Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Dark Night of the Soul

The Dark Night of the Soul is a phrase used to describe a period of time where it feels like you have lost your connection to light.  While often used to refer to a spiritual crisis where one feels like they have lost their connection to the divine, it can also be a more general period in one's life where things feel hopeless or unbearable.

Dark Nights may happen multiple times in your life, or you may never experience them.  They may last for short periods or they may stretch on. 

But Dark Nights also often function as a Guardian at the Gates.  They are a final purge of the negative thoughts and emotions we have born before we pass through to a new awareness or inspiration.  You can think of them as a last ditch effort of the 'old you' to keep you from growing.

Even knowing what you are going through, it can be very hard to navigate a Dark Night.  You may find you have no motivation, or it feels like everything you try ends poorly, or that you are all alone.  Each Dark Night is different, and each person faces their Dark Night slightly different.

Always remember that though the Dark Night process might lead you back to the light, if you every feel completely overwhelmed, definitely seek outside help!  Talk to a friend, a loved one or your doctor, especially if you feel any inclination to harm yourself through action or inaction (if you stop feeling motivated to do basic self-care).  Just because a Dark Night is a deeply personal thing, it doesn't mean you can't have allies along the way!

Sometimes, you may feel the need to turn inward.  To really allow yourself to be with the feelings you are going through.  You may feel called to sit in meditation, to spend time alone and dreaming, to journal or create art to express the dark feelings you are having or the need to scream and vent your frustrations.  As you do these things, pay attention to how your feelings change.  Do you feel like you are going deeper into them or are you releasing them?  Take some time and write about how you felt before, how you felt during and how you felt after.

In the depths of a Dark Night, many times the things that used to bring joy and happiness into your life don't seem to shine as brightly.  Even when you are exploring your own darkness, make sure to keep a little light shining.  Take a moment or two, every day, to focus on something beautiful, something that is uplifting or joyful (even if you aren't quite feeling it).  You may look at pictures, listen to a song or smell some flowers.  Think of it as a little reminder of the joys in life.

I often have times where I feel hollow inside, like I am nothing but a shell.  For me, at these times, I really need to nourish and replenish myself.  It is the time that I focus on self-care in a very tender way.  It is almost as though I feel there is something broken inside me and I need to fix it.  I may take long baths, spend more time with personal grooming (like brushing my hair or putting on body lotion) or give myself a foot massage.  I almost always move slower, so I will make sure to take extra time for everything I need to do.

I find nature very soothing when I am distressed.  To me, nature is neutral.  Nature doesn't want something from me, it doesn't judge me, it just IS and this lets me just BE as well.  I don't always have transportation, so sometimes spending time with nature means sitting on my back porch and watching the field behind our apartment.  Sometimes it means laying on the floor and petting my cats.  Sometimes it's going out at night, staring up at the stars and the sky and just breathing.

Breathing is definitely another thing I do.  Getting in touch with my breath is very primal for me.  It is something we can consciously control that is vital to life.  When I focus on and control my breathing, taking slow, deep, deliberate breaths, it is like the first step in taking back control of my life.  In one tiny way I am directing how my life is going.  When I am in a really dark place, this is extra soothing for me.

Crying can also be very cathartic.  I cry often, but not always when I want to.  Sometimes, when I am feeling especially emotionally wrung out, I sort of know I need to cry, but I can't.  I will either turn to music that is especially moving to me, or to videos.  I have a couple videos that are pretty much guaranteed to move me to tears.  No matter how empty I feel inside, some things seem to always touch me.  Shared loss, or sacrifice (especially stories that are heart-wrenching but have a happy ending) really gets to me.

I think one of the worst things about a Dark Night is it makes you feel alone.  You feel like no one could understand that emptiness inside.  Or that no one cares about you.  Or that you just aren't good enough.  Or that the things you do have no meaning.  It is like sitting in the dark, and you can't see that there are other people sitting in the dark with you.  You can't see that other people are battling their own darkness and their own loneliness and their own feelings of inadequacy.

But if you reach out, you can feel them.  If you close your eyes, you can hear them breathing in the darkness with you.  You can feel the heat of their bodies, and smell their skin.  We are never truly alone!

So anytime you are facing your own Dark Night, explore the darkness, search for your light, and battle your Guardian at the Gate...and never forget that you are not alone.

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