Spirituality can be an amazing addition to your life, leading you to personal growth, community, and a deeper understanding of yourself. I know that spirituality has brought many amazing experiences, people, and personal realizations into my life that I never would’ve had if I hadn’t embarked on this journey. There is no arguing that spirituality isn’t an amazing addition to anyone’s life, but all spiritual practices have one major pitfall: Spiritual Escapism.
It doesn’t take much to find spiritual escapism just about anywhere in the spiritual field. Many teachers unknowingly teach their students spiritual escapism without realizing the kind of damage they’re doing to people’s lives. It pays to be aware of what spiritual escapism is and how to combat it in your own life, so today we’re going to talk about exactly that.
So what exactly is spiritual escapism? Spiritual escapism is what happens when we use spirituality as a way of avoiding our actual lives. Just about any spiritual practice can be used for the purposes of spiritual escapism, so you must be able to evaluate your own practices and behaviors to check and make sure that you’re not using your spiritual life to escape your real life.
Spiritual escapism comes in many forms and I couldn’t possibly list all the ways that you could use spirituality to escape your life, but here are a few examples to give you an idea of what we’re talking about.
Meditation can be a wonderful practice for learning focus and tuning into your intuition and your extrasensory abilities. However, it can also be used to train your mind to ignore or avoid your emotions. In fact, many of the meditation practices taught today are simply glorified emotional suppression! When you meet that yogi who meditates for two hours a day and never seems to get ruffled by anything and is always in a state of peace and bliss, it’s pretty much a guarantee that they’re using meditation as a method of spiritual escapism.
When you meet that witch who has the perfect witchy aesthetic, all the tools and crystals, who does every full moon and new moon ritual, and who seems to be the ideal witch but somehow their life still has all kinds of drama, that’s spiritual escapism. They’re using a spiritual practice and an aesthetic to make themselves feel better about their lives without actually improving their lives in any way.
If someone were to read spiritual book after spiritual book, listen to all the podcasts, and read every blog post they could about spiritual enlightenment and growth but they never actually put those practices into action, they’re using that perpetual chase of spiritual knowledge as a way to avoid the actual problems in their lives. They would rather make themselves feel better by pretending that they’re growing spiritually and giving themselves the illusion of spiritual progress rather than putting in the hard work, taking a deep look at themselves, and making tangible changes to their real life.
This is what spiritual escapism is at its foundation. It’s using spirituality as a way to feel better without actually changing your circumstances in any way. It’s using spirituality as a kind of morphine or pain killer rather than healing or fixing the thing that’s causing them pain in the first place.
Why Do We Do This?
There are many reasons why people would fall into a pattern of spiritual escapism, and most of them, if not all of them, are subconscious. Very few people make the choice to simply go in the direction of spiritual escapism when they recognize that this is problematic. In reality, people resort to spiritual escapism when they either do not know better or they recognize that it’s not ideal, but in their minds, the alternative is worse, so let’s talk about each of these separately.
The majority of people fall into spiritual escapism because they simply don’t realize how damaging this behavior is. Spiritual teachers all over the world have been teaching spiritual escapism for centuries now, so many of these practices are mainstream and considered perfectly fine by those who don’t know how to look deeper at the cumulative effect that it has on people’s lives. You can see this in “positive vibes only” culture, in the obsessive meditation practices that are designed to shut off your connection to your emotions, and in the constant scramble for the next best thing spiritually. All of these practices can be used in a way that is healthy and supportive of your spiritual growth, but when taken to an extreme or used improperly, they begin to act like a drug addiction.
You pick up one spiritual escapism practice, and it makes you feel better because that’s what these are designed to do. Eventually, because nothing in your life is changing, the spiritual escapism stops working, the pain comes back, and you either drive yourself deeper into the cycle of spiritual escapism or you jump into a new form of spiritual escapism to get that positive feeling back. Oftentimes, those trapped in this cycle begin to think that something is wrong with them because they can’t maintain this good feeling all the time. They think that these spiritual escapism practices are supposed to take away their pain and leave them feeling amazing all the time forever. Rather than placing the blame where it belongs, on the escapist practice itself, we blame ourselves! Obviously, the stuff is working for other people, right (hint: it’s actually not) so what’s wrong with us that we are still unhappy? The truth is that there’s nothing wrong with us. The problem lies with the practice and the way that we’re using it to escape our reality.
The other camp of people using spiritual escapism realizes that what they’re doing is essentially using a spiritual painkiller, but the alternative in their minds is so bad that they cannot bring themselves to stop. This is exactly what happens with any kind of addiction that we’re using to numb our pain. An alcoholic doesn’t drink because they don’t realize that alcohol is bad for them. They know! They drink because the alternative is living their lives in so much pain that they cannot function. It’s usually not until the pain of alcoholism becomes greater than the pain of the rest of their lives that an alcoholic will seek out help. Spiritual escapism is the same. These people will fully recognize that what they’re doing is a temporary solution and fixes nothing. They may even realize that what they’re doing is causing harm on a deeper level. The problem is that their life is so painful that they can’t bear to face it without some kind of buffer to ease the suffering.
If you’re wondering if maybe you fall into this camp, stop every spiritual practice that you use for an entire month. Does the idea of doing that give you a panic attack? Do you feel like your entire life will fall apart and you’ll stop functioning if you stop with your spiritual practice? If the answer is yes, you are using spirituality to escape the pain of your life, and you will never be able to create a life that isn’t painful if you continue to do this. A life without pain is possible! For many people, this sounds ridiculous and may feel like a complete pipedream but until you give yourself the chance to find out if you can create a life without pain, nothing will change.
The Real Point Of Spirituality
If we look at the bare facts, spiritual escapism does not make your life any better. It only covers up the pain long enough for you to get through the day. This is not what spirituality is for! The real point of spirituality is to make tangible changes to your life so that you don’t feel that you have to escape the reality that you exist in. If you’ve been stabbed, you cannot simply pump yourself full of morphine and neglect to stop the internal bleeding. There are times when the morphine is necessary and good and in the same way, spiritual practices that allow you to feel good have a place and use but if you are using them without solving the underlying issue, you might as well just have a drug addiction.
I want you to start evaluating all of your spiritual practices and ask yourself, what is this really doing for me? Is your meditation practice simply a way to avoid your anxiety and depression? Could you find a better way to address the root cause of your anxiety and depression? Are you using love spells to cover up an abusive relationship and allowing yourself to live in the fantasy that you can fix him? If you suddenly couldn’t use spiritual practices, would that relationship even be tolerable? Are you using spiritual practices to suppress your anger when what you really need to do is have a conversation and set firm boundaries with people in your life? Asking yourself these questions is hard and you have to be brutally honest with yourself, but this is the only way that spirituality can actually be a positive factor in your life.
You must find the courage and strength to be honest with yourself about your spiritual life so that you can build a spiritual practice that supports you in creating a life of happiness and fulfillment and purpose.
Your Life Is The Point!
When it comes right down to it, your real life is the point of everything. We are not here on earth living in physical bodies because we are trapped here accidentally. As spiritual beings, we chose incarnation into a human life! We came here specifically to have a human experience because this experience gives us so much. Our human lives allow us to fall in love, touch one another, to feel and interact with the world around us, and to grow and build together in incredible ways. We are not here to escape the experience of being human! Your humanness is the point. Your life is the point. If all you’re doing is trying to escape the reality of your human life, you are squandering the very thing that you came here to experience.
You can have any life that you want. We all have an absolutely insane amount of personal choice. You could decide right this second that you don’t like the life you’re living, abandon everything you own and everyone you know, hop on a bus to a completely new city and become someone totally new. You have that option. Absolutely no one is going to stop you. Sure, people might try to talk you out of it. But if you’re a legal adult, no one can stop you, no matter how much they would rather you didn’t. That is the beauty of living a human life. You can do anything you want. You can quit your corporate job and move to an island to teach surfing for the rest of your life. You can ship yourself up to Alaska and become a wilderness guide and essentially camp every night of your life. You can start a business and make millions of dollars and fly in your private jet all over the world. People make choices exactly like these every single day. The problem is that when you are using spirituality to escape the reality of your life, you can’t make any of these decisions. Your pain and discomfort are the things telling you “I don’t want this”. It’s the signal that you are on the wrong path and that you need to make a choice and make a change but rather than listening to this and taking the risks that might actually allow you to live the life of your dreams, spiritual escapism allows you to just dream walk through your life.
It’s time to stop escaping your life and start using your choice and your spiritual practice to build a life that makes you absolutely ecstatic to get out of bed every single day.