“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, coarsens the soul.”
We’re living in frightening, chaotic, frustrating, and overwhelming times. They’re challenging on every level of our being — physical, emotional, psychological. They often feel apocalyptic.
Not to mention all the run-of-the-mill aches and pains of being human: struggling to belong, to find meaning, to speak our truth. Never mind trying to live our best, most fulfilling lives.
In spiritual circles, times like these are often referred to as Dark Nights of the Soul, a term that originated from the 15th-century poet St. John of the Cross.
While the term originally described an individual’s struggle and eventual journey to a deeper connection with God, it’s become a more mainstream description for the most radical transitions we undergo as human beings, particularly those in which there are no footsteps to follow.
A Dark Night of the Soul is one of the most difficult times in the life of a human being, but also for a culture. Like alchemy, it is designed to turn our lead into gold — our pain into joy, our suffering into understanding, our loneliness into connection.
If this rings true for you, here are a few things to know about moving through your Dark Night of the Soul:
1) Get support
No one else can walk alongside you during a Dark Night of the Soul. There are shadows we will have to face alone, and past behaviors we will have to come to terms with. But none of this means you cannot seek guidance and support from others who have themselves endured such times.
I have a spiritual guide for six years now. When I first met her, I was in crisis mode — a crisis of identity, purpose, and self-worth. I couldn’t see a path in front of me, and the path behind me had vanished. There was no going back.
This was clearly indicative of a Dark Night of the Soul. I knew it for what it was and sought guidance because this was my third Dark Night. The first two I had pushed through alone. I was wiser now.
While my spiritual guide couldn’t actually come along with me, she could continue to encourage me to just take another step forward. And then another. Ultimately, I had to learn to trust that the bridge I needed would manifest beneath my feet just in time.
2) Remember the higher purpose
Know that these Dark Nights of the Soul have entered the lives of human beings since the mystics first wrote about them. And while their length of stay with us is unknown, they do not last forever. But, we must do our part to question and challenge our long-held perceptions, ideas, and beliefs.
A Dark Night of the Soul will, over time, melt away all those parts of ourselves that are no longer useful, while stoking the parts of us that have yet to be made conscious. This greater consciousness is what spiritual growth is all about.
3) Trust your intuition
In a Dark Night of the Soul, you will find that logic suddenly doesn’t work. You can’t simply plan an attack. There is no enemy, no strategy, no calendar to count down.
In the Dark Night of the Soul, all you have with you is your intuition. Our usual problem-solving approach will suddenly feel foolish, desperate, and ultimately ineffective.
Instead, you have to trust your heart and listen to your body. And for a lot of us, these are new and uncomfortable practices, as we have been conditioned out of trusting our body and our heart. Now’s the time to learn to speak this new, intuitive language with ourselves.
4) It’s time to get vulnerable
In a Dark Night of the Soul, when everything around you loses clarity, suddenly, our internal landscape shines overly bright. In this light, we see all our shadows. We see more of our gifts, too, but somehow those shadows are the ones that demand our attention.
Vulnerability is the only way to address the truths that arise. We have to meet them with softness. Acceptance, not rejection. This will allow us, over time, to become more fully human. Allow your personal vulnerability to deepen your compassion for all human beings.
Allow your vulnerability to become your superpower.
5) Take care of your body
While all of this transformation is happening on the inside, we must make sure it’s mirrored by transformation on the outside.
If you’re eating the same foods and taking in the same amount of sugar, caffeine, and alcohol as you normally do, your growth will be stilted and it will likely prolong the process. Try to reduce your intake of sugar, alcohol, caffeine, additives, and processed foods. Try to eat as close to the earth as you possibly can.
As our inner landscape changes, begin to build a new home in which it can dwell.
6) Remember you are powerful
You can do this. You were made for it, in fact. You never chose this life, or this time, because it would be easy. You did not plan to get by on mere habit and routine. You wanted to come here to change, to evolve, to grow, and to learn. Remember?
At the end of this, the power that you feel inside, and the renewed connection you feel to the outside, will be palpable. Your ability to know and speak your truth will be strengthened. Your sight will be clearer, your sense of intuition honed in.
While this time might be confusing, trust that it will move you forward on your evolutionary path.
You will find your way to the light again. Do not lose hope. Do not lose your sense of conviction. Do not lose your sense of knowing that you’re in the right place at the right time.
When you emerge, and you will, you will feel more grounded, more whole, and more at peace with who you are and where you fit in the world.
After three times through, I can promise that this is true.
Award-Winning Author & Wholeness Advocate
Author: Embodying Soul: A Return to Wholeness — A Memoir of New Beginnings, winner of the 2020 IPA for Body, Mind and Spirit