Reduced capacity to set emotional issues aside in an awakening process and from exhaustion

When we have a reduced capacity to set aside emotional issues, they tend to naturally surface.

And that can happen in several different situations.

FATIGUE AND DYSREGULATION

I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME), and this is far from regular tiredness. It’s a profound fatigue and dysregulation of the whole system.

When my system is extra fatigued, it’s no longer able to regulate very well. It has trouble regulating temperature (too hot, too cold), thoughts (difficult to think clearly and make decisions), emotions (more sensitive, reactive), and much more.

This includes difficulty regulating emotional issues. When my system has more resources, it can more easily set old emotional issues aside. (Although they will always color perception and actions.) And when it’s more fatigued, these old issues surface more easily.

That’s one reason I prefer to just go to bed when this happens and set aside any tasks or conversations for when my system functions a little better. (And often, I don’t have much choice. My system desperately needs that rest and anything else is automatically set aside.)

OUR NATURE RECOGNIZING ITSELF

When our nature recognizes itself, something similar can happen.

For a while, it takes itself to most fundamentally be this human self, a separate being in the world. Or, at least, it pretends to do this since others do it.

And then, the oneness we are recognizes itself. It shifts out of its temporary self-created trance.

And, as Adyashanity says, this can take the lid off a lot of things, including anything very human and unprocessed in us. What’s unprocessed comes to the surface to be seen, felt, loved, recognized as love, and recognized as having the same nature as we do.

I am not sure of the exact mechanism, but here is my best guess: It takes active regulation for the oneness we are to pretend – to itself and others – that it’s a separate being, something specific within its content of experience. When it recognizes its nature, it is no longer actively regulating, and that (sometimes) means it’s also not actively regulating old emotional issues. It’s no longer setting them aside, so they surface.

This doesn’t always happen. It can happen a while after oneness first recognized itself. (In my case, it happened several years into the process.) And when it happens, the oneness we are can react with confusion, feeling overwhelmed, fear, and much more.

It’s humbling, it can be very messy. And – as Evelyn Underhill said – it’s a very human process. And it’s not necessarily easy. In my case, it’s been the most challenging phase of my life by far.

And it’s also necessary. For the oneness we are to live from consciously recognizing itself, our human self needs to be a good vehicle. And that vehicle needs tune-up and cleaning. Any remaining emotional issues (beliefs, identifications, emotional issues, traumas) operate from separation consciousness, and they inevitably color our perception and life even if they don’t seem activated.

So they surface to be seen, felt, loved, and recognized as part of the oneness we are. They surface to join in with the awakening.

OTHER SITUATIONS WHERE OUR REGULATION FALTERS

There are other situations where our system has trouble setting aside emotional issues.

The most obvious is when strong emotional issues are triggered, and our mind identifies with what comes up. Here, we take on the perspective and identity of the issue and actively perceive and act as if we are that part of us. We may not even try to relate to it in a more intentional or mature way.

I suspect it also happens in some kinds of mental illness, and under influence of some kinds of drugs. (Sometimes this happens when drinking alcohol.)

CHALLENGES & GIFTS

There are challenges and gifts in our system being unable to set aside old emotional issues.

I imagine the challenges are familiar to most of us. It’s uncomfortable. It can feel overwhelming. We may get caught up in the struggle with what’s surfacing. And we may get caught up in what’s surfacing and view the world and act as if we are that hurt and confused part of us.

There are also gifts here. When these issues surface, we get to see them. It’s an invitation to see, feel, and find genuine love for what’s here. It’s an invitation to examine these confusing and hurting parts of us. It’s an invitation to get to know them. It’s an invitation to recognize that and how they operate from (painful) separation consciousness and unexamined and painful beliefs.

It’s an invitation to find healing for our relationship with them and to find healing for the issues themselves.

All of this is can seem obvious if we are familiar with it, but navigating it is often anything but easy. It takes skill, dedication, experience, and time.

It’s not something that’s done and dusted. It’s an ongoing process.

It’s part of being a human being.

It’s part of being oneness taking on the role of this human being in the world and living that life.

And it’s also where awakening and healing become one process. Where the two are revealed as aspects of the same seamless process.

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The dark night trainwreck

When we go through a dark night of the soul, it can feel like a train wreck.

It can feel like everything – ourselves, our life, the process – is a messy, confusing, disorganized, and overwhelming wreck.

I know it did for me, and it still does to some extent.

DARK NIGHTS

Dark nights are talked about in two contexts.

One is as it’s used by most people, as a metaphor for an especially difficult period in life. For instance, divorce or an existential crisis.

The other is more specific to the awakening process. In the process of exploring our nature, we can go through several different kinds of dark nights.

In general, dark nights happen when life rubs up against our cherished mental representations – of who or what we are or how our life should be. We can explore these and find what’s more true for us. And often, they just have to wear themselves out. It’s a necessary cleaning-out process.

Any remaining beliefs, identifications, emotional issues, traumas, hangups, and so on are distortions that make it difficult to live more consciously from and as the oneness we are. We may get caught up in them when they are triggered. And even if they are not obviously triggered, they are here in our system coloring our perception, choices, and life.

Awakening itself doesn’t necessarily clear all of that out. It seems that many of us need stronger medicine.

THE BIG PICTURE OF MY PROCESS

I have written a brief bio in another article but will give a summary.

In childhood, I had memories (flashbacks) to life between lives, and I felt a strong longing for it – for the divine – even if I didn’t consciously know what it was.

At age fifteen, I got a mysterious illness (which turned out to be CFS). At the same time, the world – anything within the content of experience – also moved very far away. In hindsight, it seems like consciousness went into an observer-observed duality.

One year later, the initial awakening shift happened. From one moment to the next, all without exception were revealed as God. Everything, including all human experiences and culture, was God.

This led to a ten-year honeymoon period.

Followed by the beginning of a dark night when I went against a clear inner guidance on a major life issue.

For some years, my focus was mostly on daily life and community projects.

I then got back into these explorations, and there was an extended shift into a clear no-self state.

And after all of that, it felt like everything collapsed.

THE DARK NIGHT AS IT HAPPENED FOR ME

THE BEGINNING OF THE DARK NIGHT

The dark night started when I got married in the US and abandoned many of the most important things in my life (Zen center, friends, Utah, graduate program, etc.) in order to move to another state to support my wife in taking her MA there. I went against a very clear and strong inner guidance, and it led to me feeling profoundly off track.

The more intense phase started several years later. Following strong pneumonia that kept me bedridden for weeks (which my doctor refused to treat and called “walking pneumonia”), my health collapsed. I initially got CFS following an Epstein-Barr (mono) infection in my teens, and my health had gotten better after that. Following long pneumonia, my system was very weak and then collapsed into acute and severe CFS. I spent the next months in the classic dark room unable to function in daily life.

My memory of this period is fuzzy. I remember going through a phase where archetypes were presented to me and moved through me in different ways. For instance, one night I experienced an apparently endless stream of “dark” archetypes from all of the world’s cultures moving through me. As each one came up to me, I moved into its face as if it was a mask and I experienced that archetype from the inside for a while until the next one came up to me.

SHOW ME WHAT’S LEFT

After a few years, I got a little better, moved back to Norway, and asked the divine “show me what’s left”. (AKA a dangerous prayer.) This led to a whole new phase.

Within one week, I was overwhelmed by a profound survival fear coming up in my system. For about nine months, it was so strong that I was lucky to get one or two hours of sleep early in the morning. And during the day, all I could do was walk in the forest while listening to Adyashanti. The fear was so strong and intense that I couldn’t understand how I was somehow still here. I felt completely overwhelmed. I asked the divine to do anything for this to pass. Even death seemed far more preferable than this, and I also knew it was not a solution. This experience was beyond anything I have ever experienced.

About nine months in, the intensity turned down slightly, although the profound and primal survival fear lasted for several years after this. It’s still here but at a generally much lower volume.

TRAUMAS

The lid was taken off the primal fear, and it was also taken off deep traumas and issues in me that were still unprocessed and unhealed. It seems my system is no longer able to bury these as it did previously. They are here, right on the surface. And I know there may be more I am not aware of.

RESTLESSNESS AND AVOIDANCE

Since my teens, I had a laser focus and loved silence, meditation, and resting in and as my nature. I loved it more than just about anything else. And during this dark night, that all changed. I shifted into a pattern of restlessness and avoidance because of the overwhelming fear and trauma surfacing. It became much more work to meet and be with what was coming up, and it was as if I had to learn it for the first time.

LOSSES

This has been a period of losses. I lost friends, especially during the most intense period. My marriage ended (which was good since it didn’t feel right). I lost my house, belonging, and money. And so on. It has been a period where I felt I lost just about everything.

The last several years are also characterized by a series of false starts. Something happens that seems very good to my personality, and then it falls apart relatively quickly. Several relationships started and ended during this period.

LOSING ANY ANCHORS

At the beginning of the most intense period, around 2011, I also lost any sense of inner anchors. When I turned off the light at night and put my head on the pillow, I couldn’t find any anchor points anywhere. This also brought up fear although also felt like another adventure.

DISORGANIZED

My system has felt disorganized. I am not sure when this started. When the strong traumas and primal fears came up? In any case, I felt like my psyche shattered into a million pieces all pointing in different directions. It’s been very difficult to make good decisions and I see myself behaving in ways I know is far from optimal and in ways I wouldn’t have earlier in life. In several situations, I saw myself acting against my better judgment.

HEART DISTRESS

After the primal survival fear diminished slightly, I noticed an extreme discomfort in my heart. This one too was with me for several years. I think I saw Jeannie Zandie talk about something similar, describing it as a shard of glass in the heart. For me, this went away during the Core Veil class in Vortex Healing. A VH teacher said that my core veil was hanging on by a thread before this class, and that may be what created the immense discomfort.

COMFORT AND SUPPORT

What gave me slivers of comfort and support during these years?

A bit from partners and friends, although their love and support didn’t reach quite into the most painful places in this experience.

Nature has been immensely helpful to me. I have spent as much time in nature as possible.

During the most intense period, I found comfort in the Dark Night of the Soul chapter in Evelyn Underhill’s Mysticism. Most of what’s described there fit my experience exactly, and it was a comfort to know that others had gone through something similar. I remember seeing the comedy in Underhill describing different ways people experience the Dark Night of the Soul and finding that just about all of it happened with me. I seemed to need all of it, and not just one or two variations.

In general, finding others who had gone through it themselves was a big comfort to me, including working with one facilitator who had come out on the other side and could guide me somewhat.

Five-element acupuncture helped some during the most intense period, although often for just a day or two.

Vortex Healing may have helped provide a kind of turning point in this process. It does feel that the divine put me on a slightly different path after I got into VH.

NEEDING HELP

Before the dark night, I typically took pride in doing things on my own. I rarely needed to ask for help. That also changed during this dark night. I had to ask for help. I became the one who needed help from others. And there is a beautiful blessing here too. I learned the beauty of receiving and allowing others to help.

WHAT MADE IT MORE DIFFICULT

It’s not a surprise or secret what’s made this phase of my life more difficult for me: how my system has reacted to deep trauma. Deep and painful beliefs and identifications creating and holding in place the trauma, originally created as a survival strategy in a difficult family situation. The more we have of this, the more difficult the cleaning-out process can be. It tends to become more messy, painful, and perhaps drawn out.

DURATION

The dark night has lessened in intensity but is not over yet. I still feel like I have been hit by a truck: disoriented, partially in shock, and parts of me find it difficult to trust life.

It started when I got married and went against clear inner guidance, which is twenty-five years ago. And the far more intense phase started fifteen years ago.

It has not been a quick process for me. Perhaps because some traumatized parts of me are strongly holding onto old survival mechanisms and associated beliefs and identifications. These need to wear out.

THE INVITATION IN THIS DARK NIGHT

What was the invitation in this dark night? And why did it happen?

I cannot say anything for certain about the why. But it does seem it happened as a kind of reversal of the long honeymoon period following the initial awakening shift. During the honeymoon, everything fell into place in miraculous ways, I lived in a soft bliss, I had a lot of passion and direction in my life, and so on. During the dark night, everything fell apart, I lived with a huge amount of pain, I completely lost direction in life, and so on. When it goes up, it goes down.

The invitation here is more clear. The invitation is to clarify what I am and live from it, and not be so caught up in changing states, experiences, and situations. The invitation is for my center of gravity to shift more fully and viscerally into and as what I am.

More specifically, it is to…

Not only generally see all as the divine, but also see what my personality doesn’t like as the divine.

Not only see it all as the divine but more consistently find the genuine love for it all that’s already here, including for what my personality doesn’t like.

Not only have my center of gravity in what I am when things are easy, but maintain this center of gravity when it’s challenging and difficult things come up. To maintain this center of gravity when my old habit is to join in with reactivity and the issues coming up.

I can consciously explore this and invite in these shifts. I can prepare the ground. But the shifts themselves are always grace, as is the noticing and any active exploration I engage in. It’s all grace.

And the same goes for exploring and inviting in healing for my traumas and issues, especially the more central ones put in place early in life and related to my parents and family. For instance, my habit of not speaking up and not standing sufficiently up for myself. (And being repeatedly disappointed for that reason and having resentment come up.) And related to that, my issue around wanting to hide and not be seen, and having resentment for not being seen.

In general, the invitation is to wear out – and consciously explore – some of my remaining beliefs and identifications. These are typically put in place early in life to help us survive, and they are often rooted in and held in place by fear. A fear that’s unfelt, unloved and exiled. And has a scary story behind it that’s not sufficiently examined.

As Evelyn Underhill says in the dark night chapter of Mysticism, this is a messy and thoroughly human process.

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The essence of the dark night: Viscerally getting any experience as the divine

I have written about dark nights in other articles, and some of the different types of dark nights. And I have written about the dark night I have gone through over the last several years.

There is an important question here: What’s the essence of the dark night I went through? If I were to pick out one thing, what would it be?

One answer is the general one: Life – in the form of life situations and inner processes – rubbed up against some deep identifications in me, rooted in unexamined, unfelt, and unloved fear.

And another is more specific: It’s about viscerally recognizing whatever is here, including and especially what my personality doesn’t like, as happening within the same field.

What my personality struggles with, this human self, how this human self relates to it, and so on, are all happening within and as the same field. (And what my personality struggles with is typically a contraction that comes up in me.)

Said with other words: It’s all happening within and as what I am. It’s all having the same nature and the same nature as me. It’s all part of the oneness I am. It’s all the oneness I am taking the form of the contraction, this human self, how this human self relates to it, and so on. And thought can label this consciousness. Or a love that’s inherent in my nature and oneness and not dependent on any particular feelings or states. Or even Spirit or the divine or synonyms for this.

It’s not about seeing it as that, because that’s not new. It’s about viscerally getting it. And that’s a process. It’s an ongoing process for, I assume, at least as long as this human self is alive and it may go on far beyond that.

What are some of these things I have been invited to viscerally get as the divine? Deep primal fear. Traumas. Painful beliefs and identifications. Losses. Painful reaction to losses. And much more.

And am I finished with it? Not at all. But there have been shifts, and the dark night seems to gradually lighten and trail off, although much of it is still here. And it’s not about getting out of it. (This is, after all, what I am making itself conscious and befriending itself.) It’s about befriending what’s here and my nature viscerally sinking into it as itself.

And what’s the difference between seeing something as the divine (or having the same nature as me) and viscerally getting it as the divine? We can see it, and our human self may still go through its habitual responses to it. It may be caught up in and operate from reactivity. When we viscerally get it, our human response tends to change. There is more of a befriending of whatever is triggered in us. And over time, that tends to allow what’s triggered to transform as well.

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The logic of awakening & the inevitability of what we are and how it plays itself out

This is another topic I feel drawn to revisit.

What are we in our own first-person experience? What are we to ourselves? What is the world to us?

We can explore this in our own direct experience, and that can be profoundly transforming for our perception, life in the world, and our human self.

And we can also explore it logically, which can lead to and possibly support a more immediate exploration.

When I explore it logically, arriving at what we are – our nature – seems inevitable. And perhaps it looks that way since I have explored it in my immediate noticing since my teens. I shape the steps to fit what I notice in immediacy.

THE INEVITABILITY OF WHAT WE ARE

What are these logical steps apparently arriving at the inevitability of what we are?

Here is one version:

  1. There is consciousness.
    • This is indisputable, as far as I can tell.
  2. This consciousness has content.
    • We label this content this human self, others, the wider world, and so on.
    • All our experiences – of this human self, the wider world, and anything else – are content of consciousness.
  3. To ourselves, we are consciousness.
    • All the content of our experience comes and goes. Nothing stays.
    • This also applies to our human self and any ideas we have about our human self.
      • This human self is more ephemeral than we may tell ourselves. This human self comes and goes. For instance, in a dream we may be someone else or not present at all. Our experience of this human self, including our ideas about it, is always changing.
    • To ourselves, we are more fundamentally consciousness.
  4. The world, to us, happens within and as what we are.
    • To us, the world happens within and as consciousness, what we are to ourselves.
    • Our nature forms itself into the world as we experience it here and now.
  5. We are capacity.
    • One characteristic of consciousness is capacity.
    • Consciousness is capacity for any and all of the content of its experience.
    • We are capacity for the world, as it appears to us.
  6. We are oneness.
    • Any content of experience happens within and as consciousness.
    • This consciousness forms itself into any and all content of experience, including this human self, others, the world, and so on.
    • Consciousness is one, no matter what experience it forms itself into.
    • To ourselves, we are oneness.
  7. Separation consciousness
    • Consciousness can take itself to primarily be one particular part of its content.
    • Consciousness can take itself to be this human self, a doer, an observer, and any concept.
    • This is how separation consciousness is created.
  8. Awakening
    • Consciousness can notice itself as consciousness.
    • This is what some spiritual traditions call awakening.
    • It can happen through intention, practice, or without any conscious work or desire.
    • The noticing happens here and now, and learning to keep noticing, clarifying, deepening, and living from it is a process.
    • This process is ongoing and has no finishing line.
  9. Universality
    • The essence of this has been described by people across time and cultures, it seems universal.
    • Mystics from all the major spiritual traditions, and outside of any tradition, talk about finding themselves as capacity (“God-head”), oneness, and so on. And they speak in very similar ways about the process leading up to noticing, and the process of living from this noticing.
  10. A psychological understanding of awakening
    • This is a more psychological understanding of awakening.
    • It doesn’t rely on spirituality or spiritual terminology, although what it describes is the same.
    • It says something about what we are in our own first-person experience.
    • It doesn’t say anything about the nature of reality. It doesn’t rely or depend on words like Spirit, God, or Brahman.
    • That makes it more accessible to people independent on their existing worldviews.
    • And it can also provide common ground for people who are exploring and finding this, independent on whatever spiritual tradition or religion – if any – they belong to.

I realize that some may have arguments with some or all of these steps. That’s the job of the mind.

For instance, someone may agree that to ourselves, we are consciousness, oneness, etc. And yet, they may not see it as possible for consciousness to “wake up” to itself in this way because it’s outside of their current experience and the worldview they are familiar with.

I also realize that this can seem abstract and intellectual if we haven’t tasted it for ourselves, in our immediate noticing. (In my case, the noticing came before finding this apparent logic.)

And I am sure there are other ways of phrasing this that are more to the point and make more sense.

SEPARATION CONSCIOUSNESS AND AWAKENING

I thought I would say a few more words about separation consciousness and awakening since that’s of particular interest to me.

For me, the essence of how separation consciousness and awakening plays itself out also has a logic in it. Although there is a wild diversity in how each is expressed and lived out, there is also an apparent inevitability in its essence.

SEPARATION CONSCIOUSNESS

The oneness we are can take itself as fundamentally something in particular within the content of experience. Typically, this human self, a doer, an observer, and so on.

This happens, at least partially, through social learning. We are taught to take ourselves to be, most fundamentally, this human self. So we are good boys and girls and play the game so well we overlook our nature.

The specific ways separation consciousness unfolds is individual and always different.

And yet, there are some universals that inevitably come with separation consciousness.

This game of separation consciousness comes with inherent struggle and stress. Seeing ourselves as most fundamentally an object in the world, at the mercy of innumerable other objects, creates struggle and is stressful. And operating from a view out of alignment with reality does the same.

We also tend to operate from several blind projections. We see characteristics in others and the world and not in ourselves, and the other way around. This comes from and reinforces a sense of fundamentally being an I with an Other.

THE AWAKENING PROCESS

We don’t completely forget. Our nature is, inevitably, what’s most familiar to us. It’s all we ever know.

Here are some typical phases of the awakening process, and with the benefit of hindsight, the process looks relatively logical.

Initial interest

We may have a longing for finding ourselves again as oneness. At the surface, it may take the form of a longing for love, truth, reality, Spirit, or God. For me, it was a profound longing for coming home.

We may hear about awakening and it resonates with us.

We may have glimpses or shifts that drive us to explore further. (I had a profound sense of being one with the universe when I was around ten years old, sleeping under an open sky filled with stars in the Norwegian mountains.)

Practice

We may engage in spiritual practice and explore maps from others more familiar with the terrain.

In the best case, this helps reorient us so it’s easier to notice our nature and live from this noticing.

Noticing

We then notice our nature. Oneness notices itself.

If it’s without bells and whistles, it’s possible we’ll tell ourselves it’s too simple and obvious and keep looking for something else.

If it’s with bells and whistles, we may get distracted by these, assume that’s what it’s about, and try to experience those particular bells and whistles again. We may end up chasing a state that’s by nature ephemeral, and overlook the much simpler essentials of our nature.

Keep noticing

We then realize this is about keeping noticing our nature. We can learn to notice it independent of and through changing states and experiences. Oneness notices itself independent of what content of experience it changes itself into.

Living from it

Here, we explore how to live from this noticing. How do I live from a conscious noticing of oneness in this situation?

Transformation

This process involves a transformation of our fundamental identity, our perception, our life in the world, and our human self and psyche.

Many parts of our human self and psyche were formed within separation consciousness and still operate from separation consciousness. These will color our perception and life even if we consciously notice our nature.

An essential part of learning how to live from noticing our nature is to invite in healing for these parts of us.

Dark nights

Many go through one or more dark nights in this process. These are periods where we more strongly rub up against parts of the old separation consciousness so it can wear off and be seen through.

We may wonder if something has gone wrong. It will often bring us to our knees. Some dark nights may be intensely uncomfortable and overwhelming. And, in hindsight, we may see them as an essential part of the process.

Always individual

This process is always individual. Oneness winds itself up in separation consciousness in an individual way and unwinds in an individual way.

This is just an idealized and generalized outline. For instance, I have gone through or lived each of these steps or aspects, but not in the order outlined here.

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Is awakening overrated?

Is awakening overrated? As usual, the answer may be yes, no, and it depends.

Mainly, it depends on how we rate awakening and what we expect from it.

MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT AWAKENING

Some people have misconceptions about awakening and engage in wishful thinking.

They may assume it will fix all their problems. It’s a state that doesn’t allow for any discomfort, sadness, anger. It may give us special powers. And so on.

This is what Adya calls the “dream of the ego”. When we assume we most fundamentally are a being in the world, this is what we think will fix what seems wrong.

If our motivation is some form of wishful thinking, then awakening may seem overrated. It’s far more simple and more ordinary. It won’t fix our problems. It’s not a state. (Apart from a state of noticing.) It doesn’t give us any special powers.

DARK NIGHTS

There are also several challenges in the awakening process.

We tend to go through several types of dark nights. Periods where we are faced with whatever is left in us of old assumptions, identifications, and unprocessed materials.

These periods can be among the most challenging things we have experienced. They bring us to our knees and beyond.

If we assume the awakening process is only pleasant and we live through a dark night, the awakening process may seem overrated.

HELD TO A HIGHER STANDARD

When we live from noticing our nature, life tends to give us swift and strong feedback if we are out of alignment with what’s true for us. When we stray from authenticity, sincerity, and kindness, life tends to show us and not always in a pleasant way.

If we assume the awakening process is all about freedom, and we notice that life holds us to a higher standard of how we live our life and there is – in some ways – less freedom in how we live, we will get sobered up. The more invested we are in the idea of freedom, the more a part of us may see the awakening process as overrated.

WHAT WE ALREADY ARE

Awakening is about noticing our nature and living from this noticing.

It’s about noticing what we already are.

We may assume that awakening is about something far away and special and unfamiliar. When we discover that it’s about what’s already here and what we – in a sense – are more familiar with than anything, a part of us may feel that awakening is overrated.

WON’T SAVE THE WORLD / NO QUICK FIX

Similarly, if we assume awakening somehow will save the world in a conventional sense, or fix anything apart from our mistaken identity, we are in for some healthy disillusionment.

PROFOUND TRANSFORMATION

There are also several ways awakening is not overrated.

It brings a profound shift in what we take ourselves to be.

It brings a profound transformation in our perception.

It brings a profound shift in how we relate to anything.

And when we live from noticing what we are, it – over time – invites a profound transformation of our human self.

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Adyashanti: If you want to become more conscious, you’re becoming more conscious of the whole thing—your heaven and your hell

If you want to become more conscious, you’re becoming more conscious of the whole thing—your heaven and your hell.

– Adyashanti, The Way of Liberating Insight

If we engage in a process of bringing more of who and what we are into consciousness, it may at first seem that we have a choice of what we bring into consciousness. And, at some point, the rest tends to follow, whether we want or not. It’s all tied together.

For instance, we may engage in meditation to find more tranquility, equanimity, and stability in our life. For a while, that may be the effect. And then, at some point, other things that were excluded from our conscious awareness wants to join in, and this may not be just pleasant. We may think we invite in our heaven, and then our hell follows.

This is not bad or wrong. We have just supported a natural healing process. And when we do, eventually all of who and what we are wants to join.

This happens in any deeper healing process.

AWAKENING PROCESS

And it also happens in a real awakening process, and sometimes even more quickly and thoroughly.

The more we notice our nature and rest in that noticing, the more all of what we are tends to come to the surface. It all wants to join in with the noticing, and realign and find healing within the noticing.

And that includes our heaven and hell. It includes bliss and joy as well as buried trauma, wounds, fear, and terror.

If the latter comes up in one package, it can last for months or years and be experienced as a very difficult dark night. (In my case, it has lasted roughly a decade and it’s still ongoing although currently in a gentler form.)

It’s not always a pleasant process, but it is a process of allowing it all to be seen, felt, and realign within the noticing of what we are.

BUYER BEWARE

Ultimatly, we as an imagined separate individual don’t have much choice or say in the process. Not in the apparent start of it and not in how it all unfolds.

And yet, it is good to let people know what they may be getting into if they start any form of healing or awakening practice. It’s good to screen people for trauma and give these additional support. And it’s good to present a map of possibilities so people can be moderately prepared and know who to turn to for assistance if or when challenging material surfaces.

Ultimately, this is all part of an overall healing and awakening process. Nothing has gone wrong. It’s not bad. But for some, it can feel quite overwhelming, disorienting, and scary. And it’s good to have the support from someone who has gone through it themselves and can guide with some kindness, wisdom, and maturity.

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The dark night of embodiment

Most of us experience some kind of a dark night in our life, a time when our old ways of relating to life don’t work anymore. During these periods, we may come face-to-face with painful beliefs, unhealed parts of ourselves, unexamined priorities, living in an inauthentic way in some area of life, and so on.

A specific type of dark night is what I (as of a few minutes ago) like to think of as a dark night of embodiment.

This is a not-uncommon phase of the awakening process.

We notice what we are, and we may notice it more and more often. It may even become familiar and a new habit. We explore how to live from this noticing.

We may also notice that parts of our human self still operate from separation consciousness (beliefs, emotional issues, traumas), and that this colors our general perception and life in the world. When they are triggered, we may also get caught up in them and identify with and life from these painful places in ourselves for a while.

We recognize that an important part of embodiment, living from noticing what we are, is to find healing for how we relate to life and these painful parts of ourselves, and also invite in healing for these unhealed parts of ourselves.

Life knows this too, and independent of wheter we want or not or understand what’s going on or not, life may set in motion a process of bringing all this unprocessed material to the surface.

Whatever is not aligned with the awakening comes up to join in with the awakening, And it comes up with an invitation for us to heal our relationship to it, and invite in healing for it.

The more unprocessed material is in us, the more can come up. And the more overwhelming, intense, frightening, confusing, and disorienting it can be.

And, in general, it’s a process that tends to bring us to our knees. We get to see where we are still stuck, and we come face-to-face with anything in us that want to hold on and sometimes struggles with the unsticking-process as if it was matter of life and death.

The more we join in with this struggle, the more we’ll struggle and the more difficult this process will be for us. (And the more we get to learn about that facet of this process.)

It’s a deeply human process, it tends to be messy and unglamorous, and it’s often deeply humbling. It brings us back to being a beginner, we need to befriend things in ourselves we would rather avoid, and we get to see things about ourselves we would rather not see.

The general process is very simple, and it has a lot of facets and things to discover.

How is it to heal my relationship with what’s coming up? With discomfort? Strong emotions? Unsavory parts of myself? Holding onto beliefs and identities for comfort and a sense of safety?

How is it to befriend what’s coming up in me? How is it to welcome it? Listen to what it has to say? Notice and allow it as it is? Allow it to transform, in its own time and in its own way?

How is it to see that these parts of me came from a desire to protect me? That they are innocent? Come from a childlike way of looking at the world? Come from love?

How is it to examine the scary stories behind these unhealed parts of me? What’s the perception, choices, and life that comes out of holding them as true? What’s more true for me than these stories?

How is to to notice this, even the most uncomfortable, as a flavor of the divine? As having the same true nature as I do? As being part of who and what I am?

For me, this process has been – and still sometimes is – immensely difficult. It’s the most challening I have ever experienced. (Anything challening is really a part of this process.) It’s been messy, unglamorous, humbling, confusing, disorienting, scary, embarrasing, and much more.

And it is a kind of dark night of embodiment. It happened after an especially significant awakening shift, and it’s a process of aligning the rest of my human self with the awakening – with reality, love, and oneness.

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Enlightenment is a destructive process

Make no mistake about it—enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It’s seeing through the façade of pretense. It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.

– Adyashanti

NOTICING WHAT WE ARE

Noticing what we are doesn’t necessarily require that much of us. We can be guided to it, and notice it within a few minutes without much preparation. It can be so quick and unremarkable that some will dismiss at as not the real thing, or they don’t quite get the significance of it.

LIVING FROM THIS NOTICING – AS BEST WE CAN

In a sense, living from it here and now doesn’t require so much. It just requires noticing what we are, and living from this oneness as best as we can in the moment. It requires some intention and sincerity, and that’s about it.

We’ll do it imperfectly, for a few different reasons. It may be relatively unfamiliar to us, especially at first. Our human self will still be partially caught up in old habits formed from separation consciousness. And we’ll have parts of us still operating from separation consciousness, and this will color our perception and life, and when triggered, we may get caught up in the separation views of these parts of us.

LIVING FROM NOTICING WHAT WE ARE – THE TRANSFORMATION

And that brings us to what I suspect Adya talks about.

Living from noticing what we are requires a profound transformation of our human self, and that costs us everything. The many parts of us operating from separation consciousness come to the surface, one way or another and at one time or another, to join in with the awakening.

This requires us to experience how they experience the world, which is not always pretty or comfortable.

It requires us to heal how we relate to these parts of us, from seeing them as an enemy to befriending them.

It requires us to help these parts of us heal and join in with the awakening.

Although this can sound relatively simple and straightforward, for many of us, it’s anything but that. It’s a process that will bring us to our knees. It’s a destructive process, as Adya says. And as Evelyn Underhill wrote about the dark night of the soul, it’s a deeply human process.

MORE ABOUT THE TRANSFORMATION

There is a lot more to say about this transformation process.

It’s often called embodiment. We bring the awakening into our life, and that requires this transformation of our human self.

We are along for the ride. At some point, it becomes clear that we are not in control of this process. We just relate to it and deal with as best we can.

It can involve one or more dark nights, and different types of dark nights.

It’s an ongoing process. There is no place to arrive, although we can get through the most intense phases and have periods of more calm.

It doesn’t always look pretty. It can involve a great deal of struggle, confusion, overwhelm, despair, and so on.

We will likely see things about ourselves we rather would not see. It will demolish our pretty picture of ourselves.

It requires us to lose every cherished belief, ideal, and image of ourselves. It requires us to lose any idea of gaining anything from this process.

We experience it as a deeply human process because it is. It’s a transformation of our human self and life.

It requires us to meet any trauma, emotional issue, identification, wound, and so on in our human system, and there may be a lot more than than we thought or expected.

It requires us to notice any experience as the flavor of the divine, and as having the same true nature as ourselves.

It may require us to shed whatever in our life is not aligned with truth, whatever is not authentic and real and aligned with our heart. This may fall away on its own whether we want it to or not. And sometimes, we’ll have to make the hard choices. (In my experience, if I don’t life will do it for me and often in ways that don’t look pretty.)

In many cases, early phases of the awakening process involves a temporary transcendence of the human. We pull out of the human a bit so we can get more familiar with what we are. This is the opposite, it’s a process of descending and going deeply into the human messiness so it can join in with the awakening.

It is something many spiritual teachers don’t talk about in public. Perhaps because it happens after we notice what we are, and they like to do this one-on-one with these students. And perhaps because it can scare people from even starting on a spiritual path. (As if we have a choice.)

Many of the basic spiritual practices serve us well in this process. Heart-centered practices help us meet ourselves and these parts of us with more kindness, compassion, and love. Inquiry helps us investigate stressful thoughts coming up, and also identifications and anything with a charge in our system. Body-centered practices help us stay more grounded and kind with ourselves. Service can broaden our view beyond our own limited life and struggles. Ethical guidelines may help us avoid acting on some of the pain in destructive ways.

Ordinary forms of therapy and emotional healing can be very helpful in this process, especially if we find someone who understands what’s going on and have gone through it themselves.

For me, this has been a far more destructive process than I could have imagined.

One type of dark night: Parts of us wanting to join the awakening

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.

The value in the dark

In western culture, we are used to thinking that light=good and dark=bad.

There are many variations on this. We shed light on something (good). We are in the dark (bad). Something is a beacon (good unless it’s misleading). A story is dark (good because it’s a story so it only flirts with the dark). Something is happening in the shadows (bad). We have enlightenment (good). Trolls burst in the daylight (good for us, bad for the trolls). We go through a dark night of the soul (looks bad but may be different). Heaven is light and hell is dark. The angels are bright. The devil is dark. And so on.

There is a lot to explore here. Why do we have these associations? In what way do we use these metaphors? How do they influence our perception and life? What are the upsides and downsides? How do they help us? How do they limit us? What do I find when I explore specific dark/light assumptions?

THE SOURCE OF THESE ASSOCIATIONS

First, where do these associations come from?

It may be partly encouraged by evolution. Favoring light over dark – and the metaphors that come out of this – is understandable for daylight animals like humans. We evolved with eyes that function best in daylight. For us, the daytime is safer than the night. Light is good since it supports our survival, and dark is bad since we can’t see what potentially dangerous things are there. If nocturnal animals developed language and metaphors, theirs may be the reverse of ours.

At the same time, it’s clearly cultural. It’s easy to imagine cultures that don’t have the same assumptions, and we can also find many real-life examples in cultures around the world. (For instance, in some African cultures, white is associated with death.)

THE UPSIDE AND DOWNSIDE OF DARK/LIGHT ASSOCIATIONS

What’s the upsides and downsides of these associations?

The upside is that our shared understanding of these metaphors allows for shorthands and easier communication of certain ideas. That’s the same with all the images we use in our language.

The general downside is that these images become filters for our perception. We perceive, think, and partially live from them. If these remain unquestioned, we may mistake our assumptions for reality, and that creates rigidity, limits to our perception and views, and – in the worst case – harmful behavior.

A more specific example is that these associations have been used by Europeans to support colonialism, slavery, and racism. White people have –explicitly and implicitly –used the darker skin of other people as justification for seeing and treating them as inherently bad or inferior.

EXPLORING SOME EXAMPLES OF THESE IMAGES AND ASSOCIATIONS

What do I find if I explore specific examples of these associations?

White vs black. As mentioned above, in the European culture, the color white is often associated with purity and good while black has less favorable connotations. Good guys wear white hats, and bad guys black. The pure bride wears white, while the mourning widow wears black. These are clearly cultural assumptions and, in some other cultures, it’s reverse.

Skin tone. This connects with European racism where white skin is seen as good and superior while darker skin traditionally has been associated with savages. Again, this is clearly a cultural assumption that is not based in reality, and it’s been used to justify colonialism and generally horrific treatment of those with darker skin. Skin color has to do with human migration, adaption to place, and biological ancestry. It doesn’t say anything about us as people. And, again, in some cultures and societies, these associations are reverse.

Days vs night. We are daylight animals so it’s natural for us to favor the day and daylight. The night belongs to other creatures. But even as daylight creatures, we can find value in the night. For us, it’s a time of rest and sleep. We rest and sleep during the night, and in many cultures, the winter is also a time of rest and catching up with smaller tasks we may not have had time for during the rest of the year.

Known and unknown. Some things are in the dark, and we can shed light on them so they are known to us. What’s known is in the light, what’s unknown is in the dark. Again, this metaphor makes sense of us since we are daytime animals, and seeing and knowing what’s here helps us function and orient in the world.

At the same time, there can be immense value in the unknown. To the extent we take in how little we know, it helps us stay receptive, flexible, and curious. And it makes life far more interesting since we get the adventure of ongoing and never-ending discovery.

What’s unknown may be “in the dark” for us, and can be as valuable as what’s in the metaphorical light and what we think we know.

Good and bad. In many cases, good is associated with light and bad with darkness. There are many wrinkles here. For instance, at a conventional human level, what first appears good in our life can later turn out in an undesirable way, and the other way around. As we see if we look more closely, the light=good and dark=bad analogy isn’t the whole picture and typically doesn’t hold up to examination. Our ideas of good and bad are ideas and labels and not inherent in reality.

Dark nights. A dark night of the soul can refer to many different things, but in the mainstream, it typically refers to a deeply troubling and difficult time in our life. It’s dark because we may not understand what’s happening, and we feel we are in a dark state of mind.

We can see these dark nights as invitations. We are invited to revise our priorities, align our life with our values and what’s most important to us, find authenticity and be more honest with ourselves, heal unhealed parts of us, and heal how we relate to ourselves, others, and life.

There is a blessing hidden in these dark nights.

What’s in the dark in us. We all have parts of ourselves we have shed light on and are relatively familiar with. And we also have a lot that’s in the dark. This darkness just means we are still unfamiliar with it. We can find things there that our personality would like, and also things it would dislike. And as we bring more into the light, and depending on how we relate to what we find and make use of it, it can help us in many ways. It can help us heal, mature, find authenticity, recognize the inherent innocence in what we find, find our wholeness as a human being, be more grounded and sober, and also feel and become more alive.

Awake and not awake. Enlightenment has light in the word, and it’s understandable. Metaphorically, awakening has to do with bringing into light what we are, and perhaps how we temporarily obscure this for ourselves. At different phases of an awakening process, we can also more literally experience or see a lot of light in our system. Of the two – awake and not awake – one isn’t inherently better than the other. And one isn’t more or less the divine than the other. It’s all the play of our mind, life, the universe, existence, or the divine, or all of these, depending on how we see it.

The light and dark divine. Many religions and spiritual traditions include light and dark representations of the divine. In Christianity, we have the black madonna representing an aspect of the divine feminine, fertility, the life-giving womb, transformation, and so on.

Womb. The womb, soil, and early universe all are associated with darkness. And this is where life comes from. We live our first months in and are born from dark wombs. The soil supports most plant life and land life, including our own. The dark and early universe reorganized itself, over billions of years, into the universe as we know it, and into everything we know including ourselves. Darkness is often fertile. Quiet periods in our life can be a womb, as can the night, the winter, spending time in nature, incapacity because of an illness, metaphorical dark nights, and more.

SUMMARY

The essence of this is simple: Our associations with light and dark come from our culture and we recreate it for ourselves here and now. These associations are not inherent in reality. At the same time, they do influence our perception and life, so it’s good to bring these to awareness and shed the metaphorical light on them. This helps us relate to these associations more consciously in ourselves and when we find them in our culture.

A PERSONAL NOTE

When I write these articles, I prefer to write brief and simple articles that give only the essence and some pointers for further exploration. In this article, I found myself venturing into a more complex and messy terrain that would require brushing up on mythology, depth psychology, and so on, to do it justice. It may be more appropriate for a much longer article or a book.

This is a reminder of one of the reasons I stick with brief and simple articles: my brain fog. I don’t have much capacity for either reading or editing, so anything beyond a simple and short article – and one that comes directly out of me and doesn’t require any reading or studies – is difficult.

I haven’t read or taken in much information for the last ten years, which is a sharp contrast to my earlier life where I read voraciously – often three books a week. I had plans for writing books, but those plans are on the shelf (pun intended) for now.

There is an upside to this as well. I have to rely on what’s here in me and what I discover for myself through my own explorations. And that’s an invaluable gift.

Dark night of trauma

As Adyashanti says, when the mind and heart open, they also open to what’s unprocessed in us. When the mind and heart open during an awakening process, they also open to trauma and any emotional issues that are here.

Sometimes, this is a trickle. Other times, it’s as if the flood gates have opened. This can be called a dark night of the soul, although that expression can refer to many different things. I think of it as a dark night of trauma.

It’s not a bug in the system, it’s a feature.

The awakening requires that all parts of our human self awaken. And that means that the unawake parts – the trauma and emotional issues – come to the surface to be seen, felt, recognized as the divine, and align with reality and oneness. These parts of us also want to join in with the awakening.

This is also essential for embodiment, for living from the awakening more consistently in daily life. When a particular trauma or emotional issue is resolved in us, the situations that previously triggered this issue – this bubble of separation consciousness in us – are situations we now can respond to with more clarity and kindness, and from oneness.

Since most of us have innumerable bubbles of separation consciousness in us, I suspect this is an ongoing process.

We may arrive at a place where our new habit is to relate to these bubbles in us with more intention, kindness, and clarity, and invite them to unwind and join with the awakening. But bubbles may continue to come up.

The messy phase of any cleaning process

I am currently reorganizing and cleaning in the basement, and the process has predictably gone through a phase where it looked far more messy than it did when I started.

Although it’s an obvious analogy, it does highlight a few things about our inner cleaning and reorganizing process.

When I clean and reorganize physically, I take things out of boxes, bags, and storage to see what’s there, sort, throw out some things, and organize all in a better way.

That’s the same that tends to happen in our inner cleaning and reorganization process. Old issues and hangups are brought out so they can be seen. It can look far more messy during the process than it did before we started. It can feel a bit overwhelming and confusing. We may, at times, feel a bit lost. We may need to take one small step at a time and focus less on the process as a whole. We may need to ask for help. And in the end, it’s all more clean, we have gotten rid of some old and no longer needed things, and it’s organized in a way that serves us better now.

This applies to healing of emotional issues, and it also applies to the awakening process. When we heal emotional issues, we typically need to see, feel, find a different relationship with, and find love for anything making up or holding in place the issue.

And it also applies to the awakening process. The awakening and clarification itself brings up things and can feel messy at times. And the awakening process also brings up old emotional issues so they can be loved and – at least to some extent – healed, so the embodiment of the awakening can go further into our human life.

The most dramatic example of this messiness may happen during a dark night. When I went through the darkest phase of the dark night, my inner and outer life were both messy, to put it mildly.

The Dark Night of the Soul and influx of light

There are many types of dark nights. One is where the awakening process brings up what in us is still stuck in separation consciousness so this can heal, be more aligned with reality, and wake up. It’s an essential part of the awakening and embodiment process.

During this phase, we can feel overwhelmed, confused, and swamped by all that’s surfacing. To us, it usually feels very dark and it may be difficult to imagine it will ever end.

In the Dark Night of the Soul chapter from Evelyn Underhill’s Mysticism, she suggests through quotes what’s actually happening: there is a large influx of light into our system, this pushes the metaphorical darkness in us to the surface, and that’s what naturally catches our attention.

In this situation, it can be difficult or impossible to notice or be aware of the light in our system. The lack of comfort is almost an inbuilt part of the process.

In my case, since I can see energies, I did notice a clear and strong light around my body even during the darkest parts of this process, and I have seen the same in others. Still, that was a meager comfort at the time.

Adyashanti: “Ready” means you are ready to come as close to the insane asylum as you will ever come

I remember reading Nisargadatta talking about two types of karma. Someone was asking, is it true that all the karma of a sage is burnt up? Nisargardatta said “There are two kinds of karma. There is the karma that’s dispelled with spiritual insight, and is dispelled by awakening and spiritual maturity. There is the other kind of karma that’s not dispelled and you have to live it out and reap the benefits or detriments thereof.”

That was the end of the conversation. That sounds clean until it comes to your life. Living through pieces of your karma is not as clean as it may sound. Often, people will have it at some point after their shift, especially when it seems that life is pretty easy, when there is not a whole lot of inner disturbance.

About that time, strangely enough, is often when a huge chunk of subterranean conditioning breaks off and raises into your conscious level. It’s almost like, “OK, now you have enough light, now you have enough stability, now you have enough presence, now you can deal with this. We hid this from you because it would have completely put you under water before, but now you are ready for it.” But “ready for it” doesn’t mean it’s purified and transformed and let go.

“Ready” means you are ready to come as close to the insane asylum as you will ever come as this piece of darkness comes through your system. You can now be tormented in a way that you never imagined you could withstand.

– Adyashanti

I am not sure what Nisargaradatta referred to when he spoke about the two types of karma. At first, it sounds like the first is the karma of conditioning, and the second is the – to us – more mysterious karma of events.

Adya seems to understand this in a slightly different way.

I wonder if what he means is that some conditioning and issues are seen through and resolve relatively easily as part of the awakening process. They fall away almost without us noticing.

With other conditioning, it’s not so easily. This is the one we, to some extent, have to live out. This may be deeper emotional issues, trauma, and conditioning that needs to come to the surface to be seen, felt, loved, recognized as the divine, and so on. It be a far more tumultuous, confusing, overwhelming, and painful process.

I see them more as parts of the same spectrum than two different things.

In our healing and awakening journey, things in us needs to come up to be met, seen, felt, loved, and recognized as who and what we are. Sometimes, this is relatively easy and even enjoyable. Other times, it can be extreme and beyond anything we thought we would ever experience.

And as Adya suggests, the more extreme version of this seems to often follow a deepening in the awakening. A more open heart and mind means it’s also more open to all the things in us that has been exiled. It’s open to what it previously was closed to.

When that surfaces, it can feel overwhelming and terrifying and it can seem as if it will never end and there is no light on the other side of the tunnel.

This is one of the dark nights we can go through on a healing and awakening journey. I have come to think of it as a dark night of trauma, a period of processing deep individual, ancestral, cultural, and universal trauma.

It’s a necessary part of the healing and awakening process. It clears out parts of us still operating from separation consciousness so they can operate more from reality and oneness.

And it’s a part of the process I have been intimately familiar with over the last several years. It’s been far more challenging than anything I thought I would ever experience. It’s deeply humbling, in a good – and often painful – way. It’s a deeply human process. Since the parts of us surfacing live within separation consciousness and are, in a sense, insane, it can feel like we are going insane.

And, in the bigger picture, it’s an amazing blessing.

Trauma and awakening

These days, there seems to more awareness of the different connections between trauma and awakening.

There are people more experienced with this than me. But I have some experience in working with people with trauma and from exploring the connections between trauma and awakening in my own life, so I’ll say a few words about it here.

What are some types of trauma?

Trauma comes in different forms. Acute trauma is what most of us think of when we hear the word – from violence, catastrophes, war, loss. There is trauma from witnessing others experience and living with trauma. There is developmental trauma which comes from being in an ongoing challenging situation, often in childhood.

We can also expand the definition and say that any emotional issue is a form of trauma, and any belief and identification is a form of trauma. It comes from and – depending on how we relate to it – may create more trauma.

What is trauma?

It’s often explained as how our system deals with a scary and overwhelming experience we feel we cannot deal with. The basic elements of trauma are strong stressful beliefs and identities and corresponding muscle contractions (to hold the beliefs and identities in place). And trauma behavior span a wide range including anger, anxiety, hopelessness, and compulsions and addictions.

What role does trauma play before awakening?

Trauma can be part of our drive for healing and awakening. We may wish for healing and/or awakening to find relief from the pain of trauma. Whether we chose mainly a healing or awakening path, or a combination, depends on our inclinations and what we have available.

If we already are on an awakening path, it can be very helpful to include an emphasis on emotional healing.

If we are on an exclusive healing path and are happy with it, there is not really any need to include an emphasis on awakening. Although some of the tools for awakening can help deepen the healing, and glimpses and tastes of awakening can certainly help with the healing.

What about trauma following – or within – awakening?

Awakening involves an opening of our heart and mind – and even the body. And at some point, this can include an opening to whatever unprocessed emotional material is in us.

This often happens in smaller doses and over time. We have emotional issues triggered, are unable to ignore it as before, and have to find a way to relate to what comes up that’s healing in itself and allows what surfaces to find healing.

Sometimes – and perhaps especially if there is stronger trauma in the system – it happens in a more dramatic way. When this happens, it can feel confusing, overwhelming, and unbearable. (We can see this as a certain type of dark night in the awakening process.)

How do we deal with overwhelming trauma?

The best is to get help from someone experienced in working with trauma. Find someone you trust, are comfortable with, and respect where you are and don’t push you. If the person also understands awakening, then it’s even better.

The main guideline is patience, kindness, working with the body, and using nature.

I have written other articles on this topic so won’t go into it too much here.

How do healing and awakening go together?

Emotional healing helps living from the awakening. The fewer and lighter emotional issues, the less likely we are to be hijacked back into separation consciousness when they are triggered. (Although if it happens, it shows us what’s left in us to explore and find healing for.)

Awakening gives a new context for healing emotional issues. The healing can go deeper and the process may be a little easier.

What are some tools that invite in both healing and awakening?

There are several. Some of the ones I have found helpful – and that I keep mentioning here – are different forms of inquiry like The Work, Living Inquiries, and the Big Mind process. Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE). Heart-centered practices like ho’oponopono, tonglen, and Metta. And energy work like Vortex Healing.

Note: As usual, take anything you read – anywhere – with a pinch of salt. It may be different for you.

Photo by Adrien Aletti on Unsplash

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See, feel, love even this as the divine

I keep returning to this. 

I have gone through what we can call a dark night of the soul for the last few years. I won’t go into much detail here since I have written about it in other articles. But what keeps coming up is what seems like a central invitation. And that invitation is to see, feel, and love even what’s most difficult to see, feel, and love – as the divine. 

In my teens, the divine revealed itself to itself as all there is. It was easy to see and love all – or almost all – as the divine, and even feel it as the divine. 

I said “almost all”… Some things were not so easily recognized as the divine, especially what this human self strongly dislikes, and especially strong emotional pain, and – to a lesser degree – discomfort in general. 

My dark night phase has been a series of losses – of health, relationships, money, opportunities, belongings, identities, ideas about the future and more. And that has brought up things in me. It has brought up what hasn’t yet been seen, felt, and loved. And what hasn’t yet been seen, felt, and loved as the divine. It has brought up emotional wounds, trauma, and cherished beliefs and identities created for protection and safety (as all beliefs and identities are). 

When unprocessed psychological material comes to the surface, it’s often painful. And there are often reactions to it. If I get caught in my reactions, it’s even more painful. And if I relate to it is with kindness, respect, and patience, it’s easier. It’s a relief. It can even bring a bittersweet feeling, a sense of wholeness, and a sense of returning home. 

Meeting it with kindness, respect, and patience is the portal to seeing the unseen, feeling the unfelt, and loving the unloved in me. And that, in turn, is the portal for the divine to recognize itself as even that, even the discomfort, even the pain, even the reactivity to it. To see, feel, and love itself as all of it. 

There are different types of dark nights, and even within any of our mind-created categories, each one is unique. And yet, they all seem to be about removing veils. Wearing off identifications, beliefs, and ideas about who or what we are.

In my case, one of the many beliefs life seems to wear out in me is the belief – held deeply in me and not aligned with my conscious view – that some things in my experience are not the divine. That this emotional pain, this dread & terror, this discomfort, is not the divine. That it’s somehow inherently wrong. Alien. A mistake. The child in me still reacts to it as if it is all of these things. 

There are no shoulds here. But there is an invitation to see what happens when I get caught in the reactivity to what comes up (amplifying the discomfort), and what happens if I instead remember to meet it with kindness, respect, and patience. And perhaps see the unseen, feel the unfelt, and find love for the unloved. And perhaps then, allowing the divine to recognize itself as what’s here – the emotional pain, the reactivity to it – as itself. As a local and temporary expression of itself. 

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Fiona Robertson: The Dark Night of the Soul

The Dark Night of the Soul: A Journey from Absence to Presence by Fiona Robertson

My friend Fiona Robertson wrote this wise, heartfelt, and insightful book that I am sure will be of help to many. It is specifically about the dark night of the soul that some of us go through at some point in our life. But the insights apply to all the many mini-dark nights of the soul that are part of our human experience. 

When I read it, I was struck by the universality of the descriptions and insights from the different people interviewed for the book. It was as if I could have said just about all of them. I was interviewed for the book so some of them are actually my own, but when I read the others I actually didn’t know if they were mine or not until I read the attribution. (Of course, the people interviewed and the quotes were selected to fit into a narrative, but there is also something often surprisingly universal about the dark night of the soul.)  

The book is a reminder of how the dark night of the soul is a deeply human and humanizing experience. And that it requires us to be real instead of holding onto identities, beliefs, and ideas about how things are or should be. It strips away layers of who and what we are not. It helps us find our wholeness in a far more gritty and real way. 

One invitation in the dark night: more thoroughly see and feel all as the divine

One invitation in the dark night of the soul, and really any time after an initial spiritual awakening, is to deepen in seeing and feeling all as the divine.

In the initial opening or awakening, all is often and inevitably seen and recognized as the divine. All is the play of the divine. The deeper identity of all beings and everything else is the divine, sometimes temporarily and locally taking itself to be a separate being.

This can be recognized and seen quite clearly, and yet the invitation is to see and feel this more thoroughly, more consistently, in more areas of life, and in more situation.

And especially to see and feel the divine in and as what we, as human beings, tend to not particularly like. As illness and symptoms. Sadness, anger, and dullness. People we have a reaction to. Losses. Noise. A society apparently bent on self-destruction. And so on.

For instance, I walked home from downtown just now and passed some very noisy construction on both sides of me. I asked myself what if this is the voice of the divine? Can I find it for myself? This shifted my experience in the moment. I could find where it was the voice of the divine. The divine as noisy construction sounds. And also the divine as this human self reacting to it and sometimes feeling like a victim of noise.

Since I have done inquiry and some healing work on my reactivity to noise, it was much easier to notice it as the voice of the divine. It required just a small shift. And I was also reminded of how my very human reactivity to the noise comes from deep love and caring for this human self. It’s natural, innocent, and beautiful. (And painful when the mind gets caught in it. And that pain is also an expression of the divine.)

The noise. The construction. The reactivity in me. The discomfort. The getting caught in it. The not getting caught in it. All of it is an expression of the divine.

What do I mean when I say “the divine” here? It’s a shorthand. A pointer. And it refers to recognizing all as happening within and as awakeness (aka consciousness). As insubstantial. Here and yet not here. And as the wisdom and love that seems inherent in this awakeness.

As a side note, I can mention that I, of course, know it’s a projection. In my experience, everything is this awakeness. It can’t be any other way. It’s that way for everyone, although many don’t notice. (They haven’t had it pointed out to them, and haven’t investigated it for themselves.) This is a tricky topic since, yes, it looks like a projection. And yet, the idea of projection and a mind or being projecting it all happens within and as this awakeness.

In my immediate experience, there isn’t really anything that will absolutely determine if (a) I am awakeness (or consciousness) connected with a separate being and projecting this awakeness onto everything so everything appears as awakeness, and this mind then calls it the divine. Or (b) if everything actually is the divine, as it appears.

Another note: What have I had to learn to see more thoroughly and feel more deeply as the divine? For me, it’s been chronic fatigue symptoms (fatigue, brain fog, emotional instability), emotions such as fear, anger, and sadness, and even the situation I have found myself in. I have known and seen it as the divine for a long time, but when faced with life situations that I – as a human being – don’t particularly like, I have had to more thoroughly see and feel it as the divine. And it’s an ongoing process.

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Dark night as a bloody train wreck?

Montparnasse derailment

I saw this classic photo and was reminded of something a friend said a few years back. After I had shared my experience with the intense phase of the dark night of the soul I was going through, he – having gone through a similar phase in his own life – said, yes, it’s a bloody train wreck. 

It really is, or can be. 

I am talking about dark night of the soul in the old-fashioned sense here, as a phase of a spiritual path. The dark night of the soul that, as Evelyn Underhill described it in Mysticism, tends to come after the initial awakening and honeymoon phase (illumination).

First, there may be a phase where we enter the path in a conventional way (I skipped this one). Then, an initial spiritual opening and awakening and a honeymoon phase (for me, lasted for several years). And then, a dark night of the soul. A phase where “everything” seems to go wrong. Loss of health. Relationships. Property. Reputation. Ability to stay centered and meet whatever happens with equanimity. And so on. It can seem like a relentless series of losses in all areas of life (as it has been for me). 

We tend to lose what we relied the most on, and what was most precious to us. 

Did something go wrong? Did we make a mistake?  

No. It seems to be a relatively common phase of the path. At least common enough for many to have written and talked about it, and for me to have found others who have been or are going through it themselves. 

So why does it happen? It seems to be a deepening. 

The illumination phase can be short or long. It gives us a direct taste of the divine and often of all, without exception, as the divine. If it lasts for a while, as it did for me, it can be a wonderful phase of discovery, bliss, and things falling into place in our life in amazing ways. It helps us familiarize ourselves with all as the divine. 

Then, we lose that footing. That which seemed like it never would go away does. Where things fell into place in amazing ways, things may now relentlessly go wrong in equally amazing ways. It can feel immensely painful, overwhelming, and as if it’s never going to go away. 

A few things seem to happen here. As Underhill mentions, it’s a very human process. It doesn’t feel spiritual at all. Just as we are faced with losses in our life, we are faced with what this brings up in us of emotions, reactions, painful memories, and more. And this is an invitation for a few different things. 

It’s an invitation for healing what’s unhealed in us. It comes to the surface with an invitation for us to find healing for it. 

It’s an invitation for healing our relationship to life and the life situations we find ourselves in, and also our relationship to what it brings up in us including the pain. Can we befriend it? Can we find it as a support for our healing and maturing? 

It’s an invitation for giving it all over to the divine. Let Your will be done. I give it all over to you. We deepen in this orientation while also being engaged and taking care of our life in an ordinary sense and as best as we can. 

It’s an invitation for more thoroughly seeing it all as the divine. The life situations, and what it brings up in us. Can we meet it as the divine? Can we feel it as the divine? Can we even find love for it as the divine? 

It’s an invitation to surrender to it. To notice, allow, and rest with it, and to do the same with whatever it brings up in us including the pain. To see that, as much as something in us would like it to go away, it’s actually OK. 

It’s an invitation to befriend our humanness. The messiness. Confusion. Embarrassing. Humbling. Immature. Angry. Sad. Reactive. The universally human that we too have and are. 

With all this is an invitation to notice. To notice what’s going on. And to notice the effects of how we relate to it. It can even be an invitation to explore various spiritual practices and healing modalities. We can learn a great deal of practical value in this process. 

It’s an invitation to allow the process to work on us. Notice we don’t know what’s actually going on. Find some trust and patience with the process. 

As we heal as human beings, we are better able to live from the clarity, kindness, and wisdom available to us. And the same goes for more thoroughly recognize everything, without exception, as the divine. (If we still have a theistic orientation, we can say it’s from the divine.) 

The overall invitation is to deepen in healing, clarity, and heartfulness. In that sense, it’s the greatest gift we could receive. It’s not what we, at a human level, would choose. But it can come with great gifts. 

There are other types of dark nights. In contemporary use, it often refers to a difficult time in our life whether or not there is a (recognized) spiritual context. In a spiritual context, it seems to happen when life or the spiritual process rubs up against remaining identifications. It can feel dry, empty, disorienting, and so on. 

Trauma-related dark nights

Dark nights or challenging phases of a spiritual path come in many different forms.

What’s common is that life rubs up against our remaining identifications with some of our identities and beliefs. Often quite central ones, and sometimes previously un-noticed ones.

One type of these dark nights is the trauma-related dark nights. As Adyashanti says, the lid is taken off some of our remaining traumas. Our mind opens to the divine as all, or as the One, and that sometimes means it also opens to what’s unhealed in us.

Another side of this is that it happens so these parts of us can be met, seen, felt, loved, and healed to some extent. And that’s required so the awakening – whatever clarity is here – can be lived more fully in more situations in our everyday life.

As long as traumas are left, they’ll be triggered by life situations and we’ll tend to react to these traumas rather than responding from whatever clarity and love we have access to.

So there is love behind this dark night, as there is love behind any dark night. It comes with an invitation to clarify, heal, mature, and live more fully what’s realized so far.

It doesn’t mean it’s easy or painless. It often feels unbearable. It can seem like it will never end. Our minds may even tell itself that it has “lost” God or the awakening, or that something has gone terribly wrong. This may especially happen if we don’t have a guide who has gone through it on their own, or if we don’t have a community around us who understand what’s happening and support our process. And if we don’t, that becomes part of our process and comes with its own gifts.

As others have pointed out, it’s a very human process. It doesn’t feel “spiritual” at all. And it’s deeply humbling and, if we allow it, humanizing.

I am writing about this in a more general way here, but it comes from own experience. I have gone through this for the last ten years or so. First, there was an initial awakening or opening. Then, a honeymoon phase. Then, another form of awakening. And then health challenges and a trauma-related dark night (what some may call a dark night of the soul).

It has gradually become easier but I am still not quite out of the woods. Life wants more in me to be seen, felt, met, loved, explored, allowed, and perhaps healed. At the very least, there is an invitation for me to heal my relationship to it, and that’s as or more important than the healing of the issues themselves.

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Shadow material surfacing in an awakening process

It’s common – or perhaps inevitable – for shadow material to surface in an awakening process.

What’s shadow material? Anything in us that’s unhealed, unmet, unloved, unrecognized as the divine. Anything in us we are unaware of, or deny, or see in others and not in ourselves. Anything in us we live from and react to without openly recognizing that’s what’s happening.

Why does it surface?

The mind’s ability to push it down is weakened or gone. In an awakening, the mind opens to all as the divine. And that opening is also an opening to whatever in us is still unseen, unprocessed, and unhealed.

It surfaces with an invitation for us to recognize that too – the most painful and unwanted parts of us and our experiences – as the divine and what we are. That is another piece of the puzzle. Another phase of the awakening and embodiment process.

It comes to be seen, felt, met, healed, and loved, allowing for a fuller embodiment of the awakening. It allows the awakening to be lived in more situations in our life. When life triggers something unhealed or unprocessed in us, we may respond by reacting to it. When that’s healed, we are more free to respond from clarity and kindness.

And what about the role of identification? The more identified our mind is with how it reacts to the surfacing shadow material, the more it tends to struggle and suffer. But it can’t just decide to not identify. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t. What we can do is notice what it all happens within and as. We can invite our center to shift somewhat in that direction. And although it may not make it any easier in the moment, we can remind ourselves that the cycles of identifications are part of the process. It’s part of what allows the mind’s tendency to identify to gradually burn out.

What can we do when we are in a phase of surfacing shadow material? Here are some thing’s that’s been helpful for me, at different times.

Go for walks. Spend time in nature.

Notice and allow. Rest with the noticing. Notice the space it’s happening within.

Invite it – and my reactivity to it – to heal through whatever approach works for me. In my case, inquiry, dialogue (kind, respectful), ho’oponopono, TRE, Vortex Healing etc.

See if I can find a way to meet it – and my reactivity to it – with kindness, respect, patience, allowing. Befriend it. Ho’oponopno, dialogue, and tonglen can be helpful here.

Find and talk with people who have gone through it themselves. People who understand and shows us we can get through it.

It can be a very painful process. It can feel unbearable and overwhelming. It can feel like it will never end. And yet, it does. At least the intense phase does, in my experience. And as more shadow material is seen, felt, healed, and loved, it does create more space and opening in our system for living from the awakening in more situations in life.

Note: I added the “dark night” tag to this post since an intense phase of shadow material surfacing is one form of dark night. It’s one of the things that can happen in an awakening process that the mind doesn’t immediately like so much.

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What teachers of meditation and spirituality need to know

A meditation practice can offer surprises, as can any spiritual exploration or path. And it’s good for whomever guides us to know about these.

What are some of these surprises?

Some are specific to a spiritual path, for instance…

Meditation or a spiritual opening leading to the lid being taken off unprocessed psychological material. This can be scary and overwhelming.

Energy system fried or destabilized. In or after a spiritual opening, high energies can run through the system and fry or destabilize it.

General psychological disorientation and destabilization.

Other wrinkles are well known from regular psychology.

Chasing states. Get a taste of a state and try to recreate it while missing the essence of a spiritual opening or glimpse.

Inflation. Seeing oneself as better than others due to spiritual openings, insights, or abilities.

Projections. Blindly projecting things out on others and overlooking them in oneself.

Giving away authority. Giving away ones own authority to a spiritual guide or organization.

When we chose spiritual guides or coaches, it’s wise to chose someone who has knowledge of these and knows how to prevent and recognize them, and can help people navigate through it or know who to refer to.

At the minimum, people who teach meditation or similar approaches (prayer, inquiry, yoga etc.) should be trained to minimize the risk of these, recognize the signs, and know who to refer to. And those who help navigate people through these should be familiar with the terrain from their own experience.

Since the second category is well known in mainstream psychology, quite a few guides have some skills and familiarity with how to work with those.

But in my own experience, not many teachers are educated or equipped to deal with the first category. For instance, when I needed guidance for grounding and stabilizing in the early awakening phase, what I found was teachers who were mostly or only trained to help people further open – which wasn’t what I needed at the time. Fortunately, I knew that I needed grounding and not further opening so I found my own way.

When I later went through the “lid taken off” phase, I was fortunately in a different situations and did find some who could offer guidance and support based on having gone through it themselves.

And I should mention that none of these wrinkles or hiccups are wrong in the big picture. They can be confusing, scary, uncomfortable, and destabilizing. But they are not inherently wrong. If they happen, they become part of the path, and – as anything else – are fuel for healing, maturing, awakening, and embodiment.

Note: There are, of course, no real “shoulds” here and no real “need” to know. I just decided to use a more conventional language. It would be more accurate to say that if people seek out teachers with this insight and experience, they can be guided through it more easily if some of these wrinkles happen for them. And teachers who familiarize themselves with it will similarly be better able to guide others, or at least recognize the signs and refer to someone else.

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Currently: Tying up lose ends

Although what I share in these articles is directly from my personal experience and journey, it’s written to emphasize the universal.

I tend to not flesh out the personal very much. Perhaps I wish to maintain some privacy. Perhaps I am a bit embarrased about the messiness of it. Perhaps I imagine it may be boring or tedious to read.

And yet, I know that personal and potentially embarrasing and messy details are what gives flavor and realness to writing, and what makes it more human and interesting.

Who knows, perhaps the wrinkles of my experience will match of up with the wrinkles of whomever reads this? So it seems a shame to leave it out.

I actually don’t know if I will include more of the personal and messy. Perhaps I will, slowly.

For now, here is a brief personal update:

Some years ago, on a major life issue and out of unloved / unmet / unexamined fear, I acted against my guidance and inner knowing. It was the beginning of a phase I can call a dark night, and in this phase, I felt more and more off course and more and more things fell apart. Eventually, it reached a phase where I lost my health, marriage (which was a good thing to lose at that point), house, and more. My life continued to go off kilter in many areas. (I have written more about this in earlier posts.)

This was followed by a phase of finding footholds which I then lost again.

And now, it feels like my life is stabilizing somewhat and I am starting to get some ground under my feet. It goes slowly, but perhaps that’s how it needs to be. And there is also a sense of tying up lose ends – in terms of my life (practical things), health, and the awakening process. And Vortex Healing is what has helped me the most in tying up these lose ends, especially in terms of my health and the awakening process.

Since I was introduced to Vortex Healing about two years ago, my body has stabilized and gradually gained core / basic strength. I have healed some central (universal) emotional issues. And things that went a bit awry in the awakening process feels cleared up and lose ends tied up. So right now, I am especially grateful for Vortex Healing having found me, for something in me responding to it, and for having had the opportunity to pursue it in terms of receiving sessions, taking courses, and applying it for my own healing.

Why do dark nights happen? Why are they common in an awakening process? As Evelyn Underhill outlined, a typical process consists of an initial awakening and honeymoon phase (illumination) followed by a dark night of the soul. And this dark night of the soul can have several different characteristics. Mainly loss – of health, relationships, roles, status, respect, sense of connection with the divine and so on. It seems that this may be needed, for some of us, to wear out remaining identifications and beliefs, and also so what’s unhealed in us can surface to be seen, felt, loved, healed, and recognized as the divine.

As Adya and others point out, the struggle we experience in a dark night is equal to the struggle we bring to it. The more we resist it, the more painful we experience it as. The more we hold onto identifications, beliefs, and identities that are incompatible with what’s happening and what’s lost in our lives, the more we suffer.

It’s tempting to think that the length and intensity of a dark night is equal to the struggle we put up. That may be partially true, but I don’t really know.

And, of course, the sequence that Evelyn Underhill and others have laid out is just a generalization. It’s something that’s relatively typical and an average pattern. But any one individual path may be quite different. It may have elements of the different phases, but they may happen in another sequence, and elements from more than one phase of the map may happen simultaneously.

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Dark forces or something much simpler?

Our stories about ourselves and the world has a big impact on us and our life.

When I shared something about the “dark night” phase I seem to have gone through, and how it has been a period of repeated losses and things going “wrong”, a psychic friend of mine said that “dark forces” want to prevent me from living my potential. It was meant well, and it was also a reminder of the power of stories.

At least on the surface, the “dark forces” story puts the responsibility “out there” in the world, into something mysterious and intangible, and it makes the person – in this case, me – into a victim. It’s a story that easily can trigger passivity and hopelessness.

I prefer stories that are closer to what’s here, that are about something I can check from my own experience and that trigger engagement.

The story that makes more sense to me, at least right now, is that I went against my clear inner knowing and guidance on a major and lasting life decision. It brought a sense of getting off track in life. It led into a “dark night” phase that gradually got stronger.

And although I wish I had been clear and healed enough to follow my guidance rather than my fears back then, I also see the tremendous and very real gifts in what happened. The “dark night” phase has brought what’s left in me to the surface. It has brought up remaining beliefs and identifications, and unhealed parts of me, and made it very visible to me. It has given me an opportunity for deep healing.

I created it. There is a valuable and real gift in it.

No “dark force” story is needed to explain what happened.

Although if I wanted to include the “dark forces” story, how would it look in this context? It may look like this: If there are “dark forces” at play, the reason they are at play is because they mirror what’s already in me. They mirror unhealed parts of me, and perhaps enhance dynamics already created by these unhealed parts of me. If anything, they are – really – part of the gift.

I should also mention that the content of the story has an impact on our life. And equally much, or perhaps even more so, does the extent we see through it. If we have examined the story, and it has lost much or all of its charge, the story is a much more useful tool for us. We hold it lightly and use it to the extent and in the situations it seems practically useful.

That often takes some work and investigation. For me, what seems most effective is a combination of inquiry (Living Inquiries, The Work) and Vortex Healing, approaching the story and how I hold it from the consciousness and energy sides.

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One type of dark night: From early awakening

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.

 

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A twist that changes what’s happened before

I tend to like stories where the ending changes how we see what happened before.

Two examples from science fiction is Arrival and Star Trek Deep Space Nine Whispers episode.

It’s also what happens through inquiry, when we find more clarity through openings or awakenings, and through any insight in general.

Through more clarity and revelations, we see our own past in a very different light. We interpret and understand it differently.

Here is a simple example from my own life:

Over the last few years, many things have fallen apart and away. It’s easy to think I have been unfortunate, or someone else is to blame, or it’s just what’s part of a dark night of the soul. And there is some truth to all of it.

But what’s more true is that I haven’t been completely on my own team. I haven’t taken care of my own interests as much as I was called to. And the dark night itself happened for the same reason. I stayed in a situation that didn’t feel right at a deep level, and I did so because I wasn’t completely on my own team.

This current insight changes how I see the past. My own past, quite literally, is changed in my own experience.

Here are some general shifts that can come through inquiry and openings or awakenings.

We may go from blame to taking responsibility – for our own actions and perceptions.

We may go from seeing something as wrong to seeing the neutrality or rightness of it.

We may go from seeing it as misfortune to seeing the genuine gifts in it.

We may go from narrow causality (blaming something proximal) to seeing it has infinite causes.

We may go from seeing it in a local perspective to seeing it as an expression of life and perhaps Spirit.

We may go from seeing it as happening to a separate self to happening within and as life or Spirit.

We may go from being focused on goals to seeing life more as the play of life or Spirit.

We may go from wanting something to change to seeing it’s already perfect. (And we can still aim at change although from within this new perspective.)

As someone said (I don’t remember who) awakening is retroactive. It changes how we see our past and all of life.

And as Byron Katie says, forgiveness is what happens when we see that what we thought happened didn’t.

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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.

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Dark night and recognizing what’s surfacing as Spirit

During a dark night of the soul, unprocessed psychological material tends to surface.

I often write that it’s so this material can be seen, felt, loved, and healed. And that’s true enough, if we chose to relate to it that way.

But there is another invitation in this process. And that’s to consciously recognize this material as Spirit.

During the illumination phase, there is typically a recognition of all as Spirit. All is and happens within and as consciousness, love, wisdom, and – if depending on what we wish to call it – God, Buddha Mind, Big Mind, Brahman, or just Spirit.

And for some of us, when unprocessed psychological material surfaces, it may take a intentional noticing of this too as Spirit. In my case, I knew that that too is Spirit. I could see and recognize it if I looked. And yet, it took some time and conscious intention for it to sink in more fully. It was and is an ongoing process.

Unprocessed material does, of course, surface at any time in any of our lives. And there is an invitation to see, feel, love, and find healing for it. When it happens following an opening or initial awakening, there is the added invitation to recognize it as Spirit.

Just to clarify: A dark night of the soul, in a more technical sense, tends to happen following an initial opening or awakening (illumination) and a dark night of the senses.

The initial opening or awakening is a glimpse or recognition of all as Spirit. The dark night of the senses is a withdrawing or seeing through of strong identification as a human being. And the dark night of the soul is a deepening and maturing of both.

The dark night of the soul can take many forms, but it seems that loss is a part of it, as well as this processing of previously unprocessed material. As Evelyn Underhill points out, it’s a deeply human process. And it can be very painful and uncomfortable, depending on how much in us resists it.

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In darkness we are revealed

In darkness we are revealed.

– The Doctor in Extremis, Dr. Who, aired May 2017

This can mean a few different things, and we all find our own meaning. The meaning that means something to us.

Character testing. It can be understood in an ordinary sense. In dark times, we are tested. Our character is revealed. And, as they say, it builds character. For me, this is an invitation for authenticity. For not beating around the bush. For not being dishonest with myself (and also others).

Dark night. I also have to see it in the context of the dark night of the soul. First, there is often a period of illumination, an initial awakening. All is revealed as Spirit and we live within that, buoyed by the initial excitement and revelation. This may last for a short or long time.

Then, there may be a dark night of the soul. What we earlier relied on – the light, guidance, enthusiasm, clarity, esteem, health, intellectual capacity, health, friends, family, money – may be taken away from us. This reveals the darkness in us.

It reveals the “dark” areas of ourselves, the unhealed, unloved, unquestioned. And it comes with an invitation for us to see and feel it, meet it with love (and see it’s already loved), question the beliefs and identities wrapped up in it, and find healing for it.

In this “darkness”, we are also invited to live more deeply the realization that all is Spirit, including that in us, others, and life that our personality and human self don’t like or want. We may have earlier seen that all is Spirit, here it’s put to the test.

In the absence of the obvious light, we are also invited to recognize more deeply that all is emptiness. All is void. Any content of experience happens within and as void.

Dr. Who. In the context of Dr. Who, and knowing that Steven Moffat is the current writer, I assume it means none of these things but something more surprising and appropriate to that universe.

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Adyashanti: One of the most beautiful things about spiritual maturity

One of the most beautiful things about spiritual maturity is that you see the divine in all its guises and you stop arguing about which ones are right.

– Adyashanti, 2017 Mount Madonna Retreat

In a narrow sense, we can take this as Spirit revealing itself to itself as love, wisdom, any and all content of experience, the void everything happens within and as, and so on.

In a slightly wider sense, we see that those expressing awakening realize, notice, and emphasize different aspects of the divine, and use whatever language is available to them through their culture and traditions.

And in an even wider sense, this stopping to arguing which one is right applies to any aspect of life, and is a feature of both spiritual maturity and the ordinary garden variety human maturity.

We get to see that it’s all life playing itself out.

Here are some examples:

Spirit may awaken to itself through some remaining filters of duality, so spirit seems different from (most) content of experience, and the world in general. This is a stepping stone, and with some maturity, we recognize that this is a stepping stone.

Any realization, revelation, and insight is a stepping stone. Awakening continues to open up, clarify, deepen, and find new ways to be expressed through this human life.

Genuine awakenings and revelations may be expressed through a variety of traditions, terminology, and images. Of course, it tends to get mixed up in fantasies and imaginations, and that’s OK too. That’s part of the play.

Any experience is Spirit itself, including those our human self does not like. For me, what I sometimes call the “dark night of the soul” has shown me where I still don’t get this in a more embodied and visceral way.

In short, nothing is wrong. It’s all life living itself out. It’s the play of Spirit. As we continue to realize this, our argument with reality lessens. And life continues to find ways to help us see where we still argue. It’s an ongoing process.

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Taking the lid off

Having a profound awakening can be like taking the lid off of a jar. All the karma that has been repressed, all the karma at the bottom of our misery that we aren’t conscious of, comes flying out because there is finally space in which it can emerge.

When it hits you in the face, you wonder where your freedom went and what went wrong. But understand that this is a consequence of the freedom; it is not a mistake.

Everything wants to come up into and be transformed by the freedom. If you let it come up into this aware space, which is love, it will reharmonize. This space that you are is unconditional love. 

Unconditional means just that: everything is welcome, nothing is cast away or set apart from it.

– Adyashanti from The Impact of Awakening

This is what happened to me after a six months non-dual transcendence/opening some years ago. I have written about it before so won’t go into much detail here. But I do want to say that this process seems to have a few different sides.

Ride it out. One is that it lives its own life, and we have to ride it out. We have to learn to live with it as it is because it often seems we cannot do much about it. I have written about practical ways to learn to ride it out, and these may include spending time in nature, finding support from others who have gone through it, having the right diet for us, rest, bringing attention to the sensations, and more.

Relate to it consciously. Another is that we can – and are invited to – relate to what’s surfacing consciously. To heal our relationship to it, and invite the unprocessed material itself to heal. To learn to meet the pain and fear with kindness. To recognize what’s surfacing as an expression of caring and love at a human level (fear, pain, anger, discomfort etc. are all here to help the human self and is an expression of caring and love), and as Spirit itself. To heal the material itself through any way that works for us.

We are invited to examine the unexamined thoughts and beliefs creating the suffering. To love the unloved. To experience the unexperienced. And it seems that we don’t really have much choice. Anything else is too painful. Although we can certainly drag our feet and prolong the struggle. And that too is perfectly understandable. That too is, in a certain way, an expression of caring and love, although slightly unenlightened and misguided.

Very human process. It’s a very human process. It’s very human material that surfaces to be loved, examined, and experienced. It’s very humbling. It’s very humanizing, especially if we let it be. Through befriending the wounds and traumas surfacing, we become more fully human.

Prerequisite for embodiment. This process, however it happens, is also a prerequisite for embodiment. What we are awakens to itself, and then needs to clear out our human self so it can be more clearly and fully expressed through this life. Our human self needs to realign to this “new” reality, and that involves a great deal of deep healing. We need to heal the wounds of, it seems, lifetimes. We are invited to mature within this process. And we are invited to embody whatever awakening is here.

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Samuel Bercholz: A guided tour of hell

I went to an excellent talk with Samuel Bercholz and Pema Namdol Thaye at the Asian Art Museum earlier today. They are the author and artist of A Guided Tour of Hell: A Graphic Memoir. I can highly recommend the book. (Samuel Bercholz also happens to be the founder of the Shambala publishing company. I must have read hundreds of their books.)

A few things about hell. It’s created by our own mind, and more specifically by our beliefs and identifications. Beliefs and identifications are at odds with reality, and create unease and sometimes suffering. This hell is with us as long as we have these beliefs and identifications, whether in this human life or between incarnations. We create our own hell.

What’s the remedy? It’s partly to heal our very human trauma and wounds. And more to the point, to heal our relationship with our experience. To befriend our experience, independent of it’s content. To find kindness and even love for it. And to recognize our experience as awakeness and even love. And this goes for all of our experience, including other people, the world, ourselves, different parts of ourselves, and our own discomfort, pain, and suffering.

My own experience with hellish states. It’s a good reminder for myself. As I have written about before, I have gone through a difficult few years. Following a nondual opening that lasted a few months, I was plunged into chronic fatigue (CFS) and later PTSD. Adyashanti talks about how an awakening or opening can “take the lid” off anything suppressed or avoided in our mind, and that’s what happened to me. There was no chance of holding it back or pushing it away.

A huge amount of unprocessed material surfaced over the following months and years, and it led to PTSD and several months where I hardly slept and all I could do was walk in the woods in Ski, Norway. (While listening to the audio version of the dark night chapter of Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill and Adyashanti talking about the dark night and other topics.) Fortunately, I had some guidance by someone who had gone through it himself and understood (Barry Snyder) and I also did The Work and found TRE, both of which helped me tremendously.

And still, a great part of this process was something I just had to ride out. Practices and healings helped in taking the edge off some of it, but the vast bulk of it just had to live its own life and was something I had to find a way to live with, even if it often felt indescribably unbearable and overwhelming.

As so many describe, it has gradually tapered off although I still feel I am in it to some extent. I am very grateful for having found Vortex Healing which has been and is a great support for me in the healing and continued awakening process.

Note: As I wrote the section above, I was aware that this is a good example of hellish states but not a good example of how we can work with it. The unprocessed material that surfaces is something I have worked with extensively and continue to work on healing and clearing – mainly through inquiry (Living Inquiries, The Work), TRE, resting with it, and – these days – Vortex Healing. As the intensity has gradually decreased, it’s easier for me to work on it.

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How my dark night started

I have written about this before.  And it’s sometimes helpful to revisit the topic since my perspective on it inevitably changes.

What is a dark night of the soul? A dark night of the soul – in a technical sense – comes after an opening or awakening phase and is life showing us what’s left to see, feel, heal, awaken to, and awaken. It’s a phase, and by no means the end of the process. People typically report several dark nights following a classic dark night of the soul. And the naming is perhaps a bit arbitrary as well.

How my dark night of the soul started. For me, it’s pretty clear how it started. I had an opening at 16 which lasted and clarified for several years. I lived from a clear and strong sense of guidance in smaller and larger life decisions. And when I got married about ten years later, I moved to another state in the US against a strong and clear guidance.

Going against my clear guidance, and continuing to do so for the next several years, was the beginning of the dark night of the soul for me. I know that for others, it’s often different. It seems that dark nights can be triggered by a wide range of circumstances and situations.

For the first few years, I was moved along by the momentum from before I went against my guidance. And then I started feeling more and more off track, and more deeply off track. I lost momentum, passion, engagement, direction, and joy in life. I also lost education and work opportunities and friends, and eventually, I lost my health (CFS crash and PTSD), marriage, house and more. There was an almost complete collapse in all areas of my life.

Now, there is a process of gradually getting back on my feet, and that’s a slow process that has included setbacks and also gifts and serendipities.

The label and phases. I don’t need to call this a dark night of the soul, although it does fit the outline and stages described by – among others – Evelyn Underhill in her book Mysticism. There was an initial opening and awakening and a honeymoon period over several years. (The initial phase included a dark night of the senses.) The dark night of the soul had a gradual onset and deepened over time. The darkest phase so far was 4-6 years ago, and it has gradually lightened.

Why did I go against the inner voice? Why didn’t I follow my guidance after I got married? I don’t know the full answer, but I know some pieces. I had strong beliefs about marriage, inherited from my family and culture, and although I consciously didn’t believe them I did at a deeper and more emotional or energetic level.

I felt I had to support my wife in doing her graduate studies in Wisconsin, and that I had to go with her even if it meant that I left my own education (graduate studies in clinical psychology), my friends and community, and the Zen center where I lived and felt more home than I had anywhere else. I felt that since we were married, I couldn’t ethically live apart from her. It wouldn’t be right. It wouldn’t look right. So I sacrificed following my guidance, and many of the things most important to me in life.

Not following my guidance also meant I became unable to do activities that meant connecting with my inner life in a more contemplative way. For ten years or more, I had a daily meditation and prayer practice (1-3 hours a day on my own, 7-9 hours when I was at the Zen center) and also a daily drawing and painting practice. Almost immediately after moving, I was unable to continue with this. It was too painful since I tapped into my heart, and my heart told me very clearly I had to get out of Wisconsin and back to my previous path.

The simplest way of looking at this is that I went against my guidance and my life went off track and eventually collapsed. That in itself is a sufficient explanation.

Meeting more of the shadow. In the bigger picture, I can also see that the dark night helped me meet and face a great deal in me I previously was unable to connect with. Since the more complete collapse with CFS and PTSD, a great deal of shadow material has surfaced. A lot of it has been from early adulthood (missing out of relationships due to shyness), teenage years (social anxiety, awkwardness, aloneness), and early childhood (left alone in a crib in a dark room, abandonment, aloneness). Some has been from apparently before this life. (Being shown my next incarnation, being asked if I wanted it, and saying “yes” even if a part of me definitely didn’t want to.) And it has also included a deep and overwhelming survival fear (to the point of sleeping maximum 1-2 hours a night for several months), and a consistent and immensely uncomfortable feeling in my heart.

There has also been a strong fear of losing my mind. For months, I felt I lost all anchor points as soon as I closed my eyes and laid down on my bed.

And at a very human level, there has been strong regrets over lost opportunities, and fear about the future (being alone, sick, poor, homeless). Of course, all of this is very human.

The dark night is very human. The initial honey moon phase was a course in being what I am. Whether we call it presence, love, consciousness, or something else. It was a course in finding myself as that which is always here and not human. And the dark night was and is a crash course in being human.

I see there are many gifts in it. And there is also still a lot of regret, fear, anger, and disappointment. And both are OK. Both are part of being a human and living a very human and flawed life, and a life that also is complete as it is.

Taking comfort in the idea of a dark night. For a while, I took some comfort in the dark night idea. I would walk in the forest listening to the audio version of the dark night chapter in Underhill’s book, or Adyashanti talk about the dark night. It gave me a sense that there was a larger meaning to what was happening, and some hope that it would eventually be over. (A bit part of the dark night for me, and others it seems, is a deeply felt conviction that it will never end.)

Now, the dark night is more of a convenient shorthand. It points to something. It can be useful in communication. And at the same time, I don’t know if this is really a dark night as people talk about it (although it fits all the criteria), and it doesn’t matter so much.

What matters is that I recognize what seemed to trigger it (going against my heart, the quiet voice, my knowing, and continuing to do so), and that it has helped me face a great deal of shadow material (there is, of course, much left, and I don’t know and don’t need to know how much). And in facing shadow material, there is also a weakening and softening of many identities and identifications.

Is it “my” dark night? I cringe a bit when I write “my” dark night, since it isn’t really. It’s a good way to phrase it since it seems more ordinary and relatable, and it’s true in the sense that it’s happening to this human self right here. It’s also not so accurate since it’s life being and experiencing all of this. It’s life appearing as a human being. It’s life being and experiencing the opening, the honey moon phase, the dark night, the presence it’s all happening within and as, and this very human life.

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Dark nights and existential terror is rooted in identification and trauma

In my experience, dark nights, existential terror, and even general discomfort is rooted in identification and trauma.

Identification means identifying with the viewpoint of any story, taking it as true, and believing it. And I am using the word trauma in a very broad sense here, meaning what happened when something scared us enough so we created beliefs and identifications to protect ourselves (aka the imagined separate self).

For some of us, it’s easy to either romanticize dark nights and existential terror or see it as something mysterious and intangible that has to run its course and resolve by itself. And while there may be some truth to it having to live out its life, seeing it as rooted in identification and trauma gives us a pointer in how to work with it.

At the root of dark nights and existential terror is identification, and that’s something we can work with in a practical and grounded way. It’s rooted in identification mixed in with all sorts of mild and more serious trauma.

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Bubbles of pain surfacing

At some point in a healing and/or awakening process, it’s as if the lid has been taken off the emotional pain that previously was safely tucked away. That happened for me some years ago, and the pain that surfaced was intense and felt overwhelming for quite a while.

The pain still comes up strongly at times, although there are more calm days and when it surfaces it tends to be less intense.

Today was one of those more painful days, and it was triggered by a situation that in itself was very minor.

I sometimes feel like a little kid when small situations are enough to trigger this deep pain in me. Although it’s also something to be grateful for since it’s surfacing to be met, felt, loved, and gently looked at, and why not have it surface based on a smaller situation. In my case, it often seems to be a disappointment and crushed expectations that are the trigger.

So how to relate to this emotional pain when it feels overwhelming? Here are some ways that are helpful to me:

Talk with a friend who can meet your experience with kindness without buying into the stories.

Sit with a friend who can hold space.  Sit in silence. Allow and feel the physical sensations of the emotional pain.

Eat some protein and nutrient rich food. Drink plenty of water.

Go for a walk. Use the body. Get fresh air. Spend time in nature.

Rest with the physical sensations. Notice if images or words come up, and rest with them if they do. Return to the physical sensations.

Notice any wish for the experience to be different. Find where you feel it in the body, and rest with and allow those sensations.

Identify and write down the painful stories connected to the emotional pain. Take these to inquiry. (The Work.)

Relate to yourself, the parts of you in pain, and the painful sensations, with kindness. Use ho’oponopono, tonglen, or something similar as a support.

Let the painful stories be true for now. Allow and feel the emotions surfacing.

Remind yourself about what’s happening. The pain is old and not about the current situation. The stories come from the pain and have only a very limited validity.

Ride out the pain. It’s a storm passing through. Look at the pain when it has subsided some and it’s easier to feel the sensations and explore the imaginations connected with it. With time, your capacity to do this will grow and you can do it while it’s more intense.

Treat yourself as you would treat a dear friend, child, or animal in pain. Treat yourself with that kindness.

Treat the pain as you would like to be treated when you are in pain. Meet it with presence, kindness, patience, respect.

Sometimes, like today, it’s often a combination of going for a walk, getting fresh air, eating a nutritious meal, talking with a friend, sitting with the feelings and sensations in silence with support of a friend, resting with the sensations on my own, identifying stories for inquiry, and also riding it out some.

It’s a humbling process. Apart from the healing that can come if I meet the pain with presence and patience, there is also a deepening sense of universality about this emotional pain. We are all in the same boat here. We all experience it at some point in our life.

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Awakening & deep, primal and visceral fear

There is a quite common pattern of (a) an opening or awakening, and (b) a deep primal fear happening in connection with each other. Some experience the deep, primal and visceral fear first, and others the opening or awakening first.

For me, there was an initial awakening without the fear, then a second one followed by that primal fear that was more a dread and terror. It was very strong for about nine months and has surfaced now and then – or stayed relatively stable at a lower level – for some years after.

I see it as related to trauma, and a very primal survival fear, and the two go hand in hand and are really the same. Some say it comes up since the imagined self fears for its life. It goes when there is a more clear awakening so it naturally fears for its life. (There isn’t any “it” there to fear for its life, but the mind makes it seem and feel that way through velcro and beliefs.) That may be true enough. The other reason, which makes as much or more sense to me, is that for the human self to deeply heal, that deep primal survival trauma needs to surface and find healing. This allows that part of the human self to realign more consciously with reality, with this new context of all as presence, love, Spirit, or the Divine.

Having this primal fear surfacing has been among the most challenging experiences of my life. It feels like every fiber in me resists it, and yet I know that what’s called for is meeting it in presence, feeling the sensations, and look at the imaginations connected with it. It’s been a long and difficult process for me.

It does feel like something just needs to run its course. Even as I also work with what comes up in a more intentional way.

This primal fear calls for a few different things, and what it is may be different for each of us and at different times in our process. For instance, it may be meeting it with presence, kindness, and patience. Exploring the associated mental images and words. (As mentioned above.) Recognizing it as coming up to protect the imagined self and coming from love. And the presence and love recognizing itself as this fear and trauma, surfacing in that form right now.

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Byproducts of awakening vs its essence

This is something I have been exploring and that many talk about.

There is a difference between the byproducts of an awakening or opening and its essence.

The byproducts can be quite varied. It can be a mix of bliss, love for everyone and everything, a deep gratitude, new abilities such as being able to see auras or do healing, download of information, and inspiration to write or make art. I experienced all of these and more during the initial opening or awakening.

The essence is something we have to find for ourselves and it often clarifies with time. We are invited to use the opening or awakening as a pointer to find its essence, to find what it has revealed that remains through the  shifting states and experiences.

Many or all of the byproducts and experiences associated with an awakening fade and go away with time, and it’s easy for the mind to freak out and think that something essential has been lost. But that’s not the case. It’s the non-essential that has been lost so that the essential can be revealed and recognized more clearly.

And what is it that’s essential. What does the awakening, and the coming and going of its byproducts, point to? What remains through the different states and experiences? What’s still here from the awakening, even when the byproducts are all gone?

For me, it’s a recognition of any state and experience as what everything was revealed as in the initial opening or awakening. As presence, love, Spirit, void, or whatever the mind calls it. That’s really all. It sounds very simple, and it is. And it can be quite difficult to remember and notice when the mind creates temporary identifications and beliefs and stirs itself up.

What supports this recognition is meeting shunned parts of my experience with presence, kindness, and patience. To invite it to heal and align more with reality. These parts were formed in a different context, in a much more painful one, and they still exist within that reality, so meeting them in this way when they come up invites them to heal and realign with the reality discovered through the awakening.

As a mentor of mine once said, the initial awakening was free, and the continued clarification requires work.

I should also mention that there is a dark night connection here. If the mind holds onto the byproducts of the awakening as something essential, it can easily create a dark night for itself when they inevitably go away. The mind can go into despair, struggle, and even depression. That’s why it can be helpful to be aware of this before it happens. And it can also be helpful to practice recognizing the essence of the awakening through different states and experiences while it’s still relatively easy. That may not prevent the despair and struggle that sometimes happens when the byproducts go away, but it can at least provide a pointer and a direction for how to relate to and make use of that transition.

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All as Spirit, and a deeper layer of what needs healing

When I was 16 and had the initial opening or awakening, all was recognized as Spirit and Love. The divine woke up to itself as everything without exception, and as consciousness, love, and the void it all also is. This was quite strong for several years.

At the same time, I knew that there was still a lot of healing needed for my human self and that the remaining unloved and unexamined parts of my human self created a pull for identification. I worked on this as well as I could, but it was difficult to access as deeply as I felt was necessary.

So what happened was a dark night of the soul. And that brought that material up to the surface without much filtering and without much opportunity to hold it back.

There are many ways to talk about this and many angles to approach it from. Each one with it’s own validity and value.

These parts want what I want, which is to be met in presence, kindness, patience, and understanding.

These parts do not yet know all as Spirit and love. They seek to know.

They seek to know their own deeper reality, which is presence, love, and even void.

Said another way, Spirit seeks to know itself as these parts of me. And to know these parts – the trauma, pain, sadness, anger, fear, grief – as presence, love, and void. As the divine and the play of the divine.

This allows for a deeper healing. And it allows for a deeper and more thorough alignment of more of my human self with reality. This is one of the ways an opening or awakening deepens.

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Center for spiritual emergencies

Since the initial awakening in my teens, I have had a dream or vision of a center for people going through spiritual emergencies. It’s definitely needed, although there are plenty of teachers and healers and even centers that can and do help people through these phases of the process.

Here are some thoughts about how it may look:

I wouldn’t promise anything apart from support for people to go through what they are going through. Most of the time, there doesn’t seem to be any quick fixes, and especially not for people going through a dark night of the soul.

It would be interdisciplinary and holistic, with a focus on diet, mindful movement, connection with nature, healing work, and mutual support.

We would work on traumas as needed since traumas are often behind any distress and anything we experience as troubling in life. Spiritual emergencies of different types often trigger traumas, and these are what creates the suffering and struggle.

There would be an emphasis of kindness towards our own experience, along with a gentle exploration of it to see how it’s created and what’s really there (inquiry).

I have no idea if something like this will happen, or – if it does – how. It doesn’t really matter, but I do notice that the dream or vision is there gently in the background. Perhaps it will just take the form of supporting a few individuals through it, as I already have done in a small way, or it could take the form of a center run with a few other people.

Life will squeeze what’s left out of you 

When you squeeze an orange, you’ll always get orange juice to come out. What comes out is what’s inside. The same logic applies to you: when someone squeezes you, puts pressure on you, or says something unflattering or critical, and out of you comes anger, hatred, bitterness, tension, depression, or anxiety, that is what’s inside. If love and joy are what you want to give and receive, change your life by changing what’s inside.

– Wayne W. Dyer

I had a private meeting with Adyashanti a few years ago. It was at his office in San Jose, and early on in the darkest phase of the dark night of the soul. (I have written about the dark night in other posts. It’s been a phase of loss, of old trauma surfacing to be seen, felt, loved, and recognized as presence, and much more, and it’s been very humbling in a painful but good way.)

He said that in the time ahead, life would squeeze out what’s left in me.

What does that mean? To me, it means that life circumstances bump up against remaining fears, identifications, and shoulds in me, and that’s when I feel squeezed. In reality, it’s these identifications that are squeezed since they are in opposition to life as it is. It feels like “I” am squeezed because there is identification with them.

If I allow it, or when I get sufficiently worn out and humbled, then life will squeeze out of me these identifications and what wants things to be different. And until that happens, at the very least I get to see what’s here. I get to be more familiar with it.

It does seem that life sets up situations for me specially designed to squeeze me. What’s happening is that I inevitably live from the parts of me that are still “in the dark” (not seen, felt, loved, recognized as presence), and acting from these sets up situations that in turn highlight or squeeze these parts of me. Also, life is rich and some aspect of life will inevitably hit and squeeze these parts in me. There may be more going on as well, including synchronicities that also squeeze.

Adyashanti was right. I have experienced quite a lot of squeezing over the last few years, including right now. Sometimes, it seems relentless. Sometimes, a bit overwhelming. Sometimes, there is a set of amazing synchronicities setting up the squeeze. Sometimes, it seems that life knows exactly how to squeeze me the most. Sometimes, it seems like grace.

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