Updated: Jan 8
Are you in a “Dark Night of the Soul” (which I will call DNOTS)? Maybe, maybe not! Like the word “awesome,” or “literally,” this expression is a bit overused these days, at least if you know what it means... erm... literally.
I’ve heard many students and clients use "DNOTS" (Dark Night Of The Soul) to describe going through some terrible life event, but that's not it. Those mind-boggling losses and unwanted changes in your world, and the depression, anxiety or other symptoms they bring on may feel like a dark night compared to the sunny days when all was going your way. But that is what's known in mystic lingo as a Dark Night of Sense, which we might call a “Human Dark Night.” It’s not the same as a ”Dark Night of the Soul."
The term DNOTS (remember what that stands for now?) was first coined by John of the Cross, a 16th century Spanish mystic. His amazing writings, which people on a Oneness path still use today, (along with those of his friend and mentor, Teresa of Avila) are like a real live blog journal of someone getting enlightened. What he describes is a progression, an evolutionary journey––in other words, the way life really is––rather than some clever, heady, abstract principles that you should be living up to. Much spiritual writing up to then (and even now!)––especially from Eastern spirituality––has tended to focus on absolutes like “eternity,“ “stillness,” etc., as though our experience as feeling, physical humans traveling through time and space having struggles and learning is just a big mistake.
"What, you mean I'm not doing it all wrong?"
What Johnny Cross describes is how, even after you get through your human dark nights, and even have a spiritual breakthrough and access your soul, which at first seems to resolve them, there are more turns on the spiral of your growth!
"Oh no, I want to freeze it right here! I have a date tonight, I feel ok today!"
This fact that we are actually not done, that there is more, is neither good nor bad news; it's REAL NEWS, (which I think we have come to value more since I first wrote this in September 2016). The fake news was that we could permanently "fix" our pain (which is caused by our ego, aka us not knowing who we really are), by some ego fix, meaning some material, mental, metaphysical or even "spiritual" method. (But there is also a mystic methodology. See the Mystic Manifesto here).
So, the Real News: (Don't keep reading if you are on your spiritual honeymoon with some form of ego massage). After a honeymoon phase, like a marriage that loses “that in-love feeling” (which the research says takes about 4 years), your previous breakthrough will stop working. The well will run dry.
If you were an addict, and found a program that stopped you using, and filled you with a wonderful sense of belonging (to the group), or gave you inspiration, it will fade. Perhaps you won’t go back to using that particular stuff or doing that behavior, but maybe if you’re honest, you are now going to AA meetings under the guise of spiritual growth, to meet people to flirt with.
Or if you were a negative thinker, and you discovered the power of creative thought, through metaphysics or law of attraction, and you manifested a place to live and a slight up-tick in finances and healed a wart or two, guess what? It will stop working! Guaranteed! Because your soul is on a journey.
And I'm sorry to say that even what you may have been led to believe is the ultimate "spiritual" path in which you meditate a lot, and belong to a group of people with spiritual names, and witness everything, even your own orgasms (only in Marin County, where I live!)... even that is not a guarantee that you won't hit a dark soul night. As you may know from my BIO, I was a meditating monk for 12 years, and we're talking several hours a day, plus full-time service and satsang and no messin' about! Boy, did I think I was on the final approach, but no...
Even before my monastic vows (aged 18), my first growth “trip” was macrobiotics. I had stumbled on the cult of slowly chewing my brown rice, talking and thinking about food all day, and what you might now call "mindful eating." It was so transformative that I and my then-boyfriend (mostly him) founded a store called Infinity Foods, in Brighton, England. 40 years later, that store is a massive Whole Foods-like emporium. But I moved on. It stopped working.
I will need a memoir to document the number of spiritual phases I have since been through, exploring a whole mandala of methods to sort out those that actually worked to create and sustain a real shift (and many more that didn’t work, that I discarded).
Then I started a school (Motherwave Institute), teaching the most effective methods and many original ones I made up––most of which I still use in my private iWaveTherapy work with clients. Thousands of people came through the school, and they still tell me frequently that their lives were changed. Yet after about 10 years of teaching through that school, feeling on top of the world, and that I had "aced the system"... when I was 52, my life blew up. Divorce, betrayal, legal, financial and health problems that just didn't stop for a long time. Huh? What happened? Did I do something wrong?
I had already been through quite a few human dark nights, but this was a full-package descent into the underworld of my soul. Because at the same time that everything in my life fell away (and I mean everything, everyone, it was quite extraordinary!), I also found that my psychospiritual methods, although they allowed me to get through it in roughly one piece, no longer quite worked to bring me the level of inner fulfillment I had experienced before. Having seen more than I ever wanted to see of the human shadow, I needed a stronger vehicle to get me through tsunami after tsunami, and believe me, it wasn't gonna be a stronger ego! Only God Itself was going to work.
Thus began my real DNOTS. I went back to teaching (calling the now-more-mystical work Soulwave and now iWave), but honestly, the dissolution has been continuous. In a good way, but not always comfortable. My journey for the last 15 years has been quite private, although a few intimate “pod-members” have been with me. I found that the real opening of the deep layers of the heart has nothing to do with group energy, so-called "community," being part of a "tribe" that thinks they are more enlightened than the rest of the world, or singing Indian chants. It's much messier and more painful than that, and the shadow is so ugly that you really don't want to kiss it, yet how else is your real heart going to emerge? The real heart is what emerges when you truly descend into the depths of your own pain and melt it down, and don't try to BandAid it by appearing busy, or looking good on FaceBook.
I have to say that in my hurrah! huzzah! years of personal transformation, when I was successfully manifesting big, abundant realities, great feelings in the body and emotions, and so on, I had no idea that there was more. Who knew that abundance, a great (seeming) marriage, a successful school, wonderful community, and so on, was just a way-station on my journey back to my True Home?
One of my methods, (that I used to teach for years in a weeklong training and now teach to my longer-term clients) was called The Meltdown.™ I copyrighted this term in 1995, and it was a positive r-evolutionary tool––how to dissolve the dense mass of the pain-body and return to the experience of your true Self. And when everything fell apart, I remember saying that I had entered “The Mother of all Meltdowns.”
But I had no idea.
My life is great, now, don’t get me wrong. I live in inner beauty, love and abundance. I love my paid and unpaid service work and my amazing, loyal, kind, mystical, intimate friends. But I had no idea what it really means to go through a soul descent to emerge into Oneness.
I’m emerging from my DNOTS (remember what that stands for?) now, although I’m not done. Not that I will ever be “perfect, right and done,” but I can feel a different level of consciousness stabilizing gradually within me. Or I within It. I can see how everything that has happened has been an answer to a prayer I made early in my life: "Let me experience the maximum possible spiritual awakening and get as much as possible completed, or even finished, in this life. And please, Use Me (whoever You are)!"
Not everyone made that prayer (and What Was I Thinking?!). But we are all going through evolutionary changes, right now, like it or not. What I can see from the perspective of my incredibly deep, long descent is that what we are all experiencing is a Dark Night of the Heart. It's all about your capacity to open your heart and truly have Love flow through. Forget enlightenment, forget awakening, whatever you "think" they are. Many people who appear, or appeared, to be "awake" were actually experiencing a massive spiritual bypass operation. And what was bypassed? The Heart! Meaning, the false self is still trying to maintain and defend itself by going up into the head and not feeling the non-love that still lives in the body.
Here's what I know for sure (thanks Oprah): If you want to avoid the more painful, lengthy pathways of learning, where you bang your head against karmic walls which then bang you back, on and on for lifetimes, you have to take love, compassion and kindness very seriously. Everything else is a red herring. Love is not a posture, something you simulate to look good or get your needs met, or something you rationalize in your head. If a man asks you for your T-shirt, Jesus said, give it to him, along with your favorite jeans. How kind is it safe to be? What are you protecting? Will it protect you?
Surrendering completely as an instrument of love––or should I say Love?–– is the safest path we can take. And it’s good to be willing to have our defenses dismantled, even though when you first learned them, they were a good thing. Yes, you have to learn boundaries, blah blah blah. Yes, you have to have a functional human ego in order to give it up without mental illness. Yeah, yeah.
But you already did all that years ago, didn’t you?
And you can actually do both (develop a healthy ego and have your defenses dismantled) at the same time. They are different modes of being. Greater generosity and fluidity with people, instead of holding them to some standard you learned in a workshop, will free you and them from the Dark Night of the Heart. Because let’s remember, we are all One... literally. ;-)
If any of this rings a bell, and you’d like support, I’m doing a few private sessions which take the place of what people used to learn in my trainings. Email me at email@example.com
Sending you a wave of love.