The Dark Night of the Soul is a term to describe a prolonged period of emotional and spiritual desolation in which there is seemingly no consolation. It can feel like a collapse of the perceived meaning in our lives. And it hurts. And it’s meant too. Usually, at first, there is a sense of loss or betrayal, but after time, should you surrender to the process, the suffering becomes transformed into a spiritual gift of pure gold.
A true Dark Night of the Soul leaves a lasting impact on you – it changes you completely. When you exit a Dark Night, you will discover that something has been taken away from you and lifted from your shoulders.
I believe I have experienced two dark nights. The first one was only a taster, a baby version of what was to come. Whereas the last dark night felt like I had been snatched by a strong-willed and relentless crocodile who was determined to take me down into the cold, black water with no hope of escape.
I choked, I spluttered. I gasped for air. But there wasn’t any. There was only pain, only suffering and the sense of an ever-growing isolation. I felt abandoned by God, abandoned by life, and abandoned by myself. There was nothing I could do, but writhe in agony and pray, begging and crying out for relief. But relief does not come. That is what makes a dark night, a dark night. It is meant to last for a long time. so the soul can descend down and down and down, into the dark matter of unconscious debris, trauma and wounding.
Finally, one morning I noticed a tiny little shaft of light on the inside and I knew it was me. It was the version of me I recognised from childhood. It was gentle, pure and kind. This presence nourished me and helped me rebuild my confidence. And this little light, grew and grew and grew until it became a golden heart of pure passion and power. And now, I know for sure – God does not abandon us, (S)He only looks away, so we are able to see beyond Him.
Out of suffering have emerged the strongest Souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.
– Khalil Gibran
A Dark Night is not a period of depression or fatigue. It is an alive and kicking spiritual death process. It could emerge because of a terminal diagnosis, old age, a near-death experience, a physical accident, the loss of a loved one, a romantic breakup, the destruction of your home or homeland, suicidal depression, or the complete loss of your religious faith. The Dark Night is a herald, an omen, of change. It lets us know that we can’t continue living the way we have been living. There is no growth, no awakening in life, to life, without first seeing and acknowledging our existing disappointment. It is this heartbreak that shatters the masks and pretence and sends us straight into the spirit as we plunge into an existential crisis. And this is very good. Because now we are in the terrain of genuine spiritual transformation.
Here are 7 signs that together signify we may be going through a Dark Night of the Soul:
* You feel a deep sense of sadness, which often verges on despair (this sadness is often triggered by the state of our life, humanity, and/or the world as a whole)
* You feel an acute sense of unworthiness
* You have the constant feeling of being lost or “condemned” to a life of suffering or emptiness
* You possess a painful feeling of powerlessness and hopelessness
* Your will and self-control is weakened, making it difficult for you to act
* You lack interest and find no joy in things that once excited you
* You crave for the loss of something intangible; a longing for a distant place or to “return home” again
Once we figure out we’re going through a “dark night of the soul,” what then?
The Dark Night of the Soul is a very important and valuable spiritual gift. It may not be seen or felt that way in the moment, but in hindsight, you will look back and see it was exactly that. If you are able, the wisest first step would be to create a space where you will not be disturbed. In essence, the dark night requires surrender, solitude and rest. We never know how long it is going to take, so perhaps start off with a 3-month sabbatical. Looking back, I can see the dark night comes in waves and levels of intensity. Learn to navigate what stage you’re at so you can act accordingly.
Openly inform your family what is happening – there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Know that you can take this time for yourself without feeling guilty. Tell a handful of your friends as well, and try to keep them informed. True and trusted friends will hold the space for you and your eventual return.
Wise Words for the Dark Night
Keep Practising: whatever you do, don’t give up your spiritual practice, even if it seems pointless or scary.
Have Faith: remember that you are not in control of this process. Trust in the process, in your True Self and in God. Allow yourself to be guided.
Stay Open: remain open to whatever comes up, good or bad. Say yes to it all. Don’t resist.
Rest: Allow yourself to sleep at all times of time.
Connect with Nature: Find your Cherry Blossom Tree. Walk, breathe, Talk, Pray, Whisper – Return to Nature.
Maintain Perspective: don’t go too far with extreme practices in order to free yourself faster. Maintaining a sense of humour is vital to surviving the worst of the Dark Night.
Embrace the Darkness: it may seem crazy to say yes to darkness and loss, but it’s a symptom of your old ego illusions. Learn to see in the dark. Dispel the darkness by bringing more consciousness to it. If you fight it or push it away, it will only become stronger.
Exercise: keep yourself grounded by exercising regularly. Go for walks, do yoga, weight training – anything that keeps you moving and focused on the body so you don’t get lost in your head.
Practise Self-Inquiry: break down the components of the experience by deconstructing what you’re feeling and thinking during your meditation practice. Remember to ask the right questions: Who is thinking? Who is scared? Who is dying? Who is going stark staring bonkers?!
Find a Teacher: find someone who can guide you through the process, but be sure they have been through it themselves. If you can’t find someone, then read spiritual literature, particularly Ramana Maharshi, Gangaji, St John of the Cross or Teresa of Avila.
Bless Yourself: Gift yourself. Nourish Yourself.
The most important thing to remember is this: you are in a deep and essential healing process. Your pain and illusions are being taken from you – Just let them go.
Anaiya Sophia is an independent mystic of an almost forgotten faith, author of 7 books and a teacher of Kundalini Yoga. She carries an Oral Transmission from the Sacred Feminine Mysteries which she weaves into all her work.
Her books include:
• Open your Heart with Kundalini Yoga (Harper Collins, 2002)
• Pilgrimage of Love (Lulu, 2011)
• Womb Wisdom (Inner Traditions, 2011)
• Sacred Sexual Union (Inner Traditions, 2013)
• The Rose Knight (Lulu, 2014)
• Sacred Relationships (Inner Traditions, 2017)
• Fierce, Fierce Feminine: One Woman’s Journey to Find Her Authentic Voice (Inner Traditions)
Anaiya lives in the Occitan region of Southern France with her beloved husband Pete Wilson. Together in union with the land, they take people on their own Grail Quest into an immersive interaction where an initiation by the Feminine Principle is almost always guaranteed. They run a B & B where individuals and small groups can come and stay.
Anaiya can conduct Baptism, Marriage, Divorce and Death Rite Ceremonies.
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