Growth is done primarily through incremental change, however, incremental change is not always able to help us when the path to our desired goal has roadblocks. The emotional blocks and limiting beliefs that keep us from actualizing our dreams calls for radical change. And radical change in this scenario looks like a crisis of faith or the dark night of the soul.
Each time I have followed the path down into the darkness I have believed “this time I won’t come out of it.” I can’t tell you what exactly I think is going to happen, but the end of life as I know it seems assured. In order to grow, sometimes you have to break down the constructs of our “truth” completely. New truths, new paths, new choices come to light only after we have been stripped of our beliefs, our “certainty,” and our expectations. A true test of faith, not in some god, but in ourselves. Can we really change? Can we achieve what we say we want? Can we own our greatness and move forward in embodying our power on a deeper level?
The build-up to the breakdown can seem slow and awkward, but when the dark night of the soul is upon us, it feels enormous, life ending, and yet it is actually liberating. Liberating because when we get down that low and feel that bad, we are perfectly willing to let go of things like pride, fear of judgment, and self-consciousness, just to move out of that pain and discomfort. In our disorientation, we drop our egoic safety nets and pull ourselves back up with a wisdom that is only gained through great struggle. The roadblocks are removed, revealing for the first time choices, insights, and perspectives that we simply couldn’t have seen without the breakdown. We have experienced a radical growth spurt similar in many ways to a major seismic event. A rearranging of our thoughts, cells, belief systems, that finally allow us to move forward again on our path.
Every soul has a singular experience on the dark night but there are common landmarks during the journey and I wanted to share with you a few insights that have helped me find my way back to the path.
Release your judgment of your experience (or yourself), it is all Divine.
Everything that is happening is divine, including our own reactions and behavior. There is no darkness or evil that is threatening you, there is only what is necessary to strip away those roadblocks. Our struggle is leading us exactly where we have chosen to go. In order to achieve our dreams, we have to face our limiting beliefs and we have to heal our emotional wounds. That is the purpose of the dark night of the soul. EVERYTHING that we experience in our pain and fear is happening to help us push past our own self-imposed limits. Let the breakdown take you because on the other side of the fear lay your dreams and goals. This process is crumbling your old structure and requiring you to build a new, cleaner, structure that can lead you to those dreams you have been working so hard to achieve.
Resistance is Futile
That feeling you are experiencing? The one where you want to punch something and cry and implode, all at the same time? That is resistance. You will feel better when you let go. And yes, I am very aware that is an easy thing to say and ridiculously hard thing to do. So for now, just breathe. Long, slow, deep breaths. And if you feel it, have that temper tantrum. Yell, cry, stamp your feet, punch that pillow, scream, run really hard and really far. All that energy needs to come out. Every spiritual seeker has temper tantrums. Spirituality isn’t about being peaceful and calm, it is about seeking your own truth. Not mine, not Buddha’s, not Deepak Chopra’s, your own. And being emotional, unreasonable, pissed off, confused, frustrated and disheartened happens, it is completely normal. You are not falling off the path, you are actually expanding into your essential self.
Comparison is Self-Harm
Spirituality is individual, each path unique. It is detrimental and, unfortunately, common human behavior to compare ourselves to others, to want to categorize our path as being just like someone else’s in order to feel legitimate. Let go of the idea that your path is going to look like anyone else’s. It won’t. It may have similar segments, hills, and valleys in familiar places, but comparing it to an idealized version of another spiritual seeker or to someone who isn’t even on a spiritual path is completely unhelpful. Self-judgment through comparison to others is one of the most damaging forms of self-harm. We are all worthy of our love and acceptance right this minute, not once we reach a certain goal, not once we finally quit smoking, but right this minute with all of our vices and perceived flaws. We are beings of the Divine. Comparison is only helpful if it is stretching and expanding you, not if it is a way to catalog all of your shortcomings. That list need never be written again.
Instead of condemning yourself for perceived weakness or failures, send love to your inner child instead. Love is our most powerful weapon and there is no fear that is greater than love. The trick is you have to feed the love at least as much as you feed the fear. So when you want to criticize yourself stop and choose to love that part of yourself instead. If it feels awkward or uncomfortable, it just means you haven’t been filling that love bank account. You have over-drafted with self-criticism checks. Make more love deposits, not less. Just like learning an instrument or riding a bike you have to push through the hard part, just keep going. When you are at your lowest, send yourself love. Sometimes it is the only way out of the weeds and back to the path. If you want to catalog something, make it a list of things you like about yourself, focus on that for a while.
When you are experiencing the dark night of the soul, it is most important to remember that nothing lasts forever. The sun will rise. The darkness will end. Hang in there and, as best you can remember that you are not falling apart, in fact, you are about to leap forward. You are stronger than the night and love is stronger than fear. Pick love and aim it at yourself first.