Spiritual Growth

The Transformational Journey through The Dark Night of the Soul:

A Perspective on Suffering

by Suzanne E. Harrill

"The "dark night of the soul" is a term that goes back a long time. It is a term used to describe what one could call a collapse of a perceived meaning in life... an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness."
                Eckhart Tolle,   https://www.eckharttolle.com/newsletter/october-2011

I see a lot of people struggling at this time, some reaching the depth of despair and experiencing a dark night of the soul. If you or a loved one is in extreme pain it may be difficult to comprehend the ideas presented, yet at some point you may want another perspective for understanding why your life has drawn such suffering and some ideas for self-healing. Our tendency is to run from pain whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. Pain and suffering exist for all of us, resulting from challenging experiences -- an ill or aging body, the death of a family member or close friend, the loss of a job or financial security and other violations or persistent hurt. It can be a deep spiritual pain, feeling lonely and abandoned by God.  We use defense mechanisms, like denial, addiction to work, being overly active, or misusing drugs and alcohol to numb our pain. Instead of avoiding the situation, you might choose to face the pain in new ways and look for deeper truth for your struggle.

Consider, you are on a journey of self-understanding. It is a transformational journey which we all are on, some consciously and many unconsciously. If faced and experienced, pain and suffering initiate growth with greater awareness, love, acceptance, forgiveness, and compassion. Seen this way our suffering is one step on the journey of awakening to greater and greater degrees of realization and understanding. Would you like to learn to do a better job of meeting your suffering and to grow yourself bigger? Rather than run, consider seeing the psychological significance behind your suffering.

By opening to a deeper level of authenticity with yourself you can find meaning for you. Powerful lessons are available in meeting pain head on and learning how to deal with difficulties openly. Stability builds as you face what scares you and you learn how to heal from past issues and grow in your ability to take better care of yourself and make more honest choices going forward. Let us look further at the dark night of the soul and ask, "How do we undergo its lessons in order to grow and evolve into a better version of ourselves?"

Religious stories, such as the story of Jonah and the whale, Moses delivering his peoples, Buddha suffering before he became enlightened and ancient myths that talk about going into the underworld, portray the dark night of the soul as feeling fearful, alone, abandoned, and disconnected from God. Jungian psychology or depth psychology talk about the hero's journey where one has an unusual occurrence, an accident, illness, or wounding which throw the individual on an inner journey. When one goes through this process the potential is a rebirth into a more integrated individual. This feeling of depression and separation at the darkest point fills the senses with annihilation or desecration accompanied by thoughts of, "I can't do this anymore." "Why me? What did I do to deserve this? How do I escape these feelings?" There is a feeling of being a victim of something "out there" when change is forced upon us through life challenges. These challenges may have started as minor irritations that were stuffed down or probably ignored. Over time the intensity builds up from denying what was happening. When we fail to notice signs asking you to take note, to make different choices to move in new directions in your life, then they add up to a crisis that demands your attention.

I am suggesting that pain and suffering have purpose. If you see yourself on the transformational journey, you may be able to reframe what is happening to you and thus grow and evolve further into your true Self. If you find yourself in a dark night of the soul passage, what can you do to help yourself overcome negative thoughts and emotions? Following is a list of things you can do to move in a healing, whole direction.

  1. Get support. Talk to a friend, therapist, or teacher on a regular basis. Join a group such as a therapy group, 12 Step group, mindfulness group, or support group.
  2. Journal about your negative thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Rewrite faulty beliefs.
  3. Build self-compassion and your self-esteem. Change negative, self-sabotaging, critical self-talk that only values you for what you do or what you look like. Empower yourself by saying affirmations. (There are many free affirmations on my website under articles). Visualize yourself calm, centered, healthy, and accepting of what comes your way in daily experiences. See yourself problem-solving and making wise choices to take you through this passage to where you want to go in your life.
  4. Grieve your losses, even expected losses. Learn about the grieving process.
  5. Get out of your head and into your heart. An open heart is a happy heart.  Learn to always be honest with yourself about what you are feeling. Learn to express how you feel. You may need to learn to express to others, "I feel (blank)," out loud to self and others.
  6. Find guidance. There are many teachings to help you see the dark night is a common human experience and you will get through it. If you are religious you might read, Dark Night of the Soul, by Saint John of the Cross. You may find Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers' TV series or book, The Power of Myth, helpful to understand the hero's journey, which includes going down into the underworld (unconscious). There are many excellent books providing guidance as well. One is, The Wise Heart -- A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology, by Jack Kornfield. Another is, The Untethered Soul, the journey beyond yourself, by Michael A. Singer.
  7. Meditate daily. Begin with 10 minutes of silence. Listen to guided meditations found on YouTube or other sources. Joe Dispenza has a powerful healing meditation to be used for a year, found on his website or at the end of his book, You Are the Placebo.
  8. Practice mindfulness, staying present to what you are experiencing now. Keep catching yourself ruminating about the past or having expectations about the future. Stay in the Now.
  9. Google topics such as consciousness, the shift, awakening, oneness, sacred geometry, sutras and invoking divinity from within.
  10. Earth yourself. Sit or walk barefooted for a half an hour a day to receive healing from Mother Earth.

Why are so many struggling and going through a dark night of the soul? Because people are waking up spiritually. Each can use pain and suffering as a hidden opportunity to grow to a new level of living life. From my perspective, I observe people en masse "waking up," more quickly and at a more unconscious level than I have done through my many long years of steady change, study, growth in consciousness, and transformation. I have had a lot of time to heal wounded parts of myself, change faulty beliefs, open my heart, and grow spiritually to live from a perspective of expanded awareness.

Times are speeded up now and it does not take years to transform. In these times of amazing change and growth there are many teachers coming forward helping to explain the shift in consciousness we are making on our planet. We can help ourselves and the whole of humanity if we know more about this shift in consciousness. As we allow healing and growth into our lives, we greet change with new respect and allow it to flourish rather than resist it. This means we may have to let go of just about everything we thought was true, to invite higher truths in that will make sense out of our challenges. New beliefs need to replace limiting, dualistic (me versus them) thinking with higher spiritual truths.

One example is to feel the heart's intelligence which knows and feels oneness with all life and all people. We know the love and goodness of God within through our hearts. Transforming struggle and suffering requires freeing ourselves from patterns and lifestyles and beliefs no longer serving us. When unhappy, we may have to push ourselves out of the nest and open ourselves to new ideas.

In Conclusion, there is an easier way to move through challenges and therefore suffer less by seeing a larger picture. May you take the next step that is right for you today. Allow your challenges to guide you deeply and more deliberately into both the "light" as well as the "dark" experiences.

 

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