“There is a secret medicine in struggle that those who cling to comfort will never know. Experiencing a dark night of the soul is a struggle like no other. Everything that was comfortable, in the time before, is now sharp brambles and thorny paradox. Everything we took for granted is now shattered granite at our feet, dust in the wind. Everything cuts. Everything burns. The baskets we put all our eggs in are now double edged swords piercing our heart. Everything is uncertain. But that’s the beauty of the dark night of the soul. We are suddenly free from being certain. We are free from the self-important existential bind. We are free to feel, to genuinely feel.” - Rumi
Where to begin?
This will be my fourth Dark Night of the Soul that I have experienced in my life. Complete destruction of myself. A point of nothingness. Everything that was is no longer. Approaching my 48th birthday, I think I'm getting better at accepting it for what it is and the healing power that it has. It's a baptism—rebirth into a new version of myself.
Eckhart Tolle describes the dark night of the soul as, "...a term used to describe what one could call a collapse of a perceived meaning in life… an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness. The inner state in some cases is very close to what is conventionally called depression. Nothing makes sense anymore, there's no purpose to anything."
What causes a dark night in us? It's when everything that you believed about yourself is invalidated and stripped away. What you thought was your truth is no longer true. It's an ego death. Eckhart Tolle explains, "what has collapsed is the whole conceptual framework for your life."
***reference: Eckhart Tolle Newsletter, October 2011
What is the Goal?
The goal is to order yourself without attachment to what is now meaningless. This is an opportunity to connect deeply with your soul instead of your ego. A new truth emerges. It becomes the path to finding your true self. Do not mistake this as a mental exercise; rather, it's a spiritual journey.
I think what separates a Dark Night from clinical depression is hope. You are not just fighting your mind; you're forging a new identity - An identity that is more aligned with your spiritual truth. To clear out the distortion of your past and to envision a clearer future. This future is aligned to the spiritual realm and is transcendent to the physical world and your ego investments.
There is a lot of remapping that occurs during this process. It's like your entire self is pieces of a puzzle that have been dumped on the ground. But that puzzle also has a lot of other pieces from other puzzles mixed in. There is no picture on the box to tell you what the image is, and it doesn't give you guidance on how to put it together. It looks so daunting.
What are the Signs?
The first thing I notice in myself is the loss of meaning and purpose. It's like standing in a dark cave. There is no beginning or end. There is just you. This leads to feelings of loss and confusion. You will feel the emptiness from what used to be there. You won't be motivated to do anything. You will be highly emotional and, in a sense, be unable to order your emotions or even name them correctly. I always feel a sense of despair.
While these signs are shared by people suffering from clinical depression, Dark Night signs and signals are more existential by nature. They are more transcendent of just mere thoughts and physical problems. Dark Night symptoms are more centered on your identity.
Where I'm at
This is the beginning of my fourth Dark Night. I've become aware of the process, and I'm embracing it for what it is. This has happened several times in my past, and with each revision, I have emerged better than the last. I'm working on fortifying my spiritual side, and diminishing the influence my ego has in my life.
My first Dark Night event occurred after a flunked out of college. I was a High School Honor Graduate, Eagle Scout, Vigil Honor, just a high achiever. I allowed myself to get sucked into a hedonistic lifestyle in college and worried more about self pleasures and self gratification. I ended being at a place where I wasn't happy with my life nor the type of person I was. I left it all behind, signed up for the military, and started forging a new identity. It's was a short and simple process that was facilitated by the drill instructors at basic training. Still, I left the old hedonistic person behind for my new identity.
The second occurred during my marriage. I allowed myself to become a sacrificial lamb for the family—a plow horse. I set my personal needs, wants, and desires aside took on the identity of the family. I learned the hard way that identifying with something so strongly that is outside of yourself will lead to disaster. When that thing you identify with is taken away, you lose who you were. You can never identify with what is external to you because you can never fully be in control of it.
My third Dark Night was when I was red-pilled into the world of intersexual-dynamics and masculine ideals. I learned to have a self-identity from my second dark night, but it was always attached to external validation. I could only believe in my self as long as I could validate the results against the external world. This red-pilled Dark Night event re-entered me into my self. I became my own mental point of origin and created strong boundaries and a healthy sense of self.
While I don't know the outcome of this dark night event, I'm almost positive it is a battle with my ego. Each dark night moved me closer to my spiritual center, but they only kept my ego in check and never defeated it. I feel like this will be my next battle.
What is Next
Don't fight the process. Try to be present without judging. Calm your mind as much as possible. Steer away from mind or mood-altering substances - try and stay sober.
Put up solid boundaries to protect the process from outside influences and distractions. Chaos will slow the process from occurring and possibly prevent you from fully healing.
Enable the process to occur and remove any judgments from it. It's a process that reveals itself and shouldn't be manifested by the mind. I encourage the use of meditation to promote quite and calm in you mind.
I don't know where this journey is headed, but I know the outcome will be a better version of me. I aim to diminish my ego and increase the integration of my soul. Dark Nights are there to help you elevate your consciousness - to be more 5th dimensional and transcendent. I believe that Dark nights serve as an iterative process that helps us grow towards what really matters within ourselves. It's a necessary process that heals our souls.