I thought I would write another brief post on ways of relating to a dark night, mainly since the previous one is more of a draft and quite rambling.
Here are some pointers that have been helpful to me, in no particular order.
Find your own way. What works for some in some phases does not work for others or in other phases. We all need to find our way through it. That’s part of the lesson, it seems, of the dark night.
Take care of yourself. Eat well. Get plenty of rest. Drink lots of water (so your urine is pale). Go for walks. Do strength training. Engage in body centered activities that work for you, such as Breema, shiatsu, massage, and possibly yoga or tai chi. (Be mindful of the effects of some of these, such as yoga, tai chi and chi gong. If the energy intensifies or goes “up”, slow down or do something else.) Seek out a nurturing environment and nurturing activities. Spend lots of time in nature. Walk barefoot. Do gardening. Visualize a grounding cord to the center of the Earth. Seek healing for old wounds and traumas that may be surfacing. Finally, be careful with medications, especially psychoactive medications. Use these as last resort, and if you take any, start with very small doses as you may be more sensitive than average. (I have not been drawn to using drugs of any types, and would avoid it as much as possible.)
Do inquiry on what’s coming up – wounds, trauma, resistance, blame, self-blame and so on. Find what’s more true than your initial assumptions.
Stay with the sensations, as much as possible, instead of going into stories. Inquiry can make it easier to stay with sensations as sensations.
Do mindfulness practice. Contemporary secular mindfulness practice may be gentler, and more appropriate to the dark night phase, than many forms of meditation and some forms of body-centered practices.
Find love for what’s here. This can be as simple as saying to what’s coming up (pain, distress, anger, fatigue, pride, fear), or to our body (heart, brain), I love you, I wish you ease. We can use ho’oponopono, tonglen or metta on ourselves or suffering parts of ourselves, as well as other people in our lives, and the earth. We can place ourselves in the heart flame. We can hold satsang with what’s here. (You are welcome. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love. What would satisfy you forever? What are you really?)
Devotion and prayer can be helpful. Offer it all – the pain, the situation, your body and mind, your life, your resistance – to God (Spirit, Christ, Buddha Mind). Ask for guidance. Ask for inner and outer support. Ask for the intensity of what’s going on to be reduced (if it feels overwhelming). Ask for support in meeting what’s here with love. Ask for what’s happening / your life to benefit all beings. Give thanks for what’s happening (including, or especially, that which you don’t particularly like). Do the Jesus/heart prayer combined with the breath and heart beats: “Lord Jesus Christ, Have mercy upon me”. (If this last one intensifies or brings the energies up, try to do it with more ease, or wait until another phase of your process.)
Uncover a clear intention to…. find love for what’s here, heal what needs to be healed, give your mind-body and life over to the divine, follow your guidance, or whatever else seems helpful and aligned with love and clarity. This can be done through setting an intention (temporary value), clarifying your intention (more helpful), or asking life/the divine for support in uncovering a clear intention.
Gratitude can seem difficult to access during a dark night, at least at times. And yet, it’s something that can significantly ease the process. Try a simple gratitude prayer or mantra of of thank you, thank you, thank you as you go for a walk, lie in bed, or do daily activities. Experiment with gratitude lists. These lists can include only what’s easy to be grateful for. Or they can be all inclusive lists, including that which it’s not so easy to be grateful for. (Daily inclusive gratitude lists can be shared with a gratitude practice partner.)
Be mindful of the effects of any meditation and energy practices. Some forms of meditation or energy practices may be helpful, at least at times. For instance, insight meditation may help you see through what’s coming up (wounds, resistance) and who you are (the basic duality), and stability practice may support you in feeling sensations and allowing what’s here. Other times, these practices may intensify the energy running through your system, further open a very open system, and bring the energy up while it could benefit more from grounding.
Learn the basics about spiritual emergencies and dark nights. Get to see that it’s a natural process, not uncommon at all, people get through it, and very few if any wish it wouldn’t have happened when they are out on the other side. This can bring a sense of trust in the process, and some relief from the idea that something “went wrong”. (It will feel that way, and that’s good to know too.)
Seek guidance from someone you trust, who is knowledgeable and skilled in guiding people through spiritual emergencies, and ideally who has gone through it themselves. This person can help you navigate through it a bit more skilfully. (This also goes for therapists.)
Find a community of people going through something similar, whether it’s through reading (people who recorded their stories), on the internet, or in person. These can be a good source of advice, and it can be comforting to know that others are going through the same.
Seek support from family, friends, like-minded people, guides, environment and wherever else you can find it.
Don’t blame others or the world for your pain. That’s not where it belongs, although it’s easy to lash out when the pain seems unbearable. Let people in your life know what’s going on, and apologize as needed. Also, notice and bring to inquiry any attitudes and stories that would get you to lash out and blame others.
Keep it simple. During this phase, which can feel quite overwhelming at times, keep it simple. Spend time in nature. Use a simple mindfulness practice. Stay with the sensations as sensations, the best you can. Find love for what’s here, perhaps using a simple practice such as metta or ho’oponopono. Ask for support (from the divine, from people). Write a simple gratitude list. Don’t blame yourself for not being able to engage in apparently more sophisticated practices. (If you do, that’s OK. And it’s also something you can take to inquiry.)
Give yourself a break. It’s a tough phase. There will most likely be resistance, fear, overwhelm, a sense that something went wrong, and a sense that you are doing something wrong – including in how you relate to what’s happening. That’s part of the process. It’s OK. Life is guiding the process, and it will not always look the way we expect or wish. At times, you may not feel up to doing any of the things that you know may be supportive, and that’s OK too. (It may be a relief to look at shoulds in inquiry, as well as whatever thoughts stops us from – for instance – continuing a simple practice, whether it’s mindfulness or inquiry or something else.)