A dark night of the soul is not just melancholy or sadness or even depression. It isn’t a bad day or week or rough time. It is a spiritual transformation. A rebirth. A destruction for creation purposes. It is to be revered and honored and not something to be snapped out of.
That said the phrase has been overused and misunderstood in the spiritual awareness world. I’ve seen it attributed to those struggling with not finding their twin flame, as well as those who suffer with depression. Neither of which is accurate.
If depression is darkness. A dark night of the soul is the darkness within the darkness. Depression lifts but leaves you the same as before. A dark night of the soul transforms you at your core.
depression | dəˈpreSH(ə)n |
1 feelings of severe despondency and dejection: self-doubt creeps in and that swiftly turns to depression.
dark night of the soul
- a period of spiritual desolation suffered by a mystic in which all sense of consolation is removed.
I’ve been in dark places before. I’ve been self-sabotaging, self-defeating, self-doubting, self-destructive and suicidal. My dark night of the soul was darker than any of those – even if I put them together. Whole other level darker. It is a complete erasure of the fabric of faith.
Faith is the infrastructure of our beliefs. The framework or the skeleton upon which the flesh of beliefs cling. They are our laws. When our bones disintegrate there is no form for the flesh to cling to and no leg to stand upon. It is as if free falling, without gravity, without a shred of light, without anything to touch for reference or grounding.
And it is silent.
The comforting voices of spirit no longer available.
For a Mystic this is unbelievably unsettling to say the least. Our faith is the ground we stand on. The floor that catches us when we fall. The clothes we wear and the air we breathe. The idea of it vanishing is incomprehensible and yet that is exactly what happens.
It is spiritual blindness, tantamount to coming in out of the bright beautiful sun, into a dark room. Our eyes open wide searching for any glimmer of light, arms outstretched to gain bearings by finding the edge of a familiar wall, but there is nothing. No-thing-ness is far scarier than any-thing that lay in the darkness.
When you’ve relied upon faith to get you out of prior darkness, then how do you get out of the darkness within the darkness without faith?
I believe it is the ultimate lesson in acceptance. As mystics, faith healers, spiritual advisors etc…we make it a habit to keep our thoughts on point. “High vibrations” that’s what they tell us. Raise your vibrations and you will attract high vibration things. It’s that simple.
Except it isn’t.
What I learned through my dark night of the soul, is that this way of thinking is still ‘thinking’ and we need to move past thinking into feeling. Believing that we can control our lives by raising our vibrations, is still focusing on outcomes as measurement. It is still looking at the present situation as validation of who we are, when in fact we are what we are, regardless of our circumstances.
Attachment to outcome is the enemy. Raising your vibration, holding positive thoughts, doing this, that or the other to manifest things you want in your life, is STILL about attachment to outcome. It is still based in a place of belief that things should be different than they currently are. It is still a shadow of the age old ‘if this happens then I’ll be happy’. If there is no attachment to outcome why does every ‘spiritual life coach’ promote themselves by advertising what they’ve manifested?
What if the lesson of the dark night of the soul is that we are in charge of our experience regardless of what circumstance is showing up? That our beliefs are as fluid as our thoughts and thereby affecting them we effect our situation. Not to change the situation, but change our experience of it.
What if the dark night of the soul is the step necessary to finally understand unconditional acceptance? And what if the dark night of the soul is the moment we graduate to understanding that none of this matters? None of it. It isn’t real. It isn’t a game to be won or lost. It isn’t even ‘something’ to master.
It just is.
It is a blank canvas we can choose to paint on, or not. We can choose bright bold colors, or soft muted ones. We can choose dark brooding colors with broad strokes, or light rainbow colors with feathery brush strokes. Or any combination of the above.
We choose. And we choose not in hopes of soliciting a desired outcome, (though that is what everyone teaches), but in hopes of soliciting a desired experience.
The lesson is that we choose what makes us feel better authentically (not artificially through addiction) in any given circumstance. Does the thought ‘what did I do wrong for this to happen?’ make us feel better or worse than ‘ok, this is here, now what?’
It’s a significant though subtle shift. Neutrality vs apathy. “Ok, this is here. Now what?” (neutrality). “Nothing I do matters.” (apathy).
If we remove our expectation that our vibration will bring about desired results then we are truly at a place of unconditional acceptance. We neither seek to blame ourselves nor congratulate ourselves.
Generalized truth. That is what I call something that remains true on both ends of the spectrum. Most people subscribe to the belief that bad vibes bring about bad experiences and good vibes bring about good experiences.
So, when we talk about like-vibes attracting like vibes, then what do we do when we’ve ‘done everything right’, but everything still goes wrong?
We either a) go back to blaming ourselves and examine what we didn’t do right enough, or we b) realize there is something wrong with our interpretation of the formula.
Going back to generalized truth, it stands to reason then that if the idea that emitting continued low vibrations is not the answer to achieving desired results, then neither would be continuously emitting high vibrations. Right?
If I believe that my vibration brings about like-vibed things (and I do believe that still), and I diligently focus on raising my vibration, then any resulting suffering must be caused by an assumption that I immediately recognize all the different forms ‘high vibrations’ can take. AKA attachment to desired outcome.
If I am certain that I have been embracing nothing but high vibrational thoughts/beliefs, but ‘bad’ things still happen, then it cannot be a generalized truth that my high vibrations bring only desired outcomes. There cannot be a direct line between my vibrations and desired outcomes…but there can be a direct line between my vibrations and my experience of those outcomes. This then would explain why some of the wealthiest people in the world engage in low vibrational activity and thought. And why some of the poorest individuals engage in the highest vibrational activity.
Outcomes are not indicators of vibration.
Indeed. You never see a spiritual life coach speak about manifesting bankruptcy while they are in the midst of it, do you? Yet later, when they are safely ‘past’ it, they will share it as evidence of their struggle and the lessons they have learned to avoid it again. But what if that experience of bankruptcy brought opportunities that were required for the soul’s development? What if having a zero balance in your checking account was exactly what you needed to consider an alternative that never crossed your mind before? What if this particular situation (whatever that situation) is the environment in which to have the experience that busts through any shame you have? Or empowers you with the first hand knowledge that you are in charge of your experience?
Consider that high vibration sound shatters glass.
Just because the result is shattered glass, we do not call it ‘low vibration’.
The dire circumstances that were present at the start of my dark night of the soul remained unchanged on the other side of my dark night of the soul.
The only thing that changed was my attachment to it and my desire for it to be different. “Thinking things should be different than they are is resistance.” My own words coming back to haunt me.
I finally understand the Dali Llama’s words regarding suffering is the result of attachment. When I first heard those words I instantly thought that this practice would remove us from human experience. It does not. Though it does keep us from falling into the emotional tar pits of human experience. If the idea that emitting continued low vibrations is not optimal for a good experience of life, then neither would be continuously emitting high vibrations. Right?
According to Buddhist practice there are three stages or steps. The first is to reduce attachment towards life. The second stage is the elimination of desire and attachment to this samsara. Then in the third stage, self-self-cherishing is eliminated. -Dali Lama XIV
I believe that a dark night of the soul is the tunnel through which you travel from one stage to the next. This would be the easiest way to discern the difference between a state of depression and a dark night.
Reduce attachment towards life
Attachment to life is the attachment to things, people, events etc.. We believe that this life is all there is, we only ‘go round once’, kind of thinking. We believe that what happens to us matters and we have the idea of being a victim of life. When we release our attachment to life, we often land at the place where ‘everything happens for a Reason’.
We come out of that dark night of the soul with renewed faith in something greater than ourselves. We realize that life is an illusion. We are high on our revelation and dive into this new experience with the expectation of wonderful experiences. Even when things do not go according to our plan we understand that there is a Reason behind it. We may even understand that we might never know that Reason, but we have faith that the Reason exists.
We learn that staying high vibe is the best way to manifest positive results. We change our vibration and indeed our experience of life changes for the better. Low vibes bring low vibe experiences. High vibrations bring high vibrations. And we work hard on our deeply rooted issues to obtain the most out of life. We unearth the issues of shame and unworthiness. We believe in our potential and life is good.
The elimination of desire and attachment to this samsara
In Buddhism, samsara is often defined as the endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. The elimination of desire is just that. The realization that doing anything, including raising your vibration, in order to bring about a designated outcome is attachment. The idea that anything need be different than it shows up is attachment. The idea that your job is to figure out how to change your situation in life, by changing yourself – in any way – is attachment.
Understanding the samsara and not getting attached to any one phase of it over another is key. It is as if everything before had us believing that if we ‘did it right’ we could sustain a perpetual phase of birth and avoid death altogether. That is no more accurate or wise than to get locked into thinking that once death has occurred (any kind of death), that there is no occasion of rebirth.
It is a cycle, a circle – or better yet an outward never-ending spiral – not a progressive line graph, with small ‘ups and downs’ that overall lead upward.
Each revolution of the sun and the moon, tell us this, yet we have been blind to its lesson at the deepest level when we believe that by simply raising our vibrations we can stop that cycle phase known as death.
The lesson is that we can weather the cycle of death with no more effort than we do birth. And perhaps it would serve us better to think of it as a cycle of Creation, Destruction and Re-Creation. Our faith, or lack thereof, has no actual bearing on our survival of the cycle.
Self-cherishing is eliminated
It helps me to understand this concept better when I think of ‘self-cherishing’ as ‘self-preservation’.
It is the element of ego-centricity vs soul-centricity that is key here. The ego, the human conscious container and filter built into one for the express purpose to have an experience on Earth.
Ego’s soul purpose is to continue to live. Thus any message it gives us has that as its default position. The fears we have all have that same base…’death to those that do not believe’. It is the not so covert message of all organized religion. It is also the not so covert message of the traditional medical community.
When self-cherishing is eliminated we reveal a state of graceful detachment and unconditional acceptance to all things that show up. It does not mean we cease to experience the emotions of the human vessel. It means that we are not deterred by them. We explore them and notice them and move through them.
Life is seen not as a cycle of highs and lows, like a boat upon the surface of the water subject to the rise and fall of waves, but instead as the water in the tide itself.
It is not our preservation (aka desired outcomes) we strive for, but in compassion we strive for the benefit of all.
In this phase we achieve bodhicitta – the heart of the enlightened mind. We experience this in pain and in joy. It is seen by some as a state of mind, but to others it is the true mind – the essence of consciousness. Compassion for all is the primary motivating factor.
In bodhicitta there is no comparing. There is no judgement. There are no desired outcomes. There are no attachments. There is no disillusionment. There is no jealousy or disappointment. There is no excitement, even. There is just compassion.
The question remains if this is something that a human being can experience on Earth or if it is the state of the after life. Or something else entirely.
Each of these phases will have their own particular kind of dark night marking the transition. Each person will have their own particular experience of that transition. Some, I imagine, can even choose not to transform, but instead loop back and repeat the phase, believing they have transitioned, unaware of the illusion altogether.
I leave this here now, because the dark night of the soul, is an experience that cannot be conveyed in words if you have not been through it. However, words can validate the experience once you’ve had it. So to that end my purpose is complete.
I love you.