It has been 15 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, the 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 solutions, it just didn't move in any direction.
I was utterly 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 be prepared when the moment was there.
I started to visualize how I would do it, envisioning the whole process step-by-step; the letters, my cats, the last visits, the last words, what I would feel, where I would park the car, the thoughts that would 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 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. It was such a wonderful sensation and intense joy, to be flooded with pure love after having gone through so much pain and despair, I was crying and laughing 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 came from within, somehow it was its own source. I had little to do with it, it seemed, except for 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.
Although the direct outcome for most people who have undergone a dark night, is blissful and enlightening, before the breakthrough it is a pitch black period that can take up months, even years, of one's life. It depends on the strength of our defenses, if or when we finally are able to surrender.
The collapse of our understanding of life, or the meaning we have given it, and being in a state of not-knowing, seems to be the key to bliss.
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 6 blissful weeks my old ingrained thought patterns got the best of me. However, my heart was broken open, because a flood of 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.
Through meditation I delightfully discovered that I was able to tap into this source of unconditional love. Unfortunately, the feeling of bliss left me as soon I came of my cushion and I got even more irritated and desillusioned with myself and the world around me. Several difficult years followed.
What brought real lasting change was taking on a course of self-healing and deciding that I was going to take full responsibility for my health. To my surprise I found out that we can balance, and change, our energy field, so that we perceive the world around us in a different way, through a consistent daily practice of e.g. reiki and meditation. Step by step, one day at a time. The results were stunning, physically, mentally and emotionally, I had underestimated these ancient practices. Self-inquiry and shadow work helped me to clear barriers out of the way, but this is a lengthy process and I'm still working on that.
I've noticed by myself and others that when we start to do these things, we suddenly become receptive to the inner voice that is guiding us. And as we become more and more 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 .
Now, at this point I'd like to say to you, that if you are on the edge of giving up, please, reach out to someone near, a therapist, a mentor, or, if that fails, 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.”