinds of values, expectations and beliefs. These all add up to one thing: A SHOULD STANDARD. This is how you should be. This is how you should feel. This is what you should think. This is the reality you should perceive. And the reality is, you will always fall short of that should standard.
I keep making the mistake of being honest about my own struggles with people who are still operating according to a ‘should standard’ for spiritual teachers. In my position now, I have access to so many of the world’s prominent spiritual minds. And to be honest, it has been both a blessing and a curse. There are some people who are leaders and teachers in this field who are capable of holding space for the complexity of a person’s struggles and a person’s successes. And there are some people who are leaders and teachers who are completely incapable of holding space for this complexity.
I have been experiencing the ‘spiritual shaming’ that exists in this field a lot lately. It’s that moment that I open up about my own struggles with someone, assuming they will relate to me and instead it instantly causes me to fall from grace in their eyes. They start to 'teach me’ instead of connect to me. They feel good because in that moment where I become a real person to them, they get to feel superior to me. They fail to remember the strong side of me when they see the vulnerability. This week, when I was honest about my struggles, I had a colleague send me a message that he is convinced that I am possessed and that the entity that has possessed me makes men fall in love with me and feel the need to rescue me (including him until he battled the energy to be free of it). He went on to say that this entity isn’t me and that I have to realize that to break free of the weakness I have that is allowing it to take over.” To be honest, I felt like I was in the witch trials all over again. But it got me to thinking.
This attitude we have that the only thing that is really us is the light part, is in and of itself an illusion. The ‘reality’ is that everything in existence is you. You are not just joy. You are not just connection. You are not just truth. You are also illusion. You are also war. You are also isolation. If everything is source, if there is nothing that is not source, then illusion is part of the ‘reality’ of source too. In my most painful awakening in this life, I spent 16 hours being forced to accommodate all the things I didn’t want and hated as part of myself. I had to accept them as myself. This is the forced practice of radical love. This is the difference between selective identification and integration. We will not be able to transcend anything by pushing it away from ourselves. We need to bring it closer. Treat it as part of ourselves and meet its real needs.
What bothered me the most about this message I received, was not the contents of it or the fact that the way it was delivered was like opening up a bandage to show someone a wound and having them rub gravel into it. It was that while I watched it, I actually felt a deep hit of shame and the accompanying desperation to figure out how to fix myself. Why? Because I tell myself that it’s ok for everyone else to have negative emotion and to struggle. But deep down, I honestly believe that I should not struggle with these things. Knowing what I know and being who I am, relationships should be easy for me. I should be able to control feeling good. I should be able to know exactly what to do in every situation. I should never lose touch with the feeling of oneness. And the list goes on and on. And the thing is that I fail to live up to those standards. I fail to live up to them even though I think I SHOULD live up to them. And at times like this, my relationship with spirituality in general is: shame.
I cannot tell you the standards I am held to as a public spiritual figure. I cannot tell you the standards I hold myself to. But looking around, I can see clearly that I am not alone in this behavior. Most of us that call ourselves spiritual have a clear idea of the goal that we are headed towards. We want to be enlightened. We want to be absent of ego. Why do we want this? For most of us, we want it because we’re so sick of hurting. And we have come to believe that spirituality is the way to break free of suffering. We have a picture in our heads of what we think that enlightenment looks like, our perfect image of the spiritually enlightened person. This becomes our “should”. But what most people don’t know is that this image we are holding on to, is a lie that we keep telling ourselves. Spiritual practice is not like that. And enlightenment is no kind of retirement from life itself. It is no kind of retirement from the ups and downs. We create the illusion of enlightened retirement from the ups and downs when we feel resistant to the ups and downs. We invent the idea that enlightenment means perfect bliss twenty-four hours a day only when we are suffering and we want an end to that suffering.
Physical life is a learning hologram. No one who is alive is exempt from expansion and so, no one is exempt from contrast. And as long as there is polarity, there is the recognition of what is unwanted as well as the recognition of what is wanted present within you. If we were to reach a state where we were magically transformed into a permanent state of bliss, it would mean ended-ness. There could be no further expansion from that place and that would not serve the universe at large. What serves the universe at large is eternal expansion. So even once you have attained enlightenment, you still have to integrate what it has taught you. You still have to integrate the spiritual awareness you have achieved into your day-to-day life. Even though the samsara waves never stop coming, the more enlightened you become, the more your thoughts change. Your perspective changes to match the vibration of source perspective. And so the meaning of your experiences change.
All religious traditions and belief systems have their own inherent pitfalls. And one of the biggest pitfalls in the spiritual community is the pitfall that we call “bypassing”. What I mean by bypassing is that we often bypass ourselves. We bypass our true feelings. We ignore or deny our true thoughts and feelings based on the spiritual beliefs and truths that we are trying to live up to. Most of us, who are aware that we are creating our own reality by virtue of what we are paying attention to, fear that if we focus on the way we feel, it will get worse. We have been taught to ignore what doesn’t feel good to think about or to look at. But what we miss is that we are already focusing on what doesn’t feel good to think about. And when we try to ignore it or deny it and rush in the other direction, we are actually resisting the way we feel; and anything we resist persists. So we are holding ourselves in those bad feeling places by trying to avoid and ignore them. The best way to deal with these kinds of negative states is to flip around to face them and embrace them completely. They exist for a reason. Negative emotion is always the red flag alerting you to the fact that there is something there to learn. It is always alerting you that you have come to the crossroads of personal expansion. But if you avoid the negative feeling, you also avoid the lesson and the expansion.
If you were driving along a road and your tire went flat, you would not keep driving and ignore the flat tire. You would stop, acknowledge the flat tire and then improve the state of the tire. But continuing to drive on a flat tire is symbolically what we are expecting ourselves to do when we try to avoid the way we really feel and what we are really thinking in favor of how we think we should feel and the way we think we should be thinking.
In the spiritual community, it has become a kind of unwritten cultural expectation that we need to act like what we think a spiritually enlightened person would act like; even if it is not true to how we really feel. In other words, it has become a cultural expectation that we should ignore where we are in pursuit of where we think we should be. The result is that most of us feel as if the only acceptable emotion to feel is happy. And if we feel less than happy, we feel as if we have somehow failed. As if the pain of the struggle we are facing in and of itself is not enough, we frost the cake of that struggle with shame and embarrassment that we are suffering in the first place.
Because of this shame relative to struggling, we do not want to own up to the depth of our suffering in the current moment. So, the words that come out of our mouth are not true to us, they are rehearsed principals we are beating ourselves up with. For example, the truth of where you are right now may be that what you’re experiencing hurts. Sometimes it hurts so bad, you can’t believe you’re still breathing. You’re in pain emotionally or physically and you don’t know what to do about it. If this is the case, it is self-abusive to gloss over the reality of that experience you’re having by saying something like “Oh, so many other things are going well and I know something great is going to come out of all of this”. Because at this moment, right here and now, you don’t know that! What you’re doing is regurgitating that spiritual principal because that is the way you’ve been taught that spiritually ascended people see struggles.
Our emotional selves are children. This never changes regardless of whether or not you have reached enlightenment. Our emotional selves never grow up. We just learn how to parent our emotional selves better. If you deny the way you actually feel, you are invalidating the small crying child within you, which is desperately trying to express the way he or she feels. If you deny the way you actually feel, you cannot ever get to a better feeling space. You have to know where you are as well as where you want to go if you want to know which direction to start walking. Could you imagine trying to use a map to find out what direction to walk if you were unwilling to admit to where you were? Could you imagine a doctor trying to help you to feel better but being unwilling to assess your current state to discover what is causing you to feel bad?
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to own up to how you feel and to say, “I am where I am”. Saying this does not mean that you have failed. It does not mean that you’ve given up and that you’ve surrendered to feeling crappy. It means that you are brave enough to embrace where you are so that you are no longer resisting where you are. And because of this, ironically you will no longer be stuck where you are. No matter what your “should standard” would have you believe, the truth is that there is no shame in struggling.
Having problems is not a character flaw. You have not failed if you have a bad day or a bad decade. Buddha had bad days. Jesus had bad days. Muhammad had bad days. You will not meet a single physically manifested being (whether they are an ascended master or not) that is exempt from contrast and so you will not meet a single physically manifested being who is in alignment twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. To expect this from anyone is cruelty. To feel embarrassment or shame if you are out of alignment is cruelty. To expect yourself to be in alignment twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week is cruelty. And it’s time that we stop perpetuating cruelty in ourselves as well as within this spiritual community that we ourselves are responsible for creating. The reality is, with standards like this, you're not going to get it right. You're not going to get it right because no one can.