The Spiritual World Must Face Its Shadow
If we don’t, we won’t create a more harmonious world
Imagine that you are looking to heal spiritually, only to have someone you trust abuse you with unwanted contact. Imagine you belong to a spiritual community, only to have the teacher you revere speak in a language that alienates you. Imagine you are hoping to connect with others on a similar path, only to find that spaces of healing are closed to you.
Spiritual communities have shadows, just as individuals do.
The shadow is the side of ourselves that we reject, loathe, and suppress: Nasty things we’ve done and are often ashamed of; the people we’ve betrayed or abandoned, mocked or abused; the parts of us that feel unworthy, not good enough, or unlovable. The shadow is also the way that our egos survive. The shadow can sometimes show up as delusion, arrogance, or self-aggrandizement.
As we build communities, our personal shadows take root in those relationships and structures. The shadow then shows up in how yoga, meditation, and energy healing are taught. It lurks in the business models of retreat centers like Esalen and Kripalu. It resides in the images and brands that take center stage on Instagram and Facebook.
The shadow is born from the ways that our spiritual practices, collectives, and communities replicate the very problems that spirituality is supposed to repair and heal. Often ignored or repressed, the shadow can erupt in the form of toxic relationships; mental, emotional, and physical abuse; or through drama and scandals, sometimes to the point that the community is devastated or collapses.
It is our responsibility to look at these aspects of the spiritual world and heal them. What follows is a brief foray into some of the main aspects of our collective shadow: spiritual bypassing, judgment of others, false and abusive teachers, conspiratorial thinking, money and inequality, white privilege and racism, and cultural appropriation.
Toxic positivity, or spiritual bypassing
Spirituality teaches us that when we can face all our pain and accept it without judgment, we can become whole again. It is an approach to…