This morning, I intended to write about a completely different topic, but then this came. Perhaps because someone needs to read it.
Winter Solstice occurred late last night: the moment at which the sun was farthest from the Northern Hemisphere. This is the darkest time of year, and although it might not feel like it, the light has begun to increase, little by little, each day going forward.
It makes me reflect on the darkest days of my life, my own dark night of the soul following my mother’s death, when so much was changing.
I’ve grieved my share of deaths and losses, but the worst feeling of all was not following the call of my soul. That’s what made this dark chapter even harder: I allowed my light to dim.
On the surface, it might sound like avoidable suffering. (Why not just follow your soul?) But I understand now that there were some soul lessons I needed to learn before I was able to move forward, and life delivered the perfect circumstances and teachers. The perfect storm.
Sometimes my conditioning and desires were too strong, and other times I wasn’t able to access my power for whatever reason. There was a lot of fear and an underlying sense of unworthiness that kept me feeling and living small.
And so the journey became one of taking back my power, baby step by baby step, just like the light begins to return ever so gradually at this time of year. Sometimes it was two steps forward, one step back. But I learned not to beat myself up for the step back and focus more on the steps forward.
I began creating inspirational quote pictures that I’d put where I could see them every day. They were messages from my deeper self that I hoped and prayed would take root. The images were of places and moments when I experienced a sense of empowerment. I read and recited the affirmations every morning and kept them with me wherever I went.
Some of them stayed with me for a long, humbling time. But eventually all were replaced by new ones.
I prayed for help and guidance from my Higher Power, spirit guides, and angels. And I received it. Sometimes it was strength. Whispers of inspiration. Or the vision of a being of light standing at the edge of the Forest of Forbidden Thoughts and Fantasy when I began to think a thought that didn’t serve my soul and my healing. Other times it was physical injury: falling down the stairs, finding a tick on me, smacking my mouth on a space heater, health issues.
If I didn’t listen to the more subtle calls, I got smacked with unambiguous, physical wake-up calls. But I was grateful nonetheless because, after all, I’d requested help. My deepest yearning was to follow the call of my soul and undo a great deal of conditioning that didn’t serve me. And that’s the kind of help I got.
In the beginning, freedom seemed unattainable. My greatest hope and strength came from others who had found their way out of their own dark places. From their examples, I knew liberation was possible.
Some who were in similar or worse circumstances also were catalysts for healing. I empathized with their pain and wished they could be liberated from it. In doing so, I realized I wasn’t alone or unique in what I was experiencing and also was worthy of liberation from suffering.
To reiterate: What I know now that I didn’t know back then is that there would be assistance every step of the way. Assistance I never could’ve dreamed of: Feeling drawn to take Reiki training and to say yes to any number of new possibilities that showed up. Some of the possibilities had been in my orbit all along, but I hadn’t given them attention. Until I was ready. Really ready to transform my life into something greater.
I learned that when you feel really stuck, you might be on the brink of unprecedented growth.
Now I look back with so much gratitude for the journey because I’ve come so far from that dark night of the soul. It’s not the end of the road. You always can go further. But the journey from the darkest days to where I am now was the greatest leap in consciousness I’ve experienced my entire life. (And I’ve spent my life as a spiritual seeker working with a guide, so to say that is a really big deal.)
I learned the importance of self-love and burning in a fierce love (not blame, not hatred, not regret) everything that doesn’t serve me. I’ve learned there is a source of steadfast, unconditional love I can call upon when I need it, when I’m not feeling strong enough. I’ve learned that when I need it most, there is a circle of loved ones around me whose love still reaches me from beyond the grave. And behind them is even more love. Beings of love and light. I’ve learned to source my life from that great love and to see myself through the eyes of unconditional love.
I wish this for everyone who is suffering. Because it’s possible.
From the darkest days, I found the brightest light. The journey required lots of patience, forgiveness, and love. I became disciplined with regard to the thoughts I would and wouldn’t allow myself to think, and learned that mindfulness of thoughts paired with compassion forms a mighty superpower that can be used to benefit ourselves and others.
I’ve shifted from seeking validation from others to generating it within. Can you imagine how different our world would be if more people – including world leaders – made this shift and didn’t walk around needing others to fill their empty holes?
I offer the story of my journey to encourage anyone who is experiencing a dark night of the soul to keep going and have hope. And to encourage anyone who is supporting someone through dark times not to give up on them, no matter how many times they stumble and fall and could be left for dead. I’m not suggesting anyone should be a doormat and try to save others. (I learned that lesson the very hard way.) Healthy boundaries are essential. I’m just saying: Maintain an attitude of hope and unconditional love, and trust their soul’s path. If there’s nothing else you can do, send love and light.
And give it to yourself, as well. Let any self-judgment burn up in that fierce love. Allow yourself to receive the love and light that seeks you. Learn to receive it. You are worthy.
The only way out of the darkness is through love. As love grows in you, it pulls you along and gains momentum.
Do not fear the darkness. It’s where you will learn to shine your brightest light. Individually and collectively, that’s what the darkness calls forth from us.
© 2019 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, Reiki practitioner, and mindfulness meditation teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.