You know what I am talking about if you have been through it. It’s a time when your world is upside down, you feel isolated, and nothing seems right. You are alone with your thoughts and can’t sleep. It’s the middle of the night.
There is a name for these periods of somber, dark reflection. A time when your life is shaken at its core –your beliefs, ideals, family, job, health, any and all of the things that give your life meaning are in doubt. You doubt God, your higher power, or perhaps you conclude there can’t be one anyway. You ponder life and the apparent emptiness of it all. The name of this is the Dark Night of The Soul.
Darkness can be described as the absence of light. During the Dark Night, there is rarely any light. The light of love and God’s grace is not readily seen or felt.
They say that absence can make the heart grow fonder, but during the dark night, your heartbreaking is what you encounter.
And the dark night is not just an isolated event, at least it was not for me. Many sleepless nights led to many angst-filled days. Days and nights blurred into a simmering purgatory of being wired and tired. Exhausted by day and unable to sleep at night. The cycle continued until I was able to break through and find the light again.
You can break through too, and I want to help you by providing you with help to get you through those nights and hopefully stay clear of them all together.
A sound body, mind, and spirit can help you thrive in whatever conditions life’s seasons offer at you. My upcoming book The Power Of Presence – How To Amp-Up Your Life will provide you with all the tips and techniques I learned or have researched to give you the best tools to live your optimal life. Please, sign-up if you would like to help support me in this latest effort. Thank you and Namaste!
“It is precisely because we resist the darkness in ourselves that we miss the depths of the loveliness, beauty, brilliance, creativity, and joy that lie at our core.” ― Thomas Moore, Dark Nights of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life’s Ordeals
The following is an excerpt from the book, a snapshot of the diary of my dark night that occurred in 2008:
3:30 AM: I wake up with my chest pounding, gasping for air. I feel like I am simultaneously drowning and someone or something is sitting on my chest. I am cold and sweating at the same time. I bolt up on to a sitting position on my bed. Disoriented I look around the darkened room and do not know where I am. What happened last night, what hotel am I staying – where am I? Then it all comes back to me. I am at home or at least the house where my family and I lived.
My eyes focused on the clock as the red numbers came into view. Three Fucking Thirty! A mere 4-hours ago I went to sleep and was desperately hoping not to have another repeat performance to what I had previously gone through the day before. Morning would not be here for another few hours, and then I had a full day of work waiting for me. I looked over at my empty bed and turned on the light.
If there is one thing I could not stand then it was lying in bed tossing and turning. I had made myself a promise to give up on that nighttime rumination and instead do something. But what can you do at 3:30 in the morning? With nothing else to do, I turned on the TV, staring blankly at the screen, mindlessly flicking through channels. The room glowing a pale blue as the rest of the world waited for dawn.
When the true dawn came, I had already had four cups of coffee. Black as oil is how I like to drink it. And I falsely assumed that if you are more tired, then all you need to do is drink more coffee! I try to go for a run thinking that the exercise will make me feel better. I feel so edgy and am desperate to rid myself of this feeling of needing to do something but not knowing what to do. My run does not go well. Over the past months, my time per mile has been slipping. I think well maybe tomorrow I’ll do better. I just need to try harder! My inner critic’s voice is louder now in the quite of the morning making my headache even worse.
9:00 AM: After cleaning up, I head to my office. The mood there is somber at best. The company where I work is in the process of winding down. For the past 6 months we have entertained a parade of potential buyers, but unfortunately, there are no takers. The end is near, and my colleagues and I know it. We try to make the most of our situation even though we are all condemned to look for work elsewhere. The company we built is going out of business. At this point in my career, I had been employed continuously for over 20-years. I did not want this streak to come to an end and felt like I needed money more than ever.
The primal response of fear and the worry over the potential loss of income begin to make their presence known to me. My marriage dissolving and after surviving the near death of my daughter make me feel like a bomb has gone off in my home. Nothing is the same for me – there seems to be no safety and no comfort. I imagine that this is what leads to PTSD’s.
Meanwhile, I continue drinking coffee all day. My body temperature is off, and I am enjoying the warmth from the java. Still, I am cold, chilled to the bones, and there is a general ache in my body. My brain is foggy, yet I know I am not thinking right. Still, I am powerless to stop or change it. I am chronically distracted. At work, I think about my home life and my family, while fantasizing of restorative sleep. At home I think about my work, unable to sleep imagining nightmares of financial ruin.
Meanwhile, I am incredibly hungry, craving sweets like donuts and candy. I eat another breakfast – my 2nd of the day, a fried chicken biscuit. Over lunch, we all go out, and we eat burgers and fries. I drink 3-4 glasses of iced tea (unsweetened at least). I am ravenously hungry, but there is nothing that can satisfy me. After lunch, the day proceeds with all of us either looking for potential new employment or distracting ourselves in whatever news events are there. Around 5:30 it is time to head over to the bar. Once there we have two or three beers. We are like the characters from the movie the Green Mile – dead men walking.
Around 9:00 pm I return home after picking up some take-out. The place is empty. I am alone – empty in my house. I am depleted physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. My marriage is over. My job is over. Who am I now and who will I be when the divorce and the company winding down are complete?
Tonight I say I will get some sleep. So I go to bed and as soon as I lie down, all of the thoughts come racing through my head. What will I do when I am divorced? How are our children going to deal with this? How can I support my family? Why is this happening to me? Why does God forsake me? After 20-30 minutes of tossing and turning in my bed, I head downstairs and pour myself a glass of red wine. The wine tastes good, and it helps me relax. I lie down on the couch and watch TV, with the LCD screen illuminating the room. There is not much on, so I watch the news, CNBC or MSNBC. It is 2009, the US economy is in shambles. The Great Recession has hit, wiping out families. In this market, I must find new work while having to provide for my family.
Damn. When will this mess end? I head upstairs to my bed and slide under the covers. I remember what I had learned from my daughter’s caregivers saying that when you feel overwhelmed just repeat to let go, let God. I learned this expression to help me deal with my daughter’s illness. Do your best and release the rest, release to God.
During my daughter’s health crisis I turned to God for comfort and found it. I was grateful and vowed to be a better man. Like is common among desperate men, I pray to God. I say “Dear Father, I am sorry for all that I have done. Please take care of my family. Help me get through this and be the best father I can be. Help me, please!” I am begging, for mercy, for grace, for relief. I set my alarm for 7:30 am, remembering what I had read about needing to sleep when you are stressed. A miracle occurs, and I fall asleep hard, akin to passing out. As I am in some lucid type state – I can hear and feel myself snoring. I am too tired to move. I finally succumb to sleep!
When I wake next, the panic is there. Maybe I slept for 90-minutes? Fresh from a brief respite it is like my anxieties have come back stronger than before. Thoughts of ruin race through my head. I know these thoughts are only projections, but they seem so real. I begin to have anxious reactions to thoughts about anxious thoughts and so on.
I wish I knew then what I know now.
Hard to believe but that was the state of my days and nights during my dark night of the soul period. The once hard-charging, go-getter, type-A competitive Ego-man, was running out of energy and my nervous system was fraying at the edges. Like the frog in the pot of boiling water that can be boiled alive if the temperature change is gradual enough, I had found myself drowning in my own stress hormones as I tried to contend with so many stressful things. My marriage, my children, my finances, my job and now my health. I felt like I was falling apart and my world was disintegrating before me.
To move on I had to re-integrate my present state. My mind and body were spiraling out of control.
To survive, I could not dwell on the past or fret about the future. The shit I was dealing with was real and immediate.
Somehow I eventually came back to my body from the swirling vortex of my mind to the place and time in which I lay. I was here.
Meanwhile, I could feel my heart pounding in my chest, and I could see the panting ripples of my chest. I could hear the hum of the fan and feel its cold air moving over my body.
My focus intensified until all could contend with was just a breath. One inhale, followed by one exhale. Repeated.
The words echoed Let Go, …Let Go. I would inhale on Let… and then exhale on Go. Let -Go, Let- Go, Let -Go….
I felt as though each breath could be my last when by grace I fell asleep fast.
Peace was found. I surrendered to the now and let things be.
I had stumbled on the way to know the now.
If you want to know how you can know the now and amp-up your life, please sign-up here to be a prime supporter of The Power Of Presence. By doing so you will receive exclusive content and my deepest gratitude. Thank you!