Over a margarita at happy hour in beautiful Sayulita I was recounting to a friend my curiosity about someone I met on vacation. Following a relationship break-up, she had become deeply devoted to a spiritual path; which had become a major focus for life yet I sensed that many deeper personal issues had been sidetracked. “Ah the spiritual bypass” my wise friend observed and suddenly I wondered if this was yet another form of resistance.
A bypass is a way around an obstruction; whether a coronary bypass or freeway around a city centre, it avoids an obstacle. However when we bypass the obstacle, it is still remains. Occasionally on the journey of the soul we encounter a problem we choose not to resolve. We bypass it however it is still awaiting our attention. It’s a bit like an unpaid parking ticket; we can ignore it but it may come back to haunt us.
Sometimes spirituality becomes a way of avoiding deeper issues. We content ourselves with spiritual progress and try to bury unresolved personal concerns. This can work for a while but generally if the soul desires our attention to something it will find a way to get it. A friend of mine spent many years at Fairfield, the centre of the TCM movement where residents spent hours and hours in transcendental meditation. However, despite this tremendous spiritual development, these people often lived crazy screwed up lives marked by dramatic evidence of discord. They appear to become spiritually one-sided and failed to complete the healing of the personality that was longed for at a deeper level.
Recently I made a commitment to focus on practices that would open my heart however surreptitiously I diverted myself on to a different journey connected with exploring my relationship with death and dying. It was only after I had explored this concept of the spiritual bypass that I was amused to find I had been “hoist with my own petard” (an expression used by Shakespeare in Hamlet that means to be caught in one’s own trap.) I had avoided the more challenging pursuit with one I found relatively easier.
Interestingly this diversion also gave me a gift by introducing me to Stephen Levine’s wonderful book A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last. In this book he suggest a practice that helps significantly to get in touch with unresolved issues. It is a Life Review where we mindfully explore the complete as well as that which is unfinished in our lives; it will help to disclose the unhealed and the unforgiven that may require our attention.
It seems that which we ignore will almost always come back to us.