When we enter the spiritual path, we carry with us all the annoying habits that cause us to want to be free of them. What a sentence! It is precisely our afflictive emotions and mental habits that press us to be free of them. How wonderful! This is why it is so important to recognize our repetitive patterns at the outset of our spiritual journey, so we do not fall into the trap of practicing those same tendencies in spiritual disguise. If we are oblivious to our habits of mind we risk experiencing what is called “spiritual bypassing.”
Spiritual bypassing is a process of deep denial. We may practice meditation and convince ourselves we are on the spiritual path while, at the same time, we ignore the work we really need to do. If we are honest with ourselves, we begin to recognize this pattern. I remember one time a student of my yoga master went to him singing praises about the yogic path and how grateful she was to have him as a teacher. He responded by asking how things were going at home. She became a bit flustered and said, “Oh, crap!”
It is possible to become a very seasoned meditation practitioner and gain some definite insights while remaining blind to our afflictive emotions and mental patterns. One Buddhist teacher I knew actually required his students to spend five years in psychological therapy before they took vows. He was pretty smart. I suggest to all my students that they at least learn their personality type through the Enneagram, Myers-Briggs, or other assessment modalities. This helps us recognize the psychological filters through which we frame everything.
My own work with the Enneagram helped me understand I was practicing my authority issues in spiritual disguise. My wish for approval of external authorities and subsequent negative projections upon them, was a mask for my internal distrust of myself. I did not trust my inner authority and played this out through all my relationships including spiritual teachers and teachings. When I was able to see this clearly, my meditation practice deepened in ways I never thought possible.
So, if you are reading this and are inclined to practice some form of spiritual path, it is best to recognize and remove the blinders you are wearing. Find a way to see how you see. Then it is possible, with some work, to drop the veil. In the Sanskrit language there is a word, vidya, which means “seeing clearly” or “true knowing.” May we all experience the vidya of our original, unfiltered awareness.