The Dark Night of the Soul – How to Deal with a Spiritual Crisis

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Crossing the crisis is not difficult. The problem is when you are facing the crisis, you should not feel that you are not going to cross it. Crises do come, they shall come, they will fight you, understand? And you will win. The beauty of crises is they will let you win if you just persist. The only way to win crisis is to go into silence and smile. (Yogi Bhajan)

The Dark Night Of The Soul

Finally, I have the courage to write about a spiritual crisis I experienced. It’s been a year now since the darkest part of it and I am not completely through it. Sometimes it feels that way and then usually something happens that hits me in the face and humbles me again…

Named after a 16th century catholic poem by Sir John of the Cross, the dark night of the soul describes the way of the being to meet its soul. It’s difficult to write about it – since writing is always making sense of something, structuring meaning into a story. Now what happens in the dark night is just that you lose all meaning, all that made sense to you before. So you can’t really write as long as you’re in it.

According to Eckhard Tolle, it is some kind of re-birth, a way to go beyond the structural patterns of your mind. If nothing makes sense anymore, you loose the attachment to your conditionings and conceptions and there is the possibility to go out of it in a transformed way:

The dark night of the soul is a kind of death that you die.  What dies is the egoic sense of self.  Of course, death is always painful, but nothing real has actually died there – only an illusory identity. (Eckhard Tolle, 23.09.2016).

It’s a chance to detach from your egoic conceptions of the world and become free. Though reading all this spiritual literature I tend to expect this sudden super transformation. The thing is that these things don’t just pop up. In my experience it is a long and painful process with some break-throughs and fall-backs. You just become more and more aware by watching yourself.

12 Tools That Help You Through a Spiritual Crisis

  1. Accept the situation. Know that it will pass.
  2. Sit still and watch the mind.
  3. Feel the feelings. Whatever comes up is okay. Don’t try to suppress anything. Don’t let the mind weave them into a story either. Just feel the sensations in your body.
  4. Keep up, keep fighting. Never give up.
  5. Do your sadhana. Practice yoga every day, no matter what.
  6. Here are some meditations for different crisis situations. Test them and find out what works for you! I like the “meditation to do when nothing else works”. You have to chant as fast as possible. It will disturb the stream of confusing thoughts and make you clear again.
  7. Meet fellow yogis for support. Go to classes, workshops, events of likeminded people.
  8. Eat well and according to season. Body, mind, emotions are one. Ayurveda can support you and calm your imbalances through nutrition and lifestyle. You may want to see a trained therapist or nutritionist.
  9. Spend time in nature to ground yourself. Walk through forests or go hiking in the mountains.
  10. When you are hit by strong emotions that you cannot process no matter what you try, do some aerobic sports. Do as many frogs as you can or go running in the forest, thaiboxing, dancing, whatever you like.
  11. Read Yogi Bhajan lectures for motivation, e.g. Crossing the crisis.
  12. If nothing works and you are desperate, you might need professional help. Consider seeing a psychotherapist or trained crisis specialist.

My Personal Spiritual Crisis

Here is my story: On the spiritual path I relatively soon entered a period of flying. I changed my life, experienced huge breakthroughs, went to India, got back and as soon as I managed the odds of integrating my experiences into my Western city life I entered a state of super happiness. I was running around Berlin in the bhav, in ecstasy, for a couple of years. My life has been full of magic and synchronicities. I have been high.

Then my teacher Nanak Dev Singh died. First, I jumped into a period of action, teaching, giving workshops, doing workshops, practicing like crazy. A couple of months later I crashed.

One moment I felt strong, the next I lost it completely. I was shaken by recurring attacks of mourning. Anytime, maybe somewhere on the street or in the tube or even during a yoga class it would hit me and I started to cry uncontrollably. I felt unready, left alone, utterly alone in this world, with no guidance, no direction. I went on long sole walks talking to Nanak. In fact I didn’t do much else.

I couldn’t teach anymore, I could hardly practice. I nearly quit the teacher training I started after Nanak couldn’t finish his while still alive. Nothing made sense to me. I questioned my very foundation: my sadhana, my practice, my spiritual path. Wasn’t it all just a big nonsense? The incense, the turbans, the spiritual blabla. The whole kundalini sangat seemed to me like a flock of white sheep, a bunch of soft speaking hypocrits, pretending to be healthy, happy and holy.

I was walking down the path of negativity. Wahe Guru!

But at the same time there was still a little magic in my life. I was surrounded by it. Little signs, synchronicities were everywhere but now I would get scared by them. I thought I was going crazy. I wanted to go back. I wanted to be normal again. In fact I never have been “normal”. There is no normal. But my experiences clashed so hard on my still active conditionings of what is acceptable behavior and feelings that it just tore me into two. I felt I had to choose. And I chose “normal”, because the people closest to me were deeply sceptical of what my soul wanted and I was afraid to lose them too.

The Sunrise Of The Soul

But slowly I became stronger and I came back into my practice. And I began to take other choices. I chose sadhana. I chose myself. I chose the path of my soul rather than pleasing anybody around me – even if that means that I will be alone. There is no real separation anyways. I still suffer, I still have active conditionings and conceptual habits and frameworks of my mind. But I am aware of them, more and more often. And I know techniques that help me to deal with it. They hopefully can be of help for you too.

The most important thing is to keep up – no matter what. Even if you question everything. Question it! Do your practice anyways. Test it!

Please Share Your Experiences

What are your tips for dealing with spiritual crisis? Let’s share them as comments under this article, so everybody can benefit.

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