It has been 16 years since I experienced a so-called 'dark night of the soul'. Not as a result of a spiritual practice, like the 16th century's mystic San Juan who coined the expression, but at the rock bottom of a depression that had been hibernating ever since the domestic madness of my youth came to an end.
During the winter of the new millenium, a depression took me deeper into oblivion then ever before. After 8 months fighting the thickening fog, trying not to fall in the abyss of the growing void and to keep engaged in my work and relationship, I eventually came to understand that my thinking mind was not going to help me; in fact, that it was working against me. My mind was filled with a thick tenacious substance and I was exhausted from trying to find my way out, it just didn't move in any direction.
I was lost. Sitting on an island with a thick glass wall around it, not able to connect or make real contact with anybody, and not knowing how to get off. Not knowing anything at all.
I'd had lingering thoughts about suicide for a long time already, but now at 40, I perceived it as the only way out of this miserable life and I wanted to prepare myself for when the moment was there.
One of those days, laying on the settee in my living room, I started to visualize how I would do it, envisioning the whole process step-by-step; the letters that I wanted to write, what I would do with my cats, the last goodbye's, the last words to my partner, the thoughts of doubt that might come up, every tiny detail. Finally, after 30 or 40 minutes of careful visualization, when I had left everyting and everybody behind, passed the point of no return in my visualization and felt that all attachment, fear and resistance had left me, I became totally calm.. and then something unexpected happened.
Deep inside me something burst open and I felt a fountain of pure, unconditional love coming out of the depths of my self. Being flooded with pure love after having gone through so much pain and despair, I couldn't stop crying and being in awe at the same time.
This is what the dark night of the soul in essence is about; it is the death of the old and rebirth of a new you, with accompanying labor pains. The experience of the void appears to be a call, a call to embody your truest self and to find the fullness in the depths of the void by surrendering to the unknown.
But I didn't know this at the time, not even that I'd undergone a dark night of the soul. In the days and weeks that followed, I discovered that although this all-encompassing love did come from within, somehow it was its own source. I had little to do with it, it seemed, I didn't need to feed it or care for it, just being the vessel where it could come through. I realized that by letting go of all attachments and surrendering totally, I had gone out of my own way and was free and open for this flow of unconditional love that expanded over the next couple of weeks.
I wish I could tell you that I lived happily ever after, but that's not the case. I was pretty much on my own and had no idea how to proceed after this experience, so unfortunately and to my utter frustration, after a few blissful weeks my old ingrained thought patterns got the best of me. However, my heart was broken open, because a flood of forgotten feelings and emotions that I had been dissociated from since my youth, especially anger, came washing over me. I was in a rage. And I was in a mess. Yes, it had been an awakening, but 'after the party comes the laundry'.. it was just the beginning of a long journey.
What brought real lasting change was taking on a course of energy healing and deciding that I was going to take full responsibility for my health. I found out that I could balance and change my energy field through a consistent daily practice, and come to perceive my past, present and future in a new way. The result of that was amazing, physically, mentally and emotionally. Until today, self-inquiry and shadow work help me to learn to bow my head and take of my armour of limiting beliefs, which are all based on fear.
A beautiful side-effect of consistently paying attention to and caring for our inner life, is that we become much more receptive to the inner voice that is guiding us. And as we become more and more honest and authentic, love what we are doing, love who we are with, including ourselves, depression gives way to the joy of an evergrowing feeling of fullness and love.
If you are on the edge of giving up, please, reach out to someone near, a therapist, a mentor, or contact me. I am only one call or one message away.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself
that you have built against it.”