A quote from David White in his book, Consolations:
Crisis is unavoidable. Every human life seems to be drawn eventually, as if by some unspoken parallel,
some tidal flow or underground magnetic field toward the raw, dynamic essentials of its existence, as if everything up to that point had been a preparation for a meeting, for a confrontation in an elemental form, with our essential flaw, and with what an individual could until then, only receive stepped down, interpreted or diluted. This experience of absolute contact with an essential hidden dynamic, now understood to be essential to our lives, often ignored, but now making itself felt where the touchable rawness of life becomes part of the fabric of Every day, and a robust luminous vulnerability becomes shot through with the necessary imminent and inevitable prospect of loss has been described for centuries as the dark night of the soul. But perhaps this dark night could be more accurately described as the meeting of two immense storm fronts. The Squali vulnerable edge between what overwhelms human beings from the inside and what overpowers them from the outside. The waveform that overwhelms a maturing human being from the inside is the inescapable nature of their own flaws and weaknesses, their self deceptions and their attempts to create false names and stories to place themselves in the world. The felt need to control the narrative of the story around them with no regard to outside revelation. The immense wave on the outside is the invitation to give that self up to be born off by the wave and renamed revealed and reordered by the Powerful flow. Walking the pilgrimage between the two. holding them together is the hardest place to stay, to breathe both and make a world of both and to be active in their exchange, aware of our need to be needed our wish to be seen our constant need for help and sucker, but inhabiting a world of luminosity and intensity, subject to the wind and the weather, surrounded by the music of existence, able to be found by the living world, and with a wild, self forgettable ability to respond to its call when needed a rehearsal In fact, for the act of dying, a place where inside and outside can reverse and flow with no fixed form.
The term “The Dark Night of the Soul first originated from the 15th century poet and mystic St. JOHN of the cross, but it has since made its way into more spiritual mainstream lingo.
I believe in my life I can point to two dark nights of the soul, each lasting about a year of my life, each changing my life transforming me and realigning my priorities, each making me a much more powerful, strong, grounded and aware human being, each totally worth having navigated.
In my book, Embodying Soul: A Return to Wholeness. I refer to this period of time in my life as a Tunnel of Darkness.
I like the idea of a tunnel, something that we’re crawling through and navigating our way through by feel and by instinct alone, something that we don’t know how long it is, but that there’s always that light at the end and that we can trust in that. But even if I had known how it would end up, I don’t know that I would have willingly brought it on.
The Dark Night of the Soul is a very scary time in our lives. It’s one that is filled with confusion about our purpose, about the meaning of life, about our connection with God.
It is a time that sometimes feels lonely and disconnected. Because from our perspective, we see all the other human beings around us, living their lives and comfort and feeling safe in the world. We’re comparing our inside confusion to their outside demeanors.
It’s difficult because it’s very vulnerable. Our wounds are coming to the surface, our raw-ness feels like it’s being exposed. We’re seeing all of our humanness.
Oftentimes, a Dark Night of the Soul or a Tunnel of Darkness can be triggered by a great loss, a loss perhaps of a relationship, or a job or some kind of purpose or meaning.
For me, my first Dark Night of the Soul was brought on by deep spiritual quest that eventually left me at a crossroads where I had to make some very important decisions about what my relationship with God was going to look like going forward.
Was it still going to be a patriarchal god of the Christian tradition, one that handed down rules, one that was jealous and watching us all of the time? One that frankly, I was quite afraid of?
Or was my relationship with God going to be a softer, kinder, more feminine kind of relationship that included love and compassion, and understanding and forgiveness.
The second Dark Night of the Soul that I went through had more to do with my lack of feeling a sense of purpose and meaning in my life.
Ever since I can remember I’ve been a very purposeful person. But suddenly I didn’t know what was next for me on the horizon. All the roads seem to have close to me at the same time. And while everyone else was just moving on to the next thing, I felt lost and a little left behind.
A Dark Night of the Soul can be brought on by all kinds of things and maybe even nothing. I don’t believe that there is any logic associated with the Dark Night of the Soul. But I do believe that all human beings must traverse at least one in a lifetime, that perhaps we’ve even signed up or agreed to travel, understanding from a deeper soul level, the importance and the power that comes from navigating one of these periods of time, thus understanding the power and the gifts and the strength and the renewed awareness of your purpose and place in this world.
I want to offer some ideas and tips to navigate this period of time.
But before I do, let me just tell you that there are a few ways to shortcut or go around a Dark Night of the Soul or what I call bypasses.
The first one is the Bypass of Bliss and Light.
This is a bypass where even though you can see that there is this difficult period of self-reflection and reexamination ahead of you, you choose instead to put on a face of happiness and peace and decide that everything is just okay.
You decide that you’re going to pretend that everything is fine, that there’s not this turmoil this meeting of the inner and the outer worlds and pressures going on within you.
This is a mask and it can be worn for some time.
Another bypass is the bypass of Bitterness and Isolation.
We take this period of confusion in our lives as almost a personal insult, as if it’s only ever happened to us. And we turn away from the world we turn inward, we go away from help, we reject support.
The third bypass, at least that I’m aware of is the bypass of Blame and Suspicion.
And this one is a little bit more active than the Isolation and Bitterness, when we turn away from the world. Blame and Suspicion we accuse outward. We blame others for their roles in our lives for having giving us advice that took us in the direction that we now found ourselves. We blame the people that were involved in the workplace or we blame our ex-partners. This is a very challenging and painful bypass. They all are.
You can take them, but here’s the thing with the bypasses: they will all eventually wind their way back to the mouth of the Tunnel of Authenticity. At some point in time, we must walk through this tunnel. But each time we take a bypass and we return to the mouth of the tunnel, it grows longer and more treacherous.
Better to enter that tunnel the first time we see it with our eyes wide open, then to take bypass after bypass, hoping that eventually it won’t appear again. It always will. Because it is an essential part of human life. It is a part of our life where we have the opportunity to shed skins to see who we really are underneath all of the masks. And when we wear masks to avoid taking off masks. Now we’re just making that more and more Difficult each time.
So here you are at the beginning of a Tunnel of Authenticity or a Dark Night of the Soul. You feel purposeless, you feel lost and confused.
Step one, find some support.
Find a spiritual guide, find a healer, find a group of friends, recruit your family, get them on board to understand that you’re going to be going on this inner journey, this questioning period of time in your life, that it may look scary, but that you’re okay, that with their support, you will make your way through it.
I honestly don’t know that I could have navigated my second one—or my first one for that matter—but my second one, particularly without some help from a spiritual guide. And I say the second one particularly because I knew from my first one how challenging these periods of time can be. And so there was an extra layer of resistance for having to go through it again.
But once I found someone, immediately I was infused from the inside with the courage and the know how that I could do this. Yes, it’s challenging. It’s confusing. We don’t know if we belong. We don’t know what we’re supposed to do. We don’t know how we fit in our connection with God or with other human beings feels tentative or afraid. This is a scary time of life.
What we need is some wise woman, some healer, who can remind us of our connection, who can tell us that the separation we feel is only an illusion.
Secondly, remember why you’re doing this.
Know that these Dark Nights of the Soul have been happening to human beings since the mystics first wrote about them and probably well before, Jesus certainly had one up on the mountaintop. They can last just a period of days for some, they can last months they can last years. There’s no telling and there’s no logical formulaic way of shortening it will last, however long it last for you and your journey.
But at the end, you will feel more grounded and more whole and more at peace with who you are and where you fit in the world.
Now, once you’ve made this decision, the next important thing to remember is that in a Dark Night of the Soul, logic doesn’t work so well. In the Dark Night of the Soul, you have to trust in intuition. And in your gut. You have to trust your heart and your body. And for a lot of us, these are new things to have to practice. We have been conditioned out of trusting our body and our heart, probably since we were children, and told that those things were silly or foolish, or not to be trusted.
And next, explore this vulnerability that you’re feeling.
Vulnerability is a very frightening thing. It’s scary to be vulnerable with others. And it’s scary to be vulnerable with yourself. In the Dark Night of the Soul, when everything around you becomes more difficult to see, suddenly, our internal landscape becomes much easier to see. warts and all. We see our shadows, we see our light sides too. But somehow those shadows are the ones that get our attention.
Stay in this place of vulnerability, allow it to deepen within you your sense of compassion for what it means to be a human being, walking this earth. With our separation with our confusion with our loneliness, allow your vulnerability to become your superpower. Something that you will take out with you when you emerge from this tunnel, something that you will share with others and gift to others and allow them to to be more vulnerable to be more open to be softer with one another.
Next, take good care of your body and your mind during this period of time.
While all of this transformation is happening on the inside, we must make sure it’s mirrored by transformation on the outside. If we’re eating the same foods and taking in the same amount of sugar and caffeine and alcohol and all the other stimulants that maybe we normally are taking in, then this growth is going to be stilted and it’s going to prolong the process. If you can, reduce your sugar intake, reduce alcohol, reduce caffeine, reduce additives and processed foods. Try to eat as close to the earth as you possibly can.
Try to avoid animal products. Try to eat mostly fruits, vegetables, grains that are whole foods that are organic. And try to take your time when you eat, nourishing your body understanding that that’s what you’re doing. Remember to stay hydrated, drink a lot of water to get out daily and move your body whether it’s just in slow meditative walks, or in more vigorous exercise.
But as the inner body is changing as the inner landscape is changing, it is very important that we take care of our outer physical body as well. Make a new home for this inner part of yourself to dwell.
Next, remember that you are not alone.
Yes, we do have to traverse a Dark Night of the Soul or a Tunnel of Darkness alone. But know that there are countless people across the globe going through this at the same time as you find some way to connect with them maybe through the internet or through other forms, ways of getting in touch, stay in touch with a spiritual community. Get involved in a meditation group, find some way to touch into other people’s lives, who know what this is like who are going through it, who have gone through it.
It is important to remember that even these things that we must do alone, we can have support and aid and companionship.
Ultimately, above all, remember why you chose this life.
You did not choose this life. it to be easy. You did not choose this life to escape or get by on habit and routine. You wanted to come here to change, to evolve, to grow, and to learn. And sometimes just because of the nature of life, things get backed up. We’ve been on autopilot for way too long. And so all of this change and all of this transformation that was coming to us is sort of bottle jammed, and we must now move it out. This is sometimes what causes a Dark Night of the Soul as well, when we’ve spent too many years not paying attention, not doing our healing work, not integrating the lessons into our lives.
Remember that you came here, wanting transformation, wanting growth, wanting to be a part of this human life and that at the end of this The power that you feel, the connection that you feel will be stronger will be renewed. And then it will deepen. Ultimately, be kind to yourself. Know that this is an important time in your life, but that you will emerge and that when you do, your site will be clear your sense of intuition will be more honed. Your ability to know and speak the truth will be strengthened.
Know that you have support, know that this is exactly what you came here to do, and that you have the courage to continue through it. Trust the journey. Know that this journey will be windy, it might be confusing, but it will move forward as long as you stay present and connected to yourself and to your support networks.
You will find your way to the light again. Therefore do not lose hope. Do not lose your sense of conviction. Do not lose your sense of knowing that you’re doing the right thing for yourself.
Allow me to end with this final quote from Oscar Wilde in Letters. “My desire to live is as intense as ever. And though my heart is broken, hearts are made to be broken. That is why God send sorrow into the world. To me, suffering seems now a sacramental thing that makes those whom it touches holy. Any materialism in life, coursens the soul.”