I keep coming back to this topic too:
A dark night is – in a broad sense – any time my stories of what is and what should be clash.
In a more technical sense, there is the dark night of the senses and the dark night of the soul, and others too.
The dark night of the senses is a wearing off of identifications with stories of being the body and a me. It’s a wearing off of identifications just enough so what we more basically are, the awakeness that appears as any experience, can recognize itself. For me, this happened over a period of about a year, where identification shifted from form to the formless, from the world of objects to awareness of this world of objects. Then, it shifted into a period of “illumination” where reality noticed itself a little more clearly, and also a period of a honey moon with clarity, passion, energy, a sense of “everything” falling into place, insights and so on.
The dark night of the soul is a wearing off of identifications with remaining stories, including those of the body and me. When I look at this phase for myself, I see a few things:
Rest following activity. It followed a period of high levels of energy and activity in the world. There was also a sense of high levels of energy running through my body, perhaps more than it was able to handle in a comfortable and easy way. In a sense, the dark night of the soul – with it’s health problems and inactivity in the world – was a period of resting after a very active and engaged phase of life.
Wearing off of identifications. It involved – and continues to involve – a wearing off of identifications with stories of who I am, what I am, how my life should be, how the world is, and so on. This sounds nice on paper, and has been the most challenging – and sometimes painful – thing I have experienced so far.
Reversals. This wearing off of identifications seems to often involve reversals in my circumstances and life. What I was most identified with earlier in life – my energy level, passion, intellectual capacity, clarity, insights, resources, status in the world – reversed into their opposites so I got to see my old identifications, and so these can wear off. And they wear off sometimes intentionally through inquiry, but more often through resistance and struggle and eventually giving up.
A fuller embrace of who and what I am. The wearing off of identifications also involves a fuller embrace of who and what I am. It involves disowned identities and parts of me surfacing to be seen, felt, loved and included in my conscious perception of who and what I am.
Healing and release of “stuck” energies. It seems that a part of the process is a release of “stuck” emotions and trauma that were not fully allowed their life when they initially came up. They were created from beliefs, and beliefs prevented them from “having their life”, so this also involves inquiry and a release of identification with these stories. Something went wrong. That’s a basic belief that sometimes creates strong emotions and trauma. It’s dangerous to allow these emotions their life. That’s a belief that prevents these emotions and experiences to flow through, to have their life, to be seen, felt and loved as they are.
What’s independent of experience. Throughout the dark night of the soul – and before and after – there is an invitation for what I am to notice itself independent of any particular experiences. Content of experiences continues to change, and independent of all that there is an invitation from reality to notice itself. Can awakeness notice itself as what’s here whether what’s here is bliss or dullness, luminous or dark, expanded or contracted, joyful or sad, equanimous or angry? This involves a wearing off of identification with thoughts such as bliss is better than dullness, something went wrong, anger isn’t Spirit, nonidentification is better than identification.
I could go more into details of how this played itself out in my life. For now, it’s perhaps enough to say that the dark night of the soul included: Leaving my guidance. Feeling off track. Leaving much of what was most important in my life (geographically and otherwise). Health problems (CFS). Unable to do much else than stay in bed for weeks and months at a time. A loss of status. A sense of isolation. Primal fears surfacing with ferocious intensity. Loss of friendships. Major disappointments in several areas of life. A sense of loss of inner and outer resources. (And all of these thoughts are fodder for inquiry.)
I also see that the dark night of the senses can be quite confusing, partly because it’s usually not expected (at least not in the usually gritty form it takes), and partly because there is so much happening at once during this phase. And I see that although it can be intensely painful, there is a deep love behind and within it. It’s a crash course leading into a different life, one more closely aligned with reality.