The Dark Night Of The Soul
“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” – Joseph Campbell
If you were to ask any person whether they want to wake up joyful every morning, I’m certain they would reply a resounding yes.
Happiness is a key desire, yet many people are unhappy to the degree that joy eludes them. In fact, a good deal are miserable. I don’t want to offer a bleak picture, yet observe any media story and you’ll soon realise how people are attracted to bad news.
In Australia, one in four people on average experience depression at some stage of their life. This number is alarming. Many more are unhappy to the point they wake up apathetic, sad and dissatisfied with life.
This is not how it should be. You are not born to live out your days depressed or sad. Happiness should not be elusive.
It is for this reason personal and spiritual development experts offer methods to attain happiness in thirty days or less.
It is possible to experience joy. You can be happy irrespective of your past or current situation. You have choices and how you respond to your circumstances determines your level of happiness.
It was the late Dr. Wayne Dyer who said, “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” Whilst you may not feel rapture every day, you can attain joyfulness and contentment by choosing to do so.
“I think of happiness as a deeply felt sense of joy and well-being, flourishing within a balanced, stable, integrated heart and mind,” states Lama Surya Das in The Big Questions: How to Find Your Own Answers to Life’s Essential Mysteries.
Ask those who experience happiness, the reason for their exuberance and you will get varied responses. Yet they all agree their path to joy was borne out of painful circumstances. Many encountered dark periods in which they dug deep into their core to find joy.
“The dark night of the soul is a collapse of a perceived meaning in life…an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness,” states spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle who experienced prolonged periods of depression.
The journey into the dark night of the soul compels people to discover an eternal river of joy once resistance is overcome. Mental and emotional blocks such as: negativity, pride, materialism, greed, selfishness, fear and anger overshadow our spiritual essence.
Research professor and author, Brené Brown writes in her recent book Rising Strong, “There are too many people today who instead of feeling hurt are acting out their hurt; instead of acknowledging pain, they’re inflicting pain on others. Rather than risking feeling disappointed, they’re choosing to live disappointed.”
You Needn’t Stay Stuck In Pain
“The walls we build around us to keep sadness out also keeps out the joy.” – Jim Rohn
I recall the story of a friend who lost their child in a terrifying house fire years ago. The pain suffered due to their loss engulfed the family with unending grief. They were devastated and experienced intense anguish and emptiness. Their dreams were shattered and negative emotions soon filled their lives.
They could have stayed in their dark place, overwhelmed by the crushing sorrow. Many people remain in dark places for long periods. They may not have the emotional resilience to escape the pain or are weakened to make the effort. Yet, this couple dug deep within their core knowing if they did not attend to their wellbeing, they would cease to exist. Therapy arrived at the right time to help them conquer their anger and sadness. In time, they shared their story with others and in doing so, healed and renewed their life.
“Forgiveness does not mean condoning, pardoning, forgetting, false reconciliation, appeasement, or sentimentality. It is a practice, daily and lifelong, of cultivating our own inner peace and wisdom that allows us to see that our pain is part of the pain of all human beings universally, to reset our moral compass, and to remain compassionate even in the face of injustice, betrayal, and harm,” writes Linda Graham in Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being.
Painful places cause people to re-evaluate circumstances they wouldn’t normally if things are going well. You’ve no doubt heard people discuss how undergoing a tough period opened their eyes to valuable truths they might have missed otherwise.
It is easy to get bogged down with work, family commitments and further obligations. The routine and fast pace of life puts the brakes on pursuing activities we enjoy. Responsibilities and expectations lead us to a dark place and when we least expect it, depression consumes us in little time.
Pain in life is inevitable, but you need not stay stuck in pain. Allow it to do its work and push you to rise above it. The human spirit is resilient and capable of overcoming life’s trials when put to the test. Water finds its own level and so can you.
If you are struggling with pain and sadness, take time off to connect with your pain. If you believe in a higher power, call for insights and strength to overcome your struggle. Read inspirational books or join a support group. Being in the company of others helps us overcome adversity by sharing our sadness and grief. You need not go it alone.
In his book Falling into Grace the American spiritual teacher Adyashanti states, “In this moment of grace, we see that whatever might be there in our experience, from the most difficult emotional challenges to the most causeless joy, occurs within a vast space of peace, of stillness, of ultimate well-being.”
Life is precious and to live it joyfully is a great blessing. The path to joy comprises pain, though the essence of your pain involves getting through it to experience abundant joy.
At your core, you are peace and joy.
Sense it. Embrace it. Live it. Be one with it.