I have a deep Soul prayer for growth.
One of the biggest reasons I ended my 6 year relationship, was because of it.
I could feel that prayer like a low growlâ€¦
I imagine it like the kind of sound a flower might make, just as it prepares to crack open the bud.
I did all I felt I could to encourage the relationship to growâ€¦ to come with meâ€¦ but it became clear to me that that wasnâ€™t a possibilityâ€¦ not in the way that my growth was calling me.
Be Careful What You Wish For
Thereâ€™s a saying: â€œBe careful what you wish forâ€â€¦ but I knew that.
The life of a growth seeking being is not about maintaining stability. Itâ€™s not about settling for â€˜normalâ€™. Itâ€™s rarely about security, striving for or subscribing to the known.
While these things things are welcomed as passing phases, growth requires chaos, destruction, dissolving, profound not-knowing.
A tree getâ€™s its rings from seasonal growth cyclesâ€¦ In spring and summer it expands, which create its thick light rings. The thin dark rings come from autumn and winter, where the leaves have fallen and all appears dead. The energy of the tree comes inward, the growth appears to slow, and deep inner preparations are made for the coming spring.
I was under no illusion, that looking for growth would take me to my edges. After all, itâ€™s only by going beyond your edges that you enter new territory.
Growth, of course, happens all the time. But sometimes a deep Soul prayer will take you into a deep dark night, and I have seen that there are specific qualities in that process which I would like to share with you here.
I must give credit to my colleague at The Inner Journey Clinic, Marion Young (no relation) who earlier this year helped me realise I was experiencing a dark night. Itâ€™s her framework (for the most part) Iâ€™m borrowing hereâ€¦ with my own twist and experience too.
So letâ€™s look at the anatomy of the Soulâ€™s dark nightâ€¦
The 6 Stages of The Dark Night of The Soul
STAGE 1: A DEEP BREATH IN
Preceding the dark night, can be a spiritual high. A sense of completion, a break-through that appears to settle things. This could last for a while like a plateau of Graceful yumminess. But inevitably the Soul gets restlessâ€¦ And life usually presents a significant event which begins stage 2â€¦
My Advice for Stage 1: Make the most of this time. On some level youâ€™ve earned it – itâ€™s blossoming time. Be available to the signs of winter coming if they do, but be present to the joy of now.
STAGE 2: THE FALL
The Fall is a crazy time. It can feel as if the rug has been pulled from under you. Itâ€™s a time where what has been known falls to pieces and thereâ€™s nothing to cling onto. Any attempts to maintain what has been can cause a great deal of pain and sufferingâ€¦ still it seems to be a natural human urge for us to try.
My Advice for Stage 2: As much as you can, embrace the fall. NPA can really help smooth the road here, as you let things go. In the same way that NPA has enabled some women to have swift and (in some cases) pain free child bird experiences, it can help you NOT cling and hold on as much – which is where the excess suffering can occur in this stage.
STAGE 3: THE VOID
There comes a point where you realise there is nothing you can do. You are in the deepest darkness. During this stage there can be a loss of hope and trust, a sense of disillusionment. Itâ€™s a time where you (at a personality level) are choicelessly experiencing the deepest painâ€¦ the shadow. Feelings of shame, unworthiness, hatred (directed both inward and outward) can surface. And no matter what technique or approach you throw at itâ€¦ any attempt to â€˜fixâ€™ it fails. This is a time of pure experience. Living through it is the only option.
My Advice for Stage 3: Give yourself FULL permission to be in it. Experience IS the point of this phase. You are literally LIVING the â€˜stuffâ€™ out. Reframing, processing, digging etc. can actually ADD suffering to the equation here. It IS really helpful however to get support from someone who can remind you to just be. A lot of times in my practice, my job is to remind people to stop and just be, rather than charging in with analysis and process work.
STAGE 4: DAWN BREAKS
At some point, seemingly by itself, the illusion collapses. Mercy steps in and cracks of light appear. This can happen without us immediately realising it, in the way that day can break while youâ€™re still asleep. While there is a lightening, through this stage there remains exhaustion in the aftermath
My Advice for Stage 4: Engage in LOTS of self care and rest. The support of family and friends can be very important at this time. But come out slowlyâ€¦ donâ€™t force your pace. A wise lizard knows not to go running straight out into the desert when its skin has shed. It waits for the expansion and some solidity in its new skin before venturing out.
STAGE 5: REBIRTH
Suddenly it IS time to emerge! An inner shift happens and your energy returns and it’s time to experience yourself anew in the world. Itâ€™s a time of discovery, where the impact of what has taken place can be determined and understood.
My Advice for Stage 5: This is very much another experiential stage, so again give yourself full permission to just live it. To make the most of this discovery stage, stay open. Resist the urge to label what you have become prematurely, as those labels can become limits. Give yourself space to â€˜grow into it’
STAGE 6: UNDERSTANDING
Only once you have â€˜livedâ€™ the new you do you really understand the whole process. This is when you can begin to celebrate the process and truly appreciate the purpose and benefit of the experience.
My Advice for Stage 6: Let this understanding land in itâ€™s own time. One of the things I see a lot with folk in the personal growth world is a rush to see the lesson in it all. In the dark night, necessarily, the earlier stages keep you â€˜blindâ€™ to the lesson, so give it time to ripen, and let it fall from the tree in its own time.
The Dark Night can be a tough time, full of confusion and lostness. You are meeting a fundamental aspect of your shadow, which ultimately grows you into something muchÂ greater.
I hope by laying out this map of the journey it helps you recognise if you (or someone you love) are in the process of the Dark Night of the Soul and you can move through it as resistance free as possible.
And, of course, I’m available for some 1:1 support…