Some factors that may play a role in the duration and intensity of a dark night (and probably any spiritual emergency):
Struggle vs. welcoming. The more struggle with what’s happening, the more difficult the process may be experienced. It adds a layer of suffering, and it’s possible that it prolongs the process (I don’t really know if it does or not). This struggle comes from beliefs and identifications, and the release of these is one of the things that tends to happen in a dark night. So there is nothing wrong with struggle and resistance. It’s just a surfacing of what’s left, with an invitation for us to see through it. Conversely, the more genuine welcoming there is of the process, the more there is an aligning with it, the less struggle and suffering there tends to be. And we can support this welcoming through various forms of inquiry. For instance, what do I find when I look for my ideas of resistance or struggle? Is it really what it initially appears to be? Also, is there really a separation between a me or I and what’s happening? Is it true it’s too intense? Is it true that I know better than life how things should be?
Depth of process. It’s also possible that the “depth” of the process influences how the dark night is experienced. If it’s mainly about the head and/or heart center, it can be intense enough, but it seems that the belly center opening requires even more of us. That has certainly been the case for me. (The dark night preceding the head and heart center openings lasted a few years, with one year that was quite intense. The current dark night, which seems to have to do more with the belly center, has lasted much longer and is far more intense and demanding.) For each center, I assume there may also be several “dark nights” as there is a deepening. And speaking of “depth”, there is probably a lot here I am unaware of as well, including what’s ahead in the process.
Trauma and old patterns. The third factor seems to be the amount of trauma and old patterns we each bring with us, from this and possibly past lives. It seems that I am in the mid-range when it comes to trauma, and the amount that’s come up here has already been quite difficult and at times overwhelming. As someone said, “there is no easy trauma”. Again, the more we can align with and support the process, the easier we make it for ourselves.
Finally, we don’t know. These may all appear to play a role, and they may be helpful practical pointers. And they are really only an overlay of images and words, and assumptions and interpretations.
So how to we support and more consciously align with the process? What I have found helpful includes:
Taking care of myself through diet, moderate exercise, spending time in nature, seeking support from friends and family.
Doing various forms of inquiry to see through my stories of what’s going on.
Seeking support and guidance from people who have gone through it themselves.
Seeking healing for the trauma and wounds that are surfacing.
Staying with the sensations rather than going into the stories of what’s happening, with the support of inquiry (seeing through my stories). Noticing that the sensations are already allowed.
Meeting what’s here with love, with the support of ho’oponopono, tonglen, placing myself in the heart flame, meeting what’s here in satsang. Inquiry is also helpful here, recognizing what’s surfacing as already love.
Gaining just enough knowledge and understanding of the process for navigating it a bit more skillfully, and finding more peace with it.