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Avoiding Spiritual Bypassing.

I want to start by saying that this post is written in the context of plant spirit shamanic ceremonies, since it's the most familiar community to me. But the practice of spiritual bypass is definitely not limited by any one healing modality. Here, I want to briefly describe the signs of spiritual bypass and then go on giving a practical solution to its prevention.

The term spiritual bypass is not new in spiritual circles. Spiritual bypassing describes a tendency to use spiritual explanations to avoid complex psychological issues.*

We all want to know and feel that we are really putting in the effort into betterment of ourselves, learning, growing and, as consequence, changing ourselves and our lives for the better. At the same time, we most definitely know at least one other person in our circles who is a famous example of spiritual bypass - that one person who always talks about every experience being a lesson, advocating for positive thinking and banishing anger from their lives.

The truth is, we all are victims of spiritual bypass to one degree or another and it can even be useful in times of severe distress to help manage difficult feelings. But when used as regular tool to make an unbearable situation bearable, it leads to avoiding responsibility, judging others, justifying suffering and ultimately hampers our spiritual growth.

Some of the commonly named signs of spiritual bypass are:*

  • Believing in your own spiritual superiority as a way to hide from insecurities

  • Avoiding feelings of anger

  • Believing that traumatic events must serve as “learning experiences” or that there is a silver lining behind every negative experience

  • Believing that spiritual practices such as meditation or prayer are always positive

  • Extremely high, often unattainable, idealism

  • Feelings of detachment

  • Focusing only on spirituality and ignoring the present

  • Only focusing on the positive or being overly optimistic

  • Projecting your own negative feelings onto others

  • Pretending that things are fine when they are clearly not

  • Thinking that people can overcome their problems through positive thinking

  • Thinking that you must “rise above” your emotions

  • Using defense mechanisms such as denial and repression

What i want to do here is offer you an effective solution to bringing a sense of agency into your healing practice. It can be used in any circumstance, but if you are coming to work with powerful plant teachers, there is something that we call an intention.

You often have heard the expression "Working with the medicine", so what does "working" really mean?

It means you are not a passive viewer, you are not just an audience to something thats happening to you, but an active participant in this process.

And the way to work with the medicine is by guiding our intention into an area of our life/ourselves that need attention. Where attention goes, energy flows. So when we speak of intention, we speak of what it is that WE plan to do during the ceremony, where it is that we intend to place our attention when we have an opportunity and ability to do so.

When thinking of intention, I usually advice expressing it in a "To" vector vs "From" . Example: Finding courage vs letting go of fear. It tends to be more effective to walk towards a goal rather than escaping a problem.

You also need to remember that once you have put the intention into the medicine you then need to let go of the control and the need to narrate/analyze the experience. To allow the medicine to bring in the information that you don't possess yet. To allow her to bring in the experience that you need to have in order to come closer to your intention. Be it a memory, a feeling, an emotional or an intellectual insight.

But the important point that I want to make here is that even by simply creating an effective intention, you are already making a giant step towards the actual self-growth and deep inner work, setting yourself on a good path avoiding spiritual bypass.

I want to share with you a series of questions that I like to ask myself or anyone else Im helping in creating an intention or a well formulated result they want to achieve either in a plant spirit ceremony or in my private Neuro Shamanic Coaching practice.

I will also use a real life example of a client who came to me in distress about lack os success in her wellness practice, marriage that felt dysfunctional and just a general feeling of failing at life. After doing an initial consultation we determined that shifting marriage dynamic would be the change that would yield the most change overall, including her career. So with that in mind, we answered the questions below.

1) What do you want?

Have a peaceful relationship with my husband.

2)Signs: how will you know that your goal is achieved?

I will feel calm and relaxed and will have energy to attract and work with 7-10 regular clients per week.

3)Conditions: where, when and with whom is it necessary?

At home, with my family

4)Means: what resources do you need?

Calmness, wisdom, flexibility

5)Limitations: why haven't you reached it yet?

Low self esteem, limiting beliefs about self worth, previous traumatic experiences, because of me destroying everything that is good in my life


+ What Good will happen if you reach your goal?

Financial wellbeing

- What will happen if you don't reach your goal?

Feeling of wasted life, feeling old, spent

+- What bad will happen if reach your goal?

Nothing ( this question is asked to check if the goal is ecological i.e. good for everyone involved)

+- What good will you lose if you reach your goal?

Free time for myself

7)Value: is the goal worth the effort? Why?

Yes, because then I will feel like a real woman.

After that, the information needs to be compiled into one paragraph showing the dynamic of going away from the problem and walking towards the goal, including all of the resources needed for it, the motivation and the actual "real - life" product of the desired change.

"I, client's name, walk away from destroying everything that is good in my life and walk towards intimacy and soulful connection with my partner, belief in myself, self-esteem and the ability to manifest the desired. Receiving peace and calmness in the process. And, as a result, gain ability to attract and work with 7-10 regular clients per week and achieve financial wellbeing while maintaining my ability to have free time for myself."

Please note that it took us 2 hours of deep dive into the subconscious to go from the initial " My business is not working" to realizing where the real problem was and what was needing to be addressed first and crafting the above well formulated result.

But there is nothing that prevents you from sitting with these questions by yourself.

1) What do you want?

2)Signs: how will you know that your goal is achieved?

3)Conditions: where, when and with whom is it necessary?

4)Means: what resources do you need?

5)Limitations: why haven't you reached it yet?


+ What Good will happen if you reach your goal?

- What will happen if you don't reach your goal?

+- What bad will happen if reach your goal?

+- What good will you lose if you reach your goal?

7)Value: is the goal worth the effort? Why?

Also, if you want to dive event deeper into self-diagnostics, you can explore a free mini course called New Vector Flow that I have created in order to help you move from solving a problem to reaching a goal.

When you are overwhelmed and stuck in negative mind frame, you can use this flow of 14 questions to point you to a new perspective and solution. Built upon neurological levels, the New Vector Flow sequence triggers your brain into starting to rewire itself and help you achieve your wellbeing goals.

I want to applaud anyone who reached the end of this post! Just the fact that you have put your attention into looking for ways of making your spiritual practice effective already speaks volumes about you!

Continue the good work, learn, grow, accept and share!

Much love,

Mariya Garnet


* Picciotto G, Fox J, Neto F. A phenomenology of spiritual bypass: Causes, consequences, and implications. J Spiritual Ment Health. 2018;20(4):333-354. doi:10.1080/19349637.2017.1417756

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