The dark night of the soul can be difficult, intense, and even painful. Finding our way through with some sense of ease and peace can be a challenge. Maintaining a spiritual practice can bring depth of understanding, patience, and purpose to your dark night experience.
The Dark Night of the Soul
The dark night of the soul can be as ominous an experience as it sounds. When our minds are dark, it’s tough; but when our soul feels dark, it can be unbearably painful. The good news is our souls are never hopeless or helpless, and we truly have everything we need to succeed in life, if we can manage to tap into our higher selves.
How to Know if You Are in the Dark Night of the Soul
Navigating the Dark Night of the Soul
I lost all sense of my daily routine when I entered the Dark Night of the Soul. Nothing was the same, and when everything shifted, so did my daily routine. This was particularly difficult for me; my brain doesn’t function well without a routine, and a change in routine was, at that time, brutal for me.
Building a new routine that worked for me was a struggle; it’s truly, at least in part, why the Dark Night of the Soul is so difficult. I felt lost to my purpose. Deciding what to spend my time doing felt chaotic and impossible. I was trying to move away from the corporate world and had somehow found the opportunity to build a new life for myself. I had no idea what that looked like, or what I even wanted it to look like.
My normal inspiration and enthusiasm about life and new projects, work and creating, were not only depleted; they were just gone.
Try to build a daily routine when you have no idea what direction you are headed. I felt like a squirrel standing in the road, facing an oncoming car. I had to choose a direction or I felt I would be smooshed. I was just standing there, in the road, facing the headlights, in absolute horror of what might happen next. So, I did the only thing I knew I could do.
I drank a glass of water and I made a list.
- Wake the same time each day.
- Make the bed.
- Minimal (at least) self care: brush teeth, wash face, moisturize, etc.
- Feed the dog, take him outside.
- Drink water.
- Make coffee.
- I scheduled meals so that I would not only remember to eat, but not snack all day, and remain on some sort of schedule.
- Drink some more water.
- Every day I scheduled some sort of activity; a walk in the woods, taking the dog to the park, calling my sister, trying to write or sketch, doing the food shopping, or getting some form of exercise.
- Nights were the same as the morning, but in reverse; wash face, brush teeth, get into bed and sleep at a decent hour. At least, when I could sleep.
My daily routine was interrupted all of the time. I worked through illnesses and an injury that for months made physical activity difficult. It wasn’t until I renewed my spiritual practice that I began to make sense of the absolute need for rest, or anything else for that matter.
Finding My Way Back to a Spiritual Practice
When I ignored my spiritual practice after wading into the depths of the dark night of the soul, my journey became confusing, and painful. I lost all sense of purpose. Having a daily routine and a spiritual practice gave me back a sense of purpose, which also served to bring me hope.
Hope is a shining beacon and easier to find during the dark night if we maintain a routine and spiritual practice.
Seeing a transpersonal therapist who was also an ayurvedic coach helped me find my way back to my spiritual practice. Her recommendations for what were basically homework assignments were simple things that helped me find my way back to some sense of purpose.
I still had no idea what I was going to do with my life, but I at least found a way to bring purpose in my daily life. These are some of the things she suggested, and others I was intuitively guided to during my Dark Night experience that brought me back to life, however slowly.
Please note: these are tools that I used to find my way and suggestions to help you build your own regular practice. This is not a How To guide for yoga or meditation. Learning the origin, the purpose, and the usefulness of these tools should be part of your experience. Without doing so, you may risk misuse, misunderstanding, and misappropriation. Each tool used in your practice should be sacred to you.
I had read The Yoga Sutras years before. I purchased a thrifted copy and began reading every night before bed. I pulled out my dusty yoga mat and committed to just 10 minutes of gentle yoga each night before bed.
Abhyanga is the ayurvedic practice of self-massage. Self-massage is soothing and relieves stress; it calms the nervous system, and it’s very grounding. All of these attributes helped bring me back into my body, which helped me to feel more balanced and brought a sense of empowerment I had been missing.
Walking in nature is grounding and healing. Whether or not you believe the earth is a sentient being, there is no doubt that it provides cleansing and healing energy. Walking in nature, putting our feet in the dirt, or a stream, or the ocean all provide a sense of groundedness and wellbeing.
When the weather was terrible or I was feeling unmotivated, I would go outside and put my feet in the grass or dirt.
The energetic vibrations of sound can not only be soothing but also healing. I was once in a yoga class that had a focus on sound healing. At the end of the class the instructor walked slowly around the room with a large hand-drum. As she walked by me, she struck the drum. I felt the vibrations, and suddenly the pain I was experiencing in my back immediately subsided.
I eventually invested in some good headphones, but prior to that I just used the speaker on my phone and sometimes earbuds to stream soothing music or binaural beats. There is a great deal of free music available on YouTube. Often sleep music and meditation music will steam for hours without commercial interruption.
I found, during the Dark Night, that sleep is very much a spiritual practice. Sleep is regenerating, it allows the subconscious to work out some of the issues we may be struggling with, and it’s healing for the body, and for the mind. Sometimes I struggled to sleep, and when this happened I would rely on another practice to relax and try to rest.
Breath-work always intimidated me until I eventually realized it was something I had always done without realizing. Breath-work is an accessible and free tool to calm the nervous system, calm the mind, connect with spirit, bring clarity, and contribute to overall well being. I used several methods, from breath retention, box breathing, and alternate nostril breathing, to more complex guided breathwork.
Meditation was a practice that I came back to slowly after intense mystical experiences occurred early in my awakening journey. I was more uncomfortable with meditation than any other practice. When I finally found my way back to it, I was cautious and slow. It wasn’t until I relaxed and opened up to the experience of it that I was able to fully commit to a regular meditation practice again.
I started slowly and I used a free app to use guided meditations. This felt safe and allowed me to slowly find my way back to a regular meditation practice. Eventually I was meditating twice a day and for an hour each session. Finding my way back to meditation was the single most effective and healing practice I have used to navigate the Dark Night of the Soul.
Even just a few minutes of quiet focus can help you settle deep into yourself, and find your way to your inner guidance. Here is a one minute meditation to help you get started:
As a daily practice, journaling brought clarity and connection with my higher self and my spirit guidance. I began to journal each morning and sometimes also at night. Wherever I had confusion and frustration, writing everything out and then revisiting the journals later gave me a clear view of my progress, helped to bring meaning to my experiences, and brought immense clarity.
I am not a religious person. I have studied different religions and I have attended services of many different types of religious organizations, but I never found an intense connection to any particular religion, only to the knowing that there was something bigger than myself. I never needed to know what that was. I have been and often still am offended by the vicious and violent actions perpetrated in the name of religion. It just isn’t for me.
Prayer wasn’t something I did often. It was an important stepping stone to help me understand what I was feeling and what I needed. I found that when I learned how to talk with the Universe, I felt more empowered. Rather than asking for help, I was having a conversation about how things were going and what I thought that all meant.
And, I sometimes asked for help.
I was just having a conversation with infinite intelligence. With infinite love. And that was who and what I prayed to.
Keeping the smallest commitment to myself helped me to build trust in myself, whether it was waking up at the same time every day, practicing 5 minutes of yoga, or going for a walk; and I began to trust myself and to know that I would, eventually, find my way back to the light.
Most of these tools require no purchase of any kind. You can, if you have the means and the desire, go out and spend thousands of dollars on supplies, books, and retreats, but none of that is necessary to complete this journey successfully.
A daily routine and a daily spiritual practice brought peace back into my life. I was still confused, lacking stability, and overall had no idea where I was going in any aspect of my life. I had a deep knowing that something important was happening, that I was healing things I couldn’t even grasp, and as I relaxed into it, embraced the darkness of the unknown. I began to slowly see that I was transforming.