*Originally published on Elephant Journal.
Ten years ago, at the age of 24, I had a spontaneous spiritual awakening while meditating at our family cabin in Colorado. My awakening blew me open in ways I never knew were possible. My ideas of God, spirituality, our purpose here and just about everything else got flipped upside down. Previous to that, I had certain ideas about what it meant to be “spiritual,” which largely involved compassion, being perfect, and wearing a lot of purple. Ten years after that experience on a mountain in Durango, I can see how my ideas of what it meant to awaken were a bit misguided. Here are just a few of the myths about spirituality that I wish someone had told me so I could have spared myself a lot of self-judgment in the process.
- Myth #1: As you awaken, life will get easier.
The truth is, as you evolve spiritually, life doesn’t become all rainbows and sunshine. I had thought that as I awakened, there would be more love, grace, and abundance than ever before. And in a way there is. I experience insane and intense moments of connection, beauty, and loving. However, I’ve learned that no matter how spiritual or connected you are, life will still keep throwing challenges your way. In fact, as we deepen in our spirituality, often times we experience more chaos and upheaval than ever before as we are clearing karma faster and faster. We are here to wake up, not always be 100% happy.
- Myth #2: A truly spiritual being is ok with whatever happens to them because they are so neutral and clear.
Part of the spiritual path is about gaining neutrality and developing a witness consciousness. However, there are still times when I get angry, or sad, or feel disgusted. And these times are appropriate. If you’ve ever read the Bible, you’ll see that even Jesus had moments of intense rage. The spiritual path doesn’t mean losing your emotional reactivity, it means becoming more conscious of where your reactions are coming from, so you learn when it is appropriate to express them. And there are times when it is appropriate to be angry, full of rage, or heartbroken. There are times when what we consider “reacting” is actually Spirit moving through us, helping us to break open into greater understanding.
- Myth #3: To be spiritual is to be all-giving, self-sacrificing, and to put the world’s needs above your own.
This is one I believed for a long time and many good-hearted healers, therapists, and teachers seem to share this same belief. The old spirituality was about sacrificing ourselves for other people or for a higher cause. But we are in a new era now. In this new era of consciousness, we are here to love our selves first and foremost. This involves putting ourselves first in our own lives, before we extend ourselves to save the world around us. Doing so will set an example for other people who are sacrificing themselves in bad relationships or crappy jobs. Your permission to liberate and love yourself will give them permission to do the same.
- Myth #4: Spiritual masters are always compassionate, always loving, and always “perfect.”
This is one I still grapple with. I had an image of what is means to be an enlightened spiritual being which included being all-knowing, all-wise, all-loving and compassionate at all times and all ways. This led to be being walked on, used, drained, and depleted in my personal life. What I have since learned is that the spiritual path is about deepening into loving, but we also need wisdom and discernment as partners to that loving. I thought that as a spiritual person, I wouldn’t need boundaries, but it turns out I need them more than ever. As I have grown spiritually, I have a greater capacity for true loving, but less tolerance for being used, manipulated, or energetically drained.
- Myth #5: If you are spiritual, you have to be “nice.”
Being “nice,” isn’t all it is cracked up to be. This may sound dramatic, but “niceness” is like a virus. It is the way many of us have been programmed in our families and in our cultures to behave, be still, and not make waves. Spiritual masters were not “nice.” They were deeply loving and could love and touch the divinity inside those around them. But they knew they did not exist to please other people. They knew their purpose was much bigger than being “nice” to keep the peace. There is a difference between inspired acts of generosity and kindness, and being nice to please other people and fit in. This does not mean you have to be mean to be spiritual either. It is only a call to examine your own personality traits and which ones are authentically you, and which ones you use to maintain an image of what it means to be spiritual or good, Truth be told, I think most people who meet me would describe me as “nice.” I open heartedly love and adore people I come into contact with. However, I can see how my internal need to be “nice” kept me in some energetically abusive dynamics for far too long.
- Myth #6: To be spiritual, means you stop being human.
I had assumed that as I awakened more and more, my personality would soften and my body would be in perfect health. I thought I would stop getting cranky when I was hungry, or mad at my boyfriend when he steals the covers at night. I thought my health issues would vanish. The truth is, as you awaken, you deepen in your humanness. Instead of getting mad at myself for getting irritable or grumpy, I am more and more coming to love that very human sweet part of myself who needs protein ever four hours and is upset and cries when someone verbally attacks her. To be spiritual doesn’t mean you stop being human, it means you accept and love your humanness even more. You begin to love yourself for your humanity, not in spite of it.
What I am learning is that spirituality isn’t about divorcing yourself from your humanity. It is about embracing and loving all parts of you, especially the very human part. Can you meet your humanity with loving? What about your anger? Can you love that rage and all it is trying to do for you? Can you embrace depression and sadness and heartbreak? Can you love yourself even when you don’t feel perfect? Or when you are ill? Or have lost a loved one? Can you love yourself fiercely, no matter what? That is spirituality.