Dark Night of the Soul

Spiritual awakening doesn’t happen because you master some spiritual technique. There are lots of skillful meditators who are not awake. Awakening happens when you stop bullshitting yourself into continual nonawakening. It’s very easy to use disciplines to avoid reality rather than to encounter it. A true spirituality will have you continually facing your illusions and all the ways you avoid reality. Spiritual practice may be an important means of confronting yourself, or it may be a means of avoiding yourself; it all depends on your attitude and intention. -Adyashanti

Three years ago I had a shift of consciousness. It was not a sudden opening and it didn’t really feel like a big deal at that time. All that really happened is that I read Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now, and it made complete sense to me, whereas on previous readings it had not.

With the shift, I started exploring, mostly through reading.  I went through a period of high-energy and ecstasy. Life was eventful, fun and easy.  Just to be and breathe was delicious. Decisions came to me pre-made. Life was living itself, experiencing, in peaceful flow. I traveled. I wrote. I was engaged with family and friends and living.

I was also dealing with feelings of deep longing for someone. This was a little bizarre, because I had ended the relationship two years before. I was surprised that there were feelings that I had not been conscious of, and was really surprised at the intensity of the feelings.

After about a year and half, life slowed down. The ecstasy waned. Agony waxed.

The feelings of longing and what I had thought was unrequited love continued, and even intensified, to the point where I sometimes felt it was unhealthily obsessive.

There was anxiety, and this was a shocking disappointment. How could I feel anxiety, when I thought I had awakened out of depression and anxiety and the rest of the mess?

I have written about releasing anxiety, and releasing compulsive thoughts, and how to reconcile the feelings of longing.

Edvard Munch: The Scream

Even with this releasing though, what remained was not fun. For a long period I felt apathetic and detached and alone. There was no zest to life.

This depression is different from clinical depression.  In depressive episodes in the past, I had felt a deep sense of nihilistic futility and unhappiness. This spiritual depression was not unhappy or nihilistic. It was apathetic and inactive and indecisive.

I’ve heard this described as spiritual depression or the “dark night of the soul.”

Why agony

Consciousness is more conscious but embodied patterns continue.

The mind loves to run through its grooves of conditioning. My conditioning includes patterns of depression and withdrawal. For me the dark night shows up as ennui. It may be different for you. Old patterns die hard.

The agony of awakening is often exacerbated by expectation. We have certain ideas of awakening, usually very romantic ones. We’ve heard about oneness and bliss. The ego wants in on this, and it creates ideas of an enlightened future where we’ll be super-spiritual, super-effective, super-happy—essentially super-human.

So when old-habits re-emerge, it’s quite a let-down.

I think many people are even reluctant to talk about it, since they have set the expectation in themselves and others that they had permanently shifted to some sort of a blissed-out dimension.

We may feel that we are not fitting in. We feel inadequate and alienated. We’re in the middle stages somewhere with this awakening thing, and we may feel that there are people who seem be able to completely embrace awakening. Their lives, seemingly, are flowing and easy and directed, and yet here we are, somewhat opened up, and yet dragging the heavy burdens of old tendencies, unable to let go.

And the old drivers are no longer helpful. In the past, we may have been able to “power through”, by setting goals, and by positive thinking, and with self-discipline and effort. We now have the intuition that this sort of self-forcing cannot be sustained.

Friends and family may be concerned, and may try to help, but at this point we realize that nobody can really help us. It has to all come from inside.

We may find that our concepts are no longer of much help. We’ve probably at this stage left behind the need to intellectually dissect and understand. We find though that even spiritual concepts are of no help. We read about karma and compassion and acceptance and letting go, and yet these concepts no longer help in any real way. There is a continual checking back—what is it that I don’t know, what is it that I’m not doing, what is it that I’m doing wrong? Where is the damned flow that people love to talk about? Where is the freaking joy and peace that everyone vehemently shouts about?

And these times seem never-ending. Will I really see the light? Is there really a light to see? Or is this all some complicated play of the emperor’s clothes, illusions within illusions within illusions?

We can’t even go back to our old pretend-lives. We can’t muster up the old pretenses and drivers and make ourselves a conventional life in the sleepy auto-pilot mode, giving only bare attention to what’s going on inside us. Once there has been a willingness to see, there is no turning back.

Nothing seems to help. Certainly no thought or emotion or belief can help us for long. We don’t want to pretend any more. We don’t want the temporary solutions of discipline and re-arranging beliefs. Where do we turn? What do we do?

What to do

Well, I don’t have an earth-shattering answer.

This was not a satisfying article to write. I have presented a case for spiritual depression. I don’t know that everyone who is awakening goes through it, but there are enough references out there to suggest that many of us do.

Adyashanti talks about it here. What was striking to me here was the voice of the questioner.  Her despair and uncertainty come right through.

Whatever agony is showing up in us has always existed in us. It’s nothing new. It’s showing up now, a little differently and more acutely, because we are waking up. At some point, we recognize this, and we stop resisting. At some point, we realize that the only problem there ever is, is resistance.

And this may be it. The purpose of these agonizing states may be the opportunity to surrender. The answer may be in the very problem. The answer is in the questions we ask ourselves: where do we turn, what do we do.

It is not what we do. It is what we stop doing. We stop resisting.

In the next few articles I will consider this further.

Have you experienced this ebb and flow? What do you do about it?

210 thoughts on “Dark Night of the Soul

  1. Rini

    Hi everybody..
    Kaushik, I feel grateful that you are sharing your experience upon this.
    It is happening to me right now, after I read ‘awereness’ book of Anthony de Mello for the second time. I lost my ability to explain with words clearly -especially about what’s going on right now-, I also lost ability in thinking clearly. I am hovering. I don’t really care whether it is spiritual path to go higher or not. I don’t care.
    It’s depressing and it can’t be said. No one around will understand. (I am not doing meditation or joining any spiritual center. I love to read books about it when my heart feels right about it. Not all spiritual writers i am interested into. I like to read/listen to Anthony De Mello, Rumi, Kabir, Tagore, Osho. I can cry easily by reading one sentence of Rumi’s. Strange.)
    Sometimes I found myself weeping. I am loosing all things I used to believe in. All strings I used to hang on seems have cut one by one. My dependency in close friends, career that I was seeking for, belongings, old believe in god.. I am searching online about it, at the same time I am realised that is not going to help actually. I guess ‘to do’ is the only thing i know. When i am stuck like this and require nothing to do i feel pretty miserable.
    But I guess this is the way I have to go through.
    I am trying to be true and sincere to myself.

    Love & peace for all 🙂

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Rini,

      You’re doing fine. You’re not stuck.

      The way I see it, once I had the insight that life is not the way I see it, that something was off inside, I started on an exploration of the self. Be true to yourself, be kind to yourself, use your intuition, and the next step shows up. At some point I recognized that the only problem there really was, is fear. In the recognition of fear, and solution through John Sherman’s technique. this feel of this process changed. It went from somthing which felt urgent and consuming and confusing and often depressing, to a process which now feels enjoyable and creative.

      And so to me this is a process–a process of iterative moves towards consciousness and clarity. Wash, rinse, repeat.

      Thanks for sharing your experience!


    2. Cindy

      Hi Rini,

      I understand what you are going through and you’re right about how no one understands. But there are ones that truly understand.

      Feel right now what the Universe is doing is making you let go of things. Not to hang on to them. More you try, the worse it is. This is hard but try to put more faith into yourself and life. Also feel you need more of going into yourself and face truth of what is really hurting you. Mediating is something that is good for this.


  2. Lee

    Thank you for sharing, everybody.

    I too have been in this dreadful state for about a year and a half. It started during the most unpleasant experience of my life, in which my ego and its pride was crushed by the circumstances I had gotten myself into. I started to experience misery, pain and confusion so deep and intense I couldn´t imaigne before. Like someone said above, I cried every day, or actually, could have cried – because I had no tears. It was HORRIBLE and I didn´t know what was happening. I also “do the looking” like John Sherman suggests and had heard him speak of a period of great pain and misery, but I didn´t expect THAT.

    Like some of you said, it seems that we cannot do anything about this mess – nothing seems to help and no one can really understand what we are going through. I haven´t sought medical help even though my feelings of anger and hatred have been showing up quite intensely for the past year and sometimes it feels as though I´m going crazy. I have been “self-medicating” with marijuana, which has been my habit half of my life. I also attended an ayahuasca ceremony and a peyote ceremony. Even if these gave me a temporary relief, nothing has changed – I still experience all of this misery, pain and confusion. The pain is not so intense as it was a year ago, but I´m certainly not “doing well” and as I look at the people around me, it seems that something is seriously wrong with me. I am unable to feel joy from anything, I feel like I´m almost like dead, or a zombie, with no enthusiasm, no joy and happiness. All there is, is misery – the thoughts of “it shouldn´t have happened, I want to kill this guy (who I perceive as the person who dragged me into the situation I mentioned above)” etc. the feelings of anger, self-pity, dread, anxiety and confusion – not knowing what to do with my life and how. I have sensed that there is nothing else to do than to surrender because I´m not in control anyway. So I just have to let whatever is playing out to be played out – everything is in God´s hands. So there is really not much we can do.

    “Dark night of the soul” is a phrase that resonates with me too. I actually started to read the book by John of the Cross yesterday.

    What beccaboo said above, stroke me as exactly what John of the Cross writes about in his “Dark night of the soul”. He says that it is one of the signs of the dark night:

    “I’ve noticed that all my interests, tastes and pleasures have taken on an empty, meaningless feel.”

    Although I´m not Christian (or any other religion), I find solace in cristian writings such as the above and “Imitation o Christ” by Thomas a Kempis. Those books have the depth it takes to grasp what may be happening to me.

    So that´s my report.



    1. Brandon

      Hi all. I came across this thread yesterday during my own Dark Night investigation. First of all, let me say that it has been comforting to know that I’m not the only one enduring such difficulties. However, after reading many of the accounts of others, it has become clear that my DN experience may be a little more mild than that of others. This led me to question why, and although there are surely a multitude of answers and no one thing that will be a universal fix-all, I do think I can offer once piece of advice that may be of some benefit. Here it is:

      Get off of your computer. Get out of your house. Go for a LONG walk in as remote a part of nature as is available to you. Better yet, go spend a night in the wilderness, alone. Sleep outside if possible. Listen to the sounds of the natural world, which have long been forgotten by most in modern day society. Feel the air on your skin when the wind blows. When it rains, do not reach for the rain jacket. Be uncomfortable. Sleep under the stars. Immerse yourself in being a part of the natural world, the way our ancestors did. Something about this process, about being a small part of something much greater, has a way of taking the focus off of yourself, making it far easier to “just be” without expectation of judgement.

      If you live in an urban environment, go for a walk in the park daily. Pick the quietest one with the most solitude. On weekends, get out into the REAL wilderness whenever possible. Go with friends or loved ones sometimes, but I find that the greatest benefit comes with solitude. If you fear for your safety and going alone isn’t feasible, then go with like-minded people with whom endless meaningless conversation is not necessary. Walk in silence for a good deal of the time. Better yet, walk a ways apart from each other.

      Do this, and do it frequently. It might just be the one thing that is missing.

      “There are some good things to be said about walking. Not many, but some. Walking takes longer, for example, than any other known form of locomotion except crawling. Thus it stretches time and prolongs life. Life is already too short to waste on speed. I have a friend who’s always in a hurry; he never gets anywhere. Walking makes the world much bigger and thus more interesting. You have time to observe the details. The utopian technologists foresee a future for us in which distance is annihilated. … To be everywhere at once is to be nowhere forever, if you ask me.”
      ― Edward Abbey

      1. Sweet orange

        Apparently you haven’t truly went through the dark. Sounds like mild depression to me. Sorry.

        1. Brandon

          As I cannot gauge the experiences of others, of course I cannot guarantee with 100% certainty that I am experiencing the exact same challenges, or to the same degree. However, I would also never tell someone that, because they have found a way to circumnavigate the darkness more in their own way that makes it somewhat less difficult, that they must not know what it’s all about. The DN is not some special club, where one must pass a certain criterion to be a member.

          The truth is that I believe I am going through a DN experience that, when the effect is most profound, is every bit as difficult as anyone writing in this forum. I have read countless blogs, articles, etc. on the subject and identify strongly with every one. The feeling of being stuck in purgatory, where one cannot revert to past ways, but is struggling mightily with letting go of the ego and thus is unable to find solace in the sustained awareness that we are all striving for. I don’t care who you are, anyone finding themselves in this state is bound to have a DN experience. What else can there be when one feels completely out of touch, with what seem to be huge roadblocks moving forward, and no safe haven to return to?

          This is why I wrote what I did. I have discovered an outlet that makes the DN less pervasive, and that is in nature. For me, it is the only thing I have found so far that is carrying me through. More importantly, every hiking/meditative journey that I embark on in the wilderness seems to bring me a little closer to leaving the ego behind. My point is that there is a natural balance in nature, and an energy, which has the capacity to greatly dissipate the dark. It “spreads it out,” if you will. Something about being immersed in the world as it was meant to be makes it instantly evident that we are such a small part of a greater whole, and the egoic mind, at least for me, is temporarily subdued. The more time spend in nature, the greater the effect.

          But think what you will. My original post was made with nothing but good intention. Hopefully someone else will read it and actually give it a shot instead of just telling me how my DN experience isn’t real because it’s too “mild.” It is not mild at all in terms of how deeply it effects me. It is only mild in the sense that I have frequent escapes from it. If I did nothing but sit at my computer and read and write in forums, I can guarantee you that I would be stuck in it all the time.

          Here’s a question for you. If you were to take a Tibetan monk out of the Himalayas, where beauty and stillness are the norm rather than the exception, and insert him into our crazy fast paced life in some US city and give him a monotonous job to do every day, do you really think he would have as easy a task in attaining enlightenment? The answer is no. Of course we can’t drop everything an head to Tibet, but that doesn’t mean we cannot observe this fact, and try to find a way to add a portion of it’s lesson to our own life. Just my opinion. Either way, I truly wish everyone here the best on their own journey.

      2. itsbeccaboo

        Hey everyone.
        I posted quite a bit about my experience earlier in the year. I wanted to follow up with what happened after.

        So as I expressed in great detail, my dark night was my living hell. Every morning I would wake up feeling like my heart had just broken into a million pieces. I worried at times it wasn’t anything spiritual at all and that I would have to settle for this as my reality. That was the hardest part of all.

        It broke about 3 months after it started. One day I woke up and things felt lighter like the worst of it was over. It wasn’t a journey straight in to bliss though. It took time to shake off the fear that it wasn’t going to come back and also to shake of the mental negativity that accumulated during that time. the year and a half prior to this experience had been filled with intense spiritual work and practices that I believed finally forced some ugly old egoic crap to the surface to be purged.

        Maybe 2 or 3 weeks after it ended I was blessed with a sense of lightness both physical and emotional that has been with me ever since. My heart felt open and full of joy and love and the pain that had haunted me for years, the heavy darkness I had never really been able to shakeI was suddenly, unmistakably gone. Things haven’t been perfect, life I mean. It’s still been throwing me ups and downs only the joy is more profound and I laugh more.

        It was such an awful experience at the time but needed to happen. I am thankful for what came out of the pain because it was alchemy pure and simple. If you found yourself on this page and identify then trust this answer was presented to you to give you some hope. It probably is your dark night. Don’t doubt, just trust and I promise you will come out the other side.

        1. Christine

          Becca and Everyone,

          Thank you for sharing your experience. The feeling of lightness and joy that you described is what I have been experiencing for the past two years. I find that my emotions cycle so that much of the time I feel what I consider “normal” for me: Happy and calm, able to work and socialize, and I have very positive energy. Sometimes, usually through meditation, reading spiritual material or through helping others I get these “highs” of feeling joy and love of everything and everyone. These times are truly wonderful, but I have learned to not grasp at them, because it is hard to maintain.

          Recently, I have noticed times of depression coming back, usually mild and usually over with quickly. However, about a week ago I spent one day feeling hopeless and apathetic and even contemplated suicide for a moment as a viable option! This experience was so uncharacteristic for me that I’m wondering if it has a spiritual cause. I certainly did not have any good reason to feel depressed and I knew that I would feel better soon. I treated myself kindly and resolved to learn whatever lessons I was supposed to from it.

          Becca, I can relate to your fear about just going through depression, as I’ve wondered that myself. With my psychology background I can’t help but wonder about the nature of mental illness and whether we truly know what is going on for those with mood disorders. When I think about the experiences I’m having I can’t help but think that I could be displaying symptoms of bipolar disorder with the weird highs and lows, but deep inside I do not feel that I am going through anything unnatural, or that I have a “disorder” of any kind.

          Thankfully, I’m finding the “high” times more and more frequent, and am able to go there at will much of the time. The lows are weird and sometimes intense, but usually end quickly and I have numerous coping strategies for them.



  3. Lorraine

    I feel that it’s the sadness of letting go of what you thought of as you. All of those years of living it. Now there is an emptiness. It feels sad and lonely. It’s okay to let yourself feel this for it signals a new beginning.

  4. Linda

    I have been through so much in my life… And have overcome so much. I’ve been on my own since the age of 16 and spent 10 years in the streets. I had a son and was abandoned by his father in California, 3500 miles from my home town and my family. My son is half black and I came from a very racist town so going back home was not an attractive option. I drove myself to the hospital, had my son and drove myself home, but stopped at the market on the way to buy formula. I lied about his age. I said he was 1 week old as opposed to a few days old so that people wouldn’t feel sorry for me.

    I scrounged off the streets to take care of him. I went back to my home town, but was overwhelmed with my circumstances. I became a heroine addict snorting 10 bags a day ( 1 bag of potent heroine is enough to kill someone who does it for the first time). I was in an abusive, violent relationship that was almost impossible to get out of, but I did. I got on a methadone program for a year and welfare for a couple of years and went back to school to get my GED. I detoxed from methadone, which was so difficult and enrolled in college. I got my Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science, Secondary Education and became a history teacher and ESL teacher, teaching in the very school I dropped out of along with 5 of my siblings. I thought I went full circle. NOT SO…

    I went on to be Guidance Counselor and then Department Head working with hundreds of students year after year mapping out their college plan and life path. I was great at my job because I knew what losing a child to the streets meant. I helped students, parents and faculty members when they needed it and was well respected, but I was a fighter which is frowned upon by the powers that be.

    I met a man early on in the field who only felt shame about me and initially hid me from anyone in his life. Until one day a friend told me he married someone else. He was still secretly seeing me when he married and I found it difficult to walk away, feeling that this is what I deserved. He paraded her around all of his friends and coworkers; the same people I now worked with everyday. It was so humiliating. He even did an interview with her that was plastered on a full front page in the local newspaper.

    I raised my son myself to be a good man in spite of my circumstances. The man I loved finally divorced his wife after 8 years while declaring his secret love for me. I did return to the relationship and attempted to recover from the pain of the past, but it burned inside of me until I was literally rotting from the inside out. I had surgery to remove 95% of my colon that was blackened like soot, but with no apparent medical reason. My colon attached itself to my spleen and took 30 minutes in surgery just to detach it. My colon lay against a portion of my kidney which started to hardened. My surgeon said I was “rotting from the inside out”.

    I was displaced from my job and removed from my high school guidance position due to pressures to forge transcripts and spike graduation rates at any cost which I resisted. I was placed in a 6th grade history class. I made the best of it. I finally left my job after teaching a lesson on Buddha and the path to enlightenment. Students were quite interested in learning more about meditation. I explained meditation techniques that are used to deal with anger and stress. Many shared their experiences with their friends and families. A few began meditating with their parents at home. Students from all over the school came knocking on my door to learn about it. I started a sign-up sheet for students to receive a one on one exchange after their work was complete that enabled them to practice at home. I ended up with about 140 names on my list.
    Many can expect what came next; the phone call from administration to stop! Students were devastated! Students were insistent on meditating and plopped themselves on the floor in a meditative stance. They said it helped them to calm down when they got stressed. This is an inner city school with many gang issues, homelessness, poverty, etc… All many of them have is themselves. As I pried them from the floor I asked myself the question; how did this become my job?

    I was exhausted. A coworker had recently committed suicide, my former secretary’s 12 year old daughter committed suicide and my step son was violently murdered along with numerous other horrific occurrences. My step son visited my son from beyond the veil and that threw both my son and I into a full spiritual awakening which we embraced completely. I remember sitting on the porch and the tears trickling down my face, but with no emotion left inside of me.

    I broke down to my son one day and told him that I just couldn’t do it anymore. With the help of my son, I quit my job and got a Hypnosis and Life Coaching Certification. He prepared everything for me; an office, business cards, a beautiful website, marketing leads and on and on. I could not come out of my deep despair. I have seen shamans, spiritual advisers, doctors and I even went to Peru for 2 weeks into the heart of the jungle for an ayhuausca healing.

    So… About 2 years ago, I stopped all antidepressants, which I had taken for 17 years and any other medication. I eat only organic food, exercise everyday, invoke the light, pray, meditate and on and on. I left my relationship which went on for 17 years. I left a job I thought I was destined to be in. It is like my life ended and I am just observing the debris. Everyday gets harder and harder with no relief in sight. I worry about the burden I have become to my son. I can’t find the strength to get up and engage in the world. I have no friends, family is distant. I have no income, lost my retirement, no medical insurance and cannot function to provide for myself.

    I’ve heard this only happens to powerful souls with great purpose, but this is ridiculous and close to taking me out! Any advice would be helpful. This IS hell!

    1. Tony

      Christ – what a life you’ve led!

      You are certainly one tough cookie and one tough Soul………a radiant and beautiful
      one at that. Unfortunately I have no pallitives to offer you other than to keep on keeping on .
      “Yours is no disgrace” as the song goes. My only consolation is that millions of us walk the same
      road with you.

      As the great psycholist R D Laing said “Insanity – a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world.”

      My love to you.


    2. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Linda,

      You’ve certainly had far and wide challenges in your life, and challenges which are outside of my experience.

      I think you’re right when you say that these deep challenges happen to powerful souls with great purpose. I do see that we are conscious souls who attract experiences to ourselves. We create and experience.

      The thing is, through all you this, you have persevered and absorbed. I cannot offer any advice on the particulars of your life–I think you with your experience are wiser than I am in dealing with your particular challenges. What I do see is that our purpose is to increasingly move towards greater and greater consciousness, and to see more and more clearly, and to suffer less and less. And for this I do have some recommendations.

      Learn the release technique. The one I have here I think is excellent.

      Learn to observe. Observe what goes on inside, your thoughts, emotions, beliefs, perceptions, sensations. Learn to observe without judgement or conclusion or purpose. Just observe as a witness.

      Do the self-inquiry. Look at the sense of I AM. I think John Sherman is the clearest on this.

      I hope this helps. I hope to hear more from you.

      much love,

    3. Tara

      ask yourself/and the universe, why am I creating this in my life? please give me an awareness. when the awareness comes, embrace it with love, compassion and forgiveness. we create everything in our lives, and once you take responsibility for creating everything, and stop blaming, then the healing can begin. nothing is happening to you, everything is happening for you. it is all a gift, embrace it, let go of resistance. forgive yourself and others. thank the experience of all the dark as well as all the light in your life.

  5. Tara

    The Dark Night is a gift…… meditate, or quiet the mind, let go of all resistance, surrender then embrace the darkness with love, compassion, and forgiveness, this will transmute the dark energy into light. The gift is to be able to experience darkness as well as light in this dimension. It is through the experience of the darkness that leads us back to the light. When we experience such deep dark pain, we can see the contrast of light and love. When we are with source energy in the higher dimensions we only experience love. Our souls wanted to experience dark to appreciate/know love. It is through experiencing what you don’t want that will show you what you do want. Everything in this earth life is an illusion. Everything in this earth life is just an experience. It is nothing more than an experience. Our souls put on a costume (our human body) to experience the gift of darkness/light at the same time. When we start to awaken, we go through the dark night. The ego starts to fall away during this process and as painful as it is, it truly is a beautiful gift. The more it happens, the more conscious you become. You remember who you are. The key is not to resist.

  6. Nancy

    Hi there,

    My fiancé or ex fiancé I believe is on this path. We have known each other 10 years, been together for 8 years, engaged 3, and were planning our life together. About 2 months ago he broke up with me. He has always been depressed but his dispare is reached a new level. He said he felt empty and has nothing left to give. He said he needs to reinvent himself and find out how to be happy. I love and care for him very much and he does for me as well. I am feeling deep grief for the loss of this relationship and find myself wanting to fight for it but feel it will only push him away. On a soul level I understand this path but emotionally and conciously I am personally thrown into my own crisis as I work to care for myself and find meaning and purpose without him. I very much wish for us to both be transformed and reunite even stronger than before. I know that I cannot know the future but find myself holding onto hope. I believe in him and his path; I love his spirit. I know this journey is one he must do on his own, although I don’t think it needs to be without me. I am trying to trust but find it very difficult this process of letting go. I find myself wondering if I can hold onto the possibility of hope for our future while also letting go. Is this possible to hold hope while also letting go? Please any advice or thoughts of strength are appreciated.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi ,

      Thanks for your openness. I’m not sure if I’m qualified to give advice on this; but I can tell you my experience. The feelings we feel about breakups and unrequited love seem to be disproportionately strong and persistent. I used those emotions as a driver into spirituality. They made me develop the strong intention to let go, to be free. I recognized that letting go is a skill, a forgotten skill, and with some practice it comes back to us.

      Can we hold on to hope and also let go? Yes, if hope is absent of attachment to a particular outcome. I see clearly that the purpose of this physical existence is to experience joy, to move from fear to love, and in this there is optimistic hope. The ultimate outcome is assured. But in my view if I had an attachment to a particular outcome, and if only a particular outcome would make me happy, that would come from fear, and it would not be freedom.


  7. Nicole

    Thanks for responding. Intuitively I think I already knew that the key to holding hope and letting go is non- attachment to outcome. And I also know that I will be happy regardless of outcome because that is how I live my life with joy and love.


  8. chris

    hi friends, glad to be able to come to this site. i have been dealing with this dark night for some 4to 5 months now, it is grueling, it is very different from the depression, anxiety i have felt prior to finding clarity through the mystic path. having lived with depression most of my life, and just trying to be a strong loving person i have always been, always having so much love for even those who hurt me, always torn between sides. i found myself in the most meaningful relationship, and doing well in life, everything was coming together for me, working towards building a family, the whole 9. one day she had left with no answers, i lost my job and apartment all in the same week, everything out of my hands, i hit rock bottom, and didnt know where to turn, in so much pain, having the ones who love me also telling me to just get up, go on, get over it, that didn’t help, confused about the world and myself, wondering why life was torture, so many mixed emotions, up and down. was in the hospital and taking my meds again, but nothing helped. i didn’t know what was wrong, i was complete mental and stuck inside myself. at this point i found a book about borderline personality and mindfulness, that led me to studying buddhism, and spent all my time reading, learning, and everything started to unravel so quickly, i was released from the mental hell, and found full clarity, at first with myself, then rapidly with the world, with everything, i was in Bliss for about a month, then one day while just sitting on the floor, i had felt something that felt like dark lightning hit me dragging me out of it. my body getting up and acting out while my mind had no clue why. this was the end, and now it is like living the past life i had before my “awakening” only it is different. its the same but different. holly scripture doesnt help, its as if living in a hell amongst the heavens. i try to listen for the sign, i know its everywhere, only it isn’t. yesterday there was a slight moment after ariving to work, i felt disgust, then i thought to whole heartedly to thank god for my damnation, and that actually seemed to bring more peace, and a greater feeling of light shinning over me. it helped work not feel selfish or unselfish. in regards to the work, there was some middle ground, there was less pain. although not fully in that divine embrace, or thoughts being in the moment. it put my mind on st jhon. it was a rough but somewhat beautiful feeling, almost higher respect, love of god, but still a deserted feeling.

  9. chris

    so many things are hard to read, or make sense of. everything made complete sense every moment, never a moment without clarity, the devine understaning of words, frazes is all mixed up now, and i do not view words or circimstances as i use to, its all a blur of realities. even simple mondane frazes are confusing.

  10. ElleMarie

    I have been going through the DN for several years now…….only mature souls make it to this point, and being mature souls they take the responsibility of trying everything to get themselves to a better place functionally…..that being so when they truly hit bottom as many here seem to have and as I have there are no methods that will really help (except perhaps the one mentioned about Nature), so hearing ideas about methods can sound like New Age fluff and puff and just feel angering or make things seem even more hopeless…………I would really like to offer something that might be truly helpful and that is just knowing someone else is there and cares what you are experiencing…….I am thinking of creating a real time chat room for this that might be visited periodically by someone who is fully awake in unitive onsciousness, and that is just peopled by folks like you supporting one another the rest of the time. If you are interested in this please say so and I will pursue it, otherwise I will not. If I do I will try to get several people I have befriended that are awake such as Scott Kiloby (scottkiloby.com) and Jeannie Zandi (jeanniezandi,com) to participate. My website is ( soaringdoveconcepts.org) though it as been dead for about a year since I have hit a dark night low and have not been active in energy work right now.

  11. Peter

    When you shed illusion after illusion about yourself and your goal in life, there comes a point when you see reality as it is, without frills. It’s as if you’ve left all the light behind you, but you can’t go back, because you know they were just good sounding rationalizations. You’re in the middle of darkness, alone. You may feel like dropping to the floor in a miserable lonely heap, but after a while you see this leads you nowhere. At one point you stand up and say: “here I am”. At that point you shed your illusory umbilical cord and it’s as if the darkness becomes light and you may freely choose your way. There is no greater plan, you don’t have to do anything, you choose. But you can feel, what I call by figure of speech, the energy of the universe, or Tao, and swim freely in it. It wasn’t meditation that brought me here, but thorough self analysis. I’ve never been able to lie to myself longer than a few days; truth is more important to me than my self image or my ego.

    The passing of the darkness of the soul doesn’t show in your outer life, you just stay your own boring self, you don’t radiate light or something; that would be just another illusion. Some people might notice your being deeper than before, but only them that have some depth themselves. What has changed is not your outer life, but only your sense of being rooted. Strange: by shedding the illusion of a greater plan and a greater whole, you see you’ve always been part of a greater whole. Not some scheming personal god or something, but “just” the universe or Tao. Tao flows and we are part of it and drift in it, and we may choose to go against the stream or to drift unconsciously or to use the stream to our (and the global) advantage. No punishments or rewards.

    The dark night of the soul has nothing to do with depression: depression is something that overwhelms and obliterates consciousness, while the dark night is the result of conscious decision.

    1. Mikael

      Thank you for your post. I read it in the middle of what seems to be a depression. A state of intense anguish that I felt the last few days. I have had quite severe suffering for over a decade. I have spoked in depth with a dozen of experienced therapists, teachers, healers, shamans and seers, even two psychiatrists, but not a single one said they feel or se a disorder or diagnosis as the main indicator for my state. On the contrary, without exception, they said that this is a existential crisis/dark night/transition pain/old paradigm dying etc…
      I know they are straight up people with much integrity, not the ‘positive thinking’-school newagers. I know it is important to judge by myself, but in these states I feel it is almost impossible. So at least some grains of truth these people may have spotted.
      So it made me curious what you mean when you say that the dark night has nothing to do with depression? You may be right but it is contrary to what a lot of testimonies tells, especially from mystics and spiritual researchers, both ancient and current.

      Thank you.

      1. Peter

        Mikael, I am just someone who can only talk from his own experience. Shamans, healers, etc. seem to me more of a distraction than a help, because they pretend there is some magic going on behind this world. Sorry, there is no magic beyond this world, the “magic” is in this world.

        Now, about the difference between depression and the dark night. Depression, anxiety disorders, feelings of shame or guilt and so on occur when different parts of you want different things. E.g. you might feel like a failure because you live a mediocre life; in that case there is a voice telling you that you don’t live up to expectations. Whose expectations? I started analysis 22 years ago when I had panic attacks and feelings of shame. A psychologist helped me see clear in my turmoil. After a few months the turmoil was sufficiently clear to be free of panic attacks, but I was fascinated about what was going on inside and I continued my analysis for 2 years (and lifelong without her) and read a lot about psychology, especially C.G. Jung. It meant mercilessly admitting to myself certain traits I was not proud of (what Jung calls the shadow), it meant identifying and stopping projections on others and admitting I myself was responsible. The final result was that my “demons” were no longer unconsciously obstructing me, but became integral part of my totality. That sounds more romantic than it really is. Along the way I fell from disillusion to disillusion: no, I’m not special, no, there is no greater plan. Now this is the point when you might experience the dark night of the soul. I did not yet, I got a life first.

        You can recognize a depression by its negative self image, negative feelings, self deprecation. That is not present when you’re in the dark night of the soul: you see yourself as you are, without judgment, without negative feelings about yourself, but you feel as if you’re walking alone in a dark night, without warm presence (that would be an illusion), and you see the apparent meaninglessness of it all. You can get stuck there and walk around functioning normally, but feeling hollow inside.

        My psychologist told me once: you integrated most of your “demons”, but it looks as if you’re waiting for something, what are you waiting for? In hindsight I think I was waiting for something spectacular like an overwhelming illumination or something that would make my life easy and without problems. Another illusion of course. I didn’t need a psychologist anymore at that point to see clear when something happened in my unconscious, so I stopped formal analysis, and started to live in the outside world instead of mostly in my head. I met my wife, got children, and saw that was not a wordly cliché, but the fulfilling of an innate purpose. Life is problem solving. When you put an acorn in the earth, an oak will come out if conditions are well enough, and the purpose of the oak is to make acorns. It’s not something romantically spiritual, but biological, the way of nature. This life is certainly more fulfilling than walking rounds in my head.

        Maybe I postponed my dark night to put more flesh to my life first. I think that was necessary. All those years I continued to live in my head as well, because that’s how I am. Only recently I was forced to take up the quest again (because of a shocking personal event that you don’t need to know) where I left it 20 years ago. I was still at the same point, seemingly waiting for something. I tried to meditate a bit, because I had a (misleading) feeling of being carried by some sort of godly presence, to help me during these black times. Like I told you before, I’m not able to lie to myself for a long time, so after a while I had to admit that last thing as well: I am alone in the dark; there is no meaning. That was the dark night. You can get stuck there. I cowered, but eventually I stood upright in the dark and said: “I may be alone, but I am still here”. Instead of throwing me into the abyss, it made the energy flow through me and made me more alive and free than before. You could call that a mystical event, but I am loth to use these big words, abused as they are by new age people who use the right words, but don’t know what they’re talking about. I prefer to call it individuation, like Jung. Only when you become a complete individual and cut the last strand of your umbilical cord, you can see what is you and what is the universe and how you fit in. But that’s another topic.

        1. Mikael

          Thank you.

          I’ll digest what you kindly wrote and get back to you if I have a response.
          Just a short comment about the discriminating factor as to what is what in these states. Often both psychological issues and dark night features are present at the same time. So to negate the one because of the other may be a common mistake amongst some seekers. Moreover: guilt, shame and selfdisgust may come from deeper hidings and be called forth just because of the night, or more accurately a phase of the night. I think the criteria should be HOW the individual responds to such shadows and not IF they are present.

          All the best

          1. Peter

            Thank you, very recognizable.

            In my experience, in order to integrate your ego and your unconscious in a greater whole, you have to pass through several onion layers (actually more like a ball of wool). Maybe you can catch glimpses from the core if you’re not done with the layers, but I think it is not a good idea to try to tackle the core before the layers are tackled. You need the combined energy of the integrated layers to stand firm when you stand before the black hole at the core and not be swept away.

            I think also that it is not a good idea to look for the dark night of the soul. It doesn’t work like that. It comes automatically when all illusions are peeled off your eyes and only the dark cold reality remains.

            Furthermore I think it is a major spoiler to say to someone in the dark night that at the end of the tunnel there’s a rainbow (and a view how you fit into the world), because it creates the wrong image and slows down the necessary act of jumping or accepting or letting go. That’s an act that nobody can help you with.

  12. thebestfriendsforlife

    Hi! I didn’t read all the comments…But I’m in the Dark Night of the Soul at this moment and for the last 2 months. My question is how do you drop ur ego, and how do you do anything? How do you deal with your emotions? How do you stop believing of what you are and what you are not? I find it to be very frustrating and confusing…

    1. healingcfs

      Well, it seems that there is not much one can do during the Night. This is a period to be lived through, to experience the deepest despair, deepest hurt… you just have to go through it. There is no way around it. But know that once you come out, you will have new eyes and much more depth. Trust that all will be well.

    2. Peter

      Of course you cannot just drop your ego. Why should you anyway? You need your ego. When you’re lucky enough to live long enough with your eyes and mind open, you start to notice that most of the things you do and think and feel and decide happen unconsciously within you; your ego is just the part of you that becomes aware of these things after the facts. Jung calls this deeper part the self. The ego is like the tip of the iceberg. The more you (your conscious ego) becomes aware of this, the more feedback it can give to the self, and the more the relationship ego-self changes from leaf-stream to rafter-stream. It remains a laughable idea that the ego is the boss, but it can learn to ride and nudge the self. This self reaches down from your conscious psyche to your physical organs, cells, molecules and via this way is embedded, rooted in the rest of nature. During this process of what Jung calls individuation you learn what feelings and thoughts come from your own self, and what from someone else’s. There’s no way you (your ego) can will this process. You can only let it happen, not hinder it. I call it a mercy of the self.

      What is the relationship of what I said with the dark night? Ultimately the dark night revolves about the realization that you’re a separate individual in an indifferent nature and that your life will end some day. Of course you may glimpse this very confronting truth before your individuation, but I think you’re only ready to face it, longer than in a glimpse, or other than mixed with plain depression, when you integrated all your parts in your self. It is not something you look for. It would be like hoping your parents die, so you can become stronger. It will come anyway.

      The trouble with these kinds of words is that they only mean something to someone who already knows what I mean.

  13. han

    Hi I have been suffering an uncontrollable pain and.lonliness for the past 8 years. Situations in life just get worse and worse – all these have rocked my inner self to the core. I have been thrown into a horrible internal world of meaningless, emptiness and utter loneliness, coupled with depression. Deep sadness fills me now and everyday seems like a struggle. I’ve lost my connection to everything and everyone. Nothing is helping to break the cycle. I feel helpless.

    Everything started (i believe) when I rather stupidly undertook a spiritual discipline of chanting beej mantras with meditation. I am a very religious and spiritual person and thought these would enhance my life. Truth is they ruined it as I didn’t know the dangers.

    My life prior to all this really had a flow, was positive and full of progress. I was more living in the moment and with a sense of calm back then…than I can ever dream of doing now. God was a very real force in my life, – now he seems quiet and absent.

    My question is how do I know if what I am experiencing is the Dark Night or just a deep, deep depression? I want to feel like there will be a end to all this, but I am worried that its all.due my own doing. I wonder whether this is yielding any spiritual benefit at all….or just a depression that can’t be cured.

    I really, really need some help and advice. The pain is just unbearable. Please help me.

    1. Mikael

      Dear friend,

      many who encountered the dark night report having prayed some of the “dangerous” prayers with deep sincerity just before the world started to fall apart.
      I cannot know what it is you are suffering from, but contrary what some say that feelings of sadness and loneliness indicate depression I would like to say that most dark nights testimonies through the ages do not support that view. Moreover, the dark night can run parallell to states of depression.
      Perhaps you can read more om the subject in the articles by Peter Holleran, mountainrunner.com, he has two lenghty articles on the subject.

      I wise you deep peace and trust. You are in good company and your work cannot but affect us all.

    2. Tara

      Sounds like the dark night. I am sorry you are in pain, may you be blessed. I love you. I’ve been going through same thing. Hang on, it will get better. Remember your divinity. You are source energy, Your soul is source energy, that is who you are. You have never been abandoned by God, it is within you. Check out this website, channelings of Jesus, he answers all questions on the awakening, dark night etc. http://www.jeshua.net. This website is what saved me from checking out. Also Matt Kahn on you tube.

    3. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Han,

      Thanks for your very open comment.

      I’m not an expert on these matters. I go only by my own experience. In my experience, there have been several (maybe four) time-periods, lasting usually about nine months, where I experienced confusion and desperation. I knew these weren’t depressive episodes. These felt different. They felt as if the mind was confused and unhinged. And also, they followed a new technique (looking at the sense-of-I-am) or some insight I might have had.

      Like depression, during these times there were feelings of nihilism and futility.

      What can be done about this? For me, the release technique I suggest here has been helpful. And I tried some of the things which are conventionally suggested for depression: simplyfying life, solitude, reducing stress, exercise, yoga, meditation, getting enough sleep and so on–though these things can be difficult to implement when you feel low.

      I suggest that you look around, as Mikael suggested. Don’t dismiss conventional solutions. Eight years is a long time. Consider convention and medical solutions to relieve the symptoms. Keep looking; perhaps you might find a suggestion or explanation from someone which resonates with you.

      (edited for grammar and spelling)

    4. Mikael

      I do not know if this speaks to you, but in my opinion it is perhaps the best I have read on the topic. Today so many oversimplified teachings are honored and cherished that one may be better off reminded of the complex and multidimensional flavor to the quest. This article points to the beauty and grace admidst the grit and the anguish:


  14. han

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your replies. They have helped. Its hard to talk about any of the this with anyone without sounding crazy. Its so comforting to know there are kind people who care and can relate – Tara/Mikael and Kaushlk.

    Mikael – the mountainrunner really does resonate. I have actually come across the article before, but this time I took a very careful and considered approach to reading it. I have felt – or am experiencing so much of what it talks about….the mystical experiences, the loss, the emptiness, the fear, and dark reality of the ‘awful and horrible’.

    I am also very aware that this could be just a depression. However, should this be a dark night – the issue I have with it all is that I never wanted any form of enlightenment. What ever is happening started because I naively asked for it all through very intense spiritual practice. God use to answer me in so many ways previously…he was so ‘real’ in my life. I felt so comforted and almost proud in the knowledge that I had this support. Shortly after I started these spiritual practices ….I feel like I got tested by God. I monumentally FAILED these tests because I was put in a position where I was pushed to give up things that I was never really able to. I made vows I couldn’t keep, and then feel like I got punished/forced some more …to the point where I am now: utterly crushed to my core and plunged into this humble acceptance and darkness. Please believe me when I say all this was very real and not just coincidental.

    I really want it all to STOP – I do not feel ready for a path like this. I have a young daughter and still many desires. The only good thing that has come out of all of this is that pine to live a humble and pure life because I can not experience any more …. I know this may sound silly. Perhaps it is all just a depression, or combination of both. I still get the odd occasion where I feel things will be ‘ok’ …but these are few. I have so much fear and hopelessness.

    What worries me is that the Dark Night by description seems to just get worse and worse. Does it take everything away from you? How do I carry on?

    I hope WE find a way out. I really would appreciate it if we all continued to talk. When I try to speak to my husband, he just doesn’t understand at all. I feel so lost. All support for me has now gone.

    I am sorry for writing so much. I never intended to. I don’t really know where else to turn.

    Han x

    1. Mikael

      Good morning from the traffic jam in Stockholm 🙂
      Thank you for sharing, nothing to excuse.
      I will respond later. This week is a bit hectic.
      Maybe you can google ‘paul brunton dark night of the soul’, it gives an in depth perspective I find nourishing in these shallow neo-advaita McSpirituality times. I think most people who are dealing with these things now have worked enormously in several lives to even be near these experiences.
      Now off to work.

      Wish you all the best.
      May Gods will reign, no more no less.


  15. martine

    Oh how I miss you again today
    Your presence I miss
    The knowledge that you esteem me, I miss
    I miss knowing you’re waiting for my return
    My coming to you, I miss
    Or going, looking up to smile at you before I turn
    I miss you again and again like the first time

    Like all the years I’ve known you but had been separated from you
    Now again we are separated by choice
    By deeper knowledge or by awareness, only halfway there?
    Only half life, not fully known, the veil was pierced inside but no time was taken to lift it and see the result.
    Hastily discarded. Quickly thrown off, to the side, divided by a gulf.
    Will there be a final song?

    I can walk like this forever
    I can face the dark night with an open soul
    Weariness engulfs me while my core stays standing, feeling.
    The beauty and tenderness and vulnerability and sweet purity of life mixed with its torment and disaster, distrust, bleak harshness, meaningless dejection.

    Are we supposed to find pleasure in this suffering?
    Or should the suffering be pushed through into creative pleasure?
    The solitude, calm joy of occupying hands and heart and thought with creative focus?
    Is the purpose of the night to refine soul in darkness, to kindle fire, mold the heart to a narrow point which bursts open under pressure, erupts into creative expression?
    What is it worth without love?

    Is my lot to seek myself and express the divine energy via self?
    Not finding pleasure in stagnation but in stillness
    If I know not love, I know nothing
    Not in the moving but in the anticipation of finding light
    Be pierced like shell, cracked open to let the light stream out.
    Awareness is not an endpoint, only a beginning of mastery of self
    Knowledge of the need to surrender the ego.
    Daily surrender
    Daily I miss you

  16. Samuel Jones

    I’ve been going through a spiritual awakening for the past 2 months.I have began to see things a lot differently- to the point where I had to leave my job. After leaving my job, I had this sense of adventure and excitement which i had never felt- like no longer were there any obstacles, I was free.
    I decided to visit my family over the weekend.
    At this point, I had already become sensitive to other’s energies- and also I felt as if my identity was gone. Some moments i had spent with them, i found myself becoming increasingly hurt. I felt as if they were ‘wearing masks’, or this reality wasn’t real.
    I just returned yesterday, and I’ve been unable to remain present, and some of the heaviest and painful emotions arose. I kept having glimpses of them- with the thought of “them not knowing the real truth”, and “I having to let them go”.
    Please excuse me I’m just really scatterbrained- as I have been having a rough time. It just kills me to know that things will never be the same again.
    Thank you for any help you can give me.

    1. Kaushik Post author


      I’ve had similar experiences. The first time was probably twelve years ago, after a meaningful reading of Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now. I left my job, I traveled a bit. I felt elated, free. A few months later it came crashing down. This has happened several times.

      I’ve learned not to be too attached to the up times or down times. They come and go.

      Continue your journey. Stay open, and you will know your next step if you don’t already. As the mind clears, it will go through states of lightness and darkness. Enjoy the lighter times; know that the darker times will pass. It’s just the mind.

      The release technique has been very useful.


      1. Mikael

        Hello Tara!
        That is just great, my friend. Happy to hear that one more person can share their wisdom of being through a dark night. Enjoy your further path.
        I still struggle but there are certainly glimpses of clarity, nakedness and…can´t put it in words, but some kind of presence.
        What I have been overwhelmingly informed about the last year, and in many different ways, is an age old karma having to do with pride and superiority. It is intimately connected to this process. So things are moving for sure and it is a peculiar task to wander in darkness and obscurity.


  17. Ray

    First off, thank you for this great blog.

    Maybe all we need to do is to simply realize that great things take time, and this would definitely apply to the process of awakening fully.

    Best Regards,

  18. Brandon Lt

    Check into kundalini overload/symptoms if you guys/gals are feeling recurrent trouble with physical or mental symptoms.

    For all earnest seekers of God (ultimately God-realization) I would recommend the Bhagavad Gita! As well as the Bhagavad Gita, do read Autobiography of a Yogi.
    But above all take the Bhagavad Gita very seriously, it is the father of all religions.

    (I also espouse Jesus Christ for my guru. Might sound funny, but Christ does live, right? Ask him to teach you the Gospel of the Kingdom. “I will dwell in him and give the Holy Spirit, and will teach him all things..”)

    Ultimately the process never ceases. Depending on a person’s practice, devotion, and karma (past lives) the individual might not see total liberation in his/her given life. But that’s okay. Why? The soul persists and will bring you right back to where you left off in this life.

    If that startles one, understand that’s what God is to the physical person. We are puffs of vapor, little dust particles that come and go like moths to a fire, but the fire (God) exists forever.

    Imagine many eons into the future, all the things that are occurring now never even happened!

    This is what is meant by keeping your mind on God, the Ultimate/Eternal. One will be able to burn off massive karma as the Infinite is pushed into…
    but until then, it can be very awful to ponder on our futility. One might be so attached to (forget materialism, lust, loved ones,) a time period (past life identification), something of a mythical fantasy (astral plane), historic figures/teachers, ideas, music even…

    When one is beginning to see REALITY one can start connecting with God’s view of things. “You” and “I” are just jokes, but that’s the beauty of it, that’s where God is. He is me, you, the enemy, the teacher, the joker, the birds, moon, stars, past, future, miracles, wars, etc.

    Fabulous stuff!

    I apologize if that’s a bit deep. God bless all, and do check out the Bhagavad Gita if you haven’t yet!

Comments are closed.