In late October of 2018, apropos of nothing, I started having night terrors.
I would awaken in the early hours of dawn with a terrible certainty that I was not safe in my body. What this meant, exactly, I didn’t know, and I didn’t remember my dreams enough to understand that feeling.
When I would attempt to fall back asleep, every known stressor in my life would come calling, blowing itself up to epic proportions, plaguing me until the morning hours.
When my son awoke in the morning, I could barely hold it together to get him fed and off to school; after I’d dropped him off, I’d go home and collapse, unable to function.
Simultaneously, in my waking life, I started to have spontaneous recalls of things I myself had never experienced in life. These memories were at first primarily somatic in nature, and would appear in meditation—a sudden, painful emotion accompanied by a download of information—and then eventually were triggered any time I felt a strong emotion. These somatic downloads were vivid, as detailed as any other memory of waking life, and involved traumatic and supernatural occurrences. They also appeared to be mine, in that I experienced them in the first person.
Suffice to say, this challenged everything I thought I knew about myself, the world, and material reality, and I thought I was losing my mind.
The trauma of these memories was so real that, for about a year, I could barely function. My freelance work slowed to a dull trickle, and friends fell away as I found myself seeking solitude whenever possible. Finally, I holed myself up in a seaside cottage on a remote island three hours north of Seattle and resolved to figure out what was happening to me. Over the course of the next nine months, I slowly began to piece it all together. As a purpose for all the madness arose, I realized that I was undergoing a spiritual awakening after a long dark night of the soul.
If you’re at all like me, perhaps you thought that a spiritual awakening was a graceful act, involving a lot of yoga retreats, a green juice diet, and daily meditation sessions that yield a profound sense of oneness with everything. I’m here to tell you that, while those things can indeed happen, a true spiritual awakening is usually not that pretty.
Why is that? Because (as I painfully discovered), awakening spiritually not only means becoming aware of your spiritual self (which yoga, meditation, and green juice can certainly help with); it also means getting up close and personal with all the parts of your psyche that you’ve rejected, abandoned, and entirely forgotten about. Some of these parts may have been from unprocessed traumatic experiences in this lifetime, but many are actually suppressed memories from past lives.
As I have been learning up close and personal, anything unresolved in our psyche in one lifetime will transfer at a soul level to the next life, and will show up in different circumstances. As it turns out, we get infinite chances to learn the lessons our unprocessed feelings are trying to teach us—and they will keep coming back until we do.
What’s the point of learning these lessons? Once we feel the unfelt feelings and master the lesson, a whole new world of opportunity opens up, and our inner landscape gets much calmer and clearer. In this silence, we can now hear the language of our heart, which steers us to our soul’s calling and life purpose.
I’m writing about this at this particular time because, in addition to many experiencing personal spiritual awakenings, we are also undergoing a massive collective one. It may not seem like it, based on the darkness emerging in the world at this time. It is this emergence of darkness, however, that reveals that we are in the midst of a spiritual awakening, for one must first see the shadows—the parts of ourselves that we have rejected and suppressed—in order to know the light. Indeed, it is our saving grace, this darkness, for to see the darkness is to shine a light on it, and from that light comes healing.
For those of you who have felt despair, loss, grief, and anger at the state of the world, take heart: the dark night of the soul is a necessary part of the cycle of healing. Rather than focusing on the suffering you see (and likely feel) around you, turn inward, and ask your soul what darkness within you needs to be shown the light. Whatever feelings arise, feel them and embrace the teachings they bring, for with that learning comes healing. And from that healing finally comes peace.
While our rational minds may not understand how looking within will help us heal the world, it is, in truth, the only way.
In the words of Nelson Mandela, “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
So let us forgive ourselves for forgetting our light, and give ourselves permission to shine a light on our darkness. In this way, we begin to accept ourselves exactly as we are, and the doors of possibility swing open.