Dark Night of the Soul — The Opportunity to Surrender

Last week I wrote about the “Dark Night of the Soul”, a common experience of confusion and “spiritual depression” during the awakening process. Brenda suggested a much more appropriate title, and here it is!

The dark night is about transformation.

When we are seeking higher consciousness, we are seeking to end the tyranny of the ego so we can abide in our true nature, instead of false beliefs. And so, these show-downs of emotional turmoil are inevitable. The ego, the limiting and conflicting beliefs you have about you are seen through. Your old sense of self is no longer adequate. You were used to long-held beliefs about yourself, based on previous reactions to experiences, and the releasing of these beliefs can be disconcerting. It feels rather empty.

credit: AKey

Then, it happens. Perhaps at first just a small understanding–the understanding that this too is just conceptual clinging. There is no reality to this. Who is suffering? Who is experiencing this dark night? This emptiness, which felt so empty, begins to feel peaceful. It happens slowly, like winter turning into spring.

Is there anything we can do about these periods of turmoil?

The usual myths

Positive thinking

Positive thinking and positive affirmations and the like are something we often turn to. It sounds pretty good, right? Who could possibly say anything against being positive?

It’s not hard to see that whatever we put our attention on, will expand. If our attention is on the positive, the positive will expand.

Fair enough.

The thing is that whatever we ignore, doesn’t just go away. It festers.

In my experience, it’s been much more effective to face up to whatever we consider negative in us, and release it, rather than create a veneer of forced positive thinking. In the process of releasing, we can see that this whole thing about positive and negative is just another dualistic delusion.

Making demands of the universe

The Law of attraction and similar theories is another myth. The hypothesis is that our thoughts and beliefs create our experience of reality. And so, the theory goes, if you create positive thoughts and positive visualization, the universe will express-deliver a positive reality. As a hypothesis, this is as valid as anything else is, and well-worth testing out. To test it out fairly though, it seems to me, we must first release all our limiting and negative beliefs and patterns. It hardly seems likely that the law of attraction will selectively honor our surface positive thoughts, and ignore the deeper limiting gunk that we are so full of. Most of us are a complex of conflicted and limiting beliefs and patterns—this is the entire problem with the human condition—and if the law of attraction works, it can only give us a reality which is a reflection of confused and conflicted gunk.


Some of us turn to spirituality. This is fine—clearly, spirituality has helped many get started. In the end, formal systems of spirituality are about accumulating more concepts. I don’t lean towards formal systems of spirituality, and if you do, watch out for a spiritualized ego. A spiritual identity is highly validating and a tough nut to crack.

At the other end of spectrum, are the nihilistic non-dualists. This too is a trap. It’s heavily ironic that the feverish opposition to dogma is often in itself rather dogmatic.

The passion thing again

It’s a little strange that there’s so much written about finding purpose. Shouldn’t purpose just jump out at us?

It’s probably more instructive to understand why we seek an external purpose in the first place. We seek purpose because we know that if we have a sense of purpose, we will be energized. We will get up in the morning and go and we will know what to say and think and feel at each moment, and we will have approval and validation. Of course all this is good. But can purpose be cultivated?

In my experience, it is clear to me now that every being has the inner purpose to awaken. When we realize this, we can be still, and allow, and in this allowing, outer purpose sometimes manifests.


I often struggle with the question of self-discipline. I see the value of self-discipline, and I’ve used it often in my life, but I’m at a point now where I don’t want any temporary or unsustainable solutions. Self-discipline is only needed when the mind is full of conflicting beliefs.

It’s actually very difficult not to use self-discipline to power through the emotional turmoil of awakening. We are highly conditioned to achieve through effort and struggle, and we have built all sorts of nonsense in ourselves about the meaning of success and mediocrity. In the way I had lived my life, with the concepts of achievement and effort that I had created, it is actually very difficult to remain still, and simply be aware, to see what is really going on. It sometimes feels very self-indulgent and lazy—old beliefs keep nudging, saying are you sure about this? Wouldn’t it be just easier to take up the trumpet of conventions and play up the virtues of success and effort and struggle and discipline?

You must be serious

Another myth that comes up often around awakening and that we must be very serious about it. There is some Zen parable about wanting enlightenment more than a drowning man wants air. Years ago, I was scuba diving in the Bahamas. It was my very first time. I had had about fifteen minutes of training in a swimming pool, and then we went off to a James Bond movie wreck, and then another site. Hey it’s the Bahamas, where all the training you need to dive is a credit card. Anyway, at the second site, my air-tank gauge was stuck on full, but the tank was completely empty. In sixty feet of ocean, I wanted air far more than I have ever wanted enlightenment!

There’s another Zen story about how Hui chopped off his left hand before Boddhi was convinced he was a serious student and various other tales of sacrifice and courage. These Zen guys were a dour bunch.

People will variously say that you have to be serious and dedicated and courageous, or you can’t handle awakening, and this is a myth I would like to dispel with personal example.

I’m a very regular person, with no special talents. I actually had a very happy childhood. Other than depression and anxiety, I haven’t had any great obstacles in life. I’m not particularly courageous. Before shifts in awakening, I was like most men, I had a range of only two emotions—something either felt good or it felt bad. I’m not spiritually minded. I am not disciplined. I do have a high intellect, but it doesn’t take long to understand that intellect is irrelevant, and often even an obstacle to awakening.

The point is, there are no special pre-requisites for awakening. It is just being natural again. There is no place to go, nothing we need give up, nothing we need do, no special concepts or theories to accumulate. All that’s needed is to rest in Awareness. It just takes a willingness, an openness, a readiness. Whatever is needed, shows up at the right time. When courage is needed, it shows up.

If we can be still and look at all these movements of spirituality and personal development, they all really amount to the accumulation and re-arranging beliefs. It’s really what most of us do most of our lives. We create and re-arrange beliefs, hoping that this new thing will now make us feel purposeful and resonant, and give us an energetic life, and tell us what to think and feel and do at each moment. We’re constantly trying to shake off the feeling that something is wrong with life.

What’s the solution?

“In maintaining awareness, we discover the lack of separation between happiness and suffering. What that means in a practical way is that whether there’s happiness or whether there’s suffering, we can be totally at ease and serene.” – Candice O’Denver

So what can we do about the emotional turmoil of awakening?

I think it has to do with self-acceptance and patience. Continue with Awareness and Release, or whatever practices resonate with you, and be patient. Know that you are not alone, know that turmoil is an indication of progress, know that turmoil is the resistance of concepts. Know that it always comes down to acceptance, which is not something we do, but something we stop doing. We stop resisting. When there is no more resistance, this is surrender.

The answer is unsatisfying, isn’t it?

It’s unsatisfying because the ego wants more. The answer comes when we realize there is no problem at all, there never was—it is all simply resistance. Go deep within, be still, be passively watchful. Be patient, be self-loving.

Following this theme, the next articles will be on why we don’t do the things which we know are good for us , and then a Handbook of Awakening, a fanciful title for some simple things which have helped me along.

Your turn: what do you do when you feel that life is not working?

58 thoughts on “Dark Night of the Soul — The Opportunity to Surrender

  1. Masi

    Dear Kaushik,

    As I was reading your article I was reminded of a time before I got turned to spirituality, when the dark nights were something ‘normal’ that I welcomed with the awareness that I come out of the darkness stronger and lighter. But somewhere along the path it seems that I believed my ego telling me that there is something ‘wrong’ with me for not getting things right and I started reacting to the dark nights and began to see them as punishment. And this is how I came to learn about the voice in my head.

    And for your question “what do I do when I feel that life is not working?” my answer is I come to your blog!


    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Masi,

      Now that you mention it, yes, it is true that often we feel in the low times that they’re an indication of something wrong in us. I think in the past I have variously thought that something was wrong with me, I’m being punished, or this is just the way life has to be. With awakening, we begin to see that these are just our own patterns, and acceptance and patience can helps us be aware of them and release them.

      Come to my blog anytime, I love having you here!

      I hope you are well my friend.


  2. Ideas With A Kick

    Hey Kaushik,

    I think there are a lot more myths out there than ideas that do work. It’s sad to see so many people hang on to them like they found some miracle cure and get little results , except for a Placebo effect. Anyway, I love myth debunking in the area of personal debunking.


    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Eduard,
      Yes, indeed, a lot of myths out there. Some of the are utterly convincing. And yet, who’s to say what works for whom? I’ve just listed a few of detours that I’ve been tempted to take in the process.

      Great comment, thanks for visiting!


  3. Brenda (betaphi)

    “There is no problem at all, there never was—it is all simply resistance.”

    Since I started coming here and reading words like those, dark nights seem not so difficult. You taught me how to observe them, give them their time and place, then watch them fade away. There is little I cling to now. Breath finds me, sleep finds me, courage finds me, everything I need seems to find me with no effort or grasping.

    “When there is no more resistance, this is surrender.”

    You are so right, Kaushik. Those so-called ‘virtues’ of success and effort and struggle and discipline come from our conditioning. They aren’t really virtues at all. They get in the way. Giving myself permission to release all that I once thought was important has made all the difference. As always, I am grateful for your reminders that “it is just about being natural again.”
    .-= Brenda (betaphi)´s last blog ..Dr. Guisenberger’s Story =-.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Brenda,
      That’s exactly it, what’s worked for me is to observe, without thinking or analysis or judgment, be aware, and what is false fades away. I love your sentence “There is little I cling to now.” Yup, we create ideas about so many things. I can’t dismiss the efficacy of everything because clearly many of these work for people–I’ve just found that a sustainable solution is to awaken, to stop clinging.

      “Giving myself permission to release all that I once thought was important…” is indeed very important, and perhaps this is what can give us some turmoil during awakening.

      Wonderful comment, I hope you are well my friend!


  4. Janice

    Dear K,
    First of all I completely agree with Masi, I also come to this site when I feel troubled. You have been given a ton of grace to be able to write like you do and to help soothe your readers. I am no shrink, but, do you ever feel “compassion fatigue”? You put your wholeself out there so purely, I wonder if you ever feel tired from your work. It would be easier for me to power walk 3 or 4 miles than to have the strength to write as you do. (that may have been the motherly part of me coming out)

    Second, I thought your first article last week was awesome, but I gotta say this follow up is fabulous. Futher exploration on the dark night. I loved the audio tape you offered us with Adyashanti. I dug around after that and looked up some of his youtube tapes, he’s wonderful, but there again, you are much easier to understand. I need words and skills that I can really understand and use as needed. Your release method as got me through some really scary times, when I wanted to completely freeze in anxiety and just stop, I forced myself to breathe in the situation and feeling and went through the steps of letting the feeling out through my exhale. It really does work!! Even on the huge bridge into Cincinnati during rush hour I used your method and it is a miracle that I even had the consciousness to remember the tool.
    Another thing, You are a fabulous human being. Laying your heart out there with truth, is grace in action. We are fortunate when we can feel grace, but it is a completely different thing to act in grace. You have to climb up and out to that really high, really skinny part of the tree limb and then dive off, into the complete unknown. Man, most of us do not have that type of courage. Keep writing and an artist’s (writer) life is never easy and is rarely laid out in front of them. You rock the internet and your energy is real.
    Love & Light,

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Janice,

      Your kind words honor and humble me. Thank you!

      I haven’t experienced compassion fatigue–although I do understand what you mean. Perhaps in the beginning, I was sometimes insistent, and sometimes I would take a firm stand for or against, but we learn by doing. That energy has dissipated.

      Adyashanti is a wonderful teacher. I think I had the same reaction in the beginning as you do–that he is perhaps more spiritual than he is practical. But after some time, I see that he leaves many things unsaid on purpose. It’s easy for us to adapt beliefs and ideas, and it’s better that people go through this discovery on their own, rather than adapt other people’s words, and I think Adyashanti recognizes that.

      I’m so glad you have been using the release method. The tricky thing is to start. Many of us don’t start–we want to first intellectually understand what it’s all about. I was like that–I think it was just that my anxiety was severe and that’s why I was open; otherwise, I might have resisted in the way many people do. It doesn’t take long to see that the release method is actually very natural. It’s something that we’ve always known, and just forgotten.

      Courage and honesty develop with the doing.

      Again, Janice, thank you so much for the words of encouragement and grace. I hope you are well my friend!


  5. Jodi at Joy Discovered

    Hi again Kaushik!
    Thanks for adding to this subject! I like your point on positive thinking, and how it is important to face the issue head on and release it. I find that in these instances the biggest relief for me is to say what’s really going on out loud. There are two people I can admit these thoughts to. It’s funny because the build-up to releasing the thoughts is stressful and weighs me down but the moment I let it out, I’m lighter. It’s wonderful, really!

    My favorite part of your post, though, is this: “The point is, there are no special pre-requisites for awakening. It is just being natural again. There is no place to go, nothing we need give up, nothing to we need do, no special concepts or theories to accumulate. All that’s needed is to rest in Awareness. It just takes a willingness, an openness, a readiness. Whatever is needed, shows up at the right time. When courage is needed, it shows up.” Thank you. This is such an important point!!

    Best to you, Jodi
    .-= Jodi at Joy Discovered´s last blog ..Shake Things Up! =-.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Jodi,
      Yes, great point, that the release of these feelings is much easier than the build up to it. It’s interesting, now that I think about it, I don’t think I often talk about it out loud. I talk about it in writing. Talking out loud is better–it can help us see that all of this is actually unreal.

      Best to you, and thanks for visiting and your wonderful insights!


  6. Masi


    I was fear-less and wise in childhood and early adulthood – treated even as an outsider by my own family for being calm, reflective, and too mature for my age – up until my late-20’s when I had my most terrifying life event. I was devastated and it felt like my whole life was shaken and I was losing my self and for the following 10 or so years I did not know my self. I felt like a stranger to my self until most recently following a series of life changes I am going back to my self. Now it seems like I have to find my way back. Remember who I was. And see the patterns. And I still find my self wondering why the long journey back to my self?

    Thank you Kaushik for being here. And thank you Janice for putting into beautiful words my feelings on K 🙂


    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Masi,
      It sounds like you had a terrifying ten years. That’s a long time. I think many of us suffer unknowingly, in the sense that there is always a nagging feeling that something is off, something is wrong, but we power through, because of course what else can we do? Then, later, when we have an insight, and we look back, it all somehow feels so unreal, like it happened to someone else.

      It is wonderful that you are awakening and seeing through your patterns and beliefs. Why the long journey? It feels that way because our attention is on it, and we now know that there is a much more natural way to be, and we will not be satisfied with anything less. So perhaps that’s why sometimes it feels long and exhausting. Many people feel that they are stuck, not making progress, when, seemingly, others are getting it and moving along. In those times, we can just be, just be aware, rest inward in awareness, and see that it’s all right here. Whatever we feel is wrong, is always resistance.

      Thank you Masi for the beautifully kind words and encouragement!

      Peace and love,

  7. Liara Covert

    Surrender is a powerful wake-up call. I am reading a fascinating book you may apprecaite called the 12 Sacred Principles of Karma by Steven Hairfield, The American Monk. This book is available through Inner Circle Publishing and online distribution. I co-host a blog talk radio show with Steven Hairfield on Friday nights called conversations with an American Monk. You may appreciate tuning in to a show or accessing the archives. Check out this link: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/aware. Blessings & Nemaste!
    .-= Liara Covert´s last blog ..What if rather than becoming, U already R? =-.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Liara,
      Thank you for the book reference and link. I’ll check it out.

      Thanks for visiting and your as-always very insightful comments.


  8. Amit Sodha - The Power Of Choice

    “In maintaining awareness, we discover the lack of separation between happiness and suffering. What that means in a practical way is that whether there’s happiness or whether there’s suffering, we can be totally at ease and serene.” – Candice O’Denver

    Woah, what a truly amazing quote…that’s the second time today I’ve been blown away!

    The LoA is so badly misunderstood it’s no wonder so many people fell into depression after watching it. But alas, who am I to say that, that isn’t part of the package of awareness and letting go that you spoke of.

    I was also thinking about what you said about forcing or discipline and I believe it’s one of those things that needs a deeper understanding. I cannot become a great tennis player without playing every single day and practicing strokes with relentless repetition. I think the deeper part is an understanding of purpose and if that discipline ties in with that purpose because then it doesn’t ‘feel’ like it’s anything forced, rather, a pleasure.

    Thanks for the awesome posts K, you really got me thinking! 🙂
    .-= Amit Sodha – The Power Of Choice´s last blog ..A Quick Guide To Dealing With Negative People =-.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Amit,

      Yes, I like Candice O’Denver’s wisdom. Her teaching is very simply about being aware, and discovering all this through our own experience. See greatfreedom.org for more. The FAQ is a good place to start.

      Right, I don’t really take stand against the LOA, or any of the other myths. The LOA may be exactly what someone needs in their path. For me, many of these things turned out to be detours.

      Self-forcing and self-discipline are tricky. Clearly, we can see that value of self-discipline. Self-discipline can helps us achieve what is resonant, and we can see that it can also help us achieve what is not at all resonant. You’re absolutely right, a deeper understanding of purpose can help, and if our purpose is clear, self-discipline can be very resonant. The problem is our purpose is not always clear. This is perhaps why so many of us end up in careers and situations which are not really resonant to our being. So all of these–self-discipline, purpose, passion, self-improvement–have tremendous value, but perhaps what is more important is a whole and unified mind, without conflict or limiting beliefs. This is self-acceptance, self-love.

      Thanks, Amit, for expanding so well on the discussion.


  9. Nadia - Happy Lotus

    Hi Kaushik,

    About a week ago, I had a meeting with someone who claimed to be spiritual. It was a mind blowing experience for I came to realize that people have no idea what true spirituality really looks like. I have noticed in your posts that you do not hold much respect for spiritual paths and to be candid, I never fully understood why until that one meeting that I had.

    Certain phrases and terms become popular and as a result, every one starts to use them to describe who they are. My concern is that the same will apply to being awakened or having awareness. Many people throw those terms around without really thinking about what they are saying.

    What you wrote about the awakening process is true. A person does not need special skills to awaken but I do think it does take a certain level of dedication (not to be confused with self-discipline) in order for it to become a way of life. The Dalai Lama has said that Buddhism is like undergoing construction work for your mind. I think that could be applied to being aware or awakened. A person has to realize when the ego is talking and what is happening within themselves.

    At the end of your post, you wrote that part of being awakened is to realize that there is no problem and just resistance. You also stressed the importance of going within. I totally agree. It is very easy and it does become easier with time.

    However, I do not think a person can develop that awareness without some type of committment. If it were that easy, then so many people in the world would be happier and it is obvious that that is not the case. In Buddhism it is said that “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. I think that applies to being awakened or aware. When a person is ready for that, it will happen in a manner that is ideal for that person. Timing is a key factor for being awakened.

    I hope it is apparent that I am agreeing with you in this post. I just wanted to share my thoughts because I am starting to realize that many people are claiming to be spiritual and awakened and have no clue what they are talking about which is dangerous. You do not fit in that category for your love and passion for being awakened is obviously sincere and real. 🙂
    .-= Nadia – Happy Lotus´s last blog ..Taking Inventory =-.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Nadia,

      It’s probably common to go through periods where we think we have figured it out. This is the movement of the ego, and I think Adyashanti calls this the superman period (I might be wrong about the label). I’ve been through this, and in that period, it was important for me to point out the dangers of formal systems of spiritual thought. I’ve mellowed since then, realizing that everyone has their unique path, and no one can say who needs what. I have taken some detours, and I mention these as myths, and so I often point out the dangers of these detours, but I also fully recognize that these detours were exactly what I needed and others may need in their journeys.

      I recommend the practices of Awareness and Release, and recently I had some conversations with someone who is adamantly against practice. Ultimately, he is correct, in that any sort of practice is futile. Practice belongs in the mind. However, I believe that practice may be needed to see that practice is futile, and “good” practices are ones that go away. I’m usually the contrarian, but in this case our roles were reversed. He is right, and yet I don’t know if there’s a way to get from here to there without practice.

      In the past, I tended to be very intellectual. This was a trap from which I probably would never have emerged. I think I just had had enough suffering, and I opened up just enough.

      The point I think we are both making is that it’s impossible to say what any particular person needs. As you say so well, when a person is ready, “it will happen in a manner that is ideal for that person.” It can be helpful to be aware of the ego’s traps. The single most important thing we need is openness, without fixating on particular views.

      Yes, dedication is needed. Awakening ruffles up life, and the last three years would have been very difficult for me without dedication and commitment. I also found that whatever I needed, showed up at the right time. Courage, dedication, commitment, self-honesty–all seem to show up when I need them, “when the student is ready…” So what we really need is an openness. Sometimes people are worried that they may not have it in them, and the point is that each person is fully capable, and whatever is needed will show up.

      I hope I didn’t give the impression that I was saying Awakening is easy. I have said variously in the past that “Awakening is simple”, and “Awakening is not easy and it is not difficult; it is just delicate.” It is a radical transformation, and it isn’t always easy, but it isn’t difficult in the way many things we achieve are difficult. It doesn’t require any special characteristics.

      Nadia, I love your wisdom. Your blog and your comments are always insightful–there is always something I learn from them. You have a balanced and open view–if there is one characteristic we need to awaken, that is it!

      I hope you’re doing well, my friend!


  10. Steven | The Emotion Machine

    Even when we cling to the good stuff, we are bound to lose it, and then there is an emptiness again. We can never permanently satisfy our endless wants. But – if we re-identify the “I” we experience each moment as a re-birth, we notice there is no THING to fill up. There is no THING to be concerned about. Even our desires themselves our fleeting…arising in awareness…passing through…forgotten about…

    Excellent, excellent post Kaushik – got me in a very contemplative mood…
    .-= Steven | The Emotion Machine´s last blog ..Everyone Needs A Creative Endeavor =-.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Steven,
      Excellent insight. We reincarnate the “I” at each moment, and even as we awaken, this tendency can re-emerge. To simply sit, watch and see that none of this is real, is the trick!

      Thanks for timely reminder!


  11. Lisa (mommymystic)

    Wow, I was trying to sort through my own feelings on your post – I was nodding my head through most, but then had lines where I squirmed – but then I saw the exchange between you and Nadia, and it basically expressed everything I had been trying to sort through…Nadia said what I had been thinking, but then I also related to your response…I do really understand Nadia’s point about ‘spiritual’ and even ‘awakened’ becoming almost cliche or commodified these days (my words not hers)…living in Los Angeles I feel like I see this so much, it is such a spiritual marketplace of sorts…which is both good and bad – it is introducing so many more people to teachings and practices that may truly help them and open them up, but it also is introducing this ability for people to fool themselves, develop a ‘spiritual ego’ as you called it…and yes, I can relate to that personally too, and i actually think it can come up over and over, no matter where someone is at…I think it takes a long time for that to entirely dissipate for most people…but then again, everyone is different, everyone’s process unfolds differently…which brings me to my other thought about practices and paths – I have come to think that when the intent is there, when awakening at some level does become a primary drive, we are drawn to whatever we need at whatever time, and so I can’t judge what practices might work for someone at some particular time…
    It’s a tricky thing…but in any case, I do so appreciate this post and what you are trying to do here…
    .-= Lisa (mommymystic)´s last blog ..10 Things I’ve Learned (or Think) About 2012… =-.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Lisa,
      Yeah, it can be confusing. We trash about, and worry about the value and dangers of spirituality and words and concepts, and in the end it’s all concepts. I like Candice O’Denver’s teachings (greatfreedom.org). It’s simply awareness, and everything else are just points of view in Awareness. Thoughts, beliefs, emotions, clinging to particular concepts, resistance, and so on are all points of view. There is clarity in looking at it this way.

      You make an excellent point that these things come up over and over again. It comes off in layers, and I’ve had the experience frequently that I think I am very conscious, and then realize there is more to peel off.

      As you say, when intent is there, when there is openness, we work through it, and whatever is needed somehow shows up. The point of the article is that all we need to get started is an openness, and everything else we need will develop. During the rough times, it helps to have some patience, and to know that we are not alone in going through this.

      The particulars about practice and myths–well, they are particular to my experience, and what someone else may need may be entirely different.

      Thanks for so honestly and openly adding to the discussion.

      I hope you are are well, my friend!

      Peace and love,

  12. Evan

    “In maintaining awareness, we discover the lack of separation between happiness and suffering. What that means in a practical way is that whether there’s happiness or whether there’s suffering, we can be totally at ease and serene.” – Candice O’Denver

    Well Candice, I’ve been happy and I’ve been miserable. Happy is better!

    I think this is confused and/or dangerous. The danger I think is confusion of levels or dimensions. Totally at ease and serene – while happy or suffering. There is need for clarification here. I have problems with totally while also acknowledging suffering.

    Sorry if this sounds like I’m being pedantic and playing word games. I’m trying to avoid this and think this is important.
    .-= Evan´s last blog ..In Praise of Contentment (critiquing ambition) =-.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Evan,
      Awakening is the seeing that the ego, which is an idea we have of ourself, is a delusion. In the absence of the delusion, who suffers?

      Candice O’Denver’s teachings are very direct. She suggests the practice of resting in awareness, and with practice, we can see that everything else, thoughts and emotions and ego and beliefs and even all this concern here with low states and dark nights, are simply ephemeral points of view. Awareness is constant, unchanging, beginningless. A powerful reminder of this is when we can rest in awareness during sleep. If you want to know more about her teachings, the FAQ on greatfreedom.org is a good place to start. There are of course many other non-dualist teachers, and I mention some of them in External Resources page.

      You’re right, it is dangerous and confused, when we create and debate ideas about awakening. It’s best to see it for ourselves, rather than rely on other people’s words. The great thing about awakening is that it does not require faith. We don’t have to debate the ideas. We don’t have to take anyone’s word for it. As the Buddha said, don’t believe anything anyone says. Work out your salvation. See it for yourself.

      Thanks for visiting and thanks for the great comments. Questioning is wonderful–it keeps us from falling into the trap of dogma!


  13. Megan "JoyGirl!" Bord

    When I hit those moments of inner turmoil, or energetic slump, or whatever term you want to use, I try to surround myself with love. The energy of love seems to get in and heal the slumpiness I’m feeling. Not all at once, but within a couple of days. When I isolate, on the other hand, the slumpiness lingers. And it seems to me, from my experiences, that my ego wants me to isolate. It’s odd that way.

    As for the law of attraction, I do believe it’s always working. I think it’s not just our conscious thoughts that affect it, though. Like you said, it’s those deep down subconscious beliefs, too. So if gunk shows up on the outside in our lives, we know there’s gunk buried deep below that’s attracting it. I think LOA has gotten a glossed-over and bad rap from the so-called experts who wanted to commercialize it post “The Secret” coming out. But LOA is not new, nor is it inherently good or bad. It just is. All of this just is. We can decide how to view it and how to use it.

    My very best to you, Kaushik!
    .-= Megan “JoyGirl!” Bord´s last blog ..Redefining Success =-.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      You’ve hit the central point here, which is it is all about love, and this is what I plan to write about next week. Love in this context is self-acceptance. Complete self-acceptance, complete and unegoic love, can help us come out of these slumps. As you point out, the ego wants to move in the other direction–it wants to remain isolated and miserable. Often we want to fight this tendency, but what I’ve found what works better is to allow it, with love and acceptance, and tendency dissipates.

      I think in the way I sometimes present these things, people get the impression that I am against the LOA or spirituality. I am not. You’re right the LOA is not new–in fact, a version of it was mentioned by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra, 2600 years ago, as in that focused intentions will manifest, and Jesus said Ask and ye shall receive, and I’m sure there are many other variations of it. Adyashanti jokes that he uses the LOA to get convenient parking spaces.

      Whatever works for people and helps them see their thoughts and emotions and beliefs for what they are, is completely fine. I prefer the direct practice of Awareness to see Truth, and I like the practice of Release because it can help us feel better and help us see that it is all about letting go. And, both these practices soon go away as practices and just become effortless being. So I prefer these, but clearly, there are many other valid paths and practices.

      I hope you are well, and my best to you as well!


  14. Paul Maurice Martin

    A strange thing about the dark night of the soul is how for some, it ends up being about rebirth – and for others, suicide. You wonder what makes for the difference – I suppose probably there are a large number of factors. I’d imagine one is that some people really need some help from others but never get it. In this regard I often think of a much younger cousin of mine who killed himself when he was around the same age that I was when I had an experience of rebirth. I don’t believe anyone knew how depressed he was, and maybe no one even knew that he was…

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Paul,

      You’re bringing up a very important subject. In the past, with depressive episodes, suicidal thoughts did sometimes come up. I read somewhere that what we really want is relief from the sadness and depression, and suicide might give us that but there’s nobody around to feel the relief. That made a lot of sense to me. I also promised myself at those times, that if I choose suicide, I’ll go out with a bang. Party, travel, spend all my money, and then go out.

      I apologize for not considering this important subject in the context of awakening slumps. Suicide didn’t come up for me, though thoughts of it had in previous depressive episodes. I suppose there is the confidence that this suffering is temporary, illusory and conceptual. It isn’t real and it will pass. This is a middle stage where we can’t conceive of going back to an egoic life but still are not sure how to move forward.

      Perhaps others can contribute in the area. It’s a very important subject to consider.

      Peace and love,

  15. Evan

    It’s important to consider the reason for the depression (to use this as a synonym for the dark night for the moment).

    Depression due to loss of ego is quite different to the death of someone close or rape and abuse suffered as a child. For the latter it is important to get the anger moving outwards instead of it being directed at the person themselves. Support the person to legitimate the expression of anger at the abusers – it is very important that this can happen. It may be necessary to find symbolic forms for this expression (the perpetrator might be dead for instance).

    As to how to handle the depression during a spiritual crisis I’ll leave that to others to comment on.
    .-= Evan´s last blog ..Financial Dependence and Independence =-.

  16. Hulbert

    Hi Kaushik, when life is not working I kind of do the same thing. Instead of trying to control the situation, I try not to think. I focus my attention on what my feelings are. Usually I can’t do this when I’m thinking. As I focus my attention on my feelings, usually I will discover that there is negative emotion going on. It’s hard to describe the exact feeling. I focus on that emotion and usually after a while it goes a away.
    .-= Hulbert´s last blog ..13 Reasons to Stop Complaining =-.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Hulbert,
      Yes, exactly. If we can be still and just allow, we see that we can release whatever is going on. These slumps of spiritual depression can last a long time and often in these slumps we are not in touch with with our emotions. And still, I’ve found the answer is the same, to simply allow, and be in awareness, and watch, not with analysis or judgment, but in whole awareness, just watch.

      Thanks for the great insight!

      I hope you are well,

  17. Pingback: January Month in Review (& Blog Shares) « Mommy Mystic

  18. Jennifer

    Great article! I love how you highlight the myths. I have felt like I don’t “fit in” with the spiritual community at times. I was just a regular person that happened to find themselves in a dark night of the soul where the illusory self is dropping away so my real Self can shine through. I thought I was the only one that thought it wasn’t productive to only focus on the light and supress the dark with positive affirmations and law of attraction attempts. I feel like this is all ego’s doing since the ego doesn’t want us to realize it never existed and the ego is addicted to the feeling of pleasure. Accepting the darkness in us means no more ego rule.

    Through the dark we find the light that has always been there and it shines on all the darkness. As difficult as my dark night of the soul is at times, I thank Being for the lessons I am learning and this spiritual detox. Thanks again for this article. Remarkable. Namaste. : )

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Jennifer,

      You summarize it very well. It doesn’t do us any good to selectively focus on the positive and repress the negative. People do this as they are encouraged by the current spiritual landscape of “positive thinking” and law of attraction and the rest of it. But we already know that what is ignored does not go away; it festers.

      Allowing, watching, love, patience…this is what works.

      Thanks for your insight.

      love and peace,

  19. Bill

    I was pleasantly surprised to read things you had to say. I thought that releasing negative thoughts was my discovery. Hiding from those same thoughts was allowing them to fester and facing them is healing. Only recently have I found these truths myself. I thought I was alone. It seems that I was mistaken and that there are many who are experiencing these kinds of changes. Seeing that you are speaking these ideas is a little shocking. I couldn’t find anyone who would discuss any of these ideas. My religious and spiritual friends started disappearing. It is interesting to be free of the turmoil. I started having a peaceful experience which is disconcerting after a lifetime of begging and pleading to God for answers. I now smile at the difficulties that I agonized through for so long. Yes I did blame myself for being so undisciplined yet now that may have been my saving grace. Thanks for sharing your experiences

    1. Kaushik Post author


      Thanks for sharing openly. There a lot said about positive thinking and the Law of attraction and affirmations and so on, and these can be very misleading, because, as you point out, it’s really about allowing and watching, with awareness and honesty, and without judgment. It’s not about judging and favoring positive thoughts and emotions over ones which we don’t want to face.

      And yes, my experience is similar to yours. When awakening is authentic, many “spiritual” friends will disappear. You might notice that many “spiritual” people flock to spirituality because it’s an excellent way to remain attached to suffering and beliefs.

      Thanks for your thoughts.


  20. gareth c

    Wow I will remember what I have read here on how to deal with my emotions. I have been taking strong opioid based medication for a back injury I was wondering if anyone else had been on meds that are similar and the depression that is involved I have decided to get back off them and deal with the pain rather than have a clouded head that is really over emotional and selfish please some feed back on these issues if anyone has been through a similar situation ohh and keep up the good work its nice to know that Im not alone.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Gareth,

      I don’t have any experience with physical pain or pain-meds. There are many here who do, and can perhaps respond.

      I do have experience with depression and anxiety. I did take medication for a long time. I know many people in the these circles eschew mainstream medication and therapy. I say bring every solution to the problem. I found releasing to be very effective for anxiety, and later for depression. I stopped taking medication a few years ago. But if I thought I needed meds, I would be back on them.


    2. Janice

      Good Morning Gareth,
      I have been prescribed opioid based pain relievers, also for back injury treatment. What I would comment is, no matter what you want to do about taking or not taking the prescriptions, I would suggest that you seek medical advice. I don’t want to sound like your Momma, but withdrawing from any medication should be medically monitered. Talking to the prescribing doctor with complete honesty about the desire to lower dosage, frequently, or what ever your plan is will take pressure off of you to have all the answers and could reduce fear.
      As far as the emotional issues that surround the treatment of pain and taking opioids, I know for me was very real. My emotions were extremely sensitive or almost numb. For me my emotions followed the roller coaster of the pain sensations vs. the masking of the pain with the meds. In other words, if your body is going through the up and down of intense sensation, then the mind will follow and sometimes even your spirit.
      I am really glad I found this site, actually, it is not a site to me. As another guest said to me Beyond -Karma is like home. I agree completely.
      Mr. K., has created a warm, accepting and honest based platform for all of us. Please come back and let us know how you are doing.

    3. Evan

      Hi Gareth, medication for depression has saved my partner’s life. I’m not averse to it at all. She did go off them too.

      I’d encourage you to look at why you want to go off the drugs. If it is to prove something to someone (including yourself) this I think can be a very dodgy motivation. Pleasure or pain relief is not necessarily bad and pain is not necessarily good.

      It may be quite possible for you to deal with the negative parts of being on the drugs while still being on them. If you have a good GP or shrink then it is worth discussing this option with them – or with others in a similar situation to yours.

      Like the others I am urging caution.

  21. melanie

    Is it possible to break addictions in the dark night? 10 years of emptiness, loneliness and despair with nothing working on the outside. I don’t really know how to handle everyday living. Am currently signed off for anxiety and depression and have withstood going on medication but have been using red wine as a relaxant for a while. Rather not use anything at all but am worried my life will always be this way. Also, how do you find link to God in such a situation – or is it staring me in the face?

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Melanie,

      Addictions and the dark night are not related. The dark night, in my experience, is the period of time where I was darkly obsessed with the fact that something is wrong and a solution to it exists but I don’t what it is and I must find it. (There indeed is something wrong and what’s wrong is fear and its effects).

      For addictions, I recommend several things. For anxiety and compulsive thinking and similar, the release method I have here has worked beautifully for me, and others. For nicotine addiction, check out Allen Carr (the “easyway” method). For alcohol, check out Rational Recovery.

      For what you call everyday living–well, that’s what this site is about. We find everyday living challenging because of resistance, which is a general word I use to describe the fear and the effects of fear in us. I’ve had good success in handling this by looking at the sense of I AM (as described by John Sherman), and learning to release (the release method), and by being aware (allowing and looking).

      The link to God? Well, in my experience, the need to ask this question has gone away.


  22. Bill

    I find that the fewer opinions I have the more I relax. Why sweat what you can’t change.

  23. matt

    i have to disagree with your thoughts on the law of attraction. I think there is something to it: “what we think we become”. But like you I don’t believe for a second that it’s about thinking about something and getting what you want. The idea that the universe is a cosmic shopping list is absurd. I think it runs deeper than this, at some inner level below thought. perhaps subconscious or at a vibrational level. I say this based on logic and from experience after awakening.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Yes, I think there is something to what we are is what we attract. To me, that means the important thing is to work on what we are, not what we want.

  24. Kaiser

    Did getting through the Dark Night work? Did you awaken? That is the ultimate test of any path to enlightenment. Does this work?

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Kaiser,

      The “dark night of the soul” is a misleading expression. I wrote this article a long time ago. These days I hope I speak more clearly and I try not to go beyond the truth of my observation and experience. I’ve been through several of these “dark nights.” It’s not one night. In my experience these are periods of several months of confusion. The most recent time was after the looking as suggested by John Sherman. I felt agitation during the looking and afterwards went through about six months of depression and confusion.

      Did I awaken? I am awakening. My mind is clearer and more settled than it was before. There is deeper satisfaction of life which is unrelated to external circumstances.

      As far as the “ultimate test of enlightenment”, I don’t know what enlightenment is. I am not enlightened. Maybe enlightenment is when all fear is gone, in which case I am definitely not enlightened. But this “dark night” is not a method. It’s not something that can be invoked, as far as I know. It’s just an expression I’m using to describe the confusion and agitation which, in my experience, has followed an effective technique or recognition.


      1. Kaiser

        Thank you for replying. I hope my question didn’t sound too abrupt. I want to make it clear that I am not referring to your blog when I say this, but I get frustrated at all the ‘spiritual blogs’ online – there is a great deal of talk about surrender and walking the path, tons of platitudes, but also a great deal of confusion, not a lot of talk about methodology, and quite a meandering and rudderless approach. Few people ever seem to truly awaken in the classical sense of the abiding experience of no-self, the infinite, the loss of personal boundaries, oneness, fearlessness, etc., or if they are, they are not talking about it.

        Part of the problem is that there is a lot of confusion surrounding just what enlightenment IS, which I think stems from the ancient Asian taboo against ever claiming enlightenment for oneself – to the point of absurdity, where you start to wonder just why anyone bothers with a spiritual path at all – that has carried over into the modern world. Part of it is the fear of being seen as egotistical or deluded. Etc.

        I am influenced a lot by Adyashanti, who talks openly about enlightenment and has gone a long way towards demystifying just what it is and the benefits it carries. (He indeed defines the dropping away of all fear as one product of enlightenment.) I want to see ordinary people attaining some level of realization, as inspiration for myself. I also want to see people struggling through Dark Night trials attain some definite payoff. Obviously I have personal reasons for this. My spiritual path has been an extremely ugly and dark one almost from the start. It was triggered by a near-death experience on psychoactive substances and has involved battles with anxiety, depression, and OCD, kundalini syndrome, prescription drug addiction and rehab. There has been plenty of Dark Night material mixed with clinical issues in a very confusing and tumultuous process that has dragged on for eight years. So I have searched the Internet looking for anyone who seems to have ‘made it’ in a sense.

        I digress. I wish you all the best in your journey and am glad that this blog is so honest and comprehensive.

        1. Kaushik Post author

          Your question or comments are not at all abrupt. They are helpful.

          I’ve liked Adyashanti too though I have not followed him for a some time now.

          In questing for enlightenment, if there is such a thing, I think all we succeed in doing is creating a conceptual view of what we think enlightenment is or should be. It seems to me that that’s an obstacle. And so, enlightenment is not something which interests me.

          Clarity of mind and satisfaction of life interest me.

          Who has ‘made it’? I had wanted to know the same thing. Who made it by working on it? These are some people who I believe did: Adyashanti, Jed Mckenna, Nisargadatta, John Sherman. Maybe Ramana.


  25. D Finlay

    HI Kaushik, just seeing your last few remarks I felt compelled to let my voice be heard as I actually think I may have had a moment of clarity in the past 12 hours due to the term ‘dark night of the soul’ and your articles have touched me quite deeply- though I would add a few soft notes on cleansing, but Im a girl of course….
    I am a painter by trade and decided to quit my part time job and take the leap towards being a full time artist half way through 2011. I was 32, talented and becoming increasingly dedicated to my work. My dad, being my rock agreed wholeheartedly to have my back for 4 months, the rent would be covered and my daughter would be comfortable. I embarked on an intense study of light, the physics of light, mathematics, the dance and play- was lead from one fascination into the next and related it all back to my work which seemed to be creating itself. I was experiencing a period of incredible insight and could work for days without tiring. As I spent so much time in my studio I began to listen to interviews I found interesting on diverse subject matters and later lectures. From science I was lead to philosophy and through Alan Watts to Zen and a deeper understanding of religion. My mind was opening and with that my possibilities seemed endless. Having always struggled for money I knew I was creating the beginnings of a better life through my art. But something happened, I lost my bearings and the within 6 months I was stuck in the middle of no where. I couldn’t work. I missed my deadlines. A feeling of being completely alone came over me- when I had only just discovered my being a part of everything. I felt ashamed, covered up what was going on and became secluded. I had not payed my bills- within what seemed like no time my daughter and I were evicted from the house we had lived in for 10 years, all our belongings swept out of the house within an hour and into a big container. We were homeless. I had no clothes, no money- the situation reflected what I was experiencing on the inside. My shame grew and I was increasingly dishonest about money and the depth of the financial crisis I had created.
    The past year and a half has been rough, but since January we have a new home that I fixed up myself, learning to plaster walls, laying and restoring second hand wooden floors that I bought for a few hundred euros off ebay. I have gone through a complete life change and have discovered faith in myself and the universe, free from the illusion of control. Unfortunately I have few friends left, though most relationships were not good for me, there are fences I need to mend. The problem of money is always there and with that problems with my family. I keep thinking “wow, that was heavy, I’m glad I got through that” and then that subtle feeling of being on the outside is there again. I find myself looking for answers, reading, reading what seems to be the same things over and over, but nothing strikes a cord and I keep coming back to the notion of the answers being inside and I have to just put my head down, do the hard work. Earn back trust through accomplishing what I am capable of. And then last night listening to Jung I heard this Dark Night of the Soul concept and began google-ing because it resonated with me on some deeper level. This is what brought me here.
    I am very thankful for your writings. It is all starting to make sense and the plain and simple surrender I resisted all this time is most certainly the key I have been needing to allow for the healing I have been needing on the material side of existence.
    So from my heart to yours, many thanks and many blessings!

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Dani,

      Thank you for such lovely sharing!

      You reminded me of a short story I had read, by I think Joyce Carol Oates, in which she described a family falling into bad times, and it struck me how quickly something like that happens. And I have had a similar personal experiences, where the practical aspects of life seem to fall apart and it is interesting that when it happens, how quickly it can happen.

      I feel that my mind is clearer and that awakening is now an enjoyable and creative process–but still there are some aspects of my life which I’m not clear about. These generally have to do with the practical aspects of living in this modern world–money and relationships. The Conversations with God books by Walsch have been enormously helpful. And lately I have been experimenting with intention-manifestation. My view of existence is that we are eternal and non-physical spirit, one consciousness, who have individuated and take physical form so that we can move from fear to love, in physical co-created experience. I do think who we are influences what we observe and experience. I began to see it this way many years ago but only recently I have felt that my mind is clear enough to be able to authentically test and observe the truth of this in my experience.

      Thanks for sharing and please stay in touch!


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