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FEATURE - December 2015

Transcendence Means Down, Not Up

By Stephanie Red Feather


Not that ancient wisdom texts are easy to interpret in the first place, but I think some of the sages who studied and decoded the meaning of these documents, despite their best efforts, got it wrong.


Reaching enlightenment, greater states of awareness or transcendence  isn't about bypassing the emotions. It isn't about living from the upper chakras and going through life forcing positive affirmations and rejecting the existence of the shadow. It isn't about walking around in a self-delusional blissed-out state while cancer is quietly developing in your colon from the 48 years of anger you haven't expressed.


It is easy to be spiritual. It is hard to be human.


Yet that is exactly what we embraced when we chose to incarnate as a human being on this planet. One of my favorite quotes by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin sums it up perfectly: "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience."


Several years ago I had an epiphany during a ceremonial gathering. As I watched the convener get triggered and have a less-than-stellar moment in how they chose to handle the situation, it hit me: what is the point of all of this "spiritual practice " if we can't relate to the human standing next to us? If we can't have an honest conversation about how we feel? If we can't speak our truth and  communicate clearly? It's easy to be a mystic on a mountaintop. But strap on unresolved childhood issues, hunger, divorce, differing political views, a mortgage payment, three kids, ailing parents, lack of sleep, corporate greed, getting laid off, and all of the others issues we confront on a daily basis and then try to be spiritual in the midst of "real" life. That is where the work lies.


Spiritual bypass is seductive, but ultimately gets us nowhere. Robert Augustus Masters says, "Spiritual bypassing is the use of spiritual beliefs to unconsciously avoid dealing with painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs. It’s so pervasive, and largely goes unnoticed, and such actions often do more harm than good." We can convince ourselves we're growing because we meditate, go to church, read enlightening books, and give money to charity. But our upward reach is directly proportional to the depths of our excavating. We must grow deep and broad roots to support the growth above. Otherwise, the tree falls over.


The spiritual path doesn't just lead up. It leads down. Down into the body.


Our mission is to learn how to bring our connection with Spirit down all the way into our body. To fully inhabit ourselves--the muck, the beauty, the fear, the love, the agony, the ecstasy, and everything in between. To feel our feelings. To ride the sublime roller coaster of the natural rhythms and cycles of our human existence. To embrace the exquisite joy and agony of our frailty and our magnificence. To be a human bridge between heaven and earth, spirit and matter.


So what does being fully embodied look like?


1. It starts with accepting your humanness. You are human and divine. Yet it's much harder to embrace our less-than-perfect qualities. Accept your imperfections, your foibles, your flaws. Give yourself a break. It's exhausting to deny. It is freeing to accept.


2. Do your inner work. Whatever unresolved issues or buried wounds you have, work through them. Seek help. Ask for support. Spiritual awakening is not a destination, it is a journey. Spoiler alert: no matter how much inner work you do, there is always more to learn, uncover, heal, release, and embrace. Enjoy the journey.


3. Feel your feelings. This is one of the most precious and unique gifts of being human! Feeling your emotions (especially anger and fear) doesn't make you un-evolved. It makes you, simply, human. Emotions are our most accurate navigation system. Our body's reaction to circumstances will always tell us the truth, if we learn to embrace and listen to our feelings.


4. Give yourself permission that "being spiritual" doesn't have to look a certain way. Spirituality shows up in as many forms as there are humans on the planet. Express your uniqueness. Be authentically you.


5. Tell yourself the truth. Erich Fromm says, "Integrity simply means a willingness not to violate one's identity." Lying to yourself is one of the most dangerous forms of spiritual bypass. When you lie to yourself, you erode your trust in yourself. Then you begin to relate to yourself as untrustworthy. Being truthful with others starts with being truthful with yourself.


6. Embrace your shadow. Our shadow represents the unloved and disowned parts of ourselves. These aspects are always seeking expression. If we deny them and pretend they aren't there, rest assured they will still come out. But they will come out sideways and express as inappropriate behavior at the most inopportune time. As Carl Jung says, "One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious."


Now I realize all of this may seem like a downer, but the more you can accept your humanness and fully embrace the entire spectrum of human experience, the greater your ability will be to ground your spiritual nature on this plane. If the point was just to experience our spiritual nature, why would we have chosen to incarnate in human form in the first place? If all you do is pursue your connection to spirit, you're only experiencing 50 percent of what it is to be human. We chose to be in-body in order to em-body. So embrace your amazing self and focus not only on the upward growth, but the downward growth as well.

Evolving Magazine

Kansas City

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Stephanie Red Feather is a shamanic spiritual healer, teacher and life coach. She offers private coaching as well as multiple workshops, trainings, products and processes, including the Embodied Priestess Process™. Visit her website: or call her at 913-515-3271.

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