By Hilary Illick
It is spring, the season of renewal, where leaves start to bud on tree branches, and plants begin to push through the earth and bloom. The natural world is wondrous and inspiring at this time. Hopefully you are in sync with nature, but your Dark Side may also be flinging one of its favorite terms at you – should. “You should be doing spring cleaning.” “You should be adhering to those long-forgotten New Year’s Resolutions.” “You should be losing that winter weight.”
If you hear a voice dictating what you should be doing or how you should be feeling right now, it’s an indication of spiritual bypass. Spiritual bypass is when the intellect takes over, bypassing your heart-centered essence, and posing as your Spiritual Self. It’s not your Spiritual Self telling you what exercise regime you should have started by now. Or what clutter you should have already disposed of during spring cleaning. It’s your intellect; it has been co-opted by your Dark Side.
“Shoulds” can create pain and suffering in life as well as judgment and self-deprecation. Recognizing and acknowledging these without judgment are what bring us out of spiritual bypass and restore our connection with our spiritual self – the part of us that knows we need and deserve self-compassion. Our Spiritual Self is the aspect of us who, whenever we catch ourselves “shoulding,” knows this is a call for self-compassion. Our Spiritual Self is the aspect of us who says: “I’m suffering right now, all humans suffer; may I be kind to myself.”
Acknowledging the negative perceptions puts us in touch with what is actually happening versus what our intellect has decided should be happening. Self-compassion brings us back into present time, into our present selves. Self-compassion also softens us to ourselves and softens us into our hearts, the same way the spring thaw softens the earth to allow abundant green newness to grow and thrive.
So, have compassion for the “should” impulse, as well as for the period of growth that is an inevitable part of life and part of our human experience. Ironically, the most effective way to actually get to renewal is to be right where we are, acknowledging whatever darkness or suffering may be happening inside of us, and hold it with our loving kindness and self-compassion – which is always available to us from our spiritual self, and which will unfold when it is ready.