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Navigating a Dark Night of the Soul

July 12, 2012

“Oh, night that guided me, Oh, night more lovely than the dawn…”

(~from Dark Night of the Soul, St. John of the Cross)

It seems odd to be writing about dark nights of the soul at the height of summer, as the prevailing energy around me is one of vacation, fun, and sunlight. But it’s been a recurring theme with people I’ve been working with lately, so I felt compelled to write about it. As background if you’re not familiar with this term, ‘dark night of the soul’ is the title of a poem written by sixteenth-century mystic St. John of the Cross. The dark night represents the painful periods a soul goes through on its journey to union with God. Although ‘soul’ and ‘God’ aren’t usually part of my spiritual lexicon, this poem and the journey it describes really transcends religious boundaries.

When we talk about a dark night of the soul, we are very specifically talking about a spiritual crises – a crises of faith. Not depression, or grief, or anxiety, or any of the other difficult phases (or disorders in the case of clinical depression or PTSD) that we might experience in our lifetime, although of course sometimes these may trigger a spiritual crises, or visa versa. In a dark night of the soul we feel spiritually disconnected, disillusioned, and cast into doubt about all we previously felt to be true. We may feel as if we’ve been kidding ourselves, or that we’ve been betrayed by the teachings or teachers we once held dear. We may feel unworthy, or simply adrift – often a dark night follows a period of great transformation and awakening, when we felt we had opened to a new level of  understanding and joy. Then suddenly – perhaps triggered by an event but often not – we feel a loss of momentum, an inability to connect with the light or Source in the way we once did.

The first step for working with a dark night of the soul is admitting we are in one. This can often be the hardest part in our feel-good, Prozac-fueled, ‘think positive’ culture, where we are encouraged to view sadness, doubt or any heavier emotion as something to be medicated or overcome through counter-thoughts. And certainly both medication and seeking to change our thoughts have value at times, depending on what we are going through. But in a true spiritual crises, they may only halt the process we are undergoing, causing us to lose a precious opportunity.

Because a dark night is an opportunity, an extremely powerful one. It represents a step in our spiritual maturing – a growing up. At heart, a dark night of the soul represents some loss of projection, the loss of some delusion we once held as truth. Some foundation of our ego has been dashed, and we are at a loss. Sometimes this might be a kind of backlash after a period of great healing, opening, or awakening. Sometimes it creeps up on us slowly, as at some level – not necessarily conscious – we gradually come to realize that whatever spiritual basket we had put our eggs in will not guarantee us a perfect life, free from strife or pain or struggle.

Often it represents disillusionment with whatever spiritual path we have been on. However open and accepting of multiple paths that we may think we are, however much we may say that there are many different paths, and we each walk our own, and there are many different truths, and we respect everyone’s journey as valid etc. etc. (all the cornerstone beliefs of us contemporary progressive spiritual seekers)  it is always our ego’s tendency to grasp onto whatever path we are currently on as THE ONLY TRUTH. Oh we have finally found it! The truth! The one teacher/technique/meditation/philosophy/organization etc. that has it all RIGHT! We are finally in the know! This awakening experience was finally it! There is no turning back!

And there is no turning back, that is for sure. But our psyche is very tricky. Even when on the surface of our mind, at the level of ideas, we are constantly affirming the validity of others’ paths, at some level we can still come to identify with our own as THE ULTIMATE, the one true way. And when this becomes threatened by other’s doubts, or beliefs, or by what we perceive to be our own failings (snapping at our children, silently cursing a slow cashier, cursing the driver who cut us off – how could we? after dissolving into the light?) we lose faith in what seemed so certain. Because we have become subtly attached to our path or what we perceive its fruits to be, we crash when something threatens its validity.

Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa termed this attaching ‘spiritual materialism’ – the trick our ego has of co-opting our spiritual process and understanding. He once wrote, “enlightenment is ego’s ultimate disappointment” – and so of course our ego will resist it all the way. That’s it’s job! The ego is about survival, and in terms of our survival here on earth, it is quite useful. But on our spiritual journey, it is a trickster. And when we hit a dark night, it is a sign that our ego has been crushed in some way – it has not gotten what it wanted. Which if you are interested in truth, is great news, really.

So once you’ve admitted you are in a dark night, the best thing you can do to navigate through is to meet it head on by asking yourself, “Ok, how have I been disappointed? What idea, or belief, or experience, has not met my expectations? What did I think I would get from my spiritual practice, or teachings, or experiences, that I have not gotten? What had I attached to my search without realizing it? What projections had I created? What about me did I think would be ‘fixed’?”

This isn’t easy, and sometimes you need to be gentle with yourself. But if truth is what guides you, what choice do you have? To deny your doubts will only give them more power. By inquiring into them, you may let projections go. Or you may discover that the doubts themselves were part of a habit of mind, and let that go. Either way, you will mature.

Trungpa, known for his intensity, put it slightly differently:

“Whatever shakes you should without delay, right away, be incorporated into the path.”

Because if it shakes you, you are not relying on conditioned mind. You are questioning. You are uncomfortable. You are in process, not static. (And he was master of shaking people up, employing some quite unconventional and controversial methods for doing so! But that’s another topic:-)

Adyashanti is a contemporary spiritual teacher that addresses this quite wonderfully in his End of Your World, which I’ve recommended more than once here. Talking about the enlightenment process, he says:

“We have to be willing to lose our whole world. That may sound romantic when you first hear it—’Oh, yes, let me sign up! I’m willing to lose my whole world.’ But when your whole world starts to crumble, and you start to emerge from unimaginably deep states of denial, it is something altogether different.”

For his part, St. John, with whom we started this post, describes going in and out of these dark nights, emerging each time with a deepened understanding. He sees these periods as a temporary denial of spiritual ecstasies, that in his view are the usual reward for virtuous conduct and devout spiritual practice. Without the reward of these ecstasies, we have to practice for its own sake, without thought of the pleasure it may bring us.  Our practice becomes less self-absorbed, more humble. And it is through this that we grow or ascend.

While this view may seem puritanical, I think it offers another valuable tip for navigating a dark night – practice without hope of reward. Meditate. Inquire. Chant. Study. Do whatever you have been doing, but let go of your expectations about what it will bring you. Don’t go in search of another system, another teaching, another method – at least not right away. In time, it may be that you do need something new, that whatever has led to your doubts is urging you towards change. But often, if we do that too quickly, we just repeat the cycle of honeymoon-projection-disillusionment-dark night with a new veneer.

Blessings to you on your journey! And I’d love to hear bits from your dark nights…I’ll leave you with one last bit from St. John, towards the end of Dark Night of the Soul, when dawn has broken for him:

“I abandoned and forgot myself,

laying my face on my Beloved;

all things ceased;

I went out from myself,

leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.”

P.S. For more great quotes from teachers of all traditions on dark nights of the soul, check out this post I found from SoulPaths.

47 Comments leave one →
  1. July 12, 2012 9:28 pm

    ah, yes, one of my fave topics that I’ve often discussed as well…I’d like to say that dark nights of the soul are often pathologized such that they are called “depression” or even “schizophrenia”…and other psych diagnosis too. I’m not sure it’s helpful to assume we know what exactly a person is facing when they present in spiritual and/or emotional distress.

    I think you hint at this when you say that PTSD or depression might trigger a dark night or vice versa, but I would go further and say emotional/spiritual and sometimes neurological adversity is the heart of a dark night. St. John of the cross didn’t have to contend with the DSM…

    anyway…thanks very much for shedding light on this part of many people’s spiritual journey’s…it’s tough going, but the fruits are many for those called to move through a dark night…in my experience our culture does, indeed, do all it can to halt this process and pathologize it both.

  2. Anonymous permalink
    July 12, 2012 9:30 pm

    I feel like you wrote this for me! I recently realized that I just feel spiritually barren. Just completely spiritually dry. I am not even sure when it first started. I am just going through the motions of my meditation, and my teaching. And I’m realizing after reading this that the fact I teach meditation is complicating facing this for me, as there is a part of me feeling like I must be a failure. Perhaps you can share if this has happened for you?
    What I am not sure about though, is whether my own phase is really a dark night in the way you are describing here – a loss of some kind of projection, or if it’s just a natural part of a cycle. Don’t you think we just go in and out of various cycles? It isn’t all ‘up’ phases? So I’m not sure if I need to inquire or ‘do’ anything or not…

  3. July 12, 2012 9:39 pm

    Hi giannakali, I’m glad you commented, because with your background and knowledge, you are one of the few people I know qualified to comment on the ‘pathologization of dark nights’ – I am reluctant to go that far, because I do know so many people that feel they have benefited from traditional psychiatric treatments, and it’s not my field. But I’m glad you said so, as it will at least lead people that may be thinking that way themselves to clickthrough to your blog and explore more views and treatment options.

    I decided for myself to keep to a pretty narrow definition of ‘dark night’ in this post, as the loss of some sort of projection – the way St. John, Adyashanti and Trungpa all work with it. I think there’s actually lots of different kinds of spiritual crises, but here I wanted to talk about that which is caused by some attachment we have to some aspect of our path – something our ego thought it would get out of the spiritual journey, or some way it thought it would be rewarded – an expectation that was crushed.

    Whatever causes it, I know for me, these phases, once I’ve owned them, truly have always ‘matured’ me. And when I say ‘matured’ I mean in the way a plant growing towards the sun matures…

  4. July 12, 2012 9:40 pm

    Thank you for connecting on my Dark Nights page, and leaving your link to this rich post (and linking to mine!). YES….you’re speaking to all I am experiencing and learning. Echoes from the Via Negativa described in Original Blessing…emptying, allowing the pain, loss and grief to be what they are…and to be in process. Allowing our hearts to be broken…open.
    Thank you for this sharing!

  5. durga permalink
    July 12, 2012 9:46 pm

    Ok…interesting to ponder yet again…

    I’m not sure I see the absolute correlation between disappointment or the ego not being fed leading to a dark night of the soul…

    Maybe experiencing a dark night of the soul is indicative of too much reliance on the ego…but not the necessarily the reverse.

    just my musings…

  6. July 12, 2012 9:50 pm

    Hi Anon, great questions. First off, I definitely can relate to what you are saying about feeling like a failure, or in my case I sometimes felt like a fake, when I was teaching meditation but myself going through a phase of feeling spiritually disconnected. For myself, I have always tried to share parts of my path, including doubts and challenges I have had, when teaching, but it’s sometimes difficult to know when that’s appropriate. After all, there are many benefits of meditation, and when teaching a beginning group, I view it as part of my ‘job’ to help motivate and encourage them. So sharing my own dark night doesn’t exactly help with that! So in those situations, I remind myself of the many wonderful things meditation has brought into my life, including improved health, sleep, and the fundamentals like that. With longer term students that are engaged with meditation as a core component of their own spiritual process, I have shared more, but still, I am mindful of what I think to be my ‘job’ of encouraging them, while still being honest. It’s sometimes a fine line – not setting ourselves up as some perfect projection of constant happiness (because then we can just become part of someone else’s delusion, which often happens) and yet also not discouraging anyone by sharing our own doubts. In the end, I think we each need mentors or teachers or peers that we ourselves can turn to to share our issues with, when we are having them. This is very important for ever teacher, I think.

    As for your question about cycles, yes I do think we go through natural cycles. But usually for myself, there comes a point when it just comes to me that I am not just in a cycle, that I am more disconnected than that, that there is something more going on with me – something unexamined. And sometimes that may be an ‘energetic’ problem – something I didn’t address here – something going on with my energy field that I need to take care of in some way. But other times, it is a true ‘dark night’ as I am defining it in this post – something I need to face. Only you can know that for yourself. But if you are drawn to this post, that may be your answer.

  7. July 12, 2012 9:52 pm

    Phila, thank you for your wonderful collection of quotes from so many different sources. I hope lots of people clickthough as they are a teaching in themselves…

  8. July 12, 2012 10:00 pm

    Hi Durga, I don’t think disappointment or the ego not being fed always leads to a dark night of the soul as I’m defining it in this post (really just borrowing other’s definitions), but it can. The main thing it represents in this context is a loss of a projection or expectation related to what the spiritual process will bring. There’s an internal fight of some type going on, and the emotional byproduct is the spiritual disconnected feeling associated with a dark night. It’s not event-driven, in fact often it comes on quite slowly, although the recognition of it might be sudden.

  9. durga permalink
    July 12, 2012 10:06 pm

    Thanks Lisa…so we’re back to “not being attached to the outcome…” 🙂

  10. July 12, 2012 10:07 pm

    Another wonderful post, Lisa! Thanks for writing it and for posting the link to the Dark Nights quote. Oh, yes. Very, very dark nights, and even dark years. But transformation is only possible from dross, form from chaos.

  11. July 13, 2012 12:53 am

    I love how the universe works… bringing me here today (when I have not been in so very long). This topic strikes such a chord with me right now. I am at a total disconnect. I do yoga almost daily…I place my palms to the sky, open my heart and feel nothing. What happened to my faith in something bigger? I wonder about this so often now. Although there are lot’s of wonderful people in my life and I feel like my career is finally taking off…there is a part of me that is so empty and struggling to connect with the divine. And I cannot. Even when I pray…I feel completely alone. I am not a philosopher and know none of the people you speak of here. Yet, I know I am in a dark night of the soul…and I hope that I will find the light soon.

  12. July 13, 2012 1:08 am

    Have been there, as you know from reading my soon-to-be-published personal story in CHAKRA SECRETS. Wish I had read this post years ago, when I needed to be scraped off the road, disillusioned with the ecstasy I had felt with my guru. It’s always so much easier to look back once you’ve returned from the abyss. I’ve given up my need to have a guru, but still look to teachers an/or inspirational teachings to guide me through gray nights, to help me overcome disappointments both with myself and my path. Show me a person whose faith has never wavered – I’d like to meet such a powerful force. I hope everyone who has commented above finds the light, the feeling of connection to source.
    Thank you for your wonderful writing.
    Becca Chopra, author of The Chakra Diaries

  13. July 13, 2012 2:14 am

    Thank you for this blog post. I live with post traumatic stress disorder and the suffering has brought on a few dark nights of the soul during my life. Meditation and spiritual practice have been really important elements during my healing process. At present, I am dealing with a dark night of the soul where spiritual practice doesn’t help much to alleviate it. I have found personally that keeping up your present practice, staying as engaged with life as you feel that you can, and being open to things that cross your path do help. The ego loves to think that it is in control of things when really it truly is not. A dark night chips away at the ego’s hold.

  14. July 13, 2012 3:00 am

    Great post… I’ve been discussing this in some way or another with my husband at length lately. The one thing I thought would be “fixed” is how judgmental I am. I thought spirituality naturally brought acceptance with it and for a time I felt like it had- very much so. But lately I feel almost more judgmental about things that bother me about others. I have come to know after some time in this existence that everything is a process and we actually always are in that constant state of flux we often talk about but always seem to forget.

    Lately I am disillusioned in my connection to others. I am having a hard time connecting to people who are very ________ (fill in the blank with any organized religion) and judge others for not believing what they believe. I am a very opinionated person but I don’t try to shove it down anyone’s throat nor say you HAVE to this or you HAVE to that. Because no one has to. So, I am kind of floating in a sea of “wtf” and “what comes next”.

    Thank you for writing this. It’s given me much to think about. ❤

  15. July 13, 2012 3:55 am

    Durga – yes basically! But I think there are a lot of levels to ‘not being attached to outcome.’ At a certain point, it’s about not being attached to certain internal states, to bliss, to ideas, even to entire perceptual frameworks.

    Cate – sounds like you really went through it! I hope things are smoother from here on out. I do think there are different kinds of dark nights, so I hope yours are gentler from here on out:-)

  16. July 13, 2012 4:03 am

    Caroline, I hope you do too. And thanks for sharing how you are feeling – you are a perfect example of how a dark night of the soul isn’t necessarily tied to a dark patch in the rest of our life – it sounds like your ‘external’ life is going wonderfully. But there is an emptiness. Perhaps you are being called to go deeper, and when you are ready you will. You are always so willing to be honest – that counts for everything in a dark night, I think.

    Becca – yes, I thought of your guru story in Chakra Secrets when writing this. And yet it is a perfect example of how complex things are, because you learned so much from him also. It wasn’t a simple black and white case of right and wrong – at least as you presented it in the book. In a way, the real learning was in the aftermath, and I think this is often so true in situations like that – discovering the projections we had shows us the barriers we have put between ourselves and enlightenment, so in a way, when they are crushed, it is a gift, however painful it is at the time.

  17. July 13, 2012 4:23 am

    OneBraveSurvivorHealing – thanks for sharing. I think dealing with PTSD adds such another level to this, because you have core biophysical responses to things that can be very challenging. Sorting through the physical, emotional, and spiritual can be complex. But I’m glad to hear that maintaining some of your practices does have value. I do think that can help see someone through to the other side. I hope it does for you.

    Pema – yes, judgement is a tough one. Especially if we see others engaging in views and actions that clearly divide and/or harm others – which is pretty much the state of our political and religious climate these days! When preparing to write this I came across another passage from Trungpa that speaks to this:

    “Are the great spiritual teachings really advocating that we fight evil because we are on the side of light, the side of peace? Are they telling us to fight against that other ‘undesirable’ side, the bad and the black? That is a big question. If there is wisdom in the sacred teachings, there should not be any war. As long as a person is involved with warfare, trying to defend or attack, then his action is not sacred; it is mundane, dualistic, a battlefield situation.”

    It is hard not to be in the battlefield inside our mind, and yet still hold an opinion. There is sometimes a sense in some spiritual teachings that we should not hold a stance, an opinion, on anything – that somehow being peaceful means being neutral (then of course in other teachings its ALL about being on the ‘right’ side!) But I don’t think this is true. I think we can have a view, and act on it, but without the kind of emotional ego attachment, the tribal identification, that the ego defaults to – that’s the warfare, what makes it turn into ‘us’ and ‘them’. But it’s not easy. We really have to unearth all of our own patterns, insecurities, and views to not get trapped in them, to not get triggered…

  18. Tango Heart permalink
    July 13, 2012 4:57 am

    I am grateful to see someone talking about this. It happened to me 2 years ago. Everything I thought I knew about life, natural healing, God-Source and spirituality came crashing down on me. Prior to this, I enjoyed years of magical living (bolstered by a dedicated meditation practice and a fulfilling career in the healing arts.) In 2010, all my knowledge and training failed me. I became pregnant (on purpose). But my joy soon eroded into a living nightmare when I became ill with a rare, genetic pregnancy disease called “hyperemesis gravidarum.” I nearly starved to death and almost lost my livelihood and life. I lost my unborn twins too.

    Well-meaning healers and so-called “spiritual” friends told me the disease was all in my head: In other words, I was somehow causing it by fear or a negative attitude. Deep hypnosis sessions revealed otherwise: My subconscious mind announced that this was inherited from my mother, which I later confirmed to be 100% true, and it wasn’t “fixable” in the way that most people commonly understand. As it turns out, nothing was able to help me. Western medicine was useless and every type of holistic remedy utterly failed. I tried spiritual modalities, prayers, you name it. I was circling the drain of death and there was no spiritual ideology or healing technique that could save me.

    I looked at this potential death and was shaken by the fragility of my own mortality as well as the dispensable helplessness of my physical body. The body could not be trusted! Life could not be trusted! Notions of God could not be trusted! I lost all faith and hope. And for a long time I deeply grieved this perceived loss of “God” along with the loss of my children. I was forced to re-evaluate all my accumulated beliefs. And I was challenged to discard remaining judgement I had towards myself and others in regards to suffering. As a healer, I also had to dump any favorable biases I had towards natural healing in general. I gained a new understanding and respect for karma of the physical body. New-agey friends laugh at me and try to tell me karma can be “prayed” away or magically removed. I do think that meditation can alter karmic outcomes. Yet, I now know that some types of karma have to be endured. And it may not be in our best interest to simply have it “removed.” This could rob us of our opportunity to awaken.

    I still practice meditation. But I do it without hope for positive results, healing or reward. As a healer I now have far more empathy and compassion than ever before. I never assume I know the nature of anyone’s suffering. I simply let their bodies speak for themselves and I don’t see the mind as a separate entity from the karmic body. Notions of “mind-over-body” were reversed for me. I have come to see mind and body as a two way street with no separation. The body also affects the mind. And I have angered a few metaphysical friends and teachers with this statement. They actually get mad and argumentative towards me when they hear it. I still deeply doubt and question the nature of God-Source. And the only thing I believe in anymore is unconditional Love. This can only be generated and poured forth from the self. There is no person or God that can ever supply it. We are the one’s responsible. Thanks for reading my post dark-night-of-the-soul rant. It’s been a rough 2 years.

  19. July 13, 2012 5:27 am

    Oh Tango Heart, my heart breaks for your suffering! But I am so glad you shared your story, because there is so much wisdom here – this is a remarkable post in itself. So many things resonated for me. Your experience with fellow healers in particular and with the very dangerous tendency common right now to believe everything is the result of thoughts, or negative beliefs, or whatever. Everyone wants to believe they can explain the ’cause’ of suffering because they are desperate to believe they can keep it away from themselves – that they know the secret to avoiding illness or pain. It’s so difficult to face our true vulnerability, the true unpredictably, the chaos of life – and to accept that we are not in control of everything. And as you say, even if we could, should we? Or does it ‘rob us of our opportunity to awaken?’ I also relate to your two-way street when it comes to body and mind, and to no longer thinking in terms of an ‘external’ God-Source. These are ways of talking I think – ‘mind and body’ as separate, ‘Source’ as a thing separate from us – language almost forces it upon us, but talking this way is just a tool. I try to separate the tools from the idea of an ultimate truth. In different situations different tools, different ideas, different beliefs might serve us well, but that’s not the same thing as saying they are ‘truth’ in the ultimate sense. I think of this as upaya, or ‘skillful means’ in Buddhism, which I think you are familiar with…Anyway, thanks for sharing.

    And thanks to all of you for sharing such real moments from your path. You never know who may read your comment and say “that’s EXACTLY how I have been feeling”, and know that they are not alone. Sometimes, that makes all the difference.

  20. July 14, 2012 3:55 am

    Thanks, Lisa, for the wonderful post. It helps so much to know you are not the only one who has “dark nights of the soul” where you question every belief and every thought you ever had about how life works. I’ve been there not once but several times and have emerged stronger and more aware. These times have been painful and difficult but I like the perspective you put on it that it is these times that push us to the next level of where we are going. Just recognize that you are in it and allow it to be OK and the lack of resistance will help you move through it more quickly. And I think that’s what we all want–to get it overwith.

    Blessings and light to those reading this who are experiencing one of these dark nights now. Just know “This too shall pass….”

    In love and light,

  21. July 14, 2012 7:09 pm

    For me, at least, it always seems that these “dark nights” come out of disappointments. It’s when I have done everything “right”…I listened to my intuition, looked for the signs, meditated, talked with the goddess…and it seemed like “all systems are go”…but then Wham! I get slammed unexpectedly. It very often triggers a depression for me, because it’s like the very foundations of my beliefs are shattered. It’s like I am wounded to my core…to the very core of my being.

    Recently, I went through such a period, and the resulting wisdom that presented itself was that I has this unconscious expectation that “If I do everything right, then life will be easy.” Of course, this isn’t true. There are always challenges in life, always difficulty. Faith helps us navigate difficult rapids, it doesn’t remove them from the river.

  22. July 14, 2012 8:30 pm

    Melinda – yes, I think your statement ‘allow it to be OK’ is so key…thanks for the heart behind your comment.

    Jay, yes I know – the idea that we will somehow be rewarded for ‘good’ behavior is so ingrained, that we bring it to our spiritual practice also, often without realizing it. From a young age we are conditioned around this – we are rewarded for ‘good’ behavior, and disciplined for ‘bad’ behavior. And of course the traditional organized religions reinforce that – we are rewarded with heaven or punished with hell, and even in Eastern religions the idea of karma gets obscured into a reward and punishment system in many teachings (not my view of karma, as you know!) So I think we end up bringing it to our spirituality, even when we think we have left those other thought structures behind. And much of the law of attraction and positive thinking teachings that are emphasized right now fall into this way of thinking too – that somehow if we just are positive enough, or compassionate enough, or empowered enough, or whatever, nothing challenging will ever befall us again. But it doesn’t work that way. All of those things can bring us much increased happiness, and healing, and beautiful experiences, but they don’t remove all challenge. As you said, these things help us navigate the rapids, but doesn’t remove them.

  23. JustAnotherMom permalink
    July 15, 2012 11:50 am

    Hi, I have been reading your blog for a while…It is exactly what I needed at this point in my life…I am a mother of two children (6 and 3) and, after going through desperate moments due to my kids illnesses, I began a what one could call a spiritual journey (a few years ago). I needed to find peace. And your blog is helping. A lot. The dark night of the soul article is exactly what I needed right now, because I am going through that. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Blessings and love to everybody!

  24. July 15, 2012 5:45 pm

    Thank you Lisa for this timely piece written straight from the heart. I shared it with two people who really need to hear it now. It is definitely a pivitol time in our collective soul growth, we are all in that dark night of the soul. Even though we may have personally done it earlier, it seems we are doing it as a collective now.

    Glad to see you writing now and then.

    Love to you and yours.

  25. July 15, 2012 7:42 pm

    JustAnotherMom – thank you for commenting. Blogging is one of those things where you don’t always know if what you are writing is impacting anyone. Sometimes the internet just feels full of a lot of ‘noise’ and I don’t want to just add to that! Although over time I have learned to listen when I feel called to write something, because it seems like those kinds of posts always resonate with someone – that there is a group connection going on that calls it into being, and I am just the conduit. This one had been on my mind for awhile, and I actually fought writing it a bit. It was my own little journey. So it makes me very happy to read that it is resonating for some. Sometimes just knowing that others have gone through what you are can help a lot. Blessings to you as you navigate through!

    Miruh – I hadn’t even thought of that – the idea of a collective dark night. And yet it does fit, even when personally it doesn’t feel like I’m in one. It fits with the idea of the Kali yuga and 2012, and all the various theories popular right now for describing the shift we all feel we are in. It is a collective sense of not being able to rely on old models and belief systems, etc. And some are fighting for those old systems hard, and others are fighting to replace them with their own version, and others are just feeling like the rug has been pulled out from under them and are not yet sure where to turn…

  26. July 16, 2012 7:24 pm

    Serendipity! Was searching for the context — the talk or writings — in which Chogyam Trungpa said, “Enlightenment is the ego’s ultimate disappointment.” The quote was shared today on Facebook by “Enlightenment Community.” Happy to have landed here, to discover this meeting place, and this rich contribution on the subject of Dark Night. Thank you!

  27. July 19, 2012 1:07 am

    He’s very quotable. Here’s another favorite:
    “The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute. The good news is there’s no ground.”

  28. durga permalink
    July 19, 2012 1:18 am

    great quote…going on FB…

  29. JustAnotherMom permalink
    July 19, 2012 1:16 pm

    One of my closest friends is going through a dark night…She just lost a child, after 2 years struggling with his cancer…I keep thinking what would an enlightened mother do in such circumstances? I wander if she would say, like that monk I once read about : Oh I knew he (my son) was not immortal…How can a mother survive this and not lose her mind?Maybe the key is accepting the suffering, the loss, the emptiness left behind that volatile human being…Maybe all mothers should work at not becoming too attached to their children, to the people around them, for all of them will dissapear at one point…Do you think that the maternal instinct, or any human instinct for that matter, gets in the way of our spiritual evolution? How can we reconcile our human with our divine nature? What would you do if you, God forbid, lost your child? Thank you so, so much.
    P.S. Please excuse my English, it is not my native language, I actually live in Romania. We do not have a lot of spiritual books, ashrams, meditation teachers, etc., here, so I am thrilled whenever I find an inspirational blog such as this. Sorry for being a bit off topic, but this was bothering me and I didnt know how else to ask you.

  30. July 19, 2012 8:25 pm

    Hi! I’m just letting you know that I’ve nominated you for a Lovely Blog Award that’s going around wordpress website right now 🙂

  31. July 20, 2012 2:24 am

    Thank you Transition2balance, I don’t participate in a lot of those anymore, but I so appreciate your nomination.

  32. July 20, 2012 2:31 am

    JustAnotherMom, I’m so sorry for your friend’s loss. Yes, it’s hard to imagine anything much worse than losing a child. It really is like losing a part of you, and also feels so unjust. I can’t imagine it not sending someone into a dark night. I don’t think I can answer your questions really, these are the kinds of things that we each need to puzzle through for ourselves, because they are at the heart of our journey. But I will say that for myself I would say no, I do not think the answer is in not being as attached to our children, but perhaps not being attached to them exclusively is another way of putting it. We can become very ‘tribal’ when we become parents, worried most about the well-being of our own offspring only, so that it actually makes our world smaller instead of larger – there’s such an opportunity for it to open our hearts to the world. I have seen both happen, and have felt both instincts in myself also.

    I don’t think there is any shortcut through suffering through a loss like that, and I wouldn’t want to hold on to any belief system that asked me to detach. I do think it’s possible to feel the loss and suffering intensely, and to still know at another level (like the monk in your story) that none of us are immortal. I think living at both levels is part of what it means to me to be a spiritually aware human. It doesn’t mean cutting ourself off from human attachment and emotion, but it means that at the same time when we are in something – good or bad – we also realize the transience of it.

  33. July 23, 2012 5:25 pm

    I just found your blog site: beautiful and bountiful. Thank you.
    I invite you to take a look at mine and my new book: Star Child which speaks both to the dark night of the soul and the return to self. Namaste

  34. September 10, 2012 1:20 am

    It was very timely that I received your update with a link to this particular blog post. I’ve been experiencing what could be called A Dark Night of the Soul, and this post is a very helpful read bringing about a deeper understanding of the exact emotions and what I can do about them. Thank you.

  35. September 10, 2012 7:42 pm

    Serafina, I’m glad this resonated for you, and good luck ‘navigating’. It can be tough, but ultimately fulfilling, as I’m sure you know. Xo – Lisa

  36. sacredinspirations permalink
    September 16, 2012 4:56 pm

    Thank you for the wonderful article on St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul. I’ve studied Carl Jung’s work on this subject, and experienced my own “Dark Night”. I love the line you said “without reward of these ecstasies, we have to practice for its own sake, without the thought of pleasure it may bring us”. I feel this is the “Key” to advanced spiritual growth. Another great poem by St. John, “Canticle of the Soul”, has been on my list of articles to write for my new blog.. The amazing journey it takes to finally reach union with Universal Consciousness/God. Hopefully, I will get to it soon enough, among other subjects. As time allows, I hope to be visiting your blog again soon. By the way, thanks for visiting my new blog the other day…. 🙂

  37. September 17, 2012 12:05 am

    I would love to read your post on Canticle of the Soul, I hope you get to it someday. Although I know how it can be to have many articles on your list to get to:-) And thanks for your visit also. Namaste- Lisa

  38. September 18, 2012 7:02 pm

    Some great posts here!

  39. September 19, 2012 8:07 pm

    Thanks for visiting Julianna.

  40. February 9, 2014 9:46 am

    ive been in this dark night process since sept 2012. its been hell on earth and i get through it. since then ive lost my girlfriend, car, house, friends, religion, most of my belongings, 2 guitars, laptop, etc.

    it has been very annoying and i wish i wouldve died, but no. its obvious im not going too die. its extremely difficult having no purpose other than to suffer for 3 decades straight. i sit in my mom’s house and do nothing. i have no resources. so i will keep suffering through this extremely annoying process. i have to isolate alot of the time or my ego will hurt people on purpose in revenge towards god allowing my child molestation. god is a sick pervert. be blessed though!

  41. February 11, 2014 5:22 am

    Hi Justin, I am so sorry for your pain. I do want to distinguish between a dark night though, and suffering of the type you have been through. I certainly did not mean to imply that the kind of suffering you have experienced is some kind of spiritual plan or process, or that it is a necessary part of growing spiritually. I do not believe that at all. It sounds like you have been through many horrific experiences. I urge you to seek and receive some support to help you work through the feelings this suffering has left you with. You deserve happiness. I have worked with many abuse survivors and it is possible – difficult but possible. I wish this for you. Please take care. – Lisa

  42. December 28, 2016 12:14 pm

    Hi there, I’m very late to this post but I wanted to say how much it has helped me to read it. I resonate with everything written here because I’ve been experiencing what seems to be a particularly intense dark night of the soul for a few months. I’ve had episodes of spiritual doubt on and off for many years despite having committed my life to a spiritual path. I’ve had to reconsider many beliefs during this time, especially the more spiritual ones! Despite this, until a few months ago I felt strong in my spiritual faith. Since about June I’ve felt completely disconnected, I’m not depressed as such (I have experienced depression in the past so I know this isn’t it) but I feel as if all meaning has been stripped away. I don’t trust my mind any more, I feel as if everything ever said or written is simply another belief/perception and not the truth. I don’t know what the truth is and have even started to take on an atheist standpoint because I don’t trust my experiences anymore. I have a sense that deep down I felt spirituality would ease my suffering (I have led a painful life) and give life meaning. I still want it to do that and can’t bear the thought that life is just empty of meaning. I used to meditate and pray but now all that seems pointless because they don’t change or do anything. People still get sick, die, depressed etc regardless of what we do.I guess I feel quite disillusioned.

    I have been struggling with all this not really understanding what I’m feeling but your post resonates on a deep level. I do think I’m grappling with my view of the world and what I expected my faith to do for me. I like the questions you have suggested and I have written them down in my journal to ponder and explore.

    Thank you so much.

  43. January 2, 2017 10:33 pm

    Brighteyes, thank you for sharing your experience, and may your questing bring you to new insight and wisdom in 2017. The world needs more deep seekers…

  44. January 2, 2017 10:33 pm

    Brighteyes, thank you for sharing your experience, and may your questing bring you to new insight and wisdom in 2017. The world needs more deep seekers.


  1. The Dark Night and A New Beautiful Morning « FreeYourMind
  2. Fall 2012 Teleseminar Schedule – Healing Trauma, Feminine Empowerment, and Ancient Egypt! « Mommy Mystic
  3. Resources for Surviving a Dark Night of the Soul – Jessica Davidson

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