The Dark Night of the Soul

Recently I’ve been struggling with depression again again, and my friend Lynelle reminded me of a book that Elizabeth sent me several years ago when I was going through the worst of my breakdown.  The Dark Night of the Soul, by Gerald May. It wasn’t a help then, because “Dark,” as St John of the Cross uses it, doesn’t mean pain, despair, and terror, it means obscure, unknowing.  As I’m writing this, I’m thinking that the book is talking about stages in spiritual practice, where you stop trying with intellect and will, and instead leave it to God’s mysterious hidden process, which I understand to be taking place in the human unconscious.  I realize that’s EXACTLY what I’ve been learning to do to heal from trauma.  It is a practice, I come back to it over and over.
May says that as people progress spiritually, they become comfortable with mystery.  I see that’s what’s happened to me:  I can look at different explanations for the origin of the universe — the “big bang”, continuous creation — or theories of where people came from — that we evolved here, that we descend from visitors from another star — and I don’t believe or disbelieve, I’m contented with not knowing, and I’m pretty sure the REAL story is deeper and richer than anything we could make up.  (immediately I’m off on thoughts about questions people might ask me, and the red shift may or may not be a Doppler shift…  ) and back to the page.  Writing this, and answering imaginary questions, has made me feel much better, thank god.
(The “astronomy teacher” is a part of me that’s very competent and knowledgeable.  I used to have a slide show about archeo-astronomy which I haven’t given for years.  I recently resurrected it as a video, and am beginning to give it to audiences.  No matter how bad I feel, lost in some traumatized child part of me, if the astronomy teacher is called on, I enlarge into a competent functional adult.)
O yes, the book also talked about love as the primary purpose/goal of spiritual practice.  At that point I start feeling like I did when reading Zen stories, these people are talking about something that I don’t know, have never experienced, will never reach.  This is based on the assumption that I’m an unloving person.  Then I look out the window at the trees and the rocks — I do love them.  And I do believe that God is inside every particle of matter, that the Universe is the amazingly beautiful dance of Divine Creativity with itself.
What have I done with my life?  I built Neskaya because I loved the dances and wanted to be able to share them.  Everything I’ve done, from sending money to Heifer, to writing my book, has been because I love the world – the world of people needing help, the world of Nature which is SO complex and beautiful, such an amazing creation, and I love the people too.  I don’t think I love people, because for so much of my life I’ve been scared and shy, and it’s hard to find people I can really talk to, and so many people have no idea what it’s like to live with PTSD that they hurt me badly by trying to help.  But when I see or hear stories of healing, or communities working together, or communities that are building a new way to be as I can see in the “Occupy” movement, I have no problem loving THOSE people.  I don’t trust my ability to be loving, because I don’t feel gushy feelings, and I don’t find it easy to make small talk, but do I want their lives to be better?  When I look at what I most deeply want, it’s that people — that EVERYBODY,  all sentient beings — should be happy and healthy.  I’m thinking that the way I love is more like what the book’s talking about, and differentiates from attachment.  God knows I’ve done a lot of work on releasing attachment, especially to the things I most care about: Neskaya, Lynelle, Bella.  I’ve had to let go of any agenda of how they should be and accept how they really are.

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