The Dark Night of the Soul
The Soul’s Journey of Strength and Compassion
“The endurance of darkness is preparation for great light.”
St. John of the Cross
When you are faced with your personal Tsunami – do you sink or swim?
I saw the film, The Impossible (2012), based on the 2004 Tsunami. I sobbed from beginning to end. Amongst many things, it was a touching story of the extreme endurance of the human spirit. The resources we find in ourselves when we are faced with extreme tragedy. Eventhough I have never lived through a tragedy of such magnitude as a tsunami, I felt the story opened an inner doorway for all the mini tsunami’s that I’ve lived through in my life and the resources I’ve had to gather along the way on my soul growth.
I think of these experiences in terms of the dark night of the soul. A term coined by the mystic, St John of the Cross referring to the deeply challenging times of our lives as portals to deepening our connection to soul growth and indeed our connection to the divine. How do we get through these and remain intact, even feel stronger and more empowered than before?
The dark night can appear in many forms.
For some of us, a dark night experience may be a painful relationship betrayal, a separation, a death, chronic illness, loss of employment, accident. It could simply be the ongoing angst of trying to find your life purpose. When you go through your own dark night, often the first response is to resist it. To think: Why me? Why now? It can feel like a terrible intrusion on the main flow of life.
One way to look at it is to recognize your dark night experience as a call to be stretched us out of your everyday sense of self. It is an opportunity to broaden who you think we are and what you think you are capable of. The ego self is often what gets in the way and resists. But the dark night of the soul, is actually a call from the soul, to grow, to surrender, release and step into life’s challenges with a certain grace.
My Own Personal Dark Night Experience
This was certainly my challenge last year when I found myself facing the possibility of a major financial collapse. It challenged me to the core and required me to hold onto my inner focus and inner calm when things felt chaotic and out of control on the outside. This takes practice and now that I’m out the other end here are some of my reflections on key practices that helped me get through. I hope they will be helpful to you if you are going through your own dark night journey:
1. Nurturing an awareness and attitude of inner calm, through practicing times of quiet and stillness regularly through the day.
2. Having a regular meditation practice, yoga or chi gong practice. Yoga or chi gong movement helped stabilise me, slow my thinking down, soothe my anxiety. It was a way of getting out of my busy head and into my body. Focusing on the simple chi gong movements also helped keep my mood balanced and shift stuck energy levels.
3. Self Soothing – a long walk in nature, a purifying shower or bath, positive self talk, sitting with a cup of my favourite tea and regularly reminding myself to keep things simple and take one step at a time, one day at a time.
4. Taking Action – this helps relieve anxiety or low mood. Whether it’s writing letters, journalling, applying for jobs or speaking to people who can help, or making practical changes in your life that help shift things for you. Taking action can help shift fear.
5. Reaching Out – speaking to friends, letting people who love and care for you, know when you are feeling vulnerable. Asking for specific help and allowing yourself to receive. Going to see a trained counsellor around belief systems and blocks that may be underlying the issues you are facing.
Last year I felt I had been dumped by a couple of big emotional waves. Coming out the other end I am appreciating how it has deepened my understanding of control and surrender in my life. It has also made me aware of creating a better balance of the masculine and feminine aspects within myself associated with my work. Practicing taking action with stillness, silence with speaking out.
A Humbling Experience in Soul Growth
All in all, it was a very humbling experience and a wonderful opportunity to grow, to surrender and allow myself to receive the love of others and not take life or myself too seriously. Life is most definately changeable and can frequently surprise us. We can’t always control the outcome. In fact, trying to control things can at times create more pain.
The Impossible – Maria Belon and the 2004 Tsuanami
Coming out of a dark night ordeal can have a lightening effect. I saw this beautiful light and strength in Maria Belon. The film, The Impossible, revolved around her and her family’s experience of surviving the 2004 Tsunami in Thailand. In some recent interviews of her, she talked about starting to feel stronger in herself, less afraid and freer to focus on what is important, to find the gift in everyday life, and stop sweating the small stuff. It had also opened up the community sense in her family. Something bigger than just their immediate family. All three of her sons were involved in some form of community service.
Seeing her story, most definitely put mine into perspective. But it also made me aware that integration takes time and that the only way to get through is to go through.
If you’d like to go a little deeper in learning about tools, resources and healing of your own dark night of the soul experience please check out my Moonflower Series. Meaning making and expanding consciousness through our dark night of the soul experience.