There are many dark nights we can go through in an awakening process, as it is in life in general.
One type that can happen in an awakening process is when parts of us want to join the awakening.
This is perhaps the one I am most familiar with so far.
The essence of dark nights
The essence of any dark night is perhaps that we struggle with what’s happening. That’s why it appears to us as a dark night. Some part of us doesn’t like it and struggle with it, and the mind identifies with this struggle and the painful stories behind it.
When we notice what we are, unawake parts of us come up to join the awakening
Awakening means to notice what we are. We find ourselves as capacity for the world, as what our experiences happen within and as.
Even if we notice what we are, and this noticing is relatively habitual, there will still be parts of us living in separation consciousness. We can call these beliefs, identifications, hangups, emotional issues, traumas etc.
When these surface, as they will – often triggered by life situations – they come with an invitation. In a sense, they ask us to help them join the awakening. They are like suffering beings wanting liberation from their suffering, and we are the ones who can help them align more consciously with awakening and oneness. (How we do this is less mysterious than it may sound, and I have written about that in other posts.)
Normally, these surface now and then with periods of more calm in between.
The dark night of parts of us wanting to join the awakening
And sometimes, these surface in great numbers and with a great deal of intensity.
This doesn’t happen for everyone, but it does happen in some cases.
And when it does, it can be one of the most challenging things we have ever experienced. It can feel completely overwhelming, unbearable, confusing, and disorienting. The intensity of it can, in itself, bring up a lot of fear in us. And we can feel very alone in it since others likely don’t understand. It’s also likely that we don’t understand, at least not for a while.
How to deal with it
How do we best deal with it?
I don’t have a magic formula.
In general, we can deal with it as we deal with anything.
We can inquire into stressful beliefs about it. (The Work of Byron Katie, Living Inquiries). We can dialog with what comes up. (Voice Dialog, Big Mind Process.)
We can use heart-centered practices to shift how we relate to what’s surfacing. (Tonglen, ho’oponopono, metta, inner smile.)
We can find ourselves as capacity for what’s surfacing and our human reactions to is. (Headless experiments, Big Mind process.)
We can notice that the true nature of what’s surfacing is the same as our own true nature.
We can bring our attention to the physical sensations, and set aside or focus less on the thoughts, and over time make this more of a habit.
We can work on whatever emotional issues surface, and in whatever way works best for us.
We can receive treatments that work for us, whether it’s massage, acupuncture, or something else.
We can spend time in nature. Take a bath. Spend time with good friends. Do physical activities. Do gardening. Spend time with animals.
And whatever else that helps.
Why does it happen for some and not others?
I am not sure why this happens for some and not others.
I suspect it may have to do with how much trauma we have in our system. If we have a lot, a lot may surface at once.
How long does it last?
Again, I don’t know. It’s very individual.
I suspect the typical pattern is for the intensity of what comes up to gradually lessen over time.
And for us to learn to navigate the process better. Over time, we learn to befriend what comes up and be less caught up in our fear response to it. And that makes the overall process a little easier.
Eventually, we may return to a more “normal” pattern of these unhealed parts of us coming up now and then and typically with less intensity.
When it happens outside of awakening
The metaphorical lid can be taken off outside of awakening as well.
It can happen as the result of any spiritual practice, which is why it’s important for spiritual teachers to be trauma-informed and let their students know about the possibility before they start.
And it can happen for other reasons than spiritual practice or awakening.
In my case
I have written about this other places so will just give a short summary here.
The initial awakening happened when I was sixteen, and I had about ten years in a honeymoon phase. Then, some years where I was more focused on community work and sustainability. Then, a period of a very clear no-self awakening. And then, a dark night that included what I have written about here.
Several things happened that’s a little on the side of this topic. (Serious illness, loss of marriage, house, money, belongings, etc.).
And, at some point, the metaphorical lid was taken off and a huge amount of survival fear and traumas surfaced. The most intense phase lasted for about nine months, followed by a gradual lessening over the next several years, with some very intense periods again.
I explored all the ways of dealing with it mentioned above, and more. All of them helped to some extent – in relating to what came up, finding healing for what came up, and generally getting to know it and the process.
In general, it seems that this is a process that lives its own life and has to run its course.
There may be a magic bullet out there that I haven’t found.
I also know that the “magic bullet” idea comes from not having found peace with what comes up. And it seems that one of the main invitations of this process is to find peace with what comes up, as it is.