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A Perspective on Warnings Against “Ungrounded Spiritual Practices”

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A few weeks ago I was up well into the early morning, absorbed in a fascinating discussion thread on a friend’s Facebook profile about “ungrounded spiritual practices”.

It was certainly more of a discussion than many threads focused on sensitive issues, but nevertheless, it had become a somewhat heated debate about the validity of such practices (given that some individuals choose to use them as ways of avoiding their issues until, in some extreme cases, like the example of a young woman’s suicide which prompted the thread, it is too late), and I realized that much of my own fascination with the discussion stemmed from my own uncertainty as to how I might “personally” respond to either side of the argument.

I went to sleep asking for insight, and I woke the next morning thinking about how, try as we may to be a single, coherent thing, even if just superficially, we are all so much more than this, how we can be, and usually are, two or more seemingly opposing things simultaneously.

Tensions over opinions about what approaches and practices to personal/ spiritual growth are healthy or even “legitimate”, tend to be the result of our somewhat limited human minds and hearts trying to become LESS limited, trying to come to terms with the paradoxes of our truly incomprehensible being and to integrate a deeper acceptance of, if not rejoicing in, this inconceivable grandeur.

Certainly, to one not experiencing their own Vastness (i.e. not identifying more primarily with being the One expressing as the many, but rather with a single aspect of the many as an expression of a somewhat separate Divine Being – a subtle yet most profound distinction), these words may sound and feel meaningless, but I share them nevertheless as an offer of the possibility of further hope, which is the first thing we must choose for ourselves to lead ourselves from our dark places to ones more filled with the Light that IS our recognition of ourselves as the One Being.

From “here”, even the most limiting (which tend to be the most horrific) dramas we enact/ personalities we wear/ experiences we come to identify with, are an acceptable, if not uniquely glorious expression of Infinite possibility…which exists everywhere, always.

Those focused on belittling paths and practices that are “ungrounded” are sometimes (probably more often than not) not fully grasping that engagement with those practices is often (but admittedly not always) an empowered choice (or at least an attempt towards empowerment) to accept the personal responsibility necessary to choose to make the first steps in moving out of a dark place limiting our own vision of what is possible.

Those places will likely always be there. Sorry to say, but they, like all things, are eternally part of us (but I’m not really sorry to say this because they are a Perfect part of our Wholeness). What makes them seem imperfect or unacceptable is our choice to insist on feeling powerless against them.

Heaven knows, we ALL feel powerless and broken, even unfixable at moments, and even for long periods in our lives…particularly those of us who allow such feelings to surface from under the veneer of the masks we wear socially and sometimes even in our most intimate relationships.

It is the openness to seeing the Perfection behind appearances (which includes the Perfection of even those most personal and terrible inner feelings we believe to be ‘us’) that brings with it the window through which comes a choice to see and move into a different experience, to in a sense, create a new reality for ourselves.

This is what many of the so called “ungrounded” practices are designed to do – to provide an opportunity for us to create that openness within to seeing the Perfection…or even just believing that It is there.

This may sound “new agey” or “ungrounded” to some, but this choice (which is actually a deep, inner affirmation of our creative power) does not happen in a feel-good vacuum. We can’t ignore the very real suffering from which these choices often stem.

There is inherent satisfaction, even bliss, found in the experience of recognizing we are powerful, creative beings, capable of shifting our own reality, at least to some seemingly small degree, at any moment.

So, when a practice like a mantra, or meditation, or even just the conscious mental repetition of a positive idea, facilitates for us that experience, it also carries with it the risk, like any addictive behaviour, of us becoming dependent on that tool, of us idolizing IT rather than our own inner spiritual power which it is granting us access to. I do not deny that with any method of reprieve from our suffering, there is also the potential of sequestering oneself, for a time, in the relief that it brings.

But, what do we gain from blaming our or others’ addictions on the experience we are addicted to or even on those sharing the benefits of what could, potentially, like anything, become addictive?

Certainly, anyone teaching a spiritual path or practice has some responsibility to know whether or not they are using that path or practice more to escape unpleasantness than to grow beyond being limited by over identification with it, but the ultimate responsibility for what one chooses to allow into their experience always rests with the experiencer.

We can be angry about this for as long as we choose. It’s perfectly okay to be so, for this is the grace of free-will. This won’t, in itself, help us truly grow “beyond” whatever is causing our suffering, but knowing it to be our choice and that every choice has validity is the foundation of personal growth.

It’s somewhat of a paradox (the only place Truth actually resides) — only when we fully accept that it is okay to feel anything and for as long as we choose to, can we truly open a window to seeing that it is within our power to feel/ experience reality differently.

The key here is total non-judgment. If we judge ourselves for wanting to stay in an experience that is causing us some suffering (i.e. if we have our sense of self-worth over-invested in making “better” choices…which is quite a different thing than an empowered personal choice to create a reality one prefers/ is more aligned with who one is inspired to be), then that experience will inevitably continue to perpetuate itself until we cease said judgement. Judgement is but the inability to see the value of something, and everything has some value.

Once we commit to non-judgement (which is an inner ideal to continually strive towards, not something we must always feel we are succeeding at because this is impossible as Life will always bring us more to potentially judge because It is ceaseless in Its Loving efforts to help us see we are as Endless as It is, for we ARE It!), clarity around what we are, on some level, getting from/ enjoying about whatever is also causing us suffering, flows to us more freely.

We can be in intense inner turmoil or feeling utterly alone in one moment and then have our awareness and enjoyment of the Perfection dawn upon/ return to us in the next. This is no state of psychological mania I describe, for underneath both experiences is a constant acknowledgement of, even if but the faintest choice to believe in, the Oneness of all experience.

In this Eternal Oneness, there can truly be no suffering because even the worst suffering is a part of the One Thing that forever, simply but unfathomably profoundly, Is.

Spiritual paths and practices, even those labelled as “ungrounded” can help us see this, but developing the ability to make this our predominant experience also requires the confrontation with and acceptance of our suffering before and while we choose to “transcend” it.

I put “transcend” in quotes because often the same people who denounce light-based practices are also triggered by words which infer that movement into the light from darkness is a progression. This, my friends, is where we truly need to stop thinking so literally and linearly and also to choose to refrain from taking it personally when we’re in our dark places and someone points to the light. Even if said person only understands what they are saying on the most superficial of levels and has little clue as to the depth of our suffering, this does not completely invalidate the message. If we can admit to ourselves that we were triggered by them, we may see that it is likely due to our own desire for and resistance to learning to accept more of our own “darkness”, depth, and complexity.

If potential stems from darkness, if insight and clarity can be catalyzed by the experience of chaos and confusion and greater personal freedom born of once being shackled to how we thought things were, then how can we not see that those polarities, those two “ends” of a likely infinite continuum, are but ONE thing?!

The foundation is the foundation, and the summit is the summit. The summit is, unarguably, the higher ground, so it is where we have the most expansive view and thus where we innately aim our aspirations because we always seek, ultimately (even if somewhat hidden beneath our personal preoccupations), the largest view and experience of Who we Are.

And yet, what spiritual seekers often forget (which is the important awareness the nay-sayers of light-based spiritual practices are pointing towards), is that the summit could NOT be the summit without the foundation. It would be impossible, for without the foundation, the summit would be the foundation. They define each other.

This points to the deep truth we are all initiated into at some point – that every summit IS, in fact, the foundation of yet another mountain within the endless journey of Self-discovery.

So, knowing this, what sense does it make to choose to identify slightly more with the light of the summit then with the darkness of the foundation?

The only sense it makes dear friends, and my heart smiles with the knowing that you will see that it does, is in the Knowing of What the light of that summit represents and points us towards – the “Light” of our own Wholeness, the Light/ Love/ Perfection of the One Being!

To summarize then, it is not a matter of either light promoting practices or grounding shadow work. It’s a journey of integrating both dynamics/ paths into our daily lives to the point we don’t see our spiritual path or even practices as something separate from the rest of our lives that we do to get somewhere we are not, but rather more as fluid expressions of our innate desire for greater personal freedom, fulfillment, happiness, health, and prosperity, which all help direct the currents of our lives flow the way we have brilliantly chosen them to flow and to merge our river of awareness with that of the Great Ocean of Consciousness, in as much as we are inspired to in the ways we are most inspired to.

May you all be blessed with a most graceful journey.


One Response

  1. Leaf
    | Reply

    Thank you for the insightful post. As always, I find your perspectives very well thought out and maturely touching the many dimensions, sides, and portals to an issue.

    I would add that I do think there are ungrounded practices — these would be the ones that have no Earth in them, and are all Air or Fire. However, sometimes they can be still relevant for a practitioner, especially when they are grounding in other ways and may even purposefully being very “light” in that particular practice. That said, sometimes a practice is truly ungrounded and NOT serving the person, and it is good to also acknowledge that sometimes, deepening is called for.

    I appreciate the share. Thanks!

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