During These Turbulent Times, Here’s How We Talk About Race in Our Interracial Relationship

Tips for turning an uncomfortable conversation about race into an opportunity for growth.
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The ironic thing about being in an interracial relationship is how rarely race comes up. When my partner and I fell in love, I wasn’t falling in love with a white man, and he wasn’t falling in love with a Black woman. It was just a man and a woman falling in love.

And unlike the groundbreaking show Mixed-ish, portraying a married interracial couple raising three biracial children, not every disagreement that comes up between us is a “learning moment” on cultural sensitivity or ways to fight racism. Discord for us is like most couples: differences of opinion, being triggered by something the other did or said, old emotional wounds, adjusting to 24/7 quarantine togetherness, or just being desperately hungry.

Race so seldom plays a role in our day-to-day lives. However, following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the knee of Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, and the subsequent protests, the whole issue of race became amplified as we grappled with these issues and complex feelings.

Coming from different cultural backgrounds and different ideologies can be a cause for some tense conversations around the targeting of Black people, police violence, and systemic racism.

Here are some things we do to take the heat out of talking about race.

To love, accept, and validate

Years ago we listed things we felt were important in keeping our relationship strong. Those things have become our communication vows: to love and accept each other and to validate one another’s emotional experiences. So rather than rush in to fix a problem, we try our best to listen first, ask questions second.

Without that kind of understanding in place, tough conversations would be almost impossible, particularly those touching on subjects as potentially volatile as race, police violence, and social justice.

The astonishing thing is that by now, these “vows” have become the invisible backdrop behind our talks, so we can fall into a place of listening with acceptance without thinking about it. This comes in handy when one of us voices frustration and the other is just able to take it in without needing to do anything about it.

If this doesn’t come easily for you (and it didn’t for us for a while) you can start with these 7 ways to be more accepting of your partner.

Actively listen

These conversations usually happen when we’re hanging out in our front yard or sitting together on the couch and the subject turns to the following: “So, how are you doing with all this stuff in the news?”

During those times, when we delve into tougher feelings, we aim for being a better listener by staying in the moment. This means putting down the book or the phone, blocking out the distractions of neighbors walking by, and fully giving our attention to the other. Here’s how couples can become better listeners and strengthen their relationships.

Listen to understand the other’s point of view

It can be challenging when we disagree on something we feel strongly about. The way we try to improve our communication at those times is to take a step back and start asking questions to better understand the other person’s point of view. It doesn’t mean that we’ll end up agreeing, but it lessens confusion and defensiveness when we can understand why the other thinks the way they do.

So, as we discuss our reactions to Floyd’s killing and the protests, we may ask the other, “How did you come to think that or feel that way?” And it’s not uncommon that it’s the first time we’ve had to think about how we formed some ideas on a specific issue.

My background of living in predominately Black neighborhoods until my teens and then predominately non-Black neighborhoods thereafter shaped my feelings on how Black people are treated. Similarly, his upbringing of being raised in a predominately Polish neighborhood in an area where different ethnicities kept to themselves, shaped his feelings on how people from different ethnic or cultural backgrounds treated each other.

We both grew up in segregated environments and were exposed to ideas and beliefs about other races that reflected our environments. Some of those ideas we abandoned if they didn’t fit our concept of the world and some we’ve kept.

To hear the other’s perspective, self-reflect on, and challenge ideologies we hold helps us refine our thoughts and see a wider picture of the world.

While it would be a tall order for him to feel what I’ve experienced as a Black woman or for me to feel what he’s experienced as a white man regarding racism, we can show empathy by striving to understand the context within which certain beliefs and opinions were formed.

Don’t worry about being politically correct

Whereas we want to be cognizant of each other’s feelings, playing nice by being politically correct doesn’t work. For one thing, that’s not our style. More importantly, though, being politically correct has no place in a frank discussion about race within our relationship.

We call it as we see it because of our core belief that our relationship is a safe place to be real.

So, when we’re talking about things we’re seeing on the news, there are things that are just unequivocal: These are images of white cops killing Black men or these are images of Black people looting businesses downtown. We don’t dance around the issue.

MAPODILE/GETTY IMAGES

Keep the dialogue flowing even if we hit a sore spot

To say that talking about race doesn’t press some sensitive buttons would be a lie. The worst thing to do, though, is to clam up and stop talking (or stonewall) because we’ve become upset. That can lead to passive-aggression and resentment. Or the opposite: speaking out of anger and saying things you should never say to your spouse or partner.

What we do instead is keep talking until both have stated their point of view and if we can’t come to an agreement, let it go and move on.

What I’ve seen happen in our conversations is that when we hit upon a provocative issue like where to draw the line between social reform and community responsibility (or if such a delineation is even useful), after a couple of turns in sharing our thoughts and hearing the other person out, we’ll eventually get to, “Yeah, I see what you’re saying.”

Be all right with opposing opinions

We have to be all right with the other person having a different opinion because we’ll never agree on everything 100 percent. Since we base opinions on feelings or ideologies and not facts, they can be contentious if we hold on to them firmly.

Knowing that we try to be clear by saying: “This is just my feeling; I’m not saying it’s a fact or that it’s even right. It’s just how I feel.”

When it comes to discussing things like social justice, we both have opinions on what should be done to address the issues, the points that should take priority, and who should shoulder responsibility for what.

And since we are not part of a governing body, but a couple having a conversation on their couch, it’s just better to allow for the fact that we see some things differently.

Build on common ground

Because discussions about race and social justice can be fraught with tension, we’re sensitive to jump on things we agree on. We take some fire out of the conversation and reestablish our connection by taking a moment to acknowledge the points where we overlap and say, “You’re right about that, or I agree with what you just said.” Those moments feel more affirming than the moments of asserting our individual point of view.

An easy point for us to agree on is that the protests are good for raising awareness, propelling social reform, and showing global solidarity against racial injustice; while looting is untenable and deplorable, detracts from the movement, and gives those who already hate people of color evidence to prop up their hatred.

Come from a place of mutual respect

We can easily reduce differences of opinion on race within a group of acquaintances by saying, “s/he just doesn’t get it” and writing the person off. Within a couple, though, where you have history and know this person intimately, you also know the following: 1.) They have a genuine interest in doing the right thing and 2.) Dismissal would be disrespectful and damaging to the connection.

One of the signs that your relationship is solid as a rock, is your mutual respect of each other. One way we show that is in the value we place on our connection and the steps we take to keep that connection strong.

Mind you, these conversations don’t go perfectly every time. We’re human and sometimes we don’t get the words right. However, we know that we’re coming from a place of wanting to understand, to be understood, and to gain a wider perspective.

These could be some of the hardest conversations interracial couples have and as we move through this moment in history together, it’s important to remember that we’re on the same team.

On the macro-level, as we hold conversations across cultures in the United States, the same holds true: We’re on the same team.

Next, read how to support the Black Lives Matter movement and become anti-racist.

For more on this important issue, see our guide to the Fight Against Racism.

[Article first published on Reader’s Digest.]

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Tamara Jefferies MA is a freelance wellness writer and holistic counselor/coach based in Long Beach, CA. She has worked in the wellness field since 2005 and holds a Master’s in Somatic Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, several certifications in the specialization of trauma and trauma resolution, and is a certified yoga teacher and holistic practitioner offering transformational counseling to women.

Writing on topics that help women heal, grow, and live fulfilled and happy lives is her passion as is writing for wellness businesses, publications, and brands. She is a regular contributing writer to the wellness brand, The Candidly, and a Brand Ambassador to ADORAtherapy.

Contact her at info@growandthrivewellness.com for all your wellness writing or counseling needs.

Or just fill out the form below.

Be Well!

If You Do This One Thing You Have A Higher Chance Of Getting Divorced

(Article first published on The Candidly.)

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I’m not even going to make you scroll to get to what the “one thing” is.

It’s sarcasm.

But sarcasm is fun! It’s funny! It’s easy! People boast about how “sarcastic” they are on their Hinge profiles to show what a great hang they are!

But using sarcasm with your partner during conflict is completely ineffective, distancing, maddening, unhelpful, and turns out to be one of the biggest predictors of divorce.

John Gottman, psychologist and author of loads of books dealing with marriage and relationships, says the reason the use of sarcasm is so threatening to a long-term relationship is that it’s a clear sign of contempt. And where there’s contempt in a relationship there is the loss of appreciation, admiration, and respect. According to biggest predictors of divorce, when we’ve reached this phase it’s as though we “can’t remember a single positive quality or act.” Which is just about the time that sarcasm rears its head.

However, before things get that bad, before we jump into the boat of contempt together, there can be other reasons we use sarcasm in our relationships. Namely? Fear. We are afraid of our partner’s rejection, judgment, ridicule, or abandonment.

Another common reason is that we’re just not very good at talking about our feelings because we just don’t have the words. Likely because we also can’t identify our feelings. By not having a sufficient vocabulary for our emotions, even if we wanted to express ourselves honestly, we can’t. One of the first skills Gottman teaches couples to improve their communication is “being able to put one’s feelings into words.”

Whatever reason you may have for being sarcastic toward your partner, just know that sarcasm damages romantic relationships. Period. So what if sarcasm has become your norm? Read this.

So how do we keep sarcasm from ruining our relationships?

1.    Awareness.

The first step to stopping sarcasm from wrecking your relationship is being aware of it in the first place. Start noticing when you use sarcasm. And start noticing why you used it. Is it used jokingly? Or is it used passive-aggressively? This can look and sound like a joke but you can feel the cut underneath it. Like, ‘Thanks, honey, you were soooo helpful.’ And you can hear the salt in your voice. That’s passive-aggressive.

2. Notice

The next step is to give yourself a minute. In the moment between your partner doing something that bothered you and you shooting back a sarcastic cut-down, there is a gap. In this space is your power to choose a different response.

When you’re caught in being reactive, then you will speak without thinking. Once you’re aware of what’s happening, you get to take a moment before you react.

Here’s an alternative to being sarcastic in that moment. When you sense a sarcastic comment about to explode from your mouth, stop. Take a breath. And notice what you’re feeling inside.

For example, say you had something happen in your career that you’re stoked about. The first person you want to share your excitement with is your partner. But when you do, they dismiss it as no big deal. They are not there for you to share your excitement or your pride. That can sting. You feel hurt and let down. Instead of saying that though, you say as sarcastically as possible, ‘Thanks for your support.’

Then you wait. Did it register? The baffled look on their face says no. You walk away feeling crushed.

3. Speak up.

Once you’re in touch with what you’re feeling, say it to your partner. It could be as simple as, ‘Wow, you know, I’m noticing that my chest feels really tight. I feel like I just had the wind knocked out of me.’

Your partner might look at you a little puzzled. They may not respond or they might ask why. You may notice that now your heart is racing and you’re feeling nervous because now you’re on the spot. It’s okay. Just keep breathing and keep noticing without trying to change what you’re feeling or dismissing it.

You might add something like, ‘I was really excited to share my news with you and I was hoping you’d be excited too and when you weren’t, I felt sad.’

It could be as simple as that.

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that just because it’s simple it’s not also scary as shit; it can be terrifying to admit our true feelings so frankly.

What I can say is, get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Sarcasm is the shield we put up when we don’t want to deal with discomfort. To be real about your feelings is to be uncomfortable and to risk being uncomfortable in front of your partner. It’s that kind of vulnerability and openness that creates closeness. While sarcasm only creates distance. Sarcasm can become a habit. And with any habit it takes time to change.

4. Build your vocab of “feeling words.” 

If you struggle to find the right words in describing how you feel, a great resource to start with is the Non-Violent Communication site, based on the book of the same name. It gives a handy download called the “Feelings Inventory” to help us better express ourselves.

5. Talk with your partner.

Arrange a time for you and your partner to talk. Talk openly about the ways you’ve used sarcasm to mask uncomfortable emotions. Or if it’s your partner who is the more sarcastic one, still frame the conversation around how you would like to have more honest and effective communication. And share how their sarcasm has affected you.

Bring up ways you haven’t been showing up as you would like. Because let’s be real, if your partner is sarcastic there is a possibility that you haven’t been showing up for them how they’d like. I know, it stings to hear it but it’s probably true.

By being the first to volunteer where you feel you’ve fallen short, you open an invitation for your partner to follow suit and express their feelings as well. Unless you’re dealing with a narcissist. But that’s a conversation for another time.

Our relationships offer us incredible opportunities to share life, love, and growth. Hiding behind sarcasm robs us of these moments and makes having a close relationship a challenge. Life can be challenging enough on its own. Make your relationship a safe place by being real about your feelings and encouraging your partner to do the same.

Come from an Unsupportive Family? How to not let that hold you back.

By Banana Oil from Shutterstock
Shutterstock by Banana Oil

When we are children, our parents are proxies, helping us develop characteristics, such as confidence, until we can take over the process and develop them ourselves. We can mirror them, and they can mirror us.

If they mirror us well, reflecting our joy, sharing in the excitement of our achievements, then we develop a strong sense of self-worth.

If they don’t, then we don’t.

There are two roads to developing a sense of self: mirroring/attunement or will.

If no one reflects back to you the characteristics that create a strong sense of self i.e., high self-esteem, confidence or belief in one’s abilities and value, then you can cultivate those things through your will.

You make the decision that you will see yourself as capable, you will see yourself as worthy, you will see yourself as loveable, you will see yourself as whole.

And you will become that.

With time. You will become all that you believe yourself to be.

It just takes a strong enough will to withstand the “slings and arrows” the world throws at you.

So, say that you have an unsupportive family and they never say anything kind or pleasant when good things happen for you. Rather, they ignore you or degrade your achievement.

You can do a couple of things here: you can identify with them, ie, mirror them and diminish your joy and excitement.

You can resentfully dismiss them and say ‘The hell with you!’ and ignore their painful lack of support.

Or you can stand in the midst of whatever they are saying or doing and inside your head think something like, ‘This thing that happened was terrific! I’m terrific! And I don’t care what you think.’

And not only do you not care—or you care so little for what they are saying, that you can’t even be bothered to resent them. You see them for what they are: unsupportive. And you accept that.

While at the same time, you lift yourself up by holding onto your excitement and your good feelings about yourself.

No matter what, you do not let their words or actions diminish you.

And in this way, you instill in yourself an unshakable sense of self-worth, confidence, and appreciation for who you are.

That’s how we can overcome the shortcomings, lack of mirroring/attunement, of those around us; those whose positive presence and regard was meant to uplift us and help us create our sense of self but who were unable to be that for us.

We each have been given will. Use it.

Use it to make yourself into the person you want to be. No matter what.

The Traditions That Keep Us Alive

I’ve been wanting to write something for the new year, and this is not what I wanted to write. But it is what wanted to be written.

I wanted to write a piece on empowerment, specifically to women on ways to start the year (and the decade for that matter) off in a powerful way.

But what’s been creeping up behind my eyes and in my psyche, stirring my dreams at night, are family traditions.

Traditions, rituals, ceremonies, these things we enact again and again, oftentimes without thought—they have become so rote—but carry such deep significance.

My family is from South Carolina and even though I was raised in Southern California, my heart is a Southern heart. I love going back home to visit my family. As soon as we make the descent into Charlotte Douglas International Airport and I see the evergreens and that red clay dirt, I know I’m home.

One tradition that comes from the south that my family and so many southerners partake in is a traditional New Year’s Day dinner; it’s intended to be both a prayer and a blessing for prosperity for the year to come.

Gina Ferazzi LA Times
Gina Ferazzi Los Angeles Times Jan 1, 2020

It was nice to see that the Los Angeles Times did a feature on the importance of the tradition for black families.

The components of the meal are simple yet carry special meaning: greens (usually collard or mustard greens) symbolize “foldin money” as my great-grandmother used to say, and black-eyed peas symbolize “pocket change” or coins. We round the meal out with a pork dish and cornbread.

The pork is customarily chitlins. And days before the countdown to the new year, you’ll see the big buckets of chitlins piled up, ready for purchase in the meat department at your local grocery stores.

Chitlins, for those who don’t know (and if you don’t know then you’ve lived a good clean life, LOL) are the intestines of a pig. That’s right. Pig intestines. And if you think that sounds disgusting to eat, you’re right. It is.

My memories of the women in my family cooking chitlins are of someone dragging in that big-ass bucket of intestines and my aunties (actually cousins but they were so much older than me they were like my aunts—you know how that goes) standing over the kitchen sink washing and washing and washing these damn things, pulling the lining out and discarding it, and washing them some more.

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My great-grandmother with one of her brothers in the 1930s.  She was so fly. 🙂

My great-grandmother’s house would reek to high heaven! Because chitlins smell like shit. Literally. It’s gross. It’s so gross that by the time I reached my teens I was sick of it and I told my mom we were not eating those ever again. We’ll make a pork roast or pork chops or ribs or SOMETHING but we aren’t eating chitlins any more. Thank God, she agreed.

Fast -forward to New Year’s 2020 and I’m in my own home preparing the dinner for my partner and me and our friends.

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Broke-out the big pots for the collard greens and black-eyed peas.

 

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The table is set for family and friends New Year’s Day.

Come to find out that one of our neighbors had a grandmother from Oklahoma who would make the same dinner as we made in South Carolina, chitlins and all. Unlike me, my neighbor has fond memories of eating the chitlins her grandmother made. God bless them both.

For our dinner we made a pork roast.

While I was preparing the collards, I suddenly became acutely aware of each step: washing each broad green leaf then stacking them one on top of the other smallest to biggest, rolling them up like a cigar, then slicing them into long ribbons. With each fall of my kitchen knife, I felt something inside me swell, something that recognized that we have enacted these same steps since the time of slavery when the enslaved Africans created this meal from the scraps that their masters gave them.

You’d think that recognition would make me sad or angry. It didn’t. I just made me still. Everything within me went very still, almost like how I’ve felt after hours of mediation, I call it “the inner mountain”.

There are brief moments when I feel like life allows me a glimpse across time that connects me to my ancestry. This was one of those moments.

I think the fact that we recently had a death in our family—my great-uncle Lad, enhanced this feeling. His given name was William, but we all called him Uncle Lad. He is the second to last of that generation of great-aunts and uncles to go. When our great-aunt Eunice passes, that will be the end of that generation in my family. Sitting with that thought brings a soft, solemn feeling with it.

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My Uncle Lad. A wonderful man.

My great-aunts and uncle were people I saw only at the big family events like reunions, weddings, or funerals. You’re not close but you know that they’re out there and doing fine. You know what I mean?

To feel that group of family members moving on brings the importance of traditions to the front of my mind.

Keeping up family traditions is to know that you are participating in a custom that has gone on for centuries or even millennia, like in Zoroastrianism and the Persian custom of Shabe Chelleh, celebrating Winter Solstice.

It grounds me and helps me to see myself as a small part of something far greater that stretches back through time and will extend beyond my life. Knowing this comforts me deeply. I feel embraced by my ancestry even as I think on them and honor them by continuing these traditions.

The older I get, the more importance these things have. I’m finding that these traditions make life meaningful and my connections to my ancestors visceral.

I keep their memories alive with each meal. And our lives are enlivened by the customs they left us.

May you rest in peace, Uncle Lad, Grandmother, Aunt Ethel, Aunt Catherine, Aunt Jenelle, and Ma-Vinnie. May you rest in peace.

 

Why Spiritual Bypass is Problematic

Buddha statue

My partner came home from his weekly yoga group very upset. It seems that on that night the class got into a discussion, prompted by the teacher, on the subject of enemies. Turns out, quite a lot of the people in the class felt that they had enemies. And to the bewilderment of my partner, they shared a common enemy – the rich. Here were these “spiritual people” saying things like whenever they see the house of a wealthy person they want to go up to the front door and slug the person living there.

How is that spiritual?

His experience got me to thinking of the things I’ve seen, experienced, or thought myself as a once self-identified “spiritual seeker” and the ways in which spirituality can be used as a cover for a whole host of unseemly behaviors.

We all come to spirituality with different needs but I think the one thing that a spiritual life is meant to deliver is a state of “Wholeness”. To be a truly spiritual person is to live a life of spiritual integrity, one that reflects this idea of wholeness.

Unfortunately, too often spirituality has been corrupted by being used for selfish purposes or to permit a prolonged adolescence in which one eschews the responsibilities of a healthy adult life.

People are hiding behind the curtain of a spiritual life in avoidance of taking on the responsibilities of this world. Because, look, wouldn’t figuring out how to astral travel be more fun than figuring out a 401k?

I get it.

This is why spirituality can be problematic – because if you are not conscientious in your pursuits, it is far too easy to be seduced by the realm of spirit and lose your grip on all things practical and mundane.

 What Spirituality Is and What It Isn’t

Spirituality offers lessons for being a good person, exhibiting traits such as compassion, tranquility, and love for all beings. Each spiritual path teaches in a slightly different way but there is more overlap than there is divergence and the main tenet within the major spiritual teachings and wisdom traditions is that of Peace. Another is selflessness and abandoning the ego for the benefit of all humankind.

One could argue that spirituality doesn’t teach you practical life skills like how to interview for a job or how to balance a checkbook. Yet what spirituality does teach are ways of being and ways of living day-to-day. It teaches discipline, for example, and the importance of self-mastery – controlling your mind and the impulses of the body.

But there are a number of areas in which “spiritual” people have been witnessed not using these teachings or adhering to the very doctrines they say they live by.

If we take a look at what was happening that night in my partner’s yoga class, for example, you see a yoga teacher prompting a conversation on enemies by first confessing his own problems with people with money. This started a popcorn effect of “Yeah! Me too! I hate those people!” And as it went on anger, hostility, and resentment grew.

One of the foundational books in yoga is the Upanishads. Within it, on the first page in fact, is the Peace Chant, “Om! Peace! Peace! Peace!” One of the most revered prayers in yoga calls for peace to all beings and the universe.

How strange and disturbing then to find a yoga teacher speaking hate into the world and fostering that within his class.

This kind of thing (hating people with more than you) isn’t new and within this context may stem from the misguided application of what has long been revered as a virtue: poverty. Many who devote themselves to a life of asceticism, eschewing worldly comforts, take a vow of poverty.

Depending on the lineage, people may do it be more “Christ-like” or they may do it to turn away from the materialism of this world like the revered guru Ramakrishna who vowed never to touch money in all his life.

With scriptures such as it’s easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter heaven, it’s easy to understand why people have come up with the idea that money is bad and rich people are evil.

However, that is just flat-out wrong thinking. Money is a means to an end. It is an exchange of one thing for another. And it’s necessary to live a life of security of dignity. Granted, there are some unscrupulous people making money in dishonest ways but they are not the norm.

What many people with money find out is that once they have discretionary income it is so much easier to help other people. That is what many of them choose to do. And this kind of charity isn’t limited to the wealthy. A regular person who once knew what it was to be broke and has found their way out of that is often eager to extend a helping hand and assist others in doing better themselves.

Charity and generosity are spiritual virtues – virtues that are applied every day by regular people not claiming to be spiritual.

This misguided valorizing of poverty and the vilifying of riches may explain why so many “spiritual” people are habitually broke and struggling to make ends meet. Living out of your car because you’d rather be destitute than take part in a system that only makes rich people richer isn’t virtuous. It’s dumb. Having to “bum” money or bum rides off your friends and family may lend your life a sheen of just the right amount of melodrama but becoming indebted to those closest to you can build resentment over time and alienate you from those you love.

Yogi Bhajan, the man responsible for bringing Kundalini Yoga to the west taught that Kundalini Yoga was intended for the “householder” – the people who go out and make a living every day. It wasn’t for the ascetics who vowed to be penniless and live their lives meditating in caves.

This yoga was created with the understanding that there is a world outside your door that you must be prepared to interact with. Yogi Bhajan, through his teachings and example (he was a successful businessman) taught that money isn’t evil, that hard work is a virtue, and that creating a cozy home for you and your family is a worthy pursuit.

Ways People Use Spirituality to Avoid Life

One of the great books in the yoga tradition is the Bhagavad Gita. It serves as a timeless metaphor for real-life challenges. In the Gita, we have our hero, Arjuna, who has a moment of crisis upon the battlefield in which he sees his brethren on both sides about to engage in bloody warfare.

He is aided in his time of need by the god Krishna, Lord of Love. The moral of Krishna’s teachings are this – You must live, Arjuna. You cannot remain here paralyzed in fear. Your actions will have consequences. You cannot avoid that but you can choose and make of those consequences either beneficial or detrimental.

Oftentimes you will find people who profess to be spiritual not living by this principle and trying to avoid life. They do this in any number of ways, one of which is “spiritual bypass”. In spiritual bypass, a person avoids dealing with the tougher realities of life by hiding behind their spirituality.

Adyashanti, Buddhist teacher and author of the book The End of Your World shared the story of a man who was doing very well in his spiritual pursuits, taking on greater responsibility and rising higher in his spiritual community all the while allowing his marriage and home life to suffer.

Yet, I have also been guilty of this. Years ago, someone I knew did something that hurt me deeply and I spoke with my spiritual teacher about the incident. Yet when I did, I spoke quickly and rushed to words of forgiveness and understanding. But my teacher told me, “No. Don’t do that. Don’t jump to forgiveness when you haven’t even given yourself time to feel. What she did hurt you didn’t it? Then feel that. You have to let yourself feel pissed off and hurt before you get to forgiveness.”

Had she not said that I surely would have bypassed my more difficult emotions that made me uncomfortable for the transcendent spiritual high ground.

And what of the man whose marriage was in trouble? He was ordered by his guru to stay in his room with his wife during a retreat in which he had intended to work. But his teacher saw what he was doing and made it so that he could not run from his wife but was forced to stay in a room with her and work on their problems.

Nothing comes from running away from your problems but more problems.

Granted life is hard sometimes with feelings and situations that we would sooner not deal with. But spiritual teachings are meant to help us face life with courage not run from our feelings or our responsibilities.

The Trouble with Ego

One of the more ironic guises of spirituality is “spiritual-ego” – ironic since the whole thing is supposed to be about transcending the ego. Listen to the popular spiritual teachers of today – Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Adyashanti – and they will all talk about getting beyond the ego, the self-limiting, self-centered ego.

Spiritual ego is witnessed when someone becomes so puffed up on themselves because they think that being spiritual makes them special. You see this in yoga classes where people are bending themselves this way and that, not as a true practitioner of an ancient tradition but just to show off.

Or you hear it when someone starts speaking and you can hear within their voice this very big “I” as in “I’ve done this cleanse or I’ve done that retreat or I’ve been to that studio and I know that teacher”.

It’s one of the uglier sides of “being spiritual”. Beware the wearer of prayer beads as a bracelet who sips kombucha and dispenses arm-chair spirituality while they show you how popular their yoga pics are on Instagram.

Oh, it’s real.

A person who has advanced in a legitimate spiritual practice is humble. They use the word “we” before “I” and they tend to shy away from the limelight. Such humility comes from the understanding that we all come from one source and this source connects us all.

No person is any better or worse than any other person.

Because we are all one.

The great, most enduring wisdom traditions in the world agree that we emerged from one thing and we will return to this one thing.

To sow discord, to hide from the challenges of life, or to live only for oneself – these are not the ways of spiritual life. And anyone who does these things and calls themselves spiritual needs to take a closer look at themselves and where they are not living in integrity.

Living the life of a truly spiritual person means applying the teachings so that you live your life not with hate but love, not in chaos but harmony, and not with aggression but peace.

 

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Tamara Jefferies is a holistic life coach and wellness writer based in Long Beach, California.  Through her coaching, she guides women at major life crossroads to discover their worth and their way.

To learn more, please visit http://www.tamarajefferies.com and www.evolvinglifeco.com.