Why entrepreneurs need to reclaim spirituality in business
When I first started traveling solo by the age of 19 I started meeting many different people from all walks of life. In conversations, I would hear about concepts I hadn’t encountered before. Some of them were based in different religions than the one I grew up with (and left behind), some were based on long-lived traditions and culture and some were rooted in spirituality.
The more I traveled, the more people I met, the more concepts, belief systems and forms of spirituality I got to experience.
After a few years and many stamps in my passport, I started finding my own spiritual path, walked my own journey and formed my own beliefs. But there was something that struck me along the way that, quite frankly, pissed me off. It frustrated me so much that I often shut down and simply stopped conversations should I encounter it. And sometimes I just walked away.
Toxic Positivity. (Takes a deep breath)
When I first started myself on the spiritual journey it was anything but woo. There was also no love and light in sight, no sage and no healing crystals at all that would help me out.
See, while many people enter their spiritual path through the light, I crashed into it through the darkest darkness. It felt like walking through an unknown maze in darkness, blindfolded, bumping into dead ends every few steps until the blindfold finally came off, then slowly your eyes getting used to the dark and after getting the hang of the maze you see the light at the end of the tunnel and you keep following it until it gets stronger and stronger and you realize: the light is you.
That, in short, is my spiritual journey. And yes, there is also Palo Santo, Crystals, and Tarot along my way. But these are more tools to open new doorways rather than forms of new enlightenment or else for me.
When I stumbled along the path of spirituality, I met a few people who would be trying to shut me down when I brought up topics that I deeply cared about and that affected people I loved. Racism, Trafficking, and War were just three of them. I thought the spiritual community surely would have some answers that could help find solutions for these issues, given that many of them were not only incredibly smart but also very caring.
Yet in many cases, all I found was toxic positivity.
WHAT IS TOXIC POSITIVITY?
The Psychology Group defines toxic positivity “as the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. The process of toxic positivity results in the denial, minimization, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience.”.
We can often see this in people who get easily uncomfortable in hard conversations, who don’t want to take part in necessary discussions that will move us as a society forward, or who dismiss someone else’s pain in order to uphold their own comfort. Many of these people hide behind catch-phrases like “love & light” and use these to validate their own denial. In my example, these people tried to shame me by saying I am too negative by bringing topics like racism up and this is only an issue when we focus on it, or worse, that it doesn’t actually exist. Sigh.
In 2020 we have seen this PLENTY, especially in online conversations, that people would try to “love & light” hard conversations away, “don’t see color” or simply avoid any uncomfortable discussion by gaslighting and invalidating the other person’s experience. This is also called spiritual bypassing and is one of the most frustrating experiences to make in the spiritual community.
SO, WHAT IS SPIRITUAL BYPASSING?
John Welwood, who coined the term in the early 1980s, described in his book Toward a Psychology of Awakening spiritual bypassing as “spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep personal, emotional ‘unfinished business,’ to shore up a shaky sense of self, or to belittle basic needs, feelings, and developmental tasks.”.
In other words: Some (… many?) people are hiding behind instagram yoga, mindless meditation and untraditional tantra or other spiritual practices without the necessary depths and shadow work in order to create a false sense of self. This helps them to hide from the actual emotional wounds and personal issues that need to be addressed but feel too painful to look at.
This is often extended towards critical issues in society such as systemic racism, environmental issues, gender issues and other human rights issues. In many cases spiritual bypassing is used as a form of disassociation. This shall not be an excuse but rather than explanation. Imagine, so many spiritual people who are on this path and actually believe in only the positives, have lost touch with the duality of life, are completely lost in love & light will not be able to resonate nor accept any emotions related to acceptance of things like racism, trafficking or war. Even if you have all of the prove, all of the evidence and even if for example their most trusted person, like their brother, would tell them that they experienced or have seen … or even worse … taken part in such things like racist hate crimes – they would not believe it.
Spiritual bypassing helps them to disconnect from the logical part of their brain, those thoughts, emotions and questions that would usually come up when receiving such information, and instead, everything turns into love & light. Certainly, that is neither healthy nor an excuse for their behavior. I personally believe that spiritual bypassing is rather destructive than anything else. Before I keep writing though let me make this clear: I am NOT promoting constant complaining, fear pushing agendas, or pure negative, pessimistic thinking.
What I do promote though is to accept, respect and live with the duality of life. I’ll get back to this in a bit.
In all of these years, traveling and pursuing a spiritual path in so many ways I always wondered: Why is bypassing so common specifically in the spiritual community?
To answer that question and to look at how we can reclaim spirituality as entrepreneurs, we must look first at how we define spirituality so that we can have a foundation to build upon.
NOW, WHAT IS SPIRITUALITY?
There are many different definitions of what spirituality is and there is not one that is officially agreed upon. Oxford Languages defines it as “the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.” which I found the most accurate in regards to our modern day-to-day spirituality. The methods, tools and processes we use to unlearn and un-becoming all of what has been conditioning us are the spiritual paths we are following to connect with our spirit, our inner higher self. There is no set pathway to follow. It is up to you which methods you like and prefer, or if you choose to follow a spiritual path at all.
When I am talking about a spiritual path, I do include religious beliefs as well as any form of spirituality, animalism, following the path of god/goddess or deities as well as other ancient spirits as well as ancestors, spirit guides and angels. Whatever works for you to connect you to the source, your spirit.
In the end, I believe the goal is to live connected, as above so below. This brings me back to the duality of life.
See, spiritual bypassing is doing exactly the opposite of what spirituality teaches: It refuses to accept all of that life is for your own convenience and comfort. Spirituality though teaches to accept life with all it has to offer and lean into the uncomfortable parts in order to grow. Growth doesn’t come from happy-go-lucky times. It comes from the pain we go through, the rough rides, the times that just suck.
That’s why the duality of life and spiritual bypassing can not live in the same environment, in the same place, or the same person.
If you truly embody the duality of life, there is simply no room for bypassing because you understand that there is
No Day without the Night
No Light without the Darkness
No Kindness without Hatred
No Warmth without the Cold
No Rainbow without the Storm
No Love without Indifference
No Unity without Division
… you get the point. If you do, you will understand that spirituality IS duality, and the biggest chance to raise your vibrations is to embody the duality without getting stuck on the dark side of it, but always finding your way back to the light. Many people though misunderstand this part with “let’s not look at issues we have to solve because it’s too painful to look at them and I would then have to admit that I have real life work to do too”.
SPIRITUALITY & ENTREPRENEURSHIP
I see this so often with entrepreneurs and business owners in the online space (surely offline, too), especially the spiritual entrepreneurs. Instead of using their knowledge, skills and platform to support the very people they have borrowed traditions, cultural wisdom and methods from (and also making good money off of it!) – they look away. Or even worse they follow some absurd cult-like fascist conspiracy theory (looking at you Q-fanpeeps) and turn against them. Or worst: They pretend it’s not there. “But I can’t see colour!” , “Love & Light to you, if you believe in something positive you wouldn’t be poor & dying now!”. Sigh.
The question here is not even what’s wrong about these phrases, but what is not?
All of these phrases are often used to undermine, invalidate, and minimize someone else’s lived experiences or feelings and to sidestep their own uncomfortable emotions, triggers and work that’s still to do in order to stay in control and feel in power of the circumstances.
But when has denial ever helped anyone? The online entrepreneur space boasts with big promises of missions that want to be fulfilled, world changes to be made and people to be helped – yet that seems to only be the case when the entrepreneurs can make loads of money off of these “good deeds”. So then I ask you: Where is your integrity?
Did you sell it, the last time you faked your Stripe screenshots, posting half-true hero stories on social media to get the next person you can help achieve some type of mission?
Or maybe you didn’t get it delivered when you ordered your recent bunch of crystals and sage on amazon?
Wherever you forgot it, the good news is: It’s never too late to get started with being in integrity. I also believe that spirituality is really important, whether that is a certain religion, faith or lifestyle you follow or simply the fact that you put people over profit. It’s been a pet peeve of mine to see how spirituality almost became a derogatory term in the online entrepreneurial space, because of the people who would misuse it or even go as far as scamming people with empty promises that cost a lot of money.
As an entrepreneur (and a spiritual one in private) myself, I really believe when we do this spiritual thing with integrity, it will actually be so much more healing and even be a catalyser for change the entrepreneurial space.
So to help you get back to the roots, I am going to dedicate the next sections to how we as entrepreneurs can reclaim spirituality AND creating actual long-lasting impact in people’s life.
1| KEEP IT REAL
That’s one that online entrepreneurs need to hear daily. Look, I get it, that Lambo looks good on you. But don’t you think that renting one and shooting your social media photos in front of a mansion that’s not yours is a bit uh dreamy? Nothing against these big dreams! But maybe that photo should go on a vision board and not on social media to market for new clients.
Maybe you are a mindset coach and you don’t feel well (no biggie – everyone has their days, and damn this pandemic is one big pill to swallow), but you keep pretending everything is sunflowers and rainbows? How about being real with your people – that gives you even more like-ability and credibility in the long run, too.
We are all human, we all live an offline life knowing that shit can hit the fan, and most of us can see through the bullshit (some need a little longer and that’s fine, too). But do yourself and your audience, fans, friends, clients and anyone else out there a favor and keep it real. I am not asking you to overshare, or live a public life, I am asking you to stop this toxic positivity, those fake “I am rich look at me” photos and all of the other crap that’s out there. We see you, we see that this is not real and all we want for you is to just staaaawp. Also, your anxiety and overwhelm will drastically decrease once you dare to just be you. ‘Cause fakin’ it is exhausting, ay?
2| SUPPORT THE PEOPLE WHO PROVIDED YOUR FOUNDATION
We all love your Yoga poses on IG, we do. But don’t you think that #alllivesmatter seems quite a bit far out when the very people whose culture is the foundation for you making big bucks are suffering, dying in horrible conditions but you “don’t actually believe this virus is real” – and you wouldn’t even donate $5 from the money you made off of their culture or speak up for the people in need? Jeez. I don’t even really know what to say to it other than: WTF.
So here’s what I can recommend: whether you are a yoga teacher, a copy writer, an energy healer or a marketer – it does not matter – think about where in your life you are using foundations, methods or whole frameworks from different cultures, acknowledge the background of your work, give credit where credit is due and see how you can give back. Whether you give back monthly or when big issues pop up is totally up to you, the point is to speak up and support the very people who offered so many the things to build your foundation that has helped you make so much money. “I am a digital marketer I ain’t appropriate knowledge”. Right. And whose land are you living on? Thank you. Please help out those Indigenous Communities that are still suffering from land loss, will ya? Cool.
3| GET UNCOMFORTABLE
Sheeesh yeah. This one is big. Before you jump on the next police brutality post and comment how “This black person ran away” – stop. Even if you didn’t comment yet but one of your thoughts may have been “Yeah, but they didn’t comply!” (UGH!) then I have some homework for you today. Look, I get it. This is brainwashed and indoctrinated into our (aka white peoples’) minds and growing up with these things may now make them sound like they are ok. They are not. You also may wonder why I am now talking about racism on a spiritual bypassing post – well simple, it is one of the most bypassed topics. And it makes most if not all of us uncomfortable. Since we entrepreneurs usually love to read, I highly recommend seeing what Layla F Saad or Ibram X Kendi have to say about these kinda thoughts and biases.
Then get uncomfortable in conversations – whether that is about racism, or any other “real life issue” – ask some questions, listen (listeeeeeen!), ask more questions, bite your tongue if you want to bypass any of the experiences, don’t unload your discomfort onto the other person. Sit in it. Write it out. Or maybe do a video-diary? What’s important is that this is the part where we grow, get out of the comfort zone and help expand our horizon, not with another funnel but with real life experiences that you will never have, because you are in a different body/skin/cultural background/religion/family etc.
4| BE AWARENESS – RAISE AWARENESS
Donations are always necessary, but sometimes there are other ways we can and should support our friends across the world. Whether that is with signing petitions (I know this sounds like a drop in the ocean, but they do help), sending emails to your senators, or any other politicians,, speaking with friends and family about these issues and well yes sharing these issues on social media. Now I am personally not a friend of some clickbait stuff and even worse to ask random (or even triggering) questions for the engagement quota. No. Instead, take the time to amplify the voices that need to be heard, share facts from people on the ground (rather than some media BS) and research reputable resources where to donate or how to help, then ask your audience to do so and to share further.
If you do not know where to find these types of information then you can always check other activists’ platforms or ask people who are already sharing about this issue. Remember: These posts are for supporting our peers, NOT for engagement, the algorithm or lookin’ good out there.
5| CHECK YOUR LANGUAGE
Language is highly important when it comes to, well, everything in our lives really. But truly the way we speak to ourselves, about ourselves and about others will co-create our reality. What I mean by that is making horrible toxic jokes about women won’t get you the love you are craving. Talking down on yourself, won’t make you any less anxious or overwhelmed. On the other hand it is incredibly important what type of language you use and what effort you put into your use of language in regards to how you make others feel and what impact you leave.
Are you doing your best to learn a name that has a different heritage than yours? Will you support our LGBTQ+ siblings by using their correct pronouns (and practicing doing so) and addressing them the way they like to – no matter your personal opinion about it? Is your next conversation rooted in non violent communication instead of pointing fingers and potential gaslighting?
Using inclusive language, non violent language and putting effort into acknowledging people does not cost a dime yet it will bring so much reward on both ends. And your karma gets a lot of extra points on the list 😉
CONCLUSION: LET’S BE SPIRITUAL & KEEP IT REAL
Spirituality really shouldn’t be looked down at, made fun of as “woo” or be dismissed especially in the online entrepreneur space. I’d say we even need some more down-to earth-spirituality. When spirituality is lived with integrity, we can see much more ethical business been done, real-life issues (as I like to call them) being acknowledged, and worked on and finally people may feel more comfortable to take their fake masks off.
This will only be the case when we don’t forget that spirituality is not an excuse for ignorance or pure denial. Instead it is the path to solving issues from a perspective of love, kindness & higher vibrations.
RESOURCES: WHOM CAN YOU SUPPORT TODAY?
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