The past two years have been some of the darkest in my adult life.
I went through something I can only describe as a “dark night of the soul,” and although I have always been a positive, happy person, I felt completely disconnected from myself, my life, my friends, and my reason for living.
I had been physically and emotionally exhausted from battling a vision-compromising virus and stubborn parasites from India for two years. I was broke, just barely scrounging enough for rent and bills, and trying to support myself with all my medical expenses.
Nothing was working to heal my body. Everything I tried failed, including the heavy duty “last resort” prescription medications, and I felt like giving up. I was completely drained, and felt helpless and completely alone.
I told a close friend that I wanted to curl up in a ball and not “do life” anymore, to just have someone spoon feed me twice a day. Every morning, I woke up to the same bad dream I was living, and I couldn’t imagine a way out of it.
The “dark night of the soul” is a way to describe what feels like a deep, existential depression. A loss of perceived meaning in life. What once held your world together is now falling apart, or it just doesn’t feel right anymore. It is something many people go through at some point in their lives, and especially those who are on some kind of personal growth journey.
When sh*t hits the fan, we have a choice.
One option is to avoid responsibility and numb our pain, which often leads to a snowball effect of running and numbing.
The other choice is to dive in and fully experience the emotions of the struggle in order to burn away the impure thoughts that are contributing to our pain. Raw emotions can be incredibly healing, but we usually resist feeling them because they are so uncomfortable.
In situations like these, the only way out is through.
Before I went through my own “dark night,” I had experienced friends and clients coming to me for help in a similar type of crisis. Since I had never experienced it myself, it was challenging, if not impossible, to lead them through it because I didn’t know the territory. You can only lead someone through something you have been through yourself.
In an effort to light a million fires with one flame, I am sharing with you what it took for me to get my life back on track.
Overcoming the Dark Night of the Soul:
1. Go all the way in.
This will always be rule number one. Show up and opt in.
When I was feeling tortured by my emotions, instead of trying to distract myself or numb myself, I listened to my body and chose to fully experience the emotion. I searched for where in my body the emotion exists, what stories or thoughts are connected to it, and what feeling is beneath the emotion. Separating the story from the emotion helped to take me out of victim mentality and just witness the feeling as a powerful sensation.
Don’t deny yourself the power of your struggle. It will either make you stronger, or break you down so you can transform into a more powerful, potent version of yourself.
2. Breath of fire.
Breath is the quickest and most effective tool we have to calm and focus the mind.
I have used breath of fire for years to help me connect to my personal power and “clear the cobwebs.” Returning to the self is so important when we experiences a dark night of the soul because what often happens is we lose our center and forget who we are. It also cleanses the body of excess cortisol (a stress hormone) and floods the system with fresh oxygen, which has a rejuvenating effect on the body and mind.
Doing breath of fire every day helped me to rewire my stress response and find a feeling of self-empowerment, regardless of all the reasons I could find to feel disempowered.
Breath of Fire tutorial:
>> Sit up in a comfortable position.
>> Begin breathing in and out through the nose at a rate of two to three breaths per second, with equal inhales and exhales.
>> With every exhale, contract the stomach to push air out, and inhale quickly through your nose, so you are making a rapid “sniffing” sound.
>> Focus your power in the center of the belly and not in your nose.
>> Try this for one to three minutes.
>> If you feel lightheaded or dizzy, take a break.
3. Body movement practices.
Shake it up, wake it up!
Getting into the body is the best way to regain control and feel grounded after a period of darkness. I found my bliss again by playing my favorite uplifting song and letting myself move without any restrictions or judgement. Freedom in the body is freedom in the mind. Moving creatively to music or doing free-flow yoga practices has helped me reduce anxiety and physical and mental tension, and it’s made me feel happy and exuberant again.
4. Clean up your diet.
Eat clean, cut sugar, and drink water.
During this time of darkness, I found that I craved sugar more because it felt like a way I could get a moment of bliss.
Sugar creates an acidic environment in the body, and only contributes to brain fog and mood swings. Cancer cells and other diseases grow happily in an acidic environment, so it is important to maintain the acid/alkaline balance of the body.
The gut is the primary producer of serotonin, a chemical responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being. When the gut is clogged with heavy foods, toxins build in the system, which also creates an acidic environment and can stop serotonin from being absorbed, leading to depression and lethargy.
5. Connect with people.
Reach out, even when you don’t feel like it.
Oftentimes, a major problem in people who suffer from depression is feeling isolated or disconnected from the world, from others, and from their true self. I found that connecting with others, even when I didn’t want to leave the house, helped me break out of the depressive cycle I had been in and forget about my B.S. for a while. Maybe some of your friends have gone through what you’re going through, and it helps to be heard and to hear about their experience to know that you are not alone.
6. Nature and time connecting with Earth.
Long walks clear the mind and are worth their weight in gold.
Nature has a way of soothing us and putting things into perspective. Even though all I wanted to do was curl up into a ball, I took myself out on long walks, much like I would have done with a restless puppy. I like to take these walks in silence, sometimes bringing a voice recorder to get the junk out of my mind and to record any great ideas that come to mind. Nature has a way of slowing down thoughts and reminding us of the beauty in the small things.
7. Self-cultivation with the jade egg.
This is a personal practice where you insert a “jade egg” into your vagina and do strengthening exercises.
Jade egg practices are thousands of years old, and were originally used for sexual health by the elite, who believed that beauty and longevity can be achieved by having a strong and healthy vagina. Taoist traditions believe that a strong vagina and pelvic floor enhances life-force energy, which makes you feel full of vitality and have a youthful glow.
When I was in my dark night, I lost my sex drive completely. Doing these practices gave me my mojo back and made me feel my sensual power again, which always makes me feel happy.
8. Exercise and sweat!
Just do it.
Sweating cleanses your largest organ—the skin. Sweating also helps you release the toxins from your bloodstream and promotes whole-body circulation. When you sweat and get your heart pumping, you immediately feel better. When I was going through it, I went to the gym four to five days per week to create a change in my physiology, which immediately boosted my mood. I try to get my heart pumping in the morning, which sets the tone for the day and gives me a nice endorphin rush to ride out the rest of the day, too.
9. Write every morning.
Do this before you check your emails, texts, and Facebook.
In the morning, your mind is more clear and it is easier to connect to your inspiration with clarity. Write your dreams, your thoughts, and all the things on your to-do list. When you wake up to your smartphone, information is being spewed at you during your most receptive time of day. I found that writing about what I was going through was easier in the morning and somehow it didn’t seem so daunting. It also gave my mind a chance to be creative, which helped to get myself out of the rut of thinking negative or fearful thoughts.
10. Be mindful of the mind.
Train your dragon.
I gained control over my mind by learning to catch myself when I was engaging in a thought pattern that didn’t empower or serve what I really wanted.
I began to notice where I was leaking energy. I noticed which thoughts were leading me to feel disempowered. I developed the ability to catch the thoughts and habits that weren’t positive, proactive, and generative. I could tell the difference between constructive thoughts and destructive thoughts because after I engaged in the destructive thoughts, I felt drained, exhausted, or irritable.
When I notice my thoughts start to spiral into anxiety or negativity, I do one minute of breath of fire, or a five-minute movement practice. When we can create a physical change, it’s like pressing a reset button on the mind.
I am feeling stronger every day and confident that I will never slip into that darkness again.
I now have first-hand experience of how my thoughts can contribute to my reality, and I vow to use them wisely in ways that lead me to where I want to be.
Not only are my external circumstances improving, the internal good feelings have been drawing more opportunities to me, giving me the motivation to continue loving myself and healing to perfect health. The mountains now seem like molehills.
Author: Miriam Elyse
Image: Author’s Own; Pixabay
Editor: Catherine Monkman