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December 27, 2023

Why Yoga & Meditation Aren’t Enough when You’re Going through a Dark Night of the Soul.

I sat there on the meditation cushion, my silent tears soaking my face mask.

I tried to stay as quiet as possible so no one would know I was ugly crying. I was having a massive panic attack in the middle of a Buddhist monastery. Monks, nuns, and other fellow students were all around me silently meditating.

My body was trembling and I was frozen. I needed to get the hell out of there, but I didn’t know how. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to disturb anyone, as I technically wasn’t supposed to leave in the middle of meditation. Plus, there was a particular way to leave the building involving bowing to the Buddha at the altar and I wasn’t sure what was customary. I didn’t want to be disrespectful.

So I stayed sitting there, silently suffering.

Just a couple of days prior, my husband had left me out of the blue.

There was no conversation. There was never even any prior conversation around how he was feeling, or how the relationship felt to him. Zero warning. Not only did he leave suddenly and quickly, turning my entire world upside down, but he also viciously pointed the finger at me for all his woes. The end of the marriage was my fault. I wasn’t good enough in xyz way. I didn’t do xyz thing. I should just know xyz. The mindf*ck of a list went on.

I don’t think words can truly do justice to how wildly confused and distraught I was. Here was my so-called life partner with a foot out the door, having had zero conversation, putting zero effort into the relationship, zero compromise, zero healthy communication, and telling me how awful of a partner I had been. I fell into a deep, dark spiral. I had built my life around this person and here it was all crumbling down. If you had told me the sky was green and the grass was blue, I would’ve 100 percent believed you. I didn’t know what was real anymore. I was numb. I didn’t know who I was.

I was there at the Buddhist monastery to try to ground myself during this chaotic time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t helping.

Meditation, peace, and quiet weren’t effective for what I was going through at that point. It only massively amplified the anxiety, panic, despair, pain, and screaming void within me.

Fast forward through months of no sleep, rapid weight loss caused by zero appetite, unspeakable stress levels, constant panic attacks, being diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression, and suffering from Complex-PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), I decided early on through all this sh*t that I wasn’t going to let my soon-to-be ex-husband break me. Even though I felt like I had exploded into a thousand pieces and had no idea how to re-assemble myself, I knew deep in my bones that I would recover from this and that I would come back stronger. I knew I would be the phoenix rising from the ashes.

I put to use all my knowledge and skills as a healer to help cope with my situation (and let me tell you, yoga and meditation were not useful at that point because they were too gentle and my body and mind needed to rage). My coping skills instead looked like smashing dishes and old TV screens in rage rooms with crowbars and baseball bats, screaming my lungs out into pillows with tears streaming down my neck, having my closest friends on speed dial every hour of every day, tons of therapy sessions, and so much more. I also enlisted a few of my healer friends to somatically help me further through EFT tapping sessions and reiki energy healing. Even my naturopathic doctor was on my team of emergency helpers. I did a lot.

I didn’t know what was going to happen. The only thing I was clear about was that I had to keep my emotions moving through me. I couldn’t let them get stuck; I couldn’t let my body hold onto this pain. So I opened myself up more and more to feel it all so I could process it.

That’s the incredible power of somatic work. I couldn’t think my way out of that situation. I couldn’t meditate or even yoga my way out. I had to use my physical body to move all of the emotional pain and betrayal. I had to scream, jump, stomp, shake, and smash. I had to process this trauma. And most of all, I needed the support of my community to do it.

I could go on and on about all the other darkness that I went through. There was so much more. All of that stuff was really just the beginning of the crumbling of my old life. It was all rooted in old trauma, dysfunctional patterns, and baggage. I eventually figured out that my bar was set so low to dysfunctional breadcrumbs. (Hello, recovering codependent and anxious attacher!)

This experience led to my most glorious awakening and deepest healing.

None of it felt glorious though. Even to this day, I’m still working through parts of it. But that’s how life goes. The work continues until our last breath.

If there’s anything I learned through it all, it’s the power of receiving other people’s help. How others can hold space for you. Help you cope. Help you heal. Remind you of your big, gorgeous light when you’re blind in the dark and drowning.

My friends tell me they’re stunned at how powerfully and quickly I transmuted my own pain. I went from being a screaming and sobbing puddle on the floor, having multiple panic attacks per day, experiencing crippling anxiety in every waking moment for months on end, to becoming a way more regulated human who now embodies wisdom from hard lessons learned. I walk through the world in a whole new way. I leaned hard into the darkness that led me to a newer and even brighter light in my life. I attribute this to the somatic processing I relentlessly did from the start of it all and my own sheer determination to overcome.

So when life inevitably throws challenges your way (death of a loved one, heartbreak, divorce, confusion around your life’s purpose, and so on), it’s really difficult to weather that storm by yourself. In fact, humans aren’t meant to go through those things alone in a vacuum. We need connection and support from others, especially those who have already experienced what you’re going through.

Reach out for help. A bigger, brighter, more whole you is waiting on the other side.

And if somatic release is something you’re curious about as you navigate your own dark night of the soul, here are my best suggestions.

>> Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

>> Shaking (including jumping and hopping)

>> Vocalizations (think primal sounds and yelling or screaming)

>> More rigorous workouts

>> Energy healing

>> Body awareness practices (such as noticing your five senses)

>> Soothing breath practices such as nadi shodhana (alternate-nostril breathing) and sama vritti (equal breathing)

May we all learn to live like the lotus, at home in the muddy waters.

~

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