Confronting Spiritual Bypassing: Integrating Spiritual Practice with Social Awareness

As a holistic healer, I advocate for integrating spiritual practices with everyday life, emphasizing authenticity in our spiritual journeys. A crucial aspect of this discussion is recognizing and addressing “spiritual bypassing” – the tendency to use spirituality to avoid confronting real-world issues and emotions.

Recently, this issue came to light during my attendance at the “Future of Power for Enlightened Leaders” hosted by the Brahma Kumaris in Nairobi. Amid Kenya’s current political unrest, particularly the Gen-Z uprising against President William Ruto’s government, I raised a question about how “Enlightened Leaders” should engage with and support this movement for change. Unfortunately, the panel’s* response dismissing the topic as “too political” exemplified what I consider to be spiritual bypassing.

Spiritual bypassing involves using spiritual beliefs to evade uncomfortable feelings or challenges in life. In the context of political events, it manifests when spiritual ideals are used to sidestep addressing societal injustices and unrest.

The Brahma Kumaris, with their deep focus on meditation and inner transformation, often promote a worldview that transcends physical and societal issues. They teach detachment from the material world, viewing spiritual evolution as primarily an internal process. Whilst this can offer profound personal insights, it may also lead to a lack of engagement with pressing societal issues. And in this instance, in response to my question about the political unrest in Kenya, which was on everyone’s minds, the panel talked about the need for inner peace and detachment over action, and going internally for the answers – a stance that I believe can inadvertently suggest that spiritual pursuits are separate from worldly concerns.

I don’t deny that meditation and inner peace are valuable, but I do feel that this perspective can discourage active engagement with pressing societal issues. It emphasizes maintaining peace and positivity, potentially overlooking the need for informed action and empathy toward social injustices.

As healers and spiritual community members, we must advocate for a holistic approach to spirituality that integrates emotional and political awareness and is embedded in the real world.

Some of the ways I believe we can do this include:

  • Integrate Emotional and Political Awareness: Encourage followers to meditate on peace whilst recognizing when action is necessary to uphold justice.
  • Encourage Informed Engagement: Stay informed about current events and support movements aligned with ethical values.
  • Promote Active Compassion: Advocate for empathy and action, not just positive thoughts, in creating a fair society.
  • Facilitate Open Discussions: Create spaces for open dialogue about societal and political issues within spiritual communities, fostering understanding and shared perspectives.
  • Balance Detachment with Duty: Maintain mental well-being through spiritual practices while fulfilling our duty to participate in societal issues, especially defending the rights of others.

For those of us in spiritual communities, whether as leaders or participants, it is vital to remember that our spiritual paths are intertwined with the material world. The issues of this world, like the ongoing political unrest in Kenya, require our attention and, at times, our action. Spiritual growth should empower us to engage more deeply with the world, not retreat from it. Let’s strive for a spirituality that embraces the whole spectrum of human experience, including the courage to stand up for what is right.

I would welcome dialogue with the panellists (or anyone else) on this topic.

*Panel at the conference consisted of Kenyan businessman Nizar Juma, British journalist Neville Hodgkinson, EU Ambassador to Kenya H.E. Henriette Geiger, Architect and Meditation Facilitator Kiuri Mburathi.