Reversals and the Dark Night

 

I keep revisiting this topic – the dark night of the soul and reversals of states and life situations.

For me, the dark night of the soul followed a phase of initial opening or awakening. Evelyn Underhill called this illumination in her overview of this process.

During this early phase of awakening, Spirit recognized itself as all there is. And yet, it’s a honeymoon phase, or similar to early childhood. It shifts into something more mature, something similar to young adulthood. There were still beliefs there, often held at an emotional level, and these included some of our most basic and primal beliefs and fears.

During the following dark night of the soul, a good portion of these beliefs come to the surface with an invitation to be seen, felt, and loved, and find liberation from being taken as true.

And this dark night of the soul phase involves reversals in states and life situations.

What was most on the surface during the initial awakening phase, and what I was most identified with and took pride in, was reversed. For me, these included energy, passion, commitment, ambition, clarity, intellectual capacity, things falling into place in amazing ways, health, money and so on. And for each of these, there was a sense of reversal. Instead of energy, fatigue. Instead of clarity, fog. Instead of things falling into place, things falling apart. Instead of health, illness. Instead of a generous amount of money, scarcity. And where I used to find ambition and passion, there was nothing to be found. Even when there was (is) a desire or wish at a surface mind level, there is sometimes nothing to back it up or make it happen.

Life shows me what’s left. It shifts circumstances so they are exactly right to trigger what’s left to see of my beliefs, identifications and fears.

It’s not easy. It’s my most cherished beliefs and identifications that gets triggered, including beliefs added to our most primal survival instincts. The more I stay attached to these beliefs, the more I struggle, and the more painful and drawn out the process may be. The more I am able to shift into Your Will Be Done, find clarity on my thoughts about what’s happening, and befriend myself, my thoughts, and what’s happening, the easier I make it for myself.

I see it’s my beliefs that says something is going wrong, creating the suffering in this process. What’s more true is that life – and this process – is kind.

To clarify a few things:

Universal beliefs. When I say “my” beliefs, it’s just because they happen here. They are, of course, universal. None of the thoughts taken as true here, are particular to me. They are what many or most humans believe to be true. They are beliefs I share with my parents, my brother, my friends, my culture, and humanity.

Universal process. It’s also a universal process. Life always shows us what’s left, it brings up beliefs in us as an invitation for us to see what’s more true than the belief that’s here. In this case, when it happens to a great extent and following an initial phase of awakening, it can be called a dark night of the soul. Otherwise, it’s just life.

Thoughts vs beliefs. Thoughts are essential for our human self to function in the world. They ask questions about the world, they guide, they help us navigate. When these are taken as true, there is an identification with them, we inevitably are at odds with life, and it’s stressful. The dark night of the soul is an invitation for these thoughts to find liberation from being taken as true, it’s an invitation for more of us to align consciously with reality, with all as Spirit, all as love.

Instincts vs beliefs. As all animals, we are born with instincts and predispositions – to survive, eat, reproduce, seek company etc. And we sometimes add beliefs onto these tendencies. We may believe the thoughts that I need to survive, I need food, death is terrible and so on. One part of the dark night of the soul is for these beliefs to surface, the ones added onto basic and primal instincts and predispositions.

Comfort and inquiry. When I came upon information and stories of the dark night of the soul, through Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill (found it while browsing the Christian Mysticism section at Powell’s in Portland), it was a relief. I found comfort in knowing that what seemed a mistake and unique to me was perhaps no mistake, and not unique to me at all. It was very helpful at the time, and during the darkest periods of the dark night. At the same time, I see some beliefs around the dark night, and it’s good to continue inquiring into these. Some thoughts about the dark night – when taken as true – makes it into something special, solidifies it, creates expectations about the future, etc. (It’s special, I am special, it means something went wrong, it means something went right, it’s a dark night, I know where it goes, I know what it’s about, I know what it leads to.)

Sharing it. For a long time, I hesitated sharing much of my own process. It didn’t quite seem necessarily since everything happening here is universal, at least if we look at the more basic processes. At the same time, I know that it has been very helpful for me when others have shared their experiences and process. It helps me see that I am not alone, and that what’s happening here is quite universal. So by sharing some of my process, I pass it on – if anyone reads it and it fits for them.

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I keep coming back to this as well – reversals and the dark night.

The dark night of the soul, if it happens at all, follows a phase of initial opening or awakening, or illumination in the words of Evelyn Underhill.

During the initial phase of awakening, Spirit recognizes itself as all there is, and there is still something left to be seen. There are still beliefs there, often held at an emotional level, including some that are very primal and basic. During the following dark night of the soul, a good portion of these come to the surface to be seen, felt, and loved, to find liberation from being taken as true.

Not surprisingly, from this perspective, this dark night involves reversals.

What was most on the surface during the illumination, and more to the point, what I was most identified with and took pride in, is reversed. For me, there is a long list here: energy, passion, commitment, ambition, clarity, intellectual capacity, things falling into place in amazing ways, health, money and so on. And for each of these, there was a sense of reversal. Instead of energy, fatigue. Instead of clarity, fog. Instead of things falling into place, things falling apart. Instead of health, illness. Instead of a generous amount of money, scarcity. And where I used to find ambition and passion, there seems to be nothing to be found. There may be a desire or wish at a surface mind level, but nothing to back it up or set it into motion in real life.

Life shows me what’s left. It shifts circumstances so they are exactly right to trigger what’s left of my fears, beliefs, and identifications.

And it’s not easy, precisely because it’s my most cherished beliefs and identifications that gets triggered, including whatever identifications and beliefs are there added to our most primal survival instincts. The more I stay attached to these beliefs, the more I struggle, and the more painful and drawn out the process may be. The more I can shift into Your Will Be Done, find clarity on my thoughts about it, and befriend myself, my thoughts, and what’s happening, the easier I make it for myself.

As Adyashanti points out, I can go kicking and screaming, or peacefully.

It’s only beliefs that says something is going wrong and creates the suffering in this process. Behind that it’s what’s more true, and that is that life – and this process – is kind.

To clarify a few things:

Universal beliefs. When I say “my” beliefs, it’s just because they happen here. They are, of course, universal. None of the thoughts taken as true here, are particular to me. They are what many or most humans believe to be true. They are beliefs I share with my parents, my brother, my friends, my culture, and humanity.

Universal process. It’s also a universal process. Life always shows us what’s left, it brings up beliefs in us as an invitation for us to see what’s more true than the belief that’s here. In this case, when it happens to a great extent and following an initial phase of awakening, it can be called a dark night of the soul. Otherwise, it’s just life.

Thoughts vs beliefs. Thoughts are essential for our human self to function in the world. They ask questions about the world, they guide, they help us navigate. When these are taken as true, there is an identification with them, we inevitably are at odds with life, and it’s stressful. The dark night of the soul is an invitation for these thoughts to find liberation from being taken as true, it’s an invitation for more of us to align consciously with reality, with all as Spirit, all as love.

Instincts vs beliefs. As all animals, we are born with instincts and predispositions – to survive, eat, reproduce, seek company etc. And we sometimes add beliefs onto these tendencies. We may believe the thoughts that I need to survive, I need food, death is terrible and so on. One part of the dark night of the soul is for these beliefs to surface, the ones added onto basic and primal instincts and predispositions.

 

 

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