photo: Georgio on flickr

photo: Georgio on flickr

Dear Meli,

For a long time, I did my spiritual practice by myself. Although this was okay, I longed for spiritual community. Then I found one! It was amazing. But after spending more time with this group, I found out that the leader is not who she originally seemed to be. Now I’m torn. I want to stay connected to the people I love in my community, but I no longer feel comfortable around the leader. And going back to spiritual practice by myself now seems lonely to me. Any suggestions?

Torn in Two


Dear Torn,

I’m sorry for your challenge. I know that you will navigate your way through this and find yourself either able to stay there and feel good about it, or leave and move on to a better-for-you community.

I have found myself in similar situations. Once I decide to explore and inquire deeply into my own part, it hasn’t been difficult to find. In case this resonates for you, here is what I found for myself.

Background: We come from our families of origin. Most always, and to varying degrees, we have not had our needs met in these origins.

Fast forward: We find a spiritual community with which we resonate. “Ah!,” we think (whether consciously or not), “I have finally found the family I dreamed of! I will be safe, loved, and seen! Finally, I will have my needs met!”

Inevitably, when we come in to a spiritual community (or perhaps any community at all) with this type of expectation, we can be assured disappointment. The problem is that spiritual communities are made up of people. I say this in jest, but I’m only half-kidding!

We all come with our wounds and our stories – our “stuff,” if you will. Ultimately, most of us project our unhealed wounding onto those around us. We then feel let down by them, disappointed by our expectations being shattered.

This is not to say this is your fault! Only that one shift might be in your own internal processing.

Check out your expectations and your are, and see if you might be inadvertently holding unachievable, or unlikely expectations.

After that, I would look at the following list of things, and then make your decision about whether this might still be your place:

1) What do I want or need from spiritual community? Why do I go? What do I want to experience while there, and/or take away?

2) What do I want to give to my spiritual community? Can I still give that here? Is my gift still welcome?

3) Do I still feel seen and loved by some of my people there? Can I focus on them enough to be happy there?

4) Is there a way to maximize the joy, and minimize contact with the people or situations that are uncomfortable for me? Might that allow my needs to be met there?

This type of inquiry has often led to surprising ways of making seemingly-incompatible situations and relationships work for me.

All this said, if you commit to the work of inquiry and reflection, and you still feel bad after spending time in your community, it might be time for you to move on to your next-greatest good.

In other words, the situation may be Spirit nudging you to leave because your next place is even better. If you don’t get uncomfortable enough to leave where you are, you’ll never get to where it might be better.

For myself, I have found that all of this is best navigated by a balanced combination of self-reflection and observation (inquiring and studying my own motivations and beliefs), and following my own inner guidance, following the flow of better feeling. In each moment, I ask myself what is the thing (to do or not do) that feels best, and then I do that.

I would never advise that any of us stay where we are not being treated with honor, dignity and respect. That said, if we notice that everywhere we go, we eventually feel dishonored and not-respected, then I’d say there is work to be done in healing some old stories.

Once those are healed, it may be that this community is better able to serve you. Or, it may be that the transformation this community inspired in you was its purpose, and it’s time to move on.

I guess it’s not a simple answer at all.

My sincere blessings to you as you navigate this territory,


How do you handle discord in spiritual community – or any community? Share your comments below!

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