How to Navigating the Dark Night of the Soul

A starry forrest. The dark silhouette of a woman signifying the dark night of the soul.
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A quick guide to help you recognize, manage, and recover from the seemingly treacherous Dark Night of the Soul.

The Dark Night of the Soul is a time of deep reflection, trauma processing, karmic shifting, and intense healing. Understanding what it is, and how to navigate it can ease the pain of transformation.

You can learn more here: What is the Dark Night of the Soul?

The Dark Night of the Soul cannot be avoided and it cannot be rushed, but there are things that can help ease the process. 

The Dark Night of the Soul is a sort of lull following an initial storm created by any number of life altering experiences, and offers us the seclusion and solitude we need to process the changes, the triggers those changes have ignited, and gifts us an opportunity to deeply cleanse and heal ourselves so that we can go on to live more purposeful lives.

A starry forrest. The dark silhouette of a woman.

Resisting the Darkness

When we resist the Dark Night of the Soul and the changes it brings upon us, resent the time alone, when we receive the experience at its depths as if it is a punishment rather than the opposite, an opportunity for transformation; we lengthen the process and it becomes more painful. 

When I experienced the Dark Night of the Soul, I didn’t know that’s what was happening. I was confused and I was angry. I had done so many brave things to transform my life, and in my mind I wasn’t being lifted up, but instead, I was being punished. There wasn’t a solid bit of ground for me to stand upon, and I was bewildered. 

In my disgruntled confusion, I ignored my spiritual practices and I tried to be “normal”. I tried to stick to a routine; I started a business that just wouldn’t get off the ground no matter how hard I tried, and no matter what action I took, nothing inspired me anymore. I couldn’t seem to find motivation to do any of the things that usually inspire me. I had spent years creating what I thought I needed to free myself and begin a new life, but I just couldn’t seem to launch myself back into the goodness I knew life could be.

Embracing the Darkness

I felt lost and I felt alone. To make matters worse, I was exhausted all of the time, and much of the time I was in physical pain and had continual bouts of what seemed like a nasty cold that I just couldn’t get over. 

I was embarrassed that I seemed so defective as a person all of a sudden. I’d gone from a single mom who had nothing to achieving my dreams of finishing school and having a stable career, and a life I loved. I’d had a heart and mind filled with ambitions, and suddenly I faced an absolute inability to understand what I wanted out of life. I felt crazy, but I couldn’t pinpoint why. I certainly had depressive moments, but I wasn’t depressed.

I couldn’t explain it. 

I knew, deeply, that this was a spiritual experience, but I had no idea what was actually happening. 

When I finally found a transpersonal therapist, I was able to gain some insight as to what I may be experiencing, and I began to embrace the journey. From that point on, everything shifted. Life didn’t get easier, but just knowing that something important was happening, even if I didn’t understand it, helped me recommit to the experience. The process became easier.

I began to view the experience with curiosity, and that helped me let go of some of the fear.

Embracing the Dark Night of the Soul is the most powerful way to “speed up” the process. Though there is no rushing your healing, but resisting will delay the journey. 

Important note: If you feel physically or mentally unwell to the point that you feel you or someone else could be harmed, please seek medical attention. During my experience I saw both a therapist and a medical doctor to make certain I was healthy.

How to Cope

There are a number of things that helped me through this time, some more tangible than others. I found these the hard way, and usually stumbled onto something useful when I was at my wits end with my journey. 

  • Accept and embrace the journey. 

When I was able to let my guard down and accept what was happening, open my arms to it, my path got easier. Surrender is as easy, and as difficult, as allowing changes to happen within us, around us, and with the trust that all is well even when we are faced with difficulties. 

To accept and embrace the path, to commit and recommit to it, takes courage.

  • Trust yourself. 

You know what is best for you. When you get very quiet and honest with yourself, you will realize that you know the way.

  • Get comfortable being uncomfortable and get weird with it. 

The Dark Night of the Soul is uncomfortable. There is no nice way to put it; it’s just uncomfortable. Some weird things happened to me during this time; intuitively healing deep trauma, reliving memories I had completely buried, physical expressions of deep, uncomfortable emotions, crying and grieving, embodiment, spontaneous past life regressions, intense meditations, visions, and dreams. 

The Dark Night can be a wild ride when we relax into it. Give yourself permission to embrace the weirdness of it. 

  • Rest. A lot. 

We downplay how much rest we need and generally don’t get enough. A lot of us feel guilty when we rest; our culture has taught us to go go go all of the time. The Dark Night of the Soul is a healing journey that requires a lot of stillness and rest. 

There is so much more going on when we are still than we realize. Stillness and quiet help us connect to our higher selves more deeply, deliberately. Much of our guidance isn’t shouted at us from beyond, but rather arrives as a quiet, subtle, and deep knowing. Stillness invites answers to questions and guidance that we otherwise ignore or drown out with the hussle of our daily lives. Taking time to be still and quiet brings us to the guidance that is always there for us. 

  • Limit drugs and alcohol. 

I know, this is my least favorite one too. I love a beautiful cocktail, a smooth reposado, a deep, dark red glass of wine (or 3), but drugs and alcohol stir up the ego, and interfere with clarity. 

Anything we have used in the past to soothe ourselves can be viewed as a potential obstacle to clarity and growth. Leaving bad habits behind, or indulging in them less frequently will invite deeper transformation.

If there is one thing that is really important throughout this journey, it’s clarity.

  • Give up perfection. 

The ego needs you to follow rules, to strictly adhere to instructions, and to seek perfection. Go easy on yourself and do your best without judgment. Higher guidance does not need you to be anything other than you already are. 

Accepting yourself as you are without judgement is an important step in the process.

You are worthy, just as you are.

  • Cultivate a spiritual practice. 

When I was ignoring my spiritual practice, my life was painful. No joke. I ignored my spiritual practice because, honestly, I was afraid. I was afraid that things would get harder and I’d be less and less able to cope. My fear brought a delay that became painful both physically and mentally. 

I had to move forward. I slowly found my way back to daily spiritual practice.

Having a spiritual practice and using spiritual tools is a key to success in finding peace within the Dark Night of the Soul. 

Spiritual tools to help you create a spiritual practice.

Spiritual awakening is a long journey, and the Dark Night of the Soul is part of the awakening journey. When you’re led head-first into the Dark Night of the Soul, life gets weird. 

And difficult. 

There is no easy way out, but there can be ease in the process if we can embrace the experience, and commit ourselves to learning as much as we can about ourselves. If we honor the journey with commitment, with radical self-acceptance and compassion, remember that the journey is working for us and not against us, then we can find some peace and hope along the way. 

3 thoughts on “How to Navigating the Dark Night of the Soul

  1. Very informative article. I’m just starting what I think to be the dark night. What spiritual practices are suggested?

    1. Hi Chera, My heart goes out to you. This can be a long process, but a beautiful process that we can thrive through if we follow our guidance. Spending time alone, in quiet solitude helps us tune into our own guidance, which can intuitively bring us the tools we need to flow through the process. I wrote about my own experience and what helped me. You can find that here: Much love, TWC

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