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Lions Roar : September 2017
Haunted House & Spiritual Bypassing: Two Strategies of Denial No one wants to be dismantled. So there are two main ways that people try to abort this process: running away and spiritual bypassing. The problem with running away when a relationship becomes difficult is that we are also turning away from our- selves and our potential breakthroughs. Fleeing the raw, wounded places in ourselves because we don’t think we can handle them is a form of self-rejection and self-abandonment that turns our feeling body into an abandoned, haunted house. The more we flee our shadowy places, the more they fester in the dark and the more haunted this house becomes. And the more haunted it becomes, the more it terrifies us. This is a vicious circle that keeps us cut off from and afraid of ourselves. One of the scariest places we encounter in relationship is a deep inner sense of unlove, where we don’t know that we’re truly lovable just for being who we are, where we feel deficient and don’t know our value. This is the raw wound of the heart, where we’re discon- nected from our true nature, our inner perfection. Naturally we want to do everything we can to avoid this place, fix it, or neutral- ize it, so we’ll never have to experience such pain again. A second way to flee from the challenges of relationship is through spiritual bypassing—using spiritual ideas or practices to avoid or prematurely transcend relative human needs, feel- ings, personal issues, and developmental tasks. For example, a certain segment of the contemporary spiritual scene has become infected with a facile brand of one-sided transcenden- talism that uses nondual terms and ideas to bypass the chal- lenging work of personal transformation. This can be very tricky, for it uses absolute truth to disparage relative truth, emptiness to devalue form, and oneness to belittle individuality. The following quotes from two contemporary spirit- ual teachers illustrate this tendency: “Know that what appears to be love for another is really love of Self, because other doesn’t exist,” and, “The other’s ‘otherness’ stands revealed as an illusion per- taining to the purely human realm, the realm of form.” Notice the devaluation of form and the human realm in the latter statement. By suggesting that only absolute love or being-to-being union is real, these teachers equate the person-to-person element necessary for a transformative love bond with mere ego or illusion. Yet personal intimacy is a spark flashing out across the divide between self and other. It depends on strong individuals mak- ing warm, personal contact, mutually sparking and enriching each other with complementary qualities and energies. This is the meeting of I and Thou, which Martin Buber understood not as an impersonal spiritual union but as a personal commu- nion rooted in deep appreciation of the other’s otherness. A deep, intimate connection inevitably brings up all our love wounds from the past. This is why some spiritual practitioners try to remain above the fray and impersonal in their relation- ships—so as not to face and deal with their own unhealed relational wounds. But this merely hides the wounded uncon- scious, causing it to emerge as compulsive shadowy behavior or to dry up passion and juice. Intimate personal connecting cannot evolve unless the old love wounds that block it are faced, acknowledged, and freed up. The Dance of Duality As wonderful as transcendent moments of being-to-being union can be, the alchemical play of relationship involves a more subtle and beautiful dance: not losing our twoness in the oneness, while not losing our oneness in the twoness. Personal intimacy evolves out of the dancing-ground of dualities: personal and transpersonal, known and unknown, death and birth, openness and karmic limitation, clarity and chaos, hellish clashes and heavenly bliss. The clash and interplay of these polarities, with all its shocks and surprises, provides a ferment that allows for deep transformation through forcing us to keep waking up, dropping preconceptions, expanding our sense of who we are, and learning to work with all the different elements of our humanity. When we’re in the midst of this ferment, it may seem like some kind of fiendish plot. We finally find someone we really love and then the most difficult things start emerging: fear, distrust, unlove, disillusion, resentment, blame, confusion. Yet the fact that it brings our wounds and defenses forward into the light is a form of love’s grace. For love can only heal what pres- ents itself to be healed. If our woundedness remains hidden, it cannot be healed; the best in us cannot come out unless the worst comes out as well. So instead of constructing a fancy hotel in the charnel ground, we must be willing to come down and relate to the mess on the ground. We need to regard the wounded heart as a place of spiritual practice. This kind of practice means engag- ing with our relational fears and vulnerabilities in a deliberate, conscious way, like the yogis of old who faced down the goblins and demons of the charnel grounds. The only way to be free of our conditioned patterns is through a full, conscious experience of them. This might be called “ripening our karma,” what the Indian teacher Swami Prajnanpad described as bhoga, meaning “deliberate, conscious experience.” He said, “You can only dissolve karma through the bhoga of this karma.” We become free of what we’re stuck in only through meet- ing and experiencing it directly. Having the bhoga of your karma allows you to digest unresolved, undigested elements of your emo- tional experience from the past that are still affecting you: how you were hurt or overwhelmed, how you defended yourself against that by shutting down, how you constructed walls to keep people out. ➢ page 79 (ITEMNO.462)COLLECTIONOFTHERUBINMUSEUMOFART(ACC.#F1996.16.5) LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2017 65