Spiritual bypassing etc.

We will be looking at ‘spiritual bypassing,’ the detour we take into the transcendent to escape from the old personal heavy stuff.  It happens so fast, but is it inescapable?  Liberation is so tempting and compelling — it’s the biggest and highest promise of perfection we can strive for.

What happens when we have a kensho, or opening experience?  Does the ego freeze and stay stuck at the stage of development in which the realization happened?  Does the ego still exist, and if so how does it manifest?  What does it mean to be awakened?

This is from an invitation to an upcoming event with Genpo Roshi and Ken Wilber. It’s interesting for me to notice that I am not drawn so much to these questions anymore. I also see an irony here. During my time at Genpo Roshi’s Zen center, I was an avid reader and student of Ken Wilber, as the only person (as far as I know) there. I was even discouraged to read him by some of the senior students. At the time, this would have been my ideal type of event. Now, I would probably have attended if it was very convenient, but not otherwise. As they say, we get what we ask for, and not always in the way or in the timing we expected.

I imagine some thoughts behind this text. None of these seem so true for me anymore, and I would also like to find more clarity on them:

Liberation is better. I need to find liberation.

Perfection is somewhere else. It’s better to find perfection. It’s possible to find perfection. I know what perfection is. This – what’s here – is not perfect.

Bypassing is wrong. It’s better to not bypass.

What’s here is not OK.

Also, I see they seem to use the word “ego” in two different ways, without differentiating. The “ego” that can mature and develop is the psychological ego, the operating system for this human self, and that stays as long as the human self is around, independent on whether there is confusion or clarity on what we are. The other “ego” is the one referred to in a spiritual context, and is what happens when a thought is taken as true. I assume they’ll talk about both.

I am also reminded that any tool for exploration can be used to explore both who and what we are, or one or the other. It’s all about intention.

For instance, basic meditation – just sitting, shikantaza – can be used with the intention of identifying with/as awareness, and release identification out of the human (transcendence). It can equally well be used to fully embrace all of it, to honestly see what’s here, to notice it’s all already allowed, it’s all already Spirit, notice it’s all included – including conventional views. It can be used to allow stuffed emotions their life, to notice and inquire into beliefs, and so on.

What I find most helpful here – not surprisingly – is The Work. I notice discomfort, tension or unease, identify the fear or belief behind this discomfort, and inquire into it. This helps me find more clarity on my life in the world, on my aims for any form of exploration (including what’s reflected in this blog), and how I use different tools for exploration.

For instance, if I think liberation is better, or I need to find liberation, it’s inevitably stressful and it makes my approach to life and Spirituality a bit strained. As I find more clarity on these thoughts, I’ll probably still be drawn to meditation, prayer, inquiry etc., and it will happen in a more relaxed and even focused way. I am less distracted by my initial beliefs and the discomfort I created for myself through them.

It’s interesting how reading each belief in the list above feels instantly painful to me. I remember how it is to believe those thoughts, and they can still be investigated further.

To end, here are some thoughts about the senior students discouraging me from reading Ken Wilber: He shouldn’t have told me to get rid of the book. She gave me a condescending look. It wasn’t his business. They dismissed KW when I read him, and embraced him when Genpo Roshi later found him. They were blindly following Roshi. They didn’t think for themselves. He tried to squash my passion. 

Note: Spiritual bypassing – or something we can put that label on – can of course happen. And yet, it’s always temporary. Unfinished human business eventually catches up with us. Stuffed emotions wants their life. Beliefs surface so we can find what’s more true for us. Relationships and life situations invite us to face what – in ourselves, life – we haven’t faced yet. Spiritual bypassing is natural, especially if there has been a great deal of pain at the human level. It’s innocent. It’s a temporary vacation. And it doesn’t last. It’s not even really possible.


– liberation is better, bypassing is wrong, it’s better to not bypass,
– ego (a) operating system (psychological), (b) take thought as true (spiritual)


awareness and it’s play as it’s own content including our human self.

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