Have you recently been through a difficult time in your life, or may even be going through one right now? I have come across many friends and colleagues of late who have been experiencing something like this, myself included. 2017 was a challenging year and 2018 will be even more so it seems as we move through rapidly changing times. These dark days of suffering can be incredibly confronting, and they are experiences that all humans at some point face. The good news they will pass, and there are some things that you can do to move through them and that will help while you’re in it.
In the 16th century, a Spanish mystic called St John of The Cross wrote a book called The Dark Night of The Soul while he was in solitary confinement during the Spanish Inquisition. This was a revealing insight into his passage from the bind of his ego to the divine union (or as he calls it his “soul’s return to God”). During this process, he ventures through an emptiness beyond measure, a state of loss, desolation and darkness like never before. This emptiness is the no man’s land between the release of the bind of his egoic identity and the yet to be made union with the Divine or God. At some point, the union will be made, however it cannot be made while there is simultaneously the bond with the ego. So one must be surrendered before the other is discovered. He is neither John, the egoic identity, having already let that go, or at One with the Unbounded. Welcome to The Dark Night Of The Soul.
This is a process that we can pass through many times in our evolutionary path as we peel back layer upon layer of our false identity. Adyashanti, a revered Buddhist teacher says, “Enlightenment is a destructive process. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.” As each conditioned action, thought, or emotional pattern is dissolved and removed from your being, you can experience an identity crisis, a sense of loss from what you have become so accustomed to.
It’s a lonely, dark, hollow feeling, a feeling of being lost and empty. It’s a time where you question everything and have no idea who you are any more. Do you recall ever going through this?
Hey, well it’s ok…there is a way through this and beyond that is immense light and love. This is a transition point from one level to the next. You are levelling up, and as you leave one floor, know that soon you will arrive on another floor with more expansive views that is brighter and more appealing. As St John of the Cross says: “The endurance of darkness is the preparation for great light.”
Here are some tips to support you through a dark night of the soul:
1. Withdraw. Recluse. Pull back. Your dark night is there for a reason, it is part of your growth and it’s time for inquiry. Most of our lives we spend in enquiry, that is, looking at the world outside of us. We are distracted daily by the glamour and glitz of life. But now, it’s time to look within. It’s time to INQUIRE. So try to avoid social commitments, get off your phone, look within and as much as possible, be gentle, kind and quiet with yourself.
2. Part of this solitude is to sit in stillness and meditate. It is in these deep states of consciousness that we connect to a deeper Truth. It’s where we find the wisdom and solutions. It’s where we find our Being, beyond the conditioned identity, beyond thoughts. St John says: “It is best to learn to silence the faculties and to cause them to be still.” In these times I increase my meditations from 2 a day to 3 a day to move through the process more quickly and come out the other side.
3. Sleep. Never underestimate the power of sleep. Sleep plays in integral role in the stress releasing process that is part of the dark night. Staying up late distracting yourself on the internet, drinking, watching TV or partying is exactly that, a distraction from the purpose of the dark night, to discover more of your Truth. Sleep is a period of time for the body and mind to have reprieve, restore balance and purify. Go to bed early, have naps, sleep in.
4. Ground yourself in Nature. Go barefoot into the forest. Let your feet connect to the skin of Mother Earth. Lie on the grass and feel yourself being pulled in to her. Henry David Thoreau wrote in 1853, “As for the complex ways of living, I love them not, however much I practice them. In as many places as possible, I will get my feet down to the earth.” There is nothing as simple and yet powerful than this.
5. Nourish your body and brain with wholesome food. Often in our dark states, when we don’t feel great, we are drawn to having low-grade food and drinks. Sugary food, alcohol, fatty foods and drugs can all be used as poor forms to feeling elevated. These will be temporary and not beneficial to the process that you must and will pass through. Now more than ever your body and brain needs good quality minerals, vitamins and nutrients that will be the building blocks to your development. Your body is part of this upgrade that you are going through so look after it well.
6. Seek knowledge. I find its times like this that I devour books. Predominantly spiritual texts that are choc full of wisdom. Some of my favourites are the Yoga Vasistha, Baghavad Gita, Dark Night of the Soul, Play of Consciousness and The Science of Being and the Art Of Living. There is a Sanskrit phrase yad bhavam tat bhavati which mean ‘what we think we become’. So the nature of our mind transforms our reality and putting our mind on these profound insights and words in these books will help you through one of these dark nights.
7. Seek Counsel. There are many who have walked this path before us. They know the road and can support you as you take your turn to navigate it. Find someone that you can openly talk to. Not a friend, not a family member, someone who will non-judgementally support you through this challenging time. Be it a coach, mentor, counsellor, guru or guide. As the saying goes, “when the student is ready, the teacher will come.”
8. Know this will pass. One thing that you can absolutely be assured of, that time will pass everything. The dark night is not your punishment, it is not some random accident, it is not your life sentence… it is part of your journey to a better more enlightened experience in life. To move through it, be aware of what lies beyond. Have faith and a deep knowingness that on the other side you will feel clearer, more connected, more love, and lighter. When you know this and hold this vision, guess what? You will arrive there soon after. This is evolution and there is ONLY evolution.
You might have more tools and techniques that help you pass though these passages of darkness. Please, share them with us, we would love to hear about them. And if you feel challenged, lost or are struggling with things, there is a pathway forward and be sure to reach out to someone that will support you through it.