How Mature Are You Really, Spiritually-Speaking?
A few years ago I had the pleasure of listening to a conversation with a true genius (his I.Q. is seriously off the charts) named Ken Wilber, author of "The Integral Vision," who shared his insights into something that explained so much about the Yogic world I had been immersed in for nearly two decades, and found many disparities within.
Ken Wilber sought to find an answer to the above question, as he wondered why so many seemingly "spiritually evolved" people behaved like babies, for lack of a better word, were highly inappropriate, and also very egocentric.
Ken Wilber's work is largely based on the spiritual teachings and studies of Robert Augustus Masters, PhD, a relationship expert, psychospiritual guide, and founder of the Masters Center of Transformation (MCT), a school featuring relationally-rooted psychospiritual work devoted to deep healing and fully embodied awakening.
Robert Augustus Masters, PhD, has authored many books, and I find his work, and that of Ken Wilber, to be of upmost importance at this time in our collective history, as well as my own personal story...my own "herstory," if you will.
To fully answer the question "How mature are you, spiritually?" I want to take you back to when I began learning and teaching Yoga, in 2007. This was considered the "second wave" of Yoga in the United States by many; the first wave being popularized in the 1960's and the generation of 'hippies' who were "tuning in and dropping out," partially in reference to their use of psychedelics and TM, or transcendental meditation, and their protests of the wars, murders of political figures and idealists, and the tumultuous times our nation was experiencing.
If you are old enough to remember the Beatles going to India and studying with a Guru, you will recall their immersion into the practices and philosophy radically changed their music, their behaviors, and especially in the case of George Harrison, their personas.
When Yoga became popular in the United States once again in 2007, it was used as a form of exercise; becoming a "westernized" practice rather than an Eastern philosophy. Although the Yoga practices in India at one time resembled 'exercise,' this was because the British Monarchy and military thought it would be beneficial to strengthen the Indian military personnel and enlisted persons with a more vigorous practice, so they made it a daily practice to get the soldiers in good physical condition.
Out of this came over 26 different versions of Yoga which were taught to varying degrees of success and devotion, and some of the most popular 'types' of Yoga became almost religious in terms of their devoted followers and practitioners. Perhaps you have heard of Bikram Yoga, which prescribed the same 26 poses, in sets of two, performed over 90 minutes in a 104-108 degree room, with absolutely zero variation of the poses or sequence possible.
I spent many an afternoon in such a classroom, practicing the asanas, or poses, sweating profusely, and sadly, my greatest memory is of the instructor trying to bend my body the way it was "supposed" to go, and when my body couldn't comply, her facial expression expressed it's intense dissatisfaction with my "will and my effort" to contort my body in such a way that was dictated by this brand of Yoga.
Bikram, himself (yes, he is actually a real person that named this series of poses and earned millions by opening studios all across the United States, capitalizing on the need for millions of devotees to sweat, comply, sweat some more, and fall in line with his methodologies and teachings without question), was instantly famous, driving a Rolls Royce around Los Angeles, or being driven around, I should say, dripping in gold jewelry, showing up unannounced at studios to the admiration of his many followers, and in all honesty, acting like a celebrity at their worst.
Bikram Choudhury is still touted as an "American Yoga guru," and yet, the United States eventually barred him from ever teaching here again once the sexual misconduct allegations became known. It turns out he wasn't such a great human being, after all, and he said horrendous things to people during trainings, which people paid quite a bit of money for, calling them "too fat to practice Yoga," or "incapable of teaching let alone practicing Bikram Yoga properly." He had the emotional maturity of an adolescent, and a petulant one, at that.
Then there was a man named John Friend, who created "Anusara Yoga," and I tried that 'brand of Yoga' out a few times to see if it resonated. Luckily, it wasn't my favorite, because it turns out, he, too, was really not such a great guy. Once again, sexual abuse allegations surfaced, and there were several potential teachers he denied certifications for based on their lack of compliance with his demands.
They were sadly not alone as evidenced in the spiritual, political and corporate world, and still I remained devoted to my teachings and practices, without incident, but it felt as though there was a great deal of disparity between what people said, and what people actually did, or the way they behaved which was confusing and disheartening for me; I mean, weren't these the people who would be least likely to behave in such a manner? Weren't they supposed to be highly evolved, super kind, and hella good people? If anyone was supposed to be a role model for kindness, calm and caring for others, you would think it would be the Yogic gurus, wouldn't you?
It turns out, they were like anybody else- perfectly flawed, and human, and capable of hideous things, and it wasn't until I came upon this interview with Ken Wilber that it made sense, and also highlighted something we are deeply unaware of, collectively and individually, that I think we should be aware of, especially if you consider yourself to be a 'spiritual person."
The reality is, you can be a spiritual person-even a deeply spiritual person, and still be an a**wipe. But, you may be wondering, how does this happen?
Before you think I am referring specifically to you, know that it's a good thing to want to be spiritual...that's not the problem. The problem is, all too often, we "spiritual gangsters" can fall into the trap of spiritual by-passing. We may be unwittingly and with the best of intentions stunting our growth emotionally, mentally, relationally, and cosmically by not tending to our personal development; not feeling our real feelings, and just playing nice all the time.
I'm not going to lie to you, I fell into that trap, more than once, and I want you to understand fully what that means, how you can be a more authentic, fully embodied spiritual being, capable of greater emotional literacy and intimacy, and able to develop relational maturity.
I was a master at spiritually by-passing my emotions; I had a daily practice of breathing, meditating, moving my body, being of service, studying Yogic and Buddhist philosophy, and while I did feel my feelings, I am aware there were a few times I avoided 'feeling my real feelings.'
I recall someone mentioning hearing a disparity between my "Yoga voice," which I strived to maintain off of my mat as well as on my mat, and how different I sounded outside of class once when I was really pissed off at the gym owner where I worked. This comment really struck me! As in, "What? Am I not allowed to get angry just because I teach Yoga?"
I had a legitimate reason for being so pissed off (at least I thought so), and yet I felt guilty, and like a fraud. Wasn't I always supposed to be calm, and kind, and passive? All I needed was the right crystals, essential oils, clothing, and body type and I unquestioningly passed as a spiritual being, right?
As a collective whole, we have more than a few people who need to "grow up." We ALL need to "do the work," of dancing with our shadows, of befriending ourselves, of engaging in emotional and relational intimacy and development, and allowing for greater emotional literacy and expression, in an authentic, embodied, and healed way. We ALL need to heal our wounds, individually and collectively, and tend to the most fragile, wounded and earliest parts of ourselves, so we can begin to understand where we belong in this world, and that we DO belong in this world.
When each one of us does this incredibly hard, often daunting work, and we show others what it means to "do the work," day after day, and continue to show up, to tell the truth, to be open to the outcome, we help the collective not only mature spiritually, emotionally and personally, we begin to feel less alone, less weird, less inhibited by societal standards and programming, and we fully become who we really are.
We finally begin to understand the world doesn't revolve around us; it revolves and evolves with us...we are part of the fabric of the Universe. Our growth spiritually contributes to the growth of the Universe; the Universal Consciousness that is "the One," of which we are an integral part of.
It's ironic that by focusing on your own personal development, growth, maturity, spirituality, intimacy, selfness, you are co-creating the world you want to live in. You are literally helping the collective move from a more egocentric perspective to a more Universal one-you become part of the Cosmic Karma that needs to shift.
Let me remind you that when you do the work to heal, to open your heart, to step fully into your authentic self, you show others the way. It is no exaggeration to say your quest to stop spiritually by-passing your authentic emotions, your wounds, and your shadows and do "the work" may actually be the very thing that turns this planet around; in fact, I believe that is exactly what we need in order to shift the Universal Consciousness.
Can you imagine a world where we all have healed our wounds and show up and tell the truth, knowing that when our wounds are healed we are less inclined to belittle and hurt others? Can you imagine living from an authentic, fully-embodied and light-filled, mature place, with complete understanding of our place in the world-the galaxy, even? I know it's hard to imagine, and I ask only that you consider it, if only for a moment.
Fast forward to the last 5 years, where my spirituality has shifted immensely, and the days of spiritually by-passing are (mostly) over. I take great care these days to continue dancing with my shadow(s), focusing on loving and accepting ALL of myself, even when the darkness follows me too close, and I try and outrun my shadow-I now lovingly own and embrace it, pausing to let it catch up with me, integrating and thanking it, even, for the wisdom, protection and guidance it has provided me with over the years.
I am feeling feelings I forgot I had or was capable of feeling more and more, and with each new awareness of my feelings, as they happen, in real time, I continue to remind myself of the all-too-real human experience that is life, and how lucky I am to be able to feel things; to experience my self, to be embodied fully, authentically, wholly and lovingly. I have cried more in the last year than I recall crying in the last decade, and it feels liberating, welcome, and somewhat uncomfortable, to be sure, but I don't want to stop because my relationships have never been better.
The level of intimacy, understanding, love, respect, and honesty in my relationships is astonishing, including the relationship I have with myself. I have never been more awake, healed, and integrated than I am now. I also feel as though my spiritual being is more integrated with my highest self; we are more aligned than ever, and as I continue to reprogram my mind, my heart and even my gut, I have never felt more alive or as vital to the fabric of everything, the "oneness,"