Dark Nights and Clear Mornings

Midnight skyCan you imagine being outside on a night of the deepest midnight blue?   The silence.  The stillness. The sense of potential, of imminent rebirth.  Awe.  Just you and the cosmos.  

Pause for a moment and feel yourself there. 

 You might feel at one both with it and all of life. Or you might feel terribly alone and small in the face of such infinity. Perhaps a bit of both.

Many people I know have spoken about going through the dark nights of their soul and yet when I sat to write this piece my spirit took me to the fullness of that midnight ‘cave’ in the sky.    The image of the midnight sky is literally weaving another dimension to what has been going on in my mind around the experience of the dark night of the soul.   This is a term originally created by John of the Cross, a sixteenth century Christian mystic, and has been used by many other spiritual writers.

 

 

 

Dark Night of the Soul

early morning skyI’ve been doing a lot of research around the dark night because, perhaps like many of you reading this, I have often experienced it on a level beyond words.  Yet, in more recent times, part of me would remember even in the midst of it all,  that not only had I been there before and had lived to tell the tale, but that I had always emerged renewed and strengthened. I knew that, while very uncomfortable, it was necessary and ultimately very beneficial  

Although many of the great mystics used the language of the religion or tradition in which they were brought up, their experiences were often trans-religious or ultra-religious, in the sense that their experiences were not limited to the religious language in which they expressed themselves.  That was the only language they had and also the only language that their readers would understand.  I have found it good to remember this when reading some of their work, and to understand more of the symbolism, the archetypal truths of what they were expressing.  

It is my belief that many of these truths apply to anyone on a spiritual path no matter what form that takes.     The following are some of my thoughts around this phenomenon.  It feels like they are exploratory thoughts and indeed the very writing and exploring of them will reveal more in time.  If they are helpful to you as you read them,  then they are offered in the spirit of love.   If they don’t resonate with you, that is fine too.  

There is a superb audio programme by Caroline Myss called ‘Spiritual Madness’ which I found particularly helpful in this context.  

 

 

A felt union

dawn skyThe goal of spiritual exploration, practice and dedication is a felt and conscious union with Source or God-Source (whatever term means most to us and let’s not get bogged down in semantics!).   Most of you reading this will, I suspect, have explored spirituality in some form or other, maybe in several forms.  You are likely to know in your very cells that we are all expressions of that Source.  The Indian greeting of ‘Namaste’ expresses that beautifully.  

Why then is there often this sense of the dark night, of isolation, of loneliness, of being cast adrift, when we are on a spiritual path, and especially when we’ve been on one for some time and think we should be further along the road than to feel this aloneness?   Surely by now, with all we have done and all the spiritual people we know, we should be feeling at one with all, feeling that divine love which we have glimpsed and even, at times, experienced to our very cells?    Finding our spiritual family, our tribe.

And yet this is the very time when the dark night seems to make itself felt more deeply. 

 

 

Spiritual families

At the beginning of our quest, there can be excitement, delight in finding other people to share our enthusiasm, a sense of adventure and relief that there are others who think the way we do.   In a sense, we often move from our tribe of origin: our family or country or ethnic group to a whole new spiritual tribe, even if that spiritual tribe consists of different groups as we go from one system to another to find what resonates most with us. 

Community 2‘At last I’ve found my tribe, my spiritual family!  I’ve come home!’    That is a necessary part of growth, of the path.  Much is learnt, many connections are made, spiritual truths integrated.   However, the other side of the coin is that it is still a tribe. 

While belonging may be comforting and comfortable, and indeed necessary while we grow and develop our spiritual wings, there is still a comfort in numbers and being identified, as well as identifying ourselves, as, for example, a seeker or a meditator or a member of a particular group.  

There is much to be gained from being part of such a tribe, just as there is in our tribes of origin, but in the comfort of belonging we can forget that the ultimate conscious union with God-Source is an individual, private matter between each one of us and Source.

 

 

Plugging in

Integrity is a core principle on any true spiritual growth.  The more we are in integrity, the more ‘in tune’ we are.  In tune not just with our core selves, but with the essence of spirituality and most likely in tune with Source or Spirit.    And this kind of integrity is a personal matter; it isn’t something we gain by osmosis by simply being in a group or a system.

Think of an old-fashioned telephone switchboard where you had to go through the switchboard to be connected with the person you wanted to talk to.   Tribes and teachings can get you to the switchboard, can show you the way, can give you directions, but the all-important ‘plugging-in’ is a solo, not a group, matter.  

The image that comes to mind is like when a group is travelling together through an airport.  Although they are travelling together (a tribe) each one has to go through security separately.   Even if we are soul or cosmic or whatever groups travelling together, each of us has to go through ‘security’ on our own.    This security screen is sensing our level of being in truth, in integrity.   Integrity means wholeness, being true to our true nature, being congruent.   

 

 

 

Spiritual Integrity

Sunset IcelandBefore we can come into a more mature union with Source, then, we will need to have embodied progressively more reliable, balanced and anchored levels of integrity.    For that to happen, anything that is not in congruence with our true nature must come up for clearing.

 Any part of us that is not in truth, in resonance with divine law or the mystical laws, will prevent us from going through ‘security’ and thus must be addressed and brought back into alignment.   The monitoring in this security system is motivated by the highest level of divine love, a love that knows that ultimately nothing but complete integration with the sacred and divine within will truly fulfil us.  

Some of the greatest untruths that we can tell ourselves are to deny the divine equality of all life, to abdicate our responsibility for ourselves and our creations, to think we are not enough and thus that we need others to make us whole or to fill us up in some way.     Denying the divine equality of all life can result in either thinking we are unworthy, in our grovelling and giving away our power, or in thinking we are ‘special’ and more important than others;  I’ve done both and thankfully lived to tell the tale!   And between ourselves, I still catch myself swinging from one end of the pendulum to the other. 

This level of spiritual integrity involves a constant fine-tuning, not a done deal or a destination that you arrive at once and for all where you can stow away or even throw away your suitcase (the tools and ways you use to become more aware of and accountable for your coming into greater self-truth).    Abdicating our responsibility gets us into all sorts of dramas of finger-pointing, victim-victimiser games, what Caroline Myss calls ‘woundology’ (using our woundedness as a power-play to manipulate others), into finding it much easier to find fault with ‘out there’ than to look within and take ownership of our own energies and ‘shadows’.      Thinking we are not enough has us thinking we need other people or status or stuff.  There are many more variations on this theme. 

 

 

 Soul-i-tude

Rose walkingThe point of looking at these untruths is that while any of these are active within us, the integrity that could get us through ‘security’ is not sufficiently animated.  With these attitudes, these distractions from the truth of who we are, even if we get to the switchboard we won’t be able to plug ourselves in.   There is too much that is ‘not us’ still encircling us to allow for a genuine Source connection at the level we long for. 

Of course at the same, in our truest essence, we are always part of Source; what I am looking at here is the conscious and animated aliveness of an intimate knowing of self-as-Source.   

The divine part of us (again whatever term means most to you) knows that the union we long for cannot happen while these distractions are alive in us.   It knows that they must be shed.  It also knows that the shedding will not always be comfortable, especially if they are deeply engrained distractions or ones we don’t want to admit to having.  

The caterpillar must go into the cocoon and while there surrender its familiar state and comfort zones,  go into a state what might look like nothingness or chaos, on its way to becoming a butterfly.

The dark night of the soul is a time when those parts of our lives, our psyches, our miasms, our shadows, in other words anything that will get in the way of true intimacy with Source, is being pruned and cleared.    While it may feel like the loneliest of times, it is actually the time when the divine part of us is holding and nurturing us most lovingly.   

 

 

 

Clearer mornings

woodsFor anyone going through a dark night, triggered maybe by rejection or being ostracised or confused, hold on.  

This is a fertile time and one you will look back on with gratitude.  Keep on keeping on, as they say.   That dark night will give birth to a new dawn of greater empowerment and inner connection.  

There is tremendous richness in that midnight blue, and the darkest hour is indeed before the dawn.   

Take that as a traveller’s tale from one who has touched that dawn and knows that without that dark night, that dawn would have still been clouded and dull.