Just recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Caroline Myss, and have been really enjoying delving into the concepts of spirituality that she discusses. One of her talks is entitled “Spiritual Madness” and it has deeply resonated with me.
It was 25 years ago, when I was in my teens, that I started on a deeply spiritual path. I had suffered from many traumas in the teens that took me to the brink of suicide at a very young age, and I knew deep down at that time, that I had a choice to continue down a very destructive path, or I could make a choice to find a deeper meaning and context for the story of my life. And so began a journey of self-exploration and spirituality that became an over-riding theme for my life. When someone truly invites spirit into their life, it is from a place of humbleness, from being open to not knowing what direction life will take, but allowing guidance to enter, and for your purpose in life and the discovery of what you are here to do, unfold.
Even though my career is as a naturopath and I have embraced all aspects of health and wellness, my greatest passion and study has been in the realm of spirituality. For me it has been more of a personal journey, than one that I feel necessary to share in public, but the underlying connection to the great mysteries of life is one that themes everything that I do.
About five years ago I commenced what I understand now to be one of the biggest spiritual shifts of my life. I was challenged on all levels and faced one of the most painful and soul-destroying lessons of my life. I entered into a period of utter despair, of poor health, of completely eroded self-esteen, not knowing who I was anymore and having lost sight of what I was here to do. This is known as “The Dark Night of the Soul”, and is a necessary part of awakening to a new depth and meaning in life. The dark night gives us the opportunity of going within, of reaching to the very core of our soul and meeting what is there. It is not a journey for the faint-hearted! In past mysticism, a spiritual enquirer would meet the dark night by withdrawing from society, living in seculusion or in an Ashram for the duration of their journey – but in today’s world, it is not that easy to honour the spiritual path whilst still living a “normal” life.
So for me over the last few years, I did withdraw to a big extent. I focused more on my business, I did isolate myself from people, and talked less about my spiritual beliefs and understandings than I normally would, because I was in confusion and didn’t feel in a place where what I had to say would be coming from a place of clarity. From the outside this dark night looked messy. I was emotional, confused, unable to pull myself together to the level I would have liked, and I lacked the direction and purpose that I was so used to having. I still loved what I was doing, but I felt disconnected and lost at the same time.
What I learnt from this experience is that spiritual enquiry doesn’t have a time-frame. That each person’s journey into themselves will take as long as it needs to take. Looking back now with hindsight, I can see clearly how absolutely necessary the experiences that I had over that time were for my growth and understanding. I can see the perfection, the lessons, the profound teachings and beauty in those years of “spiritual madness”. I am grateful for them and now see the purpose, bringing me to a whole new way of being in this world.
Many think that spirituality is about applying human order to spiritual matters – that if they choose a spiritual path in life, that life will be all neat, tidy and peaceful. That they will live a zen like existence, wear white clothes and talk in a soft and soothing voice. Many have their whole identity wrapped up in appearing “spiritual”, but that is nothing more than ego and a false belief in what spirituality looks like. Normally it is far removed from the truth. True spirituality is chaos. It is messy, and it can cause upheavals that are life-changing.
The dark feelings that can arise during this time, I feel are a necessary part of the process. The rawness brings your soul to the surface, and this is where the greatest insights and awareness can arise. Even though I love, teach and practice the philosphies of “changing your state” through changing the thoughts you think, NLP techniques, gratitude journaling and all the other wonderful tools we have to elevate us into a state of happiness and positivity every day – the belief that ALWAYS being in this state is the optimal way to be, is an ego construct and has nothing to do with spirituality. You will hear many new age teachers talk about how the way we feel is a choice, and we have the power to change that at will. Yet this is a tool for the psychological world, not a tool for the spiritual enquirer. If someone is stuck in negativity on a psychological level, then these tools are going to be of great benefit – but if someone is going through a dark night of the soul, then the purpose of this is much deeper and should be honoured, not bypassed.
The other place where ego can enter, is in the beliefs often found around the Law of Attraction and other “spiritual beginner” philosophies. There is an enormous amount of truth and value in understanding and applying the law of attraction and it does open people up to the power that they hold and in the incredible gifts that are available in this universe. However, we are not omnimpotent, we do not have total control over every aspect of our lives, and to believe that we do is a philosophy that cannot be sustained over the long term during the inevitable ups and downs of life. A more mature understanding takes us into a humble place, a deeper philosophy that encompasses the human potential that we have in the world to influence our reality, but acknowledges that there is also a larger aspect, a spiritual aspect that doesn’t always fit into our desire for our life to be neat and tidy. There is such beauty in letting go and trusting in this aspect – a balance of creating reality where possible, but knowing that ultimately there is a mystery attached to life that we may never quite understand.
I am so grateful to be in a place where I’ve come out of my dark night, and have a life that has taken on a new depth and meaning that is beautiful to be a part of. I believe that the new understandings I have will bring much more to my work, and will enable me to share that connection and the lessons I’ve learnt. Have you ever been through a “dark night of the soul”. Did it change your life?