Welcoming the Taboo Thoughts

By on Sep 28, 2018 in Pathways, Posts | 4 comments


A feeling of aversion or attachment toward something is your clue that there is work to be done.

                                                      Ram Das

Loving, hating, having expectations: all these are attachments. Attachments prevent growth of one’s true being.

                                                      Lao Tzu

I see a trend in spiritual teaching, writing and communities that wishes to make certain thoughts, expressions, feelings, ideas and impressions Taboo.  There are thoughts we are not supposed to have because they are of a “lower nature” and “vibration.” Essentially what is said is that “We don’t want to attract that energy” so these reactions must be pushed away. This is a form of unhealthy repression that is doomed to failure. And a formula for dividing people from themselves.

Puritanism is a form of Christianity which underlies much of evangelical Christianity and remains dominant in many circles. Basically, it reminds everyone that they are created as sinners and thus must watch every thought and action so that there is no room for the devil or evil to enter. The devil is given room to invade in the form of impure thoughts, so we must be on guard because we are inherently untrustworthy.

This is camouflaged in contemporary spirituality under the guise of insisting we only entertain thoughts of a “higher nature.” I have seen people scolded for having normal, natural thoughts because they are ‘attracting negative energy.’ This is a form of unhealthy repression and self-censorship reminiscent of the Victorian Era when even piano legs were covered lest one get impure thoughts.  It is a form of self-rejection.

While we are not employing thumb screws, the rack or burning witches this demand for constant suppression and editing does condone a sort of chronic self-doubt and nonacceptance. While we are no longer sinners condemned to hell, we become people of lower vibration condemned to remaining on the wheel of life and death and the endless cycle of karma.

I am well aware that thoughts are forms of energy and carry consequences. But repression of those same taboo thoughts not only does not work but is unhealthy. This is attachment to what the thinker is supposed to be rather than what he or she is. It also involves an aversion to oneself. Two sides of the same coin develop. Attachment to the supposed ideal and aversion to the real. There is a dualism in the attachment to what is supposed to be and aversion to what actually is. This makes being present in the moment impossible.

The alternative is to welcome what is. Welcome all of it, all of the internal world. Welcome everything as it arises without having to take action on it, or believing it is true or a real expression of who one is. We invite all thoughts in for a visit. The basic response to the thought is “Oh, you are here again. What a great and persistent teacher you are.” For example, the thought comes up “You should tell that guy off. Give it to him with both barrels.” As soon as the taboo thought is welcomed even one like this, it loses its power and fades into the background. We can respond to the thought, “You know I used to enjoy that approach to other people, but I think I’ve out grown it.” The next thought is often something like “You’ve become such a wimp with all this spiritual stuff.” Then, we can chuckle at this and the thought fades further. And we know there is work to be done on our anger. And there is no shame, self-doubt or division from one’s inner being.

Another example from my own life involves a spiritual community I used to be very active in but with which I am now only tangentially involved. There is an absolute prohibition on gossip in the community which I completely support. Gossip is destructive to the object of the gossip and the gossiper. I do my best to not engage in it. Recently there have been major changes in the leadership of the community. Gossip about this is verboten and correctly so. But I would love to know more about what the process of this was. Why did it happen? Who managed it? Where did the people go who left the community? I would love to find out. I welcome the wanting to know more, accept its presence and know it is not where I am going.

The way out of our greed is not repression but by finding our generosity. The way to decrease our anger is by finding our acceptance. We step out of something by stepping into it not by rejecting ourselves. The way out of our desire is by finding our gratitude and awareness that we truly have everything we need. We can not let go of something that we have not first held. Allowing the thought does not mean we ally with it. We pick it up and put it down, move on, see through it and continue with our life. And when it stays longer than we want we observe that continuing process to discover what it has to teach us. This approach ends battling with our selves and feeling ashamed of our thoughts, feelings and reactions. It knows all of this is merely the latest teacher arising from within our hearts, minds, souls and psyches.




  1. Thank you for this. I am currently being told only to engage with thoughts of a “higher nature” so as not to attract negative energy. I need to honor my truth and my feelings. For me, I need to bear witness to the sadness and suffering of others- to help if I can. I need to acknowledge the painful things. I don’t have to live in them, or take them on: neither can I ignore them. I hold them , ask for love and compassion, THEN let them go.

    Chris Bibby

    September 28, 2018

  2. Chris-
    Thank you for your comment. You are describing the exact sort of situation I wrote about. Higher thoughts and energies get used as a detour around the painful ones. And, it seems to me that you are cultivating compassion much more than attracting the negative energies. In these difficult times compassion is of the highest energy.


    Graham Campbell

    October 1, 2018

  3. I really appreciate this post, Graham. Though difficult to maintain, life is so much more enjoyable when we can welcome everything with an open heart and a curiosity about what it’s here to teach us. This reminds me of the imagery of Rumi’s “Guest House” poem.



    October 1, 2018

    • Yes. I agree the Rumi poem is a good partner to this. And I would ad Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese.
      Both of these poems are available on line by typing title and author.

      Thanks for your comment

      Graham Campbell

      October 3, 2018

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