“The purpose of life is to evolve … not bypass.” – Catherine Grace O’Connell
There is only one way out of the darkness and into the light. There are no shortcuts. There are no bypasses.
The only way through … is through.
The spiritual path is a challenging path, a path designed to humble you and dismantle your ego into little bits and pieces. It’s a path that will show you we are made up of far more than love and light. We learn more from the darkness than we do the light. They are two sides of the same coin. Behind every shadow awaits the light. To bypass the shadow is to bypass the lesson. We need both the darkness and the light. At least, until we’ve found our way to enlightenment!
It was Thanksgiving. I was barely out of the woods from my battle with Lyme Disease. I felt an urge to check in on a friend. I knew her pattern. Every holiday, she would spiral downward. She was a woman at Midlife. She had never been married. She never had children. The stories she would tell herself, the endless “I Am Not’s,” would overwhelm her psyche and she would stumble and fall. I picked up the phone to call her. I knew something was wrong. She told me on the call she had just tried to kill herself. She had taken a fork and stabbed herself multiple times. It wasn’t the first time and it wouldn’t be the last.
I remember when I first learned about the concept of a “Spiritual Bypass.” It took me quite some time to fully understand its true meaning. My friend had been on a spiritual bypass for much of her life. She went to all the workshops. She took all the classes. She trained in lots of different modalities. She hung out with only “spiritual people.” She was constantly on a quest, a quest to rid her demons by focusing solely on the path to enlightenment. Spirituality became her drug of choice, a way to distract her and temporarily numb her pain.
I watched it happen time and again. Friends or acquaintances I’d met along the path of “Love and Light,” leave workshops or weekend retreats on a spiritual high, feeling like an enlightened being. At least for a moment. And then, life would hit, obstacles would show up, friction would enter the equation, and they would go crashing down. Spirituality isn’t an escape route. Spirituality isn’t a quick fix. A Spiritual Bypass is a temporary way around the darkness only to have to face it again.
The spiritual path is a path of ascension. To become enlightened means to become lighter, to leave our pain, our limiting beliefs, our disempowering stories by the side of the road as we navigate our way to a higher elevation. The darkness we must pass through, the shadows we must encounter, are there to serve us, to teach us, to help us shine the light, the light of awareness to take their power away and, ultimately, make them disappear.
Just as the sun rises and sets every single day, the light and the darkness show up in our lives to help guide us in our evolution. The darkness forces us to find the light. The light gives us the strength to face the darkness.
A spiritual bypass is a path of disempowerment. Believing we are all “Love and Light” keeps us trapped in a false belief system and stops us from the real work, the inner work, the peeling of the layers, the transformation of the shadow through the light.
Just as there’s no bypass to heaven, there’s no shortcut to evolution.
We must feel it to heal it. Feelings are a message from our soul. Painful feelings are there to get our attention, to let us know we’re off course, so we can bring ourselves back to center.
Darkness forces us to rise. Just as a lotus must grow through the mud and a seed must force its way through the soil to find the light, we humans must navigate our way through the darkness and into the light to evolve and grow. Every time we fight our way through, we build a little more belief in ourselves, a bit more knowing that we have the strength and courage within to do it all over again when the time comes.
The human spirit is a powerful force, a force of character. Spirituality is a wonderful thing as long as it’s used as a tool for spiritual growth and evolution. Just like any other addiction – drugs, alcohol, shopping – if it’s used to numb, to avoid, to delay the pain, to distract us from the work, it’s equally dangerous.
You can read all the spiritual books and attend every weekend warrior workshop. You can follow every guru and spout spiritual principles. But to be a master, to master yourself, takes time and practice – a spiritual practice – day in, day out – breath in, breath out – one present moment at a time as the layers slowly fall away and the truth of who you are shines brightly from within.
The spiritual path takes Moxie. Facing our demons takes Moxie. Navigating from the darkness into the light takes Moxie.
There’s no bypass to Moxie.
There’s no shortcut to Mastering Modern Midlife – to Mastering Yourself.
Moxie is what you need to find your way through.
Wow – your words feel so powerful to me today. I’m one of those who used to want to go around the darkness, trying to avoid it at all costs. But eventually it catches up with us. I love that – the only way through, is through. And we need both the darkness and light, or we haven’t lived a full life.
Catherine Grace O'Connell
It’s a topic I rarely see women writing about. It’s so important to discern when we are bypassing the work or actually evolving. Bypasses will never get us where we want to go. You are an inspirational role model sister. I have always seen greatness in you!