To truly create something different, to rise above the standard forms that we have been handed, to reach new levels of collective spiritual insight, we need more evolved leadership.
We may have desires to create something different, but it is up to us to take responsibility and make sure we are walking the walk of being a truly transformational leader.
To one degree or another, leaders in the past have been people who tell others what to do. They direct or inform. In moments, they might inspire, but the inspiration, more often than not, is more of a pointer in the direction where their followers should be headed.
This old model is partly born of a notion that the leader has something in his or her head that the others involved need to learn how to execute on or adhere to. What is more true is that, while a leader might know something about where the group is going, there is quite a bit that is unknown—growth requires a stepping into the unknown. The leader will be just as changed and surprised by the process as everyone else.
When we assume that the leader has the answer and the followers are merely trying to catch up or make it happen, it devalues the contributions of those involved. It creates a dysfunctional hierarchy based on an authoritarian model where one person knows and everyone else learns or follows.
While this works at certain levels of consciousness, where the divine nature, creative spark, and soul essence are not yet being expressed, once we are operating in groups with more consciousness, the old model becomes oppressive.
As a leader, it is easy to think that we have grown beyond this model when in fact we have not. It takes continual refinement to advance beyond established norms of leadership.
To be clear, to embrace new forms of leadership worthy of our collective growth in consciousness, we do not need to do away with all forms of hierarchy—in fact, that is somewhat problematic. We do need, however, to work with these structures in an entirely new way.
In a healthier, more advanced version of leadership worthy of our noble endeavors, the leader is the first person to adjust their behavior. This above all else is what makes them the leader. They do not need to tell others to make changes so that then they can change or realize their objective. They change so that others can also make changes.
As a leader, before making a request, you make the desired shift inside of yourself. If you see a problem in someone else’s behavior, see how it is showing up in your behavior or how you are contributing to its creation.
Following on this, the question when things are not working out is not what does this other person need to do to get on track, but what do you need to do to be a better leader. This rigorous inquiry and adjustment is the foundation of a more advanced leadership.
As your leadership becomes more refined, it is built on listening to what is coming through each individual and harnessing this in service of a collective vision. You are not fearlessly in front barking out commands to those following, but tirelessly attending to the full expression of what is coming through.
This part of leadership often requires sitting back. Not a resentful sitting back, creating a standoff of disengagement and fear, but the sitting back that creates perspective on what is happening, that grounds itself in the larger vision, that holds a light for others to see by.
From this perspective, it is possible to see how to maximize everyone’s potential and grow the collective work. It is possible to see how to help people contribute more and better. With humility, it is possible to put aside agendas about what things should look like and create excellence from what is.
This type of leader looks at each person and evaluates them not only on a collective standard but on their individual contribution. What wisdom does this person have to offer in their approach to the work at hand? How might what is bothering or challenging your actually be a missing piece in making it work?
Or, if a person is making mistakes, not showing up, or being otherwise problematic, the question for the other person from the evolved leader is: “What do you need to make this work for you,” instead of “why are you making this mistake?”
If, after being given the support that they need to succeed, someone is unable to rise to the call of what is needed, this is its own instruction and will most often be evident to all involved, creating smooth transitions and ongoing goodwill.
This shift alone begins to dissolve unhealthy dynamics that people have with authority figures. No longer do people need to prove their worth and value to the leader. They can trust that their worth and value is an intrinsic part of the whole. They know that the obstacles they face will be easier to overcome because they have the support of both the leader and the collective.
These more developed leaders, whom I imagine you are trying to become, do not have followers. You have collaborators who, through their deep respect for your leadership, give their all to a joint creation. These collaborators are fully empowered to be leaders themselves and are capable of being led by others they are working with.
As you make the shift to this more powerful form of leadership, what you are able to create exponentially increases. No longer does one person need to bear the burden of bringing forth the vision; rather, the vision is brought forth from the collective hearts and souls of all who are involved, making it powerful and secure beyond measure.
What is Spiritual Bypassing…And, Is it Really a Problem?
“Spiritual bypassing, a term coined in the early 1980s by psychologist John Welwood, refers to the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with uncomfortable feelings, unresolved wounds, and fundamental emotional and psychological needs.” –Jonathan Toniolo
In extreme cases, it leads to denied or disowned aspects of ourselves that may leak out unexpectedly as we move through life.
We can suspect spiritual bypassing when we are using spiritual tools to avoid uncomfortable emotions, when we have become identified with the goal rather than the process of spirituality, or when we need to appear a certain way to be seen as spiritual.
Just as everyone uses defense strategies, everyone with a spiritual orientation is at risk of spiritual bypassing.
The trick is that one use for spiritual tools is to direct our attention, energy, and emotion toward positive growth. How do we tell the difference between this productive use of the tools and spiritual bypassing?
The answer is not in the tools themselves, but in the reasons that we use them. And it is not a binary system. At any point we may not be completely spiritually bypassing, but it is very likely that it is happening to some degree. We might be productively using our spiritual tools for the most part while also escaping some uncomfortable emotions that need to be examined.
Another area where people get confused about spiritual bypassing is when it happens in conjunction with intense emotions. Just because you have intense emotions—negative or otherwise—it does not mean that you are not spiritually bypassing. Sometimes we choose one emotional experience, even if it is challenging, over the one that we really need to be experiencing if we want to grow and heal.
The same is true for “confronting” realities. We might actively work on one area of our life so that we appear to be devoted to our spiritual and personal development while ignoring the area that is in desperate need of attention.
The bottom line is that it is not the superficial aspects of our behavior that represent spiritual bypassing, but rather the underlying mechanisms and our intent. It is very tricky terrain, and try as we might, we will all likely use spiritual bypassing at some point to cope with our lives.
The questions are—as with most things—to what degree are we doing it, and at what cost? When we frequently use spiritual bypassing, we are at risk of relegating parts of ourselves to the shadows—the disowned aspects of our selves. These parts of our selves are not gone: they are simply removed from our awareness because of our own denial. When we do this, we are likely to act in ways that are not in alignment with our spiritual efforts. If we are deep in denial, we will not even see what we are doing.
Spiritual bypassing is simply a defense mechanism, and, for many, a rather innocuous one—but for those people who are spiritual leaders or avid seekers, it poses a much larger threat because it presents a mechanism by which one can believe that they are on the path while in truth they are quite far from it.
“The spiritual ego can arise before and after liberation. Vigilance is required until the very last breath.” -Mu
Anyone on a spiritual path is at risk of falling prey to toxic spirituality, whether it is their own, that of someone close to them, or a spiritual leader’s. But the behaviors that create toxic spirituality are commonplace, and we can all very likely find at least some minor way that we engage in them. These problems amplify with the degree to which these behaviors are allowed to flourish—be they in our spiritual lives or otherwise.
Below are six signs that bad habits exist or have started to develop.
The Belief That the Rules Don’t Apply to Us: This can start in small ways—for example, with experiencing preferential treatment such as not waiting one’s turn or expecting to be treated in a special way—but can grow into bigger, more egregious infractions, all of which can fly under the radar until a much larger problem has developed.
Justification of Harmful Behavior: This is especially dangerous when behavior is excused through spiritual means. Well beyond preferential treatment is when harm to another person is justified by spiritual reasons as, for example, when the person who creates the harm claims they were told to do so by a spiritual source for the other person’s good or their spiritual development.
Superiority Mindset: You start believing your religion or religious group is the best or that they are better than others because of their pedigree, depth of knowledge, or place along their spiritual path.
Believing That You Are Beyond Simple and Best Practices: You begin to believe that you do not need to practice what you preach and subsequently abandon the foundational practices of your spirituality.
Polarized Identification: This habit involves identifying with the light and forgetting to see one’s limitations. This can range from glossing over problematic behaviors to the outright denial of their existence.
“Do As I Say, Not As I Do” Mentality: You create a standard by which others need to prove their worthiness and level of spiritual purity while your own problematic behavior is allowed to go unchecked.
If we notice that we have begun to slip ourselves, then the foundational practices of love, forgiveness, and respect can go a long way toward helping us get back on track. If we notice any of the above negative traits in another person, we may benefit from assessing the impact of the behavior and making choices that maintain our spiritual health.