Dark Night in Psychological vs Spiritual Context

 

The term dark night, or dark night of the soul, can be used in a psychological or spiritual context.

In a psychological context, it’s often used about anything psychologically shattering – trauma, loss, burnout or similar.

In a spiritual context, a dark night of the soul it’s what typically comes after an initial opening or awakening, and a period of “illumination” (as Evelyn Underhill calls it). It can take the form of a loss of conscious connection with the divine, a great deal of unprocessed psychological material surfacing, loss of health and other losses in life, and more. It’s a humbling and very human process, and the “darkness” comes largely from our reaction to it. Our minds don’t like it and perceive it as dark, even if it is the next natural step in our maturation and development.

They are quite similar. In both cases, we may have a great deal of unprocessed psychological material surfacing with an invitation to find kindness, understanding, and healing for it. We come up against our beliefs and identifications with certain identities and are invited to examine them and allow the hold on them to soften. In both cases, it’s an opportunity for great healing, maturing, humanizing, and reorientation.

In the bigger picture, both can be seen as a spiritual process. An invitation for healing, maturing, and even awakening out of our old beliefs and identifications.

There is also a difference, and that’s the conscious context of the one going through it. In a spiritual dark night of the soul, there is already a knowing of all as Spirit – even what’s happening in this part of the process. And that makes a great deal of difference. That helps us go through it, even if it’s just a background knowing.

What helps us move through a dark night, whether the context is psychological or spiritual?

Here are some possibilities: Taking care of ourselves. Understanding people around us. Therapy – body-oriented, mind-oriented, or both. Nature. Food that’s nourishing. Time. A willingness to face what’s coming up and move through it. Inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries etc.). Heart-centered practices (Tonglen, Ho’oponopono, loving kindness etc.) Body-inclusive practices (yoga, tai chi, chigong, Breema etc.)

For me, support of someone who understands the process, finding helpful tools and approaches, and the willingness to face what’s here and move through it, have been especially helpful.

What tools and approaches have worked for me? The ones mentioned above, and more recently Vortex Healing.

Note: In a spiritual context, there are several dark nights of the soul. I simplified it here and just mentioned the dark night of the soul. The essence of having to face beliefs and identifications is the same for all of them, at least the ones I am aware of so far.

Note: In any dark night, and any life experience, our distress is created by how we relate to and perceive what’s happening. That’s why inquiry can be very helpful. There is an invitation there to find more clarity and consciously align more closely with reality.

The photo is one I took at the edge of Princetown on Dartmoor some years back.

(more…)

Being more mature than what your culture requires

 

… you have to think about what it means to actually be more complex than what your culture is currently demanding. You have to have a name for that, too. It’s almost something beyond maturity, and it’s usually a very risky state to be in. I mean, we loved Jesus, Socrates, and Gandhi—after we murdered them. While they were alive, they were a tremendous pain in the ass. Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr.—these people died relatively young. You don’t often live a long life being too far out ahead of your culture.

– Robert Keegan in an interview with What Is Enlightenment? Magazine, cited in Robert Kegan’s Awesome Theory Of Social Maturity by Mark Dombeck

I would add that those who are far ahead of mainstream and publicly seek social change, risk not living a very long life. There are certainly many who are far ahead of mainstream and foucses on facilitating change in other areas of life, such as Adyasanti, and they don’t run the same risk.

The purpose of the Living Inquiries

 

What’s the purpose of the Living Inquiries?

There are many answers to that question, and the answer will usually be tailored to the person asking.

Here are two whys:

It’s about reducing suffering and living a better life.

It will help clarify and ground a spiritual opening or awakening.

And the hows:

It helps us investigate how the mind creates its experience of anything, and especially that which is painful and creates discomfort for us.

And that, in turn, tends to reduce its charge. With a reduced charge, it has less of a hold over us. We can relate to it more intentionally and it doesn’t control us as much as before.

In this way, the Living Inquiries – along with Natural Rest – can quite effectively help with anxiety, depression, cravings, and stabilizing an opening or awakening. It can help us heal, grow up, and even wake up.

(more…)

Why things go wrong in a dark night

 

Recent experiences has brought me back to this topic:

Why do things tend to go wrong in a dark night of the soul?

When I use the term dark night of the soul here, I use it the same way Evelyn Underhill does in Mysticism, largely because the phases and how she describes them fit my experience. I am aware that the types, sequence, and characteristics of the phases people go through can vary quite a bit.

So why do things tend to go wrong in a dark night of the soul phase? Why do things fall apart or away? Why do things tend to not go “our way”?

In terms of contrast: It’s often reverse of the honeymoon phase

A dark night of the soul tend to follow an initial awakening and initial honeymoon phase. During this phase, life seems easy, joyful, and seems to mainly go “our way”. For me, there was a sense of being deeply on track, being held in God’s hand, and living a life full of amazing serendipities.

The following dark night phase has been the reverse of this, and it’s even more noticeable – and sometimes more painful – because of the contrast.

At a big picture level: Life squeezing out what’s left in us

A dark night of the soul is life squeezing out what’s left in us. It’s life rubbing up against remaining identifications (velcro, beliefs) in us, with an invitation for it to wear out, be seen through, and/or loved as is.

Central to this is life flushing out the victim identity in us. It comes to the surface, we cannot escape it, and are invited to meet it, examine it, find love for it as it is.

When I had a meeting with Adyashanti some years ago, he said I would find myself in this situation. And he used the words “life squeezing what’s left out of you”. That’s very much how it feels. I feel squeezed.

Flushing out what’s left from the inside: Victim identities and more

Along with all this, there also seems to be an inner impulse to flush out what’s left. Old wounds, traumas, hurts, pain seems to steadily come to the surface. With an invitation to examine unexamined painful stories, love the unloved, feel the unfelt.

They seem to surface even in the absence of “external” life circumstances and triggers, and although life certainly also has brought a lot of these triggers into my life during this phase. The internal impulse to flush out, and the external triggers, often go hand in hand.

And yes, I know there isn’t really anything internal or external. It’s all part of a seamless whole, all part of this seamless field of awareness. At the same time, it can be helpful to differentiate a bit using these words.

What’s missing: Lack of trust, confidence, resources

In this phase, it’s easy to lose heart. A sense of confidence, trust, and being able to rely on inner and outer resources may be among what’s lost. It’s been that way for me. It’s very humbling, and invites me to see what’s here without the possible defense or refuge of confidence, trust, and knowing I can rely on inner and outer resources. It makes me more naked.

At a more conventional level: Messiness begets messiness

When “the lid is taken off” our wounds and unresolved trauma, and these come to the surface and into focus, our life may reflect this (apparent) turmoil. We may act from these wounds, which in turn tends to create messy situations.

Inner messiness, confusion, and turmoil tends to be reflected in outer messiness, confusion, and turmoil. That’s how it’s been for me. Sometimes more than other times, and in some areas of life more than other.

Questioning the more basic ideas: Right & wrong, dark night, awakening, threats, someone going through it

As long as we hold onto ideas of certain things in our life going right or wrong, and the idea of right and wrong itself, life will rub up against it. Life will inevitably bring us into situations that we feel are wrong, or where something went wrong. (When I say “life” I could easily say “I” here, which would refer to both my human self and also the Big Mind/Heart/Belly Self.)

That’s an invitation for us to question our stories about right and wrong, look at the deficient and inflated selves our life situations brings up (victim, the one in control etc.), and find love for the unloved parts of us and our experience.

Falling away or apart is not the same as going wrong. That something goes against my preferences doesn’t even mean it’s wrong. When things fall away or apart, and it brings up the story of something going wrong, it comes with an invitation to look at that story.

Even the idea of a dark night is good to look at. Can I find it, outside of images, words and sensations? Can I find a threat? What’s the best that can happen? The worst?

And can I find someone going through a dark night? A victim? Someone going through an awakening process? Someone who is squeezed by life? Someone who has something going wrong, or right?

Healing, maturing, deepening

This phase can be a phase of healing, maturing, and deepening. A deepening in trust, prayer, inquiry, love, presence. A healing of old wounds and traumas. A maturing as an ordinary human being in the world.

It’s especially so when we align with this. When we intentionally allow this to happen. When we intentionally play along with it. (Instead of opposing it, resisting, complaining, although that too is often part of the process, and can eventually lead to further healing, maturing, and deepening. That too is part of being human, and noticing what’s here.)

Embracing it all: Being human

This too is part of the dark night of the soul. Embracing it all. Being human. Noticing what’s here. Notice and even find kindness for my human frailties, weaknesses, and  imperfections. I am human, as anyone else. I am no different. We are all in the same boat. There is a huge relief in admitting this, and really seeing it, feeling it, and taking it in.

The initial awakening and honeymoon phase may be a phase of transcendence. A phase of transcending, at least temporarily, our human frailties and weaknesses. The dark night of the soul is an invitation to embrace, get to know, and find kindness for my very human weaknesses and messiness.

Three centers: Including the heart and belly

For me, the initial awakening was a “head center” awakening, a recognition and seeing of all as Spirit. Shortly after, the heart came in, with a love of all as Spirit, and a recognition of all (and Spirit) as love.

The dark night of the soul seems to be a cleaning out of the belly center for me, of the emotional wounds, traumas, and traumas related to the primal survival instincts. It seems to open for a more deeply lived and felt sense of all as Spirit.

Is there a guarantee?

Reading Everlyn Underhill, it seems that the dark night of the soul inevitably leads to a clarification, maturing, and deepening. But that’s because she took people who had gone through it and come out on the other side as examples.

She didn’t look at those who may have gotten lost in despair, resentment, pain, and reactivity, perhaps for decades and the rest of their lives.

Is there a guarantee that this phase will lead to clarification, maturing, and deepening? Will this happen on its own? I don’t think so. I think it’s up to us to intentionally align with and support this process. It requires intention, sincerity, and work. It requires readiness.

(more…)

All as an expression of life

 

During the initial awakening in my teens, it was very clear that all is an expression of life. Whatever it is, it’s an expression of life. (I remember even using those words to express it.)

Listening to Adyashanti from his online course last year, I heard him suggest that as an exploration.  How is it to see everything as an expression of life?

That’s a good reminder or pointer for me too.

It does seem, as so many say, that during the initial opening or awakening, all is freely given. Then, it fades, and it’s a matter of doing the work to find it here too.

If I clearly saw that all is an expression of life, can I find that now too?

If it was clear that all is consciousness (or awareness, or Spirit, or God), can I find that here and now?

If it was clear that there is no separate “I” here, can I find that here and now?

If it was clear that what’s happening is the absolutely best that can happen, can I find that now?

Can I find it here too, in my current experience, even if the content of my experience now is different from back then? Can I find it, independent of the particulars of my current experience?

This is a step in the direction of “spiritual maturity”, and one step beyond the given ease of the honeymoon.

(more…)

Don Quixote

 

lostinlamancha

What do I see in Don Quixote? I see – among other things – someone who is at odds with reality, fighting imaginary enemies.

How do I find that in myself? I do the same whenever I take a story as true. I identify with a particular viewpoint, so am necessarily at odds with reality. Reality is not limited to my stories about it.

What happens when I am at odds with reality? There is stress. Discomfort. A sense of unease. Sense of separation. Tension.

(more…)