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Mon, April 1, 2013
Dark Night of the Soul... or Night Light to Find Your Way?
I have heard the term “Dark Night of the Soul” in the past; and as many of you, I was quick to assume that this is a term for a form of depression. My mistake!!!
 
In my investigation, I discovered something that has been a part of the human process for as long as there has been consciousness and might be a part of our human experience whether we are aware of it or not. I admit that it took several defining passes to get a handle on why we are collectively confused by this terminology; because it actually has nothing to do with darkness and everything to do with Lightness.
 
A “Dark Night” as it is also called, could be and is often seen as a time when a Soul is without hope, without direction, deep in depression by all appearances - as if bearing a tremendous weight, but actually is quite the opposite.
 
Clearly a Dark Night calls for movement forward without actually “seeing” your path stretched out in front of you. Many experience these times as if they have hit a wall in their spiritual journey. These perceived walls, however, are not necessarily bad just confusing...   It is a time that might appear to feel like a wall is in front of you yes, but in a very good way; if you have the mind to stand still until you can gather the Will to scale that wall in order to peer into the garden on the other side of it.
 
Many times in life the appearances before us are not what they seem on closer inspection. The difficulty is in getting ourselves to a point of mindfulness where we will allow ourselves to venture beyond our usual pattern of thought.until we can change the thought, allow for new thoughts to enter in… and by Marianne Williamson’s definition, along with many sages of our time, you have a miracle.
 
We, as humans, often have the opportunity to reflect deeper on what we have believed or were told to believe our whole lives. What in the world will possibly move us to look more deeply into our beliefs? A life crisis certainly, shaking us to our core, leaving us unable to see our way forward, is one surefire way that the introspective process can be initiated.
 
Have you ever entered a dark room, I mean pitch black where you can’t see your hand in front of your face? There is a moment of hesitation, even a sense of doubt or fear in being so vulnerable, at the mercy of the dark and yet you know you have to find that light switch. You know it is here somewhere, a sense of panic swells … and then, when you do find it…ahhhh that feeling of “oh thank God”…what a relief!!
 
That relief is followed by a sense of elation at being able to see again, the lay of the room, even a sense of accomplishment. That is my interpretation of the dark night of the soul…but how comfortable are we in standing still with our doubt and fear? How do we practice such a skill? How would we become comfortable standing still and waiting?

First I must ask, what else in the world will free us from our pattern of thought that is anchored so deep into our everyday assumptions? Is it our history, our traditions, our need to belong to a community of common thought? Is it our sense of an obligation to continue in that thought, even if it might be completely inaccurate; Even when it may be a far cry from the truth that lay undiscovered within us.
 
And yet, we are not here on this planet to follow thought or belief other than our very own sense of Right and Truth, so what is to be lost or gained by busting free and thinking our own original thoughts? Simply – the evolution of ourselves to our greatest potentials!
 
There is some perceived sense of danger in this concept of “dark” that has been viewed and often diagnosed as depression, but according to Daniel Schrock, author of The Dark Night, there may be a sense that something is different or “wrong”, but experiencing a dark night is unlike depression in many ways. He has observed that in a Dark Night, we may willingly move forward into our experience even though there is a sense of “what’s happening to me?”
 
Depression typically presents itself in this way;
  • You may eat and sleep with difficulty.
  • You may lose effectiveness at work/life and in extreme cases can’t even get out of bed.
  • You become increasingly self absorbed.
  • The focus is increasingly on self so that the quality of one’s relationship with God may not even seem to be important.
  • You may become obsessed with suicide.
Whereas in a Dark Night;
  • You will eat and sleep normally.
  • You continue to function creatively and energetically at work and in life.
  • You have compassion for others.
  • You focus increasingly on God so that the quality of one’s relationship to God becomes the main focus of the experience. (Or you may question your spiritual path in order to open the door to a larger experience with God.)
  • You wish for death in order to be closer to God but won’t attempt suicide.
We will be more exhausted as we work hard to remain the same in our everyday lives, to keep up appearances when our hearts are moving us toward an unknown that somehow feels right but is still uncertain. And throughout, you can continue to function, eat, and sleep normally while craving simplicity and silence.
 
There is Stillness, a quiet within and at the same time a greater enthusiasm for life while our awareness shifts to one of looking forward and into the moment at hand. We may feel broadened by the cultivation of spiritual poverty; an empty vessel, willing to be filled and yet content where we are.
 
I am reminded of a suggestion made by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, author of The Call; where she shares her experience of a time when sitting on the floor in a dance class, at a much needed retreat she was attending. The instructor asks that the participants remain  seated on the floor, listen to the sounds, let the music in and refrain from participating until they hear and feel, inwardly, the music…enough to move them toward the dance.
 
Imagine that! What would that feel like to not move until you actually hear the music, even as those around you are rising up, yet you obviously do not yet feel the music as you resist rushing the knowing and you wait and wait? The challenge is to stay authentic and trust in your own perception of when the moment or the feeling is right to rise up, to listen deeply enough to allow the music to move and animate us.
 
Being in doubt, being still, trusting our own sense of timing and not rushing toward the hoped for outcome… these are all critical elements within the Dark Night. For then we are able and allow ourselves to perceive and experience a greater sense of connection. Is it possible that the so-called Dark Night is in the waiting?  
 
Imagine a Conscious Partnership with the Music of God. Imagine a total surrender of something that has been true in the past. In other words, we must first surrender and “lose it in order to find it”, in our quest for the living God within us.

In so doing, we move out of the perceptions and predictable relationship with our God, in order to find our God anew. After all, isn’t it part of our purpose in life to expand our Self and our own relationship with our very own sense of God? 
 
If viewed and approached as an opportunity, a Dark Night becomes a gift beyond measure.
 
As with grief, it can be our hardest taskmaster and at the same time an offer to explore a deeper aspect of our self, our fears and our resistance. And just as grief can be the greatest teacher and guide to cracking the cosmic egg, to know ourselves further and deeper. A dark night is also a gateway to our deeper aspects and inner soul. If looked upon with awareness, willingness and an open heart it can lead us to our greatest teachings and our Truest Mightiest Self…
 
Now here is the brass ring: when we are courageous enough to go to what may be perceived as our darkest corners of the unknown self and we reach for that light switch…

It is there that we might use the Darkness to allow in more Light by actually calling the Light to us. This then Lights our way to feel more deeply, expand our thoughts willingly and move from belief into Knowing.
 
There, in Knowing, is where the dance is, there is where we meet our sense of God and ourselves both in the world around us and the world within. There, is the Light switch that is easily found, illuminating even in the dark,  Knowing who I am within my very own relationship and definition and There, finally, is where Freedom Is.

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