For the last Spiritual Book Club meeting, we read Awake in the World by Michael Stone. It was my second time reading it, and it was liberating to get back in touch with his teachings. Sometimes when I’m practicing yoga, and watching yogis on social media, I feel like I’m not as spiritual as I should be.
I see so many quotes and phrases about letting go and living free. I feel like no matter how much I practice, I still experience stress, anger, worries, and I’m always trying to get somewhere.
I experience greatness and happiness, too! I have an amazing boyfriend, do what I love every day, and have amazing friends and family. I couldn’t ask for a better life!
Still, I hunger for this feeling of inner peace and freedom that everyone else looks like they have.
I’ve been practicing for SO long now, but I just don’t have as many peaceful lotus posture photos going around social media like that other yogi!
The truth is, even the most avid practitioners experience a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences. I don’t want to speak for everyone, but here’s what I DO know…
I know that you can’t kill off emotions. I know that they all exist in the universe. We can’t avoid them. We can either repress them, which is where things get messy, or become intimate with them.
This brings me to an email that I just read that really pissed me off about being a spiritual hypocrite. This person gave this example of what a spiritual hypocrite looks like…
“You’ve just enjoyed a fantastic mediation retreat and you’re driving out the car park. Then, a car out of NO where zoomed out. And because you’re caught you off guard, you begin to display act unruly and become a road rage ranger!”
Let me ask you, is this really a spiritual hypocrite? Or, is this just a human?
How can you call this person a hypocrite when you don’t even know their story. Maybe the retreat did help her? Maybe she reacted unruly and then a minute later realized how she was reacting, took a deep breath to calm, and made the commitment to stop. Or, maybe after she reacted that way, she immediately apologized. Perhaps she didn’t have the awareness to notice the reaction so fast before she attended the retreat, and this is a HUGE improvement! Maybe the retreat gave her enough silence in her mind that she’s more sensitive to these reactions and will start to work on them? Or, what if she is usually a peaceful person, but right when she got out of the retreat she found out there was a death in her family, and that’s the only way she knew how to react at that moment? What if she was just having a moment of being human?
I think the only spiritual hypocrite would be the person that pretends to be so peaceful and have it all together when really they have non-yogi moments like all of us.
And actually, I don’t even think that makes you a spiritual hypocrite. I think that also makes you human. If you’re trying to hard to show that you’re ultra spiritual, then you’re struggling with your own truth.
Most importantly, I don’t know your story or YOU. I don’t know what you’ve gone through and how far you’ve come. I don’t hang out with you everyday, and know what it’s like to laugh, cry, and share a deep conversation. I know you have amazing qualities. Perhaps you’re a great listener, and always make time for your friends. You’re always supporting your friends through their endeavors. You give amazing hugs, and let everyone know you believe in them!
How crappy would it be for me to judge you and call you a spiritual hypocrite just because you have some road rage or have a problem showing the world that you’re struggling?
I agree with Brene Brown in Rising Strong when she says, “Everyone is doing the best they can with the tools they have.”
In his book, Michael Stone says,
When I am upset, sometimes I ask myself: Why are you angry? Why are you afraid? And then I can listen until fear or anger presents its reasons. But usually I am impatient. I feel angry and want to blame someone or yell or tell someone what I think about him or her. This is exactly where practice comes in.
Our practice teaches us how to open to anger or any other strong feelings and not take immediate action. We learn to wait and see. And in this waiting we become deeply engaged with what is showing up. I can’t seal myself off and hope against hope for the end of anger. Anger has its purpose. But I have a responsibility to work with that anger, because as a practitioner of this practice called intimacy, I vow to remember that I do not live in an ethical vacuum. And though anger makes me feel like the center of the universe, I am not.
The moral is that we shouldn’t make quick judgements towards others, or be too hard on ourselves. We should accept what just happened, and then always learn from it and try to improve.
Sometimes you’ll be on a roll. You’ll be able to let those moments of anger and frustration pass you by. You’ll return to your breath and realization of what’s really important and worth the stress and anger. But, sometimes you’ll lose control. Sometimes anger will win. The point is to make those “out of control” moments few and far between.
Keep loving. Keep hugging. And, keep practicing my friend.
I love you dearly,