Spiritual Bypassing

A note on spiritual bypassing:

In a recent post, I wrote “Compassion is necessary. But to be really strong in our compassion, we have to embrace a Transcendent perspective.” Some might think embracing a Transcendent perspective is a form of spiritual bypassing.

According to Robert Augustus Masters, spiritual bypassing is “the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with our painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs.” (Spiritual Bypassing, p. 1) I would add that the avoidance could be of our own pain or another’s.

I agree that as spiritual beings, we need to embrace suffering, not run from it. But it can be overwhelming to read about suffering in the news.

Here’s the key: What we are aware of, we are already larger than. In that sense, our awareness transcends the suffering we are witnessing. If the suffering is greater than our ability to witness it consciously, it overwhelms us and we may feel powerless.

The “Transcendent perspective” is our own nonjudgmental awareness, our innate capacity to witness suffering consciously and not be overwhelmed by it. Basically, if you are getting overwhelmed by suffering — either yours or another’s — you need to either limit your exposure to the news, for example, or increase your awareness ability. I described this in another recent post.

But I’m not advocating that we run or hide from suffering. I’m saying that we must learn to attend to it consciously, which includes knowing our limits and not taking on too much too fast.

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