We’ve all met addicts of some kind. The drug addict whose need for a fix overshadows even basic human needs. The alcoholic who drowns his life away. The coffee drinker who can’t function without a morning cup. The smoker, the binger, the sweet-tooth, and on and on. In fact, we’ve probably all had addictions of one kind or another. Most addictions begin as a form of escape or avoidance of pain then take on a life of their own.
But there is another kind of addiction you may not recognize. Spiritual addiction. Spiritual practice as a form of avoidance. Of course, then the practice gets different results than was intended.
As Rose Rosetree puts it, “The person intensifies existing habits or workarounds that have been undertaken for psychological healing or spiritual growth.”
When someone gets exposed to a new teaching that inspires them, it’s natural to have a keener phase. But at some point, we all run into flaws in the teaching, the organization, and/or the teacher. People are human. As in an intimate relationship, the romance phase ends. What happens next depends on the degree of the flaws and our response to them. The difficulty of this transition will depend on the degree of our attachment.
Some reject the whole thing and bail. Some do a reevaluation and form a more mature relationship, separating the wheat from the chaff and focusing on the value. But if the attachment is deep enough, we may ignore or idealize the discovered flaws and continue as if all is well. Or we may become cult-like about it, sacrificing ourselves in the process. We stay a child with the teaching rather than maturing as an adult. We become co-dependant, as in any other kind of relationship.
A major characteristic of this addiction is big upper chakras and squelched lower ones. Thus the person may have great experiences and high ideals but is typically broke, challenged to meet needs, and may develop fragile health or sensitivities. They live in the head rather than the world. Clearly an issue of balance. Practices that emphasize the upper chakras, like some forms of meditation, are thus more prone to this abuse.
Obviously, there are degrees of addiction. It’s very common to have a milder form where life is not the focus of our life. Perhaps we consult with astral beings before making any decisions. Or we reject the world conceptually because someone said it was unreal. Perhaps we deny some of our natural desires. We play at being a monk when we’re clearly not. Or we spend all of our time trying to be present.
In her book Magnetize Money with Energetic Literacy, Rose says: “excessive dependence on affirmations [or other practice] may put a susceptible person at risk for disassociating from reality and developing a spiritual addiction.” She notes that two of the dominant Law of Attraction teachers, Esther Hicks (Abraham) and Rhonda Byrne (The Secret), do not model their own teaching aurically while Donald Trump actually does. (I’ll come back to the book in more detail in a later review.)
The addiction can also be indicated by deferring to the future. “With my practice, all my problems will be solved later.” Or “when I’m enlightened, everything will be perfect.” Do delusions really lead to enlightenment? Or does reality?
A related term is spiritual bypassing. This is where people have a self-concept about being spiritual and feel they shouldn’t have “bad” feelings. It is a focus on feeling endlessly good even if they actually don’t. It’s using spiritual concepts to avoid aspects of life we dislike. And that leads to spiritual addiction.
Another variation is an absorption in spiritual concepts and endless discussion and arguing about “truth.” But the actual work is avoided. This is staying in the head, addicted to ideas about it. The spiritual discussion boards are full of this.
Adyashanti said “…anytime we contract from direct experience and spin a story, we have gone unconscious… whatever emotion that happened at that time will be locked into our system.” That’s a key point. Avoidance builds crud in our system, the fog that blinds us to love and happiness. In an attempt to avoid pain, we actually hold onto it.
A lot of it is framing. Do you use the law of attraction for a tune-up? The gratitude rock a few times a day? Or do you continuously try to manipulate your thinking? Are you constantly trying to be present? Are you forever seeking your purpose or passion but not choosing something? Are you able to have a conversation with someone you meet on the street or do you view everyday life as trivial and not worthy of your attention? Can you talk to your family about your life? Are you actually in it? Or have you left the stage?
In many cases, this is so subtle we don’t even realize we’re doing it. And because of the disconnect, we’re actually getting in the way of real spiritual progress. We’re collecting barriers to awakening.
“So if you are busily positioning your consciousness to seek the deeper truth, not the human experience, you will live at frequencies that intensify spiritual experiences to the detriment of staying connected to reality” said Rose. The trick is in seeking the truth IN the human experience. It’s really not somewhere else.
A contributing influence is that many spiritual teachers are monks or the students of monks. Their teaching is overtly or subtly influenced by a monks practice of withdrawal from life, not a householders path to find God right here. Transcendence vs immanence.
Rose mentions that as consciousness rises and spiritual presence grows, it puts pressure on people to change and evolve. This is encouraging more people to shut down or become addicted to avoid this. Yet it’s a wave of awakening that we can follow to our fulfillment. Avoidance only keeps us with what we don’t want.
This is not to say everyone doing the mentioned practices is addicted. It’s not the practice, it’s how it’s used. How we are with it, the same as all attachments, including the mind and ego. Don’t be shocked if you find a little of yourself in this. It’s quite common. Most of us have been there at one time or another. The key is of course to recognize it and see the avoidance. Hence this article.
Rose suggests one simple cure is to limit your spiritual practices to about 30 minutes a day total. Mainly in one or 2 blocks of time. The rest of the time, you’re living life here, not second guessing it. Not trying to be what you’re not. The witnessing observer or presence develops naturally from within. It cannot be forced or faked.
The key is balance. Not leaving the cloth in the dye (spirit) to soak excessively but to bring it out to bleach in the sun (world) and make the dye fast.
Rose’s article on the subject is worth reading. She talks about it from a broader perspective with more solutions.