All the certainty that we collect in our day-to-day living and all the beliefs to which we hold steadfast will push our ordinary mind out of the way when we suffer the dark night of the soul. This dark night will push us, sometimes painfully, through a little door into an entirely different way of thinking.
It may come in the form of a disaster or life altering event for which we have no explanation. What we do know, is that it leaves us questioning everything we believe to have been true. Your life becomes devoid of hope. You keep struggling to stay busy, while waiting for something to happen. During this ‘dark night of the soul’ you are caught between your old way of living, your old tendencies and association, and this nebulous, unreachable realm where hope resides.
You are an exile in both realms. You read all the self-help books, or you may even talk to a counselor but nothing seems to be working. Your work suffers; your personal relationships may suffer, and still you remain in this place of darkness and all the while ‘hope’ and ‘happiness’ seem to remain just beyond reach.
This is a difficult time and a very private time. Speaking of this darkness to your friends seems counter productive so you remain silent. At some point you become profoundly aware of the suffering of others and you begin to identify with that suffering. You prefer total solitude. You have now reached the midnight hour of the dark night of the soul. And acceptance seems to be your only option.
Then subtle changes begin to occur. An overwhelming sense of peace flows over you, like a gentle flowing river brushing over the sedentary rocks beneath the surface. The fire of hope and joy slowly begin to permeate your soul. You have regained a sense of purpose. Your work begins to flow without much effort. Your relationships become far more meaningful; both the new ones and the older ones.
You have invested so much into who you thought you were, that at times this new you fits like a new shoe that is just not quite broken in. It is a little uncomfortable at first.
I do not profess to having the answer as to how this happens. But, I do know it happens several times during our lifetime. Sometimes it can be very chaotic and prolonged, and sometimes it can be fleeting.
These are transformative times that take us to a new and higher conscientiousness. Know this; a caterpillar will one day become a butterfly, the darkest midnight will soon become daylight, and there is, somewhere, a lighthouse that will aid the sailor in a stormy sea.
Stars fizzle out in the universe, buildings crumble, river rocks wear smooth with the passage of time. The distance between ‘then’ and ‘now’ is a nanosecond and an eternity, at the same time. That distance is most relevant to me now as I am in the crone stage of life. I have journeyed through child, lover, mother, and grandmother. I have worn many labels throughout this journey; rebel, counselor, teacher, artist, visionary and adventurer. The labels are not of my doing. They come from how others have seen me at certain points in my life. I am none of these and all of these at the same time.
I wish I could tell you what thoughts come to me about the eternity that has passed. You see the distance between then and now has been filled with so many experiences; some joyful, others not so much. The journey has lasted many lifetimes. Too many to speak of. You see I have been here before and will likely be here again.
Knowing the future is not really knowing about the future. It is about knowing which path to take now. Not all of us are out to catch what we need to survive in this life, but also, what we need to be reborn in the next.
We can live out this lifetime in the middle of the stream allowing the rushing waters to wear us smooth. Or, we can cling to the shore and remain jagged and rough.
A lot has happened this past year in my life. Changes. Changes can be unnerving at first, but one always finds a way to adapt. That is where I am now......in the adapting stage. There have been losses, some victories and some health issues. The victories are those feel-good-moments that grab our ego and our inside voice repeats over and over; ” I want more. I deserve more. I know what I have done is good.” Enter the losses. And those feel-bad-moments grab our ego and our inside voice repeats over and over; “ I knew you would fail. You are not good at this. You will never amount to anything.” Ego is fickle. Ego can stop you in your tracks and inhibit growth. The moment we become aware of the voice of the ego, it becomes no more than conditioned mind patterns. And those patterns we can change.
I have learned some valuable lessons in this past year. I learned that I can proudly call myself an artist. I learned that I make good art and often I make bad art. I learned that I have had many successes and many more failures and it is the failures that moved me to try one more time. I leaned that sometimes it is best to let go because trying harder is not working. I learned that I experience many emotions and they are all good, even the ones that feel so bad at the time. I have learned that a support system on the journey is a treasure to nourish and I do so by offering support in return. And I also learned that not everyone deserves my support. And there is no merit in feeling guilty when I withdraw my support.
Today I took a long walk in a snow storm with snow up to my knees. I shoveled snow until my back hurt and I could not feel my almost-frozen fingers. I got my truck stuck in a snow bank. And I saw the beauty in every moment of that. I felt like I was alive. Every breath of cold air that entered my lungs hurt and felt refreshing at the same time. In those moments I made some decisions; I made choices that I know will bring adventure back in to my life.
We are only here for a short time and in the end the only regrets we will have are the chances we did not take out of fear; the relationships we were afraid to have because of a broken heart; and the decisions we waited far too long to make because we feared failure or success.
Turn your head and pause. There is your next adventure waiting for you. Fall into it.