Have you noticed that there seems to be an increasing amount of negativity out there, and it's coming after you? If so, cheer up! It could be a sign that you're definitely moving along on your spiritual journey. Now this may seem crazy to some of you, especially those who like to dismiss matters of spirituality as snake oil or psychobabble. If that's you, do yourself a favor and read something else today. Or perhaps you really do need to read this one. Carefully.
If you're still with me, let's take a deeper look into the paradox of spiritual progression and attacks of negativity. My experience suggests that the further along you are on your journey as a soul, and the more you recognize and acknowledge yourself as a spiritual being, the more you may wind up under attack of one kind or another. In order to shed some light on this, I need to circle back to some foundational thoughts.
The Myth of the Spiritual Path
You may recall from an earlier article of mine that the spiritual path is a myth. Simply stated, there is no spiritual path, because there's nowhere to go -- you already are where you are headed. Spirit, God, your soul, or any language you would prefer to substitute is already fully present inside of you. That doesn't mean you are fully present with it (you might have forgotten or failed to notice), but it does mean that the spiritual being you seek is already present.
However, just as the spiritual path is a myth -- remember, you already are the soul or spirit you seek -- the spiritual journey is alive and well. Sometimes, it feels as though the spiritual journey is alive and tortured. At least that's how it occurs to me on some days, and that's what I want to address here.
How Can the Spiritual Journey Appear to Be so Negative?
Negativity seems to be part of the human experience. Perhaps you have noticed. However, that's not all there is to the human experience. As Teilhard de Chardin wrote in his seminal work, The Phenomenon of Man, "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience." My teacher, John-Roger, put it this way: You are a Soul having a human experience. Same thing, of course.
Everyday, run-of-the-mill negativity abounds, from greed and corruption to negative emotions, judgments, and plain old nastiness. Add in a dose or two of misfortune (I've gone through two windshields in head-on collisions, endured three family bankruptcies, and spent a brief period living in my car, to name a few), and we can all come up with evidence that it isn't necessarily very pretty out there.
And yet some part of us keeps on getting up one more time than we stumble and fall (or get knocked to the ground). That innate desire to rebound is part of the human experience. Or perhaps better said, that desire to rebound is part of the spiritual being you truly are, a part that keeps reminding you that your spirit is never knocked to the ground, just the human part.
Part of the spiritual journey involves learning to differentiate what happens to you from how you choose to respond. My good friends Drs. Ron and Mary Hulnick have a superb book on this very subject called Loyalty to Your Soul. If this notion is at all new to you, read this book!
What makes this journey of your soul so paradoxical is that the farther along the journey you go, the more negativity you may experience coming at you. It's kind of like a lightning rod, only a spiritual lightning rod. When you place the proverbial stake in the ground and declare your spiritual essence, the negativity out there knows where to focus. Lightning is no dummy -- it goes after the highest point around. Same thing is true with negativity -- it goes after the highest or brightest light.
All my life I have struggled with a part of me that is insecure, that seeks other people's approval. I'm not entirely certain where all that comes from, but suffice it to say that underneath it all, there's a very deep part of who I am that seeks to serve, to uplift, and to assist others in leading their best life possible (nods to Oprah for this lovely framing).
Recently, as I have begun to claim this deeper part of me in more profound ways, criticism directed toward me has been gathering steam. At least that's how it can seem when I'm a bit off balance -- as I claim the light of who I am and work more from that deeper place, negativity and criticism seem to come flying at my imperfections. When I am centered in my spirit or soul, the criticism is simply absorbed and dissolved.
There's no question that I make mistakes, but neither is there a question about my intent. However, when I'm a bit unaware or "off guard," those criticisms can appear to be highly personal. Just recently, someone whose opinion matters to me unleashed a tirade of criticism toward me for a series of mistakes involving a project in which I had a role. It was actually quite a blessing if in a bit of disguise.
I found that as he was yelling at me, underscoring my weaknesses, a very deep part of me not only recognized the validity of the criticism, but also recognized that who I am is greatly different from the mistakes I may have made. As this awareness built inside, I also began to notice that the negative energy and apparent personal criticisms were not actually coming from this person, but more through his words.
I can't really explain what kind of revelation this experience brought to me, because words are insufficient to the experience. It's not something that happened on the mental, emotional or physical level. It derived spiritually, emanating from who I truly am, from my soul having a human experience. At the time, the human part of me was a bit shaken and it would have been so easy to slide down the negative slope of retribution myself. Instead, this time at least, I was able to stand in the strength of my spirit and simply let the words move through me while holding fast to the loving I still feel toward him and the work we are doing together.
In the scheme of things, being yelled at pales in comparison to going through windshields, and yet the human part can feel even more devastated than the physical trauma could ever impart. Even more significantly, however, is the realization in the moment that my spirit, my soul, was completely unaffected and that as I stood firm in the spiritual knowledge of who I am and who he is, the negativity began to dissolve.
Much like shedding light in dark corners will cause the vermin to scatter, so too will holding to the light of who you are cause the negativity to scatter and dissolve.
I'd love to hear your take on this subject. How have you been able to stand in the elegance of your spiritual essence? How have you experienced the negativity coming at you only to retreat in the presence of your soul? Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.
If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my book, "Workarounds That Work." You'll be glad you did.
Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at www.RussellBishop.com. You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.
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