How To Get Through A Dark Night Of The Soul

LightHave 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.

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What Is The Difference Between Your Ego And Your Soul?

Soul_Vs_EgoHave you ever felt lost? Or that you just don’t quite know WHO YOU ARE? Well you are not alone. We all go through some level of disillusion about our true identity at times. If I was to ask you when you were 5 years old “Who are you?” no doubt there would be a very different response than when you were 15, 25 and then 45 years old.

So who are you? Let’s explore from a purely subjective viewpoint and one that’s always open to discussion.

There are the outer layers of who you are, which keep getting added to as years go by. Think of them like cloaks that get put on top one after another. Each cloak has a different look and feel to it just as each life experience adds different layers. Each layer adds another level of complexity to our identity as they all start to blend in on top of each other. What defines the nature of these layers is the experiences that we have through life. Where you were born, the religious upbringing, the way you were treated by your parents, the school you went to, the daily experiences you had, some light and fun, while others potentially dark and harrowing.

In Sanskrit these experiences leave an affect on us called samscaras. These samscaras are like ’scars’ that are an effect etched into us that influences our current experience in life. So when some was to ask you “Who are you?” in effect you’d be the sum of all your past life experiences. Welcome to your egoic identity. This is the ‘I’. Who we perceive ourselves to be is the story that we’ve constructed around us throughout our lifetime.

So who are we if we shed those cloaks? If we were to peel back those layers what would we discover? Who are we without that story?

Deep within us, right back underneath all those layers, is a Soul. What is a soul? It is the aspect of us that is completely uninfluenced by our life experiences. It was there before the life experiences were even experienced. It is the ‘I’ without the egoic layers. It is the Source, it is Light, it is Love. It is the part of us that is non-changing and always a constant. It is subtle and due to the thick layers that we have accumulated over time, it becomes very hard to experience, yet it’s always there.

The Soul is pure; it isn’t influenced by any life experiences. Think of a lamp that is pure and bright. Then add over the top of that lamp a thin coloured scarf. The scarf will impede the purity of the radiance glowing from the Source of Light. The scarf will dim it somewhat. Then add more layers and more layers and eventually the full radiance of the light will be impeded completely. Eventually we are only able to recognise the thick layers as our identity because our original pure identity, the one without the stories, has become smothered.

So how do we re-connect to our Soul if it is always there? We start to peel back those layers. One by one, strip them back, letting go of the old stories and attachments. This can be a painful process as we feel we are letting go of who we are. Each layer that is peeled back and released can leave us feeling vulnerable, raw, and naked. “If I’m not that layer, and I remove it, then who am I??”

This process can take many years. Even to this day I find I am peeling back layers as more egoic identities are being shed. Each thick layer that’s removed takes me through a dark mourning experience as another false identity of me is let go of. However with that letting go, what follows the darkness is a clearer realisation about who I am without the layer. More of the inner light is revealed and we can get glimpses of our True nature within.

Shedding these layers can be done through numerous pathways. There are plant-based medicines, energetic healing sessions, therapy, psychology, yoga, breath work, detox retreats and meditation among many other modalities. Finding the one or numerous pathways that suits you is up to each individual.

St John of the Cross, a Spanish mystic in the 1500’s, wrote a book on this expulsion of layers to discover the Light within and how painful this process can be. The book was called The Dark Night Of the Soul and in one line he wrote:
“In the inner stillness where meditation leads, the Spirit secretly anoints the soul and heals our deepest wounds.” For St John, meditation was the process he chose to use to reveal the inner light.

We just finished a 6-day retreat in Bali where we used a number of modalities to carry out this shedding process. There was yoga, meditation, breath work, cleansing food, massages and workshops that are all formulated to enable this ‘letting go’ of our outer layers. Part of this process saw emotional releasing as sadness, fear, anger was purged from the body. The attendees felt lighter, clearer and more love within them as part of connecting deeper to their Source, the Love within.

What a fascinating journey this is. We start out adding layer upon layer, then as the pain of the disconnect from our original Source, our Light, inspires us to initiate a process of rediscovering that, we begin the return leg of the journey, to then start peeling back those layers. From Soul to Ego, then Ego to Soul. Enjoy the ride!

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If You Are Looking For Inspiration, Check Out These 6 People!

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Firstly I need to clarify, I’m not a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Buddhist and neither am I an atheist. I’m just a guy walking a path seeking answers to life. I’m a guy trying to find Truth, a Truth beyond the layers of dogma and conditioning. I’m a guy trying to break free of suffering, desires and neediness. It’s a tough journey at times and often I fail miserably at this and other times I soar like an eagle.

Along the way I turned to people for inspiration. People that represent wisdom, love and light. I’ve found many that have carried me through difficult times by their actions and words. They have guided me to live more from the heart and to love unconditionally.

There was Sri Anandamayi Ma, the beautiful divine incarnation of feminine form. She once said:
“My consciousness has never associated itself with this temporary body. Before I came on this earth ‘I was the same’. As a little girl ‘I was the same’. ………. Ever afterward, though the dance of creation changed around me, in the hall of eternity ‘I shall be the same’”

Then I came across Ramana Maharshi, a swami saint in India from the early 1900’s who said:
“Our own self-realization is the greatest service we can render the world.”

I can’t forget St John of the Cross, the Spanish mystic and Catholic Saint, who carried me through a dark time with his book Dark Night Of The Soul. In this he said:
“In the twilight of life, God will not judge us on our earthly possessions and human successes, but on how well we have loved.”

There was Buddha, the prince to a kingdom, husband to Yashodra and father to a child, who walked away from it all to find enlightenment. He said:
“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

And I would say this man is the number one reason I am meditating today- Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. This Swami played a key role in bringing Vedic Meditation to the western world. It’s because of him that I am able to sit in blissful meditation twice a day. He once said:  “There is no need to suffer in life- the ocean of bliss is in everyone.”

There were many many more, but there was one guy that I would say inspired me the most. Interestingly this guy had a huge PR machine behind him with 4 guys documenting their time with him. Now it wasn’t like they had an iPhone recording every word he said. No, they remembered things he said and did and then wrote it down decades later in a book. So you’ll have to forgive them if they used a little poetic licence.

Now this guy, we don’t really know much about him even though the book about him is the highest selling book in the world! This book left out 18 years of his life from the age of 12 till 30, and most of this book only captured 3 years of his life when he hung out chatting with 12 guys most of the day. He also had an ‘interesting relationship’ with a woman called Mary Magdalene which we don’t know much about either.

This guy loved to challenge the establishment. He became furious one day in a temple throwing the tables of the gamblers over. He became disillusioned and confronted by his shadow-side when he ventured into the desert on his own for 40 days. He also like challenged the political establishment and ruffled a few feathers there with quotes like:
“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Now back in the time this would be bold statement to make yeh?

But what really inspired me was the way this man loved. He loved unconditionally. He loved the sick, the poor, the downtrodden, women and men all equally. Here he said: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

I’m not into idolatry. But I do seek inspiration at times and these are some of the people along my path that have given me so much knowledge and have reminded me of who I am. How about you? Who has inspired you on your path? I’d love to hear below.

 

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