Dark Night of the Soul
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
A dark night of the soul is not about bringing you comfort and ease. It’s about furthering your soul’s growth, developing your authentic self and strengthening your connection to the Divine. Sometimes the Universe sends situations to shake you out of apathy with a wake up call too big to ignore. The only certainty is that it will shake you to your core and make you feel you no longer know who you are. Life altering events like divorce, a job loss, catastrophes or death are devastating. They cause you to reassess all that you knew and all that you held dear. When faced with insurmountable challenges you can either let your situation define you, let it destroy you or let it strengthen you. The choice is yours to make.
A dark night of the soul is a diversion away from your well worn path towards a new direction. It demands you to be honest with yourself, to face your greatest fears, to let go of what no longer serves your highest good or in alignment with your soul’s highest path and purpose. Life urges you to remember your soul’s Sacred Contract and engage with your highest path and purpose.
Life can conspire to remind you of what really matters and who you truly are. This is not often an easy process. Your authentic self can be so submerged by the needs and demands of others it is difficult to remember without upheaval or self reflection. No matter where you are in life if the direction you’re heading is not in alignment with your soul your intuition will remind you. If you repeatedly choose to ignore the message it will gradually become more insistent – from a whisper to a yell – until it’s impossible to ignore. When life falls apart in some unexpected way or challenges you to embrace sudden, often painful change it’s because you’ve progressed to a point where you’ve held on too long to aspects of your life that no longer serve you. It is up to you to transmute a potentially painful situation into one of profound growth and learning.
The Universe only offers life lessons it knows you can handle. Friedrich Nietzsche said “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” In Islam it is said God doesn’t set us a test, calamity or hardship that we can’t overcome. Reminding myself of this has helped me get through many a rough patch! A dark night of the soul is an arduous adventure into the blackest, bleakest parts of your psyche, the ‘Heart of Darkness’ Joseph Conrad described so well in his novel. This is the part that has been ignored, rejected, denied and suppressed for too long. And now it has risen, uninvited, to the surface and won’t be denied again!
Everyone has life lessons to master. These are your own unique challenges that no one else can do for you. You have to take responsibility for your own soul’s growth at some stage and its many steep learning curves. That is why you have incarnated on this planet at this time. You are here to complete your life lessons in order to progress your own soul to a higher vibration and develop further soul gifts. Some are not willing to allow the inner work to be done for themselves and would prefer it to be done by some external source: a teacher or guru who sails in and waves their proverbial magic wand! The truth is that spiritual development is a largely personal development. Unfortunately personal development necessarily must be done by you. Others can teach, guide, assist and encourage, but in the end it is all up to you. A dark night of the soul requires nothing short of disintegration of who you thought you were; to change, to face your deepest, darkest fears without flinching and turning away in order to find who you truly are. Without disintegration of what no longer serves, you cannot move into higher states of awareness. You need to be willing to stare down your negative ego and the illusions and false beliefs that held you back. A dark night of the soul requires a total surrender even if your whole life is falling apart in the process. There’s nowhere to hide so be prepared to delve ever deeper into your own soul to receive your own deepest truth.
The truth is for you to be going through a dark night of the soul means that your soul is ready to learn, to step up and complete the hardest lessons imaginable. A dark night of the soul tests you to the very core. It is not for cowards! It is a trial by fire where only the most determined, brave souls will reap the benefits.
A dark night of the soul requires nothing but complete trust in the process. Even if you can’t understand why you have to be exposed to this and what you could possibly achieve, know that with time and distance all will ultimately be revealed. The metaphors of the trial by fire is a good one: put a soft clay vessel into a potter’s kiln, heat it to excessive temperatures and it will come out dramatically changed: rock hard it can now receive food and even liquids! The colour pigments have leaped into life and created a visual feast that didn’t exist before fire. Sometimes we need this excessive, harsh firing process to bring our true colours to life!
The other metaphor used – a dark night – is to help you understand that all is not lost. Yes, you will feel desperately alone, lost in the void and floundering in such pitch black you can’t even see the hand in front of your face much less where your feet are blindly leading you. But the sun is still there and will return in good time, rising up and over the horizon of your life at the right moment to shed light on what was hidden to light your way.
This also helps to see how much faith and trust is needed in the process in order to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to keep hope alive in the face of abject misery and despair. All is not lost. You are always held in the palm of God’s hand and these moments of despair are often the greatest moments of connection: when your barriers are down and you will reach out and find God for reassurance. A dark night of the soul is a Godsend!
My dark night of the soul
If I ended my spiritual awakening story with all the amazing experiences described in my last blog it would seem like it’s a breeze! So I’m going to give you the next instalment of my story where things went decidedly pear shaped for quite some time.
After 9 amazing life changing months in Australia I reunited with my then partner in Japan, spent three months teaching in a local high school and another 5 months travelling through China, Vietnam and Thailand. This brought us to India in Nov 1996. Aaah India! What a crazy mixed up land! I love India with all my heart but boy does it get you processing all your stuff! Any unresolved issues tend to come rushing to the surface to be looked at and I had tons of it! You see, hindsight being the wonderful thing that it is, doing rebirthing for a month then throwing myself headfirst into a hurly burly of life of teaching then travel without time to process and integrate changes meant I had left myself wide open; a gaping, festering wound. It caught up with me on the shores of the Ganges while I was doing a 4 month intensive Hatha Yoga with Sunil with the infectious laugh.
This time I crashed. I began my dark night of the soul. I would liken it to a nervous breakdown although I never received a formal diagnosis or sought mainstream medical attention. I felt like a walking shell of a person with no idea who I was or what I was doing. Everything turned grey and I could not find the strength or the will to get out of bed. It was scary! I felt like I was drowning silently. It was all I could do to keep my head above water. All nonessential activity ceased. I was a ball of emotions I barely understood. I spent weeks without speaking. How could I explain something I couldn’t understand myself? I felt like I wasn’t me anymore. I was peering out of the holes of my eyes at a world that had changed forever.
After days of this Sunil took me to his local Tantric doctor who looked me up and down, told me my life in highlights and offered a sachet of herbs and teeny tiny yantras (diagrammatic mantras) folded into teeny tiny capsules; one to wear at my heart and one to wear around my waist. He reassured me that in two weeks my sight would clear and I would feel normal again. Almost to the day I will never forget walking down the busy alley way and suddenly it was light someone had turned in a light! I looked around, up into the sky thinking a spotlight had been thrown on casting everything in bright, vivid hues! My sight had quite literally cleared, just as the doctor had predicted! But that was not the end. Although I was then able to walk about and eat and operate like a normal person the feeling stayed with me for almost a year.
So what helped me reassemble myself into a new me? Reiki. After Varanasi we travelled to Reshikesh. We took a Kriya Yoga course with a disciple of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. This breath work was not dissimilar to rebirthing. I went into process and started crying and panicking that u wouldn’t be able to stop. Ever! The disciples just kept repeating “there is no need to sort through the rubbish to get rid of it” but it was all coming out at once and I had no control. I could feeling myself slipping into a downward spiral of no return. I was scared. Not again!
Another of the students came to me between sessions and explained that he was a Reiki Master and could give me a healing that would help me. In the break between sessions I lay down and Kruno put his hands on me. It felt amazing. Suddenly I was no longer slipping under; I was in bliss, filled to the brim with love! This was amazing! I had to learn more about Reiki and this beautiful pure soul, a Croatian called Kruno Krkleg. As soon as the Kriya Yoga course was finished my partner and I were studying again, this time under the gentle instruction of Kruno. Kruno was my greatest teacher. He taught me how to meet my spirit guides, how to listen to their guidance, and how to dowse. Over the course of the next year he gave me my attunements to master level and trained me to be a channel of love and light.
The road back was arduous. I won’t lie. Rebuilding my identity my sense of self wasn’t easy. I was a mess for a long time. I am heartily sorry for the pain I put my partner through during this time and the ultimate separation that broke both our hearts. It was an incredibly difficult time. Over the following year I learned to live again, recreated myself yet again while travelling through the amazing Near East.
I wouldn’t wish a dark night of the soul on anyone. It is an absolute crisis of faith that shakes you to the core. But I’m so glad I did the hard yards unflinchingly as I came out transformed.
Tips for dark night of the soul:
– Pain is your friend. Whether it be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual, pain is there as a wise and patient teacher, a sign to guide you home to yourself. Pain is there to wake you up so don’t try to hide from your pain.
Focus on the pain and speak to it like you would a small frightened child. Pause and allow the pain child to speak to you and explain itself. If it cannot put into words the pain it holds, let it go as pure energy. Cry, laugh, scream; do what ever it takes to release the pain and fill the space left over with love and light.
– Accept your vulnerability. Share it with a few close trusted friends and sink into your body so that you become reunited with your feeling aspect.
It’s okay to have down days and tough times. Expecting life to be wonderful all the time is expecting the impossible. There is a natural ebb and flow to All That Is, including you. Like all things, this too shall pass.
– Take time. That means take time out to be alone, in nature, by yourself. This is restorative, therapeutic and regenerative all at once! It also reminds you of the natural order and flue of life. We live such cloistered lives, disconnected from the seasons and the weather, shielded and pampered. No wonder a dark night of the soul is such a shock!
– Seek gratitude. Life isn’t perfect but it is good. Seek an imperfect life in radical amazement. Get up every morning and take a good look around, taking nothing for granted. Everything is extraordinary. Every day is a gift.
Do not let the pain of a situation make you hopeless. Do not let negativity wear you down. Do not let bitterness steal your sweetness. Even though others may disagree with you, take pride in the fact that you still know the world is a beautiful place even in your darkest despair. Seek beauty and beauty will always be found.
– Acknowledge your fear and go ahead anyway. When feeling beset by a dark night of the soul it is easy to fall prey to self defeating attitudes and fear. This will stand between you and what is dear to your heart.
Although fear can feel overwhelming it’s not as powerful as it seems. The key is to acknowledge your fear and address it directly. Shine the light of your words on it so your fear doesn’t becomes a wordless, obscure darkness that you avoid or deny. Bravely stare fear in the eye you to understand your triggers, relieving you of the potential for fear to rear its ugly head again when you least expect it.
Accept your fear but do not allow it to stifle you. Be courageous! Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid; courage means you don’t let fear stop you from moving forward with your life.
– It’s time to grow not to shine. Sometimes we are in a cycle of learning and sometimes we are in a circle of expression in the real; where you can explore and share your soul gifts with others. A dark night of the soul is a time of inner reflection and nonjudgmental acceptance of who you are, warts and all; where you and those you surround yourself with need to have compassion, love and patience. Whatever you need to go through you need to allow to come up to be looked at. You cannot do this if you feel judged or criticised by yourself or others. Go deep. Go to where the hurt is and heal.
One of life’s greatest gifts in life is to acknowledge it was never meant to be easy. Difficulty builds reserves of strength and resilience. The life lessons learned during a dark night of the soul are more embedded and long lasting because they were hard won and taught you far more than you possibly imagined.
Over time you will find that life doesn’t necessarily get easier or harder; it’s just different. Nothing is how you anticipated or planned. When you stop expecting things to be a certain way you appreciate what is. Experience is what happens when your plans don’t go as planned and forces you to adapt, adjust and grow. You are on a new, unexplored path that’s uniquely your’s!
– Accept what has come to pass. You have the power to transmute your wounds and worries into wisdom. You have to accept what has happened and use what you’ve learned to step forward. Everything you’ve experienced has given you the ability to step into whatever life has in store for you!
– Take responsibility for your part. When you blame others for what you’re going through you deny responsibility the only person you hurt is yourself. Stop playing the victim. As soon as you stop making everyone and everything else responsible for your happiness the happier you’ll be. If you’re unhappy now it’s not someone else’s fault.
– Forgive others for their part. This can be the hardest part but it will ensure that you do not squander your energy in a fruitless pursuit of blame, criticism or judgement. All of these negative emotions affects every aspect of who you are and how you view the world. Heal your wounds and accept the frailty of others. Everyone is doing their best and bumbling through life as best they can.
– Take it one day at a time. If this is too hard right now take it one hour at a time! Cut your day down into manageable portions so that you can get up and know you can make it to lunch time or your first walk. Gradually pear it back so that you are focused more on the present moment than some unforeseeable future. You are in free fall right now. How can you know what the future holds? Trust that all will be well and relax into the feeling of falling. You are not in control and that’s ok.
A dark night of the soul takes time. Be patient. Be willing to stay focused, confidently taking one step at a time, knowing that every step you take is progress. This is not a time for instant gratification or quick fixes. This is as much about the journey as it is the destination. Tread slowly and carefully, savouring the journey.
– Breathe. Stop and breathe whenever you feel overwhelmed. Deep slow breathing can help you feel in control, centred and at peace. It immediately calms the brain, the central nervous system and slows the heart rate to calm your emotional response.
– Only you know what you feel. Try not to look to others for validation of your unique experience. It only leads to disappointment. No one can possibly understand unless they walk in your shoes. Love yourself. Offer yourself the kindness that you seek from others. Be your own greatest supporter.
– Call on spirit to love, guide and protect you. Give permission to your own personal spirit guide team to intercede on your behalf, to guide your steps and to support and encourage you on your way. You are not alone, even in your darkest despair. You are not alone.
Have you experienced a dark night of the soul? How does it feel for you? Can these tips help ease your way? I would love to hear your story and any thoughts or tips that have helped you get through your dark night.
Art by Corrie Chiswell
Article by: Debra Reeves
Facebook: Tune In with Debra Reeves