We have a bias in spiritual communities that all depression, shadow, or Dark Night of the Soul experiences have causes that are psychological, spiritual, or energetic. While, yes, there are powerful answers to be found in the spiritual journey, we tend to forget the body’s powerful role in this process. So, I want to cover the role of physical health, emotions towards the body, and the body’s spiritual journey.
The health of your body – including your brain and hormones – can have a profound effect on your mood and your resiliency to be able to handle and meet the layers of shadow that can arise on the spiritual path. There’s immense diversity in how your unique physical makeup can impact your experience of a Dark Night, but I will do my best to list at least a few influences here. I support you to take care of all of these aspects of you to support yourself through the Dark Night:
- Brain chemistry – I notice that Dark Nights can magnify brain chemistry imbalances that may already be mildly active. There are many ways to support the brain when it gets out of balance (including supplements, diet, and exercise) but of course, talking with a qualified psychiatrist can be helpful when it’s necessary.
- Hormones – whether it’s thyroid issues, adrenal insufficiency, post-partum, PMS, perimenopause, or menopause, the endocrine system can go way out of whack and add a megaphone to the challenges you are already having. It may take some effort to find the right support for you, but there is an increasing wealth of resources available now for you to get the support you need.
- Exercise – get the right amount and type for your body at this time of life.
- Diet – get the right balance and nutrition for your unique body. There is no one-size-fits-all!
- Supplements – despite popular media’s bash on multivitamins, every doctor I’ve spoken with understands that when a body is out of balance, it does need supplemental nutrition to correct that balance, whether it’s support for stress, the immune system, endocrine system, brain chemistry, etc.
- Sleep – prioritize getting the right amount of balanced sleep for you at this time in your life.
Your body’s needs will change as you age and grow spiritually. Don’t assume that what worked before will work for you now; don’t assume that what one expert says will work for you or that what your friends do will work for you. I support you to take ownership of your health and find partners-in-health who will help you take the best possible care of your body.
Think of it this way: If you are committed to awakening and embodiment, you are evolving and will ultimately become a new kind of human being. You need the strength and resiliency to grow and become a new human!
The Emotional Relationship to Your Body
If you have neglected the body, projected shame or resentment onto it, or don’t have a loving relationship with the body, it’s time to consider healing your relationship with your body. Ultimately, the body is part of the unified expression of Life-As-You. We can have tremendous gratitude for this expression of life, tremendous gratitude for the function of the body. It deserves a loving, peaceful relationship.
Even dedicating a bit of time each day to love and gratitude for the body can be healing. You can integrate this practice into things you already do – showers, exercise, meditation, prayer, etc. You can shift or correct negative thoughts in the moment by turning them into positive thoughts or gratitude. Example: When you find yourself judging or complaining about your body, you can switch gears and offer gratitude like, “I am grateful for my body’s strength and resiliency.”
The Body on the Spiritual Journey
Most spiritual paths forget about the body or put the body last. In my experience, we need to bring the body on the spiritual journey too. My first awakening teacher, Sri Mahayogi, gave us intensive physical practices that included a special diet, yoga, and fasting in order to prepare the body to be at peace and to awaken. That particular method doesn’t work for everyone, but it did leave me with the clarity that the body is part of the awakening process too.
It’s important to note that many physical spiritual practices often focus on suppressing the body in some way – meditating and ignoring body pain, celibacy, intense fasting, etc. There can be value in these practices for some people at some times in their lives. But if you are struggling with depression, it’s important to note that suppression practices can feed depression. You have to know your body and choose what works for you now.
Regardless of your choice of practices, I invite you to allow your body to experience the peace, Oneness, or love that you may feel in meditation or ritual. The body gets to have these experiences too, on a cellular level. What happens when you bring the body into the feeling of peace and allow yourself to receive Divine peace and love head to toe, in every cell?
In my experience, including the body on the spiritual path can allow stress and anxiety – sometimes carried for generations – to finally rest and come home to peace.
In the next article, I’ll be exploring more about how generational trauma and collective shadow can uniquely impact us when we go through challenging spiritual times like a Dark Night. As always, please forward this article to anyone who could benefit! Thank you!