Late last year, I had a dream that I was being chased down a dark New York street.
In order to hide, I ducked into a random shop that turned out to be for the mystically-inclined. I navigated my way through the wind chimes and dim lighting to the shop owner, and I asked for a Tarot reading—an activity I seek out regularly in my waking life when I need an extra layer of clarity on my next steps.
What was surprising was that after the woman pulled the first card, she looked at me and said, “You need to take a break from these practices. You shouldn’t be looking for answers in the metaphysical world. You need to focus on this world now.” Then, she pointed to the door where the bad guys were lingering in the shadows, ready to snatch me up as soon as I left my spiritual sanctuary.
I woke up in a bit of a panic.
I see dreams as messages from our subconscious in the form of symbols, and real-life situations that our conscious mind can decode. I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about this piece of advice from my subconscious.
My connection to a metaphysical existence feels so natural. It’s what gives my life sparkle and what keeps it flowing in ways that defy logic. It’s what gives me the confidence to take risks, make moves, fall in love, travel around the world, overcome obstacles with optimism, and write personal essays like this one. It’s how I’ve learned to get out of my own way.
Most importantly, the spiritual path has connected me with a global tribe of lifelong friends, without whom I simply would not be where I am, or who I am, today.
If I abandoned my spirituality, would all of that fall apart? Would I end up working in a cubicle for a job I sort-of like, taking orders from brogrammers and counting down each monotonous day until my next vacation? Would I start dating guys who take shirtless mirror selfies?
I guess I’ll never find out, because I have no intention of abandoning my divinity-seeking ways. But the dream, and my fear reaction that followed, got me thinking about the notion of spiritual addiction, or what is called “spiritual bypassing.”
Like any abuse of a drug, a spiritual addiction is a means of escaping reality—except you’re popping Positivity Pills and binging on Goddess Juice.
I think most of us have been caught in this trap at least once or twice. Hell, I spent most of the Summer of 2011 curled up in Child’s Pose, because I didn’t want to face my joblessness, penniless-ness and overall post-grad directionless-ness. And more than once, I’ve gone to battle with depressed feelings and thoughts with an army of positive affirmations I didn’t actually believe.
But how far is too far? When is it time to have an intervention with our Higher Self?
Answer: When we forget that the single most important thing we can do with our lives is to be a human.
It’s completely understandable why we’d try and avoid this seemingly simple task. Life as a human can be ruthless. And when we’ve tasted, even just for a fleeting moment, the sublime bliss of something beyond this life, we come back to Earth hungry for any opportunity to get there again. And with reason; it’s home.
But it’s not time to go home yet. That’s why we’re trudging through the muck and stumbling through this complicated human experience in the first place.
The issue of spiritual addiction arises when we start attributing our life circumstances to our spirituality, rather than our humanness. Everything in our lives is the result of a series of human choices we made during this very human experience. Self-awareness practices like yoga, meditation, oracle readings, astrology, and so on merely support us in this experience and remind us to be compassionate with ourselves, with others, and with our planet as we navigate through unpredictable tides.
For me, this friendly warning presented itself not as an anti-oracle dream, but in the form of my reaction to the dream. My reaction was to immediately cling to all of the wonderful things spirituality has “brought into my life.” But, in reality, it’s my humanness, and all of the faults, mistakes and misjudgments that come with it, that has provided my life’s blessings.
We cannot appreciate our closest friendships if we’ve never felt lonely. We cannot feel deep compassion for others if we cannot relate to their darkness. We cannot take risks if there is nothing to be lost. We cannot appreciate the sparkle if we’ve never experienced the dull. And let’s just say there’s been significantly less glitter in my hair lately.
I have spent the last couple of months somewhat removed from my usual daily fix of moon circles, kirtans, ecstatic dance, and other common Love Tribe activities. Instead, I’ve been immersed in investor decks, conversion rates and learning what a cap table is. It may be less sparkly, but it’s also been one of the most rewarding times of my life.
I’m exercising the beauty of being human by creating something I’m passionate about—something that all the yoga in the world could not bring to fruition. The magic potion here is cold hard material knowledge.
And at the end of a long day of material-knowledge gathering, there’s really nothing better than a glittery glass of Goddess Juice. But, everything in moderation.
Author: Teresa Bigelow
Apprentice Editor: Roslyn Walker; Editor: Emily Bartran
Image: Adam Cole Barber (provided by author)