The darkest hour is that before dawn. Although this phrase is familiar, the source of this writing is unknown to most of us. Euripides, considered one of the most misunderstood of Greek poets is the author of this verse. In our everyday usage, the darkest hour has become words of consolation when someone or we are going through a rough path in their lives. We remind ourselves in the dark moments of our lives that things are going to get better. Like most phrases that have common usage, passed down from one generation to the next, there is usually a profound spiritual truth or law, expressed by the saying. In this case, Euripides may have been referring to one of the most profound experiences of the spiritual path, often referred to as the Dark Night of the Soul. During this period, we feel a deep sense of being lost without any idea of what our next step is to be or, in which direction to go. The Dark Night of the Soul is a time when we feel out of touch with the Divine and question the very purpose of our spiritual journey.
Most of us can remember a time when we found ourselves in a period of questioning where our spiritual practices and journey was heading. There are times when we feel like progress is not being made or, that our life is any better because of all the hard work. Our life does not seem any different. The range of emotional responses when we find ourselves in this place can be mild, to a deep sense of discouragement and a desire to give up our work. After all, we are human beings and live in an ego-based world where achievement and accomplishment are important. We want to be the best at what we are trying to accomplish. As we know, the relationship between our spiritual progress and life in the physical world are beyond any comparison. There are times when our need to quantify and qualify our spiritual advancement is beyond the range of comparison to any material condition. During the Dark Night, these kinds of thoughts and feelings can be intense.
This is the hard part of the journey. When we are stuck in our emotions, it is hard to focus on to our intent. We can even say that gaining control of our emotional behavior is the journey. Making a conscious effort to step beyond the limitations of our own thoughts and feelings opens us up to the Divine. By taking this step, we begin to live a life without a separateness brought about through self-consciousness. Starting to discipline ourselves to change our ways of thinking and responses to life events shifts the energy in our lives. No longer thinking and feeling solely about ourselves, have we begun to live in one consciousness, a relationship with the Divine? The Dark Night brings the effects of our self-talk into focus.
Another issue that brings on the Dark Night is our advancing state of consciousness. There are times when our knowing advances beyond our level of ability to practice a new skill or knowing how to use it. At times, we receive information on a psychic level from the quiet voice within us. The soul speaks louder than our mind in these moments and there is usually a sense of knowing we are making progress. The spiritual journey is the process of our life experience and incorporating the knowledge we have gained. This outcome can take the form of becoming more peaceful in our lives and no longer laboring under ways of thinking and behaving that are no longer compatible with the person we aspire to be. The outcome is a deeper sense of the Divine and us.
One of the steps we can take when we find ourselves in the Dark Night is to focus on an objective review of our lives. This is the process of taking a step back from ourselves and observing our lives without our emotional filters creating any kind of illusion. This is one way of satisfying some of our emotional needs about making progress and for gaining a new awareness. For example, a simple question we may ask ourselves is, “Do we like the person we have become?” Or, “Do we feel that we are a better human being as a result of our spiritual quest?” By taking an “outsiders view” at the changes we have made in our attitude and approach to life, our lives will come into focus. At some point along the way, this may be the whole purpose of being in the Dark Night. There are times, our emotions work against us and create angst that makes it hard to focus. If we are on the journey because we think being spiritual will eliminate all of the challenges that life brings, then we will surely be disappointed. In fact, stepping on to the spiritual path with all of our heart can speed up the unfolding and resolution of the karmic conditions of our lifetime.
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