Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dark Night of the Soul

The past two months have been extremely difficult.  Lacking motivation, I berated myself for my laziness and inability to accomplish much of anything.  Physical symptoms began to accompany the already uncomfortable mood swings and feelings of anxiety I was experiencing.  Multiple sessions to the Naturopath, hundreds of dollars in supplements, and many reiki sessions could not alleviate my dark mood.

During this time, one of the few things I managed to routinely accomplish was a brief morning meditation.  It was during one of these meditation sessions that I encountered the phrase, "Dark Night of the Soul."  Having no idea what it meant, an exhaustive internet search ensued, leading me to peruse every type of website available on the topic. 

A straight forward entry from Wikipedia decribes a Dark Night of the Soul as "a metaphor used to describe a phase in a person's spiritual life, marked by a sense of loneliness and desolation."  Another description I found incredibly helpful was this page from themystic.org, which calls the Dark Night a transformation brought about by dismantling of the ego.

Once I began to accept the events of the last few weeks as positive rather than negative, things began to change.  Rather than continually praying for the experience to end, total surrender was beginning to lift the dark cloud I had allowed to engulf me.  As my ego began to fall away, I discovered I no longer felt the same way about issues that had upset me in the past.  I accepted responsibility for situations where I had wronged someone else, rather than blaming them.  I realized that my defensiveness and need to self protect no longer served me.  Although still a work in progress, I was able to see my controlling nature for what it was, a detriment to my well being.

With gratitude I slowly ascend from the Dark Night, and realize it was a necessary part of my evolution.  There is much inner growth left to accomplish, and everything is not back to sunshine and roses.  Learning to accept the experience rather than fight it, my anxiousness continues to fall away and inner peace begins to emerge.  Surrender is not giving up, but giving in, so that the light may begin to shine anew.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Challenge of Staying Present

Present.  A gift to myself for the new year.  More valuable than anything I could buy, and more costly.  My word for the year, present, has been more of a challenge than I initially anticipated.

I explained in my last blog that remaining in the present moment has always been a challenge for me.  I decided to embrace the word present for this year, without realizing what a massive undertaking it was going to be.  I discovered this week how infrequently my mind inhabits the same space as my body.

For example, I was lying awake in bed last night, running through my laundry list of worries.  As my mind drifted downstairs to our brand new refrigerator with the mysterious scratch on the front door (a byproduct of our New Year's Eve party no doubt), I decided to put the brakes on.   I used the mantra I have uttered what feels like a million times in the four days of the new year.  "In this moment everything is fine.  I am safe.  All is well."  Within minutes I drifted off to sleep.

I used the same approach while traveling to work on New Year's Day.  I sat in the back of the airplane, getting upset about something that had happened at home earlier.  I forced myself to look out the window at the sunset, and see the beauty of the present moment.  It was amazing to see the sun above the clouds, when minutes ago I had been in the murky overcast snowstorm on the earth's surface.  In that moment, everything was fine.  Had I continued my trip down worry lane into the past, I would have missed the beauty outside my window.

Trying to remain present has been a bit of an epiphany for me.  I knew that most of my worries focused on the "what if's" of the future and the "if only's" of the past.  What I didn't realize was how much of my life was consumed by these thoughts.  I have many projects lined up for this year, but staying present is the most important.  It is the project that can bring me the most immense growth, peace, and happiness.  Because in this moment, everything is just fine.