Monday, May 13, 2013

The Dark Night of the Soul

dark night of the soul, dark night of the soul picture, spiritual imagery
Not too long ago, I had a request to write about the dark night of the soul. It's not a topic I would generally write about, or rather this is not the way I generally refer to such things. The reason being is that this type of dramatic terminology, "Dark Night of the Soul," is very much ego-based. All the connotations are of death, destruction, lost-faith, and misery. That's why I wrote a blog post some time ago called, "Sacred Destruction: The Removal of Obstacles in Spiritual Rebirth." In this post, I really focus on why this type of destruction is necessary and what is really being destroyed: the ego. In this way, I would suggest that the dark night of the soul is an inappropriate viewing of the spiritual rebirth process because in this very idea, the ego thinks something is going horribly wrong and is trying (and failing miserably) to hold onto the things that are being swept away.

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Sacred Destruction: Illuminating the Dark Night

If it feels like everything is being destroyed in your life and all is being reduced to ash, it is truly, truly time to get some perspective. If you are attached to everything, it's like you are face down in the mud. Perhaps that's another way to look at the dark night of the soul. In this idea, you are face down in the mud, sucking in mud, and flailing about. You have no perspective. You are actually perpetuating your suffering (sucking in mud), and you are going no where (flailing about). So it really becomes absolutely necessary to stop. Stop and sit. Observe. You can observe through meditation. You can observe through journaling about how you got here. You can observe through talking it out to yourself or a close friend who can hear such things. In this way, you begin to bring the light of your awareness to the situation. This is how you begin to illuminate the dark night of your soul.


A Crash Course in Letting Go

Another way to look at what is going on is that this is a crash course in letting go. Usually when people refer to the dark night of the soul it's because a whole bunch of things in their lives aren't going the way that they think they should be going. Here's an example:
  • The person got fired
  • Their wife left them and is suing for custody of the children
  • The house is in foreclosure
  • The person feels lost, confused, and adrift
  • Nothing makes sense anymore
This last one usually is built off of the other instances because the ego says, "If all of this other stuff is happening that doesn't make sense to my programming, then life as a whole doesn't make sense." It can get dreadfully dark, however, and so if you feel that you are teetering on depression, despair, of suicide, you should get help from a psychologist or counselor. This blog isn't meant to be a psychology session (nor are my one-on-one sessions), but I am hoping that a change in perspective can help you metamorphosize a challenging time period into a release towards spiritual freedom.


The Arising of Spiritual Freedom

As many of you sit in dark places, you are learning about yourself. If you have never done this before, things (emotions, pain, etc.) can pile up. Another way to look at the dark night of the soul is that the unwashed laundry and garbage hasn't been attended to in the house. Suddenly, it's all falling on top of you, and you are covered in a huge mess. Many people haven't developed any kind of spiritual practice or healthy coping mechanisms. Because of peoples' utter lack of spiritual, psychological, physical, and emotional tools, it is easy for them to assume that life itself is dumping on them. This, as many of you know from reading my blog, is totally irresponsible. We are all responsible for the lives we create. And taking responsibility can be an immensely empowering thing amidst a dark time such as this. Because in so doing, this is the beginning of moving from the light of your consciousness, and shining that flashlight on your life begins to help you see clearly again (which you'll notice is a theme on this topic).

Let's look at the earlier example about the lost job.

When you look at a lost job, you may find that the company was not running a sound business, that you didn't like the work, or that you simply had wanted to move on. You may find a lot of things were going on that you didn't want to look at, and now that you are looking at it, you can see things that you'd never noticed. Now you can act differently and potentially make better decisions about what work you want to do or what types of businesses you want to work for. Consequently, being fired has now become a blessing; it has moved you towards spiritual freedom.

Without that awareness, the suffering continues. You will take on another job that has many of the same problems for you, and you will continue your cycle of pain and suffering.


Spiritual Emergencies and Other Ego Tantrums

I do believe there are genuine spiritual emergencies that arise. I will loosely define them as when a crisis of faith has led to very poor decision making or when someone's energy has become defiled or so polluted that they are shutting down energetically, which in turn will cause all kinds of health issues. In this second scenario are things like being raped, killing others professionally (as a soldier is called to do), witnessing death, being tortured, and more than a few other really awful physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual traumas. This post isn't about that, although the practices of healing and letting go become absolutely vital. I will talk about dealing with those traumas from a spiritual perspective another time.

Even more rare are the people who have been doing intense energy work (like kundalini yoga), and they've gotten themselves completed unbalanced. This last one often requires time and space to allow the energy to self-regulate again. A good energy healer may be necessary in the most extreme cases.

The above examples are much more rare compared to the usual ego shit-fits that get thrown. These include things such as:

  • The spiritual path not always making you feel good.
  • The spiritual path not giving you the stuff (relationships, social approval, spiritual jobs, etc.) that you thought you wanted
  • The spiritual path going too slowly and so you try to force things to happen to disastrous effects
  • The spiritual path, in general, is not what you wanted and you've done a bunch of unhealthy things to yourself or others that are now blowing up in your face


The Ending of the Dark Night of the Soul

I will allow for the fact that extremely challenging things come up for us all. I have had my own dark night of the soul, but I never refer to it in that way. As I said, it's too ego dramatic. I didn't always allow for the arising of consciousness. I didn't initially know how any of this shift should feel or how it should proceed, and I was very confused for a time about how to embrace this amazing shift and what that meant to the world I was creating around me. Whenever the inner world and the outer world are too deeply divided and there is the arising of consciousness, times are likely to become incredibly turbulent.

If this applies to you, just know that you have the power to end the dark night and to embrace the sacred destruction of all that does not serve you. Again and again, you will have to let go as your own consciousness moves forward and cuts away the filth and debris that you may have surrounded yourself with. But as you move through this, you will learn how freeing it is to let go of everything. You will learn that all the things you've been holding onto--every last attachment--has been a chain around your body that has slowly been suffocating you your whole life. For a little more about this freedom and going through expansions and contractions on the spiritual path, check out this blog called: "The Process of Healing Pain From Your Energy Body."


The Dawning of Your Consciousness

Through embracing these difficulties and having the courage to face the dark, the darkness dissipates. It cannot stand up against the light of your awareness. It is impossible. By definition, the dark can only exist where there is no light. In your absence from living your life consciously and with clarity, a dark night of the soul may have descended upon you. But the dawn is coming if you have the will and aspiration to open your eyes and embrace your deepest inner light.

This picture is gift from Becky Stiller. You can see more of her photography on this Flickr link.
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