What Does a Dark Night of the Soul Feel Like?
I’ve written a few articles on my own dark night of the soul, but I was reading back through some journals of the past year and there were some things I noted down in them, that I’d like to add to the description of what it is like to experience a dark night of the soul.
I Believe it is Written in the Stars
First, and foremost, I want to tell you that you are not crazy, you are not having a breakdown. You haven’t done anything wrong and you didn’t cause this. In fact, I believe it was written for you. Mine unfolded in a rather dramatic fashion, in a series of absolutely synchronous events that defy earthly explanation. The DNOS shook me to my core, but the way it unfolded with people, places, experiences and circumstances made me certain that there’s no accidents in this universe. Too many things had to line up and happen in perfect execution for mine to take place. Maybe you feel this way too about yours. It’s an exquisitely timed series of events, and maybe with you, there was a sort of spiritual “seeker” foundation that had been laid years before. I had been getting deeper into spiritual development and exploration years before my DNOS, but then the pandemic, adversity and a series of extraordinary events seemed to catalyze the “unwinding.”
We’re Not Good with Limbo and the DNOS is a Transition
You are going through an exquisitely designed process that will lead to a sort of death and rebirth. Everything must get cleared away before the new arrives. But… right now…where you are… is a transition period. It’s a limbo period between the death of yourself and the rebirth of yourself. This kind of thing takes place on the soul level and sadly the mind, despite its best efforts, can’t take over this stage. At a loss over what to do, it just creates suffering with its freaking out.
The Ego Doesn’t Handle Uncertainty Well; it Burns off in Limbo
The problem with being held in a spiritual limbo is that it doesn’t jive with everything we’ve just spent the last few decades learning and it is a time when the mind is rendered a bit useless. Unlike everything else you’ve experienced so far, the timeline, the structure, the process — all of it… it’s out of your hands. It’s out of your control.
Try as it might (and oh, it tries) the mind cannot think, control, predict, explain or “action” its way out of this one. And that’s where the suffering happens. The mind gets very upset about that. You’ll find yourself wanting to buffer the pain with some kind of pleasure, but just as quickly you’ll realize, nothing quite buffers whatever this pain is. It’s really existential stuff.
Experiencing Altered States of Consciousness
My DNOS has left me feeling like I am between dimensions, hiding under a blanket, unable to go out and face people in society. It’s left me thinking what the hell is wrong with me?! Like one foot is in 5d, the other is in 3d. It’s left me acutely aware of my different states of consciousness. Meditations used to be a nice chance to nap. Now, they are a beautiful journey, like a falling feather, through different levels of awareness.
Sometimes a DNOS can feel much like waking up from a dream, in that hazy confusing moment where you’re still trying to figure out if you’re still dreaming or actually awake. That exact same disoriented, discombobulated feeling can hit at random moments through the day. For someone who’s switched on mentally, and very aware of her states of consciousness, this was extremely alarming.
Adversity…Without the Route Out
It is a moment in your life where the suffering feels insurmountable, yet you cannot put a finger on it. The ego (mind) cannot come up with an explanation. It just can’t figure out the way out, a solution, or even a fix. You just have to be in it. There is no way out other than through.
That is a horrendous feeling. The ego simply cannot deal with it. Remember, our ego chases pleasure and avoids pain at all costs. It creates all sorts of mental structures and has all sorts of tools to make everything predictable, controllable and comfortable. The moment an uncomfortable situation like this spiritual limbo arrives, it will get upset.
It will try to think its way out of this for you. The ego will come up with suggestions, provide explanations, answers, point to alignments in your life and misalignments, try to blame certain things or identify causes and scapegoats and will present to you on a platter all of the things to low-vibe on. It will dig into anger, resentment, fear, sadness, all of the low vibrational states, as a way to try and activate some problem solving. It will work overtime to come up with explanations and then offer ways forward that bubble out of low vibrational emotions. It will spin, constantly. If the brain was coming up with a useful solution for the DNOS, then you’d be out of it. But.. it doesn’t. It’s just spinning you.
You’ll Take Stock of Everything in Your Life
Some of the spinning is utterly useless, but in a DNOS there are some things that happen in your consciousness that are useful. Painful, but useful. In these shadows you will finally come to terms with the misalignments, traumas and realities of your life. You’ll really take stock of everything.
Because it’s like gaining an outsiders’ view on your life, a DNOS inevitably involves new realizations. Things that were previously buried in the unconscious will now enter your conscious awareness. It feels almost like an ayahuasca ceremony. New realizations land in various moments of the day. It’s a firehouse of insight.
As I said, it’s like you just got handed an outsiders’ view on your own life. Be gentle with yourself and have self-forgiveness during this. It’s jarring, for sure. As I said above, everything will be released in order to transmute shadows into light. It’s a bit of a reckoning. It’s definitely a time to journal and dig deep in every practice you’ve ever had that soothes you. A meditation will go from a “nice thing to do” to an “absolute essential to make it through the next two hours.”
Remember, DNOS isn’t a mind or body problem, like an illness or injury. This is a soul-level experience. The mind can’t fix this one. It’s not a problem. It’s something you need to go through. And my goodness, it’s humbling.
The Fading Away of Meaning
One of the many aspects of a DNOS is the dropping away of meaning. All of a sudden almost everything in your life doesn’t seem to have the same meaning anymore. I found myself standing in my kitchen feeling like an alien, looking at this big house I was struggling to keep up with questioning… “why?” I found myself standing in line at the grocery store, the clerk trying to engage me in complaining about the weather. And again, I couldn’t engage. All I could think was “what’s the point?” Granted, it is pointless bitching about the weather, but this effect crossed over to many areas. Why should I workout? What’s the meaning in the work I do? ALL of it is up for questioning. I felt like the most useless everything. Useless friend, useless employee, useless human in my most catatonic days.
You may find yourself wanting to get rid of everything you own, and struggling with “how did I acquire so much stuff?” It is an abysmal place that leaves you reeling, and you cannot come up with an answer or a route back to meaning. But there’s a gift here. You’re conducting a massive life review. Truly, you’ve been given the ability to conduct a full audit on everything.
The DNOS can feel very isolating and incredibly hopeless, but I urge you, don’t lose hope. This stage is not all for nothing. It is not meaningless. It is a very specific stage that is exquisitely designed to remove everything, so that in its place you can rediscover (or discover) what makes your soul sing. I’m sure you’ve had days where you’ve been on all fours, literally thinking it cant get worse than this. My darling, it won’t. You’ll get through this.
All We Can Do is Be Present and Commit To the Practices that Offer Peace
You’ll have to go out there, seek refuge from the writhing ego, and experience life in order to find your way back.It will take every ounce of energy to reach out and then follow through in seeing your friends. Seek out the awakened ones, who are the deep old souls. They’ll know that you are going through. It will take a mountain of effort to go for a walk. You’ll have to build a new relationship with everything. You’ll discover which practices offer you peace. They will feel like an absolute lifeline. Double down on them. They become an essential component of your day, instead of an unrealized goal.
You can’t just think your way through this. You can’t think about things you like, or take a class, or read a book. You have to experience your way through it, and that is going to take time. It’s going to take baby steps because all you can do in a DNOS is the tiniest little wins every day. And you’ll have to cling to those wins. And remember, what constitutes a win has changed. You can’t solve this right now. You have to be in it. And a win is just getting through the next few hours. Sometimes, it’s the next 10 minutes. Make sure you reframe that.
There’s No Going Back
In a DNOS, you’ll truly begin to understand the phrase “Ignorance is bliss.” Maybe like me, you’ll have moments of wishing you could go back to being ignorant and happily distracted by your old life. You’ll ask yourself “why the hell is this happening, what triggered this?!”
You’ll wish you could go back to a time when all the external benchmarks of life, as prescribed to us by society, were good enough. Where we were distracted well enough by the pursuit of our goals. You know, the ones that get us to go to work, make money, pay bills and buy stuff, rinse and repeat. Remember when those were enough to keep you pushing toward a future promise of contentment and fulfilment ?
The thing is… you know you can’t go back there. You know that won’t lead to contentment and fulfilment. There’s something else, but you don’t know what that is yet.
If you are nodding your head as you read this, then congratulations, you’re another soul on this extraordinary journey, and you’re in it. Or maybe, you’ve just moved out of it. Either way, you’re in a place of knowing what no longer works for your soul. You’re just not yet at knowing what does work. You don’t know who you are, or what you are becoming, just that there’s no going back.
It’s a Refreshing Perspective On Your Own Life
In a spiritual awakening, you’ll see things differently. It’s like a fog is cleaned off on your lens and you see everything in an utterly new way. The things that gave you joy and the things that gave you pain. The street you live on, I remember even looking at my 40 year old hands as if they were someone else’s.
You Will Raise a White Flag
All of it gets wiped off the table in preparation for your evolution. At a loss of what to do, you will begin to surrender. I’ve read a few times the analogy of fish frantically swimming upstream, against the current…all swimming in that direction because everyone else is doing it. That’s what life before this felt like. Then, there’s one that decides to stop swimming against the current, and lets the current take it downstream to a different place. That is what surrender feels like. Surrendering, no longer fighting and swimming upstream. In a DNOS we have to trust that when we surrender and stop frantically swimming, the current will take us to that somewhere. And from reading extensively on this topic, it sounds like if we do surrender and accept, the place we will be carried to has deeper meaning and fulfilment than we could have conceived of in our earlier life.
The Ego Will Be Forced to Release its Grip
In Dark night of the soul literature you will hear the term “ego death” — the way I’ve come to understand this is that when a soul-level experience arrives, the ego can no longer be in charge. It goes down with a fight, thrashing about, thinking of all of the possible thoughts that it mistakenly thinks will make you feel better, yet they cause even more suffering. It’s not that the ego is evil or wants to harm you. It’s just that it only knows the tools it knows. Control, explanation, prediction, decision making, actioning and clinging onto identities.
All of a sudden none of those work anymore and it freaks out.
The mental loops intensify and you get a front row view to how ridiculous the brain can be. It begins to feel like the most unreliable friend you’ve ever had. One moment it’s spiralling the drain, the next it’s telling you it will all be ok, then again, it’s coming up with disastrous scenarios, only to be followed with moments of peace. It goes through every identity and attachment you’ve ever had and then tries to get you upset at the thought of losing them. It’s like being inside a vitamix blender, with a heaping pile of overwhelming sadness that shakes you to your core.
Be Gentle With Yourself & Reach Out to Those Who Know
Because so much is going on inside, it’s hard to show up on the outside. You may feel the urge to pull away from social events and day to day conversation while you’re going through this stage. It’s a fine line between honouring this time of withdrawing deep inside ourselves, and not going full hermit. It’s really important to reach out to those wise souls who know what you are going through and it’s utterly critical to know that you are not alone in this.
It’s all happening for you. Not to you. For you.