So, you’re beginning to awaken (or you’re deepening your awakening) to the Divine. That’s beautiful! And if you are like most people, at some point, this wonderful experience of light, oneness, and love will be followed by their opposite – a loss of connection with the Divine, a sort of spiritual depression that plunges you into shadow, darkness, sadness, shame, guilt, feeling lost, etc. You have probably heard this called “The Dark Night of the Soul.”
In 16 years of spiritual teaching and more than 30 years in various spiritual communities, I notice that Dark Nights can be catalyzed by all kinds of things – deaths, divorces, job changes, feeling unfulfilled, health changes, etc. Each person has a unique set of themes or challenges that they are facing. Most people face both internal and external changes and challenges at the same time. Many people face extreme doubt in themselves, life, and/or God. It’s remarkably unenjoyable.
In the worst-case scenario, a Dark Night can suck someone in so deeply that they forget it’s just a phase; they lose themselves and succumb to depression or mental illness. In most cases with my clients, however, they come to realize that the Dark Night is a doorway. It’s an opportunity to more deeply embrace Divine Truth and Love and resolve the shadow or wounding that your heart and body have been carrying for too long. It’s an opportunity for you to bring the shadow into the light.
A Healing Opportunity
You may have heard me say it before – once we begin to taste the love, light, and freedom of the Divine, everything in us wants to taste it. Everything in us wants freedom, and that includes all the wounded parts of us that have been hiding in the shadow, waiting for an opportunity to find peace and resolution. These wounded parts don’t have the language to say, “Excuse me, could you bring me to the light too?” Instead, they tell their story, “I’m hurt! I’m wounded! I’m angry! I’m lost! I’m forsaken! I’m ashamed!” Etc. If you take these stories as the cries for help that they are, then you can more quickly hear them, give them what they need, and bring them all to love and light.
No one said this would be easy! I can tell you that any emotional or cognitive resistance to resolving these parts can make things a lot harder. There’s a reason we have an astonishing number of mythologies about battling evil, walking into the shadow, fighting dragons or demons, etc. Most of us, at some point, have to fight our inner demons. We have to find a way to bring all our wounding to the light and to love, just like the good guy wins the day in the books and movies. Have the courage to face what is within and know that it is meant for you to bring it all to light.
When Dark Night Means Death – and Rebirth
One of the most compelling inquiries during a Dark Night is: What is it in me that is trying to die and fall away? What part of my ego, habits, self-projection, or illusions am I ready to release – or is ready for an upgrade? It’s ok to trust that there’s a better way, a truer version of yourself that is emerging. It’s ok to allow it to emerge and let go of the old way.
Birth isn’t pretty. Know that you are becoming a new kind of human, one who isn’t at the whims of their conditioning all the time, one who walks in the light, one who makes decisions based on truth rather than society’s ideas, one who follows a path of integrity and alignment, one who knows that all is One. This isn’t comfortable and can be quite messy. Have compassion for yourself and the process.
Tools for the Journey
Just like resistance can make this process harder, the right support can make this process at least a little easier. Here is a list of resources you can consider using when you are struggling through a Dark Night:
- Teachers/Healers – Reach out for help from spiritual teachers, therapists, healers, etc.
- Inspiration – Spiritual or healing books, audio recordings, classes, workshops, retreats
- Inner Wisdom Inquiry – What is true? Discover your own inner teacher and let them be your guide.
- Loving, compassionate community – when possible, reach out to supportive, empathetic friends or family members… or, at the very least, people who make you laugh!
- Self-care – Rest, exercise, good food, time with loved ones, etc.
- Spiritual practices – Even as you may be questioning the path or God, it may be useful to maintain certain spiritual practices like meditation and prayer to remind you of the Divine that is ever-present and with you always.
- A balance of rest and activity – On the one hand, Dark Nights require more reflection, contemplation, and sometimes journaling or inner work. On the other, having the structure of a job or project can prevent you from unnecessary wallowing in the shadow. Balancing activity with quiet time is often helpful.
- Permission to surrender the old and embrace the new – Trying to maintain your old egoic self is really hard during a Dark Night. I find that it’s easier to accept that the old way is falling away and that it’s time to embrace a new way. Your Inner Wisdom knows the way!
All of these things helped me when I went through my Dark Night. Know that you are not alone – there are many who have come before you, many who walk with you, and many who will come after you.