There are many forms of dark nights.
In general, a dark night happens when life strongly challenges what we hold as true about ourselves and the world. That’s why the term “dark night” is sometimes used about ordinary challenging life situations, and sometimes in a more technical sense about parts of a spiritual path and process.
One type of a spiritual dark night can happen following an initial opening or awakening. With a spiritual opening, there is an opening to all as Spirit, and sometimes also an opening to previously unprocessed psychological material. As Adyashanti says, the lid is taken off and it comes to the surface. And that can be challenging in the best of circumstances.
In this type of dark night, we find ourselves in a difficult combination of (a) unprocessed psychological material coming to the surface, and (b) being unable to consistently see through it, or see it for what it is, since our clarity is not yet thoroughly clear or stable. There can be a great deal of difficult material coming up, from this and perhaps past lives. And since we are still “baby Buddhas” our clarity hasn’t deepened or matured sufficiently for us to clearly see everything for what it is. We still get caught in what comes up, at least at times.
As Evelyn Underhill and others point out, this is a deeply human process. It can be humanizing. Humbling. Painful. And it’s a pretty ordinary part of the process for many people. And we do get through it, whether we fight it (painful) or learn to go along with it (a little easier). It’s what I went through for a few years after the second opening (relative nondual clarity for about six months).
See below for a more detailed initial draft.
- one form of dark night, from being partially awake
- opening / initial awakening ->
- surfacing unprocessed material
- experiencing out of alignment more acutely
- not awake / clear enough to see through it completely, still get caught (struggle with it)
- a dilemma created from being half-awake (not stable, mature, consistent enough)
- taking the lid off, but not clear enough to consistently see through / also if just taken off the lid then what emerges tends to be quite strong **
- opening / initial awakening ->
Can lead to (a) surfacing unprocessed material, (b) experiencing out of alignment more acutely, (c) not awake enough to clearly see through it
Challenging combination, a for of dark night
Low grade dread and terror, also from this? Being on the precipice
Some also experience a consistent sense of dread and terror. I wonder if that’s connected to some of this.
One form of dark night can come from being partially awake.
There is a spiritual opening or initial awakening. This may lead to an inability to successfully supress and a surfacing of unprocessed psychological material. We can also be more acutely aware of when we are – or rather our psyche is – out of alignment with reality and that can be distressing.
We may then find ourselves in a difficult situation. We are unable to suppress unprocessed psychological material. And since it’s not a clear or mature awakening, it may be difficult to consistently see through it completely so we may get caught in a struggle with it.
There are many forms of dark nights. In general, they happen when life strongly rubs up against our beliefs and identifications, and this invites us to – eventually – realize that these are no longer helpful. (Any release happens through ripening and at a more visceral level.)
One form of spiritual dark night happens following an initial opening or awakening, or when we are partially awake.
There is a partial awakening. We may lose our inability to suppress psychological material, so a certain amount of unprocessed psychological material comes to the surface. And since it’s not a clear or mature awakening, it may be difficult to consistently and completely see through it. So we get caught in a struggle with what’s surfacing. We get caught in (re)identification with it, and perhaps in the idea that we need to somehow get rid of it.
For me, the initial opening or awakening was thoroughly life changing but there were only traces of this particular type of dark night. Most of the time, I lived in a honeymoon phase and in awe and gratitude.
But the second awakening phase – about six months in a seemingly clear nondual state – led into a period with physical illness (CFS) and a great deal of unprocessed material surfacing. For me, it’s been as I described above. Unprocessed psychological material surfaces from this and perhaps previous lives. And I haven’t had a mature and stable enough clarity to consistently see through it, especially not in the middle of the storm. It’s very natural and understandable. It’s not uncommon at all. And it’s an invitation for humility, maturing, patience, trust, and learning.
Another aspect of this is a more acute awareness of the discrepancy between what’s in us and reality. The lack of a more mature, stable, and consistent clarity can lead to a struggle with this as well.
As with any dark night, it won’t last forever (whatever the mind tells itself). We can ride it out. We can find support. We can learn a great deal from it, consciously and – perhaps more importantly – at a more visceral level.