Dark Night of the Soul · Dharma Diary

2015: The Year of Living Dangerously

New Year 2015

I learned a lot in 2014. For most of my life I believed it was me who was crazy, but last year that changed. I was finally able to say: it’s not me, it’s the culture I live in.

The world is going to hell. We appear to be driving at full speed into a brick wall and the brakes have failed. The craziness of the last few years has brought every pot to boiling point. Battle lines crisscross in a bewildering maze that constantly shift beneath our feet. Nobody knows where they stand anymore.

These are the growing pains of a collective dark night of the soul – the tough love that demands we let go of the past.

The Madness in the Method

I published my first novel in 2014. It was a book born from darkness and struggle, and I was amazed when anybody bought it. Addled occupies what I like to call a nano-niche, so I wasn’t worried about sales. I wrote the book because I needed to, not because I wanted it to sell. Within the context of a world tearing itself to pieces and feasting on its own bloody stumps, I decided that my little book wasn’t important, and concentrated on writing the next one.

My plan was to write an epic bestseller. As plans go, it was pretty stupid and it quickly unravelled. Despite mountains of research and careful planning, the first draft was an ‘epic fail’. All my worst fears were coming true. What was I doing? I was impoverishing myself for a dream, a fantasy. I couldn’t write my way out of a paper bag, never mind a global recession. Perhaps I should quit. Get a proper job. Stack shelves. Clean floors.

This is where I tell you an inspiring tale of how I refused to quit and fought valiantly to reclaim my self-belief. Only I don’t, because I did quit. I quit several times, and each time I was drawn back to the book. I would try again. I would rewrite and restructure, and it still sucked.

Was it the story? Was it badly conceived? Or was it just poorly written? Was it me? I couldn’t tell anymore. My perspective became kaleidoscopic. Getting a second opinion might have helped, but the idea of having someone else bear witness to the calamity I had brought forth into the world made me consider faking my own death and starting a new life as a yak farmer.

Living Dangerously

This is the problem: I can’t quit because that’s what I’ve always done in the past. I’ve been held back by fears and self-doubt for too long. Losing my job in 2011 was supposed to be the kick in the pants I needed to try for something better, so I can’t flake out now.

My anxiety over writing something ‘saleable’ has twisted everything out of shape. It has made me cranky and it’s killing my creativity. I have to find a way to overcome my self-doubt and learn to have faith.

The disruption of the last few years shook me out of my complacency and forced me to look long and deep into the eyes of my shadow self. And my shadow gazed right back at me. Not a pretty sight, but sometimes we need to get exactly what we fear so we can learn who we really are.

The dark night of the soul is about becoming whole and embracing the lost, unloved parts of yourself. The shadow rises up from the depths and pisses on your cornflakes to stop you from eating them. This is because you’re supposed to be eating something else – something better.

There’s only one way to survive a dark night of the soul, both the personal and collective varieties, and that is: GO TOWARDS THE LIGHT.

This was brought home to me in a brilliant synchronicity one evening over Christmas. I was being very unzen and doing two things at once – reading and watching TV. The book was The Mystery Experience by Tim Freke and I was enjoying his explorations into the nature of love and thinking about how I needed to change my whole approach to everything in my life. I needed to conquer my shadow once and for all.

Meanwhile, the TV was showing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I’d seen it before so was only watching it with half an eye. I glanced up from my reading to catch the denouement – Snape kills Dumbledore (shock!), the Death Eaters rampage through the castle and leave a Dark Mark in the sky, and the remaining wizards grieve over the body of their fallen leader. The gathered wizards raise their wands and send light upwards into the sky which dissolves the Dark Mark, demonstrating the point – darkness can be transformed into light. It’s done without fanfare or histrionics. It’s a simple expression of their grief and love.

Half Blood Prince
Dumbledore’s Funeral – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

The moment seemed imbued with meaning for me within the context of what I’d been thinking about, so I decided to take advantage of it. I switched off the TV and picked up another book, Training in Compassion by Norman Fischer, and held it in my hands while I meditated for a few moments. I asked for guidance and stated I would do whatever was needed to stop my shadow turning into a mini Voldemort. I closed my eyes then opened the book at random and stuck my finger on a page. I opened my eyes and read the sentence my finger was pointing at:

Transformation is possible.”

After years of journeying through the dark night I can finally see exactly how my shadow undermines and sabotages everything I do. My shadow is made of the lies I learnt from my culture before I was old enough to think for myself. I can see how much time and energy I waste on fear that isn’t real. I can see a way through the darkness.

I can see in the dark because I carry the light.

In 2015 I will change everything. That seems a rather bold statement until you realise it only takes one tiny shift: to listen to the voice of the true self, not the lies of the shadow.

I don’t know if I’ll succeed, but I know I’m not alone in my struggle. The collective cry is going up – we’re all heartily sick of the madness, destruction and death. It’s hard to stay focused on the light when you’re surrounded by so much darkness, but the alternative is unthinkable.

Transformation is possible, and it starts when you remember who you are.

Happy New Year!

White butterfly strip

Advertisements

10 thoughts on “2015: The Year of Living Dangerously

  1. Hi Jessica!

    Happy 2015! Sounds like you have some plans! 🙂

    A couple things:
    Hi Jessica!

    Thought I’d pop by to see what you were up to and I find this:

    >it’s not me, it’s the culture I live in

    Good for you to have this insight! If I may be so bold to accelerate your insight…

    It’s not just the culture…It’s the species you are a member of. It’s the Planet you live on. It’s the Universe our planet is in (we’ll just skip solar systems, galaxies, etc.).

    It’s the God we are within.

    At this point, I would ask you to read chapter 11 of the Bhagavat Gita. This is where God reveals his true form (svarupa) to Arjuna:

    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/gita/bg11.htm

    Assuming you read it…

    Yes, the culture is insane, the Planet, the Universe, and THAT which is described in the passage from the Gita. THAT is the source of the insanity of it all.

    It is an ultimate insight, to link your personal everyday problems, both large and small, with THAT, whatever the f*** THAT is.

    Whenever I am upset by the big things in life, I read that passage. It was that passage that “converted” me to Hinduism so many years ago. Now, I read it whenever I think life is bad.

    So, the World is not going to hell. Its THAT thing you just read about. IT is EVERYTHING, Hell included.

    The insight you expressed, taking it to it’s logical extreme, can be called “world weariness”. When even the glimpse of THAT doesn’t cut it. Because even THAT is not peace.

    But BEHIND THAT IS peace.

    So, it might not sound like much consolation, but THAT thing described in the Gita, it is eternal. It’s insanity is eternal. This is why those Pentamental guy’s tag line makes so much sense:

    “The only way out, is in”.

    This is what I am struggling with now. I called it the “escape hatch” in Experience, and indicated that we won’t find it in this life. But if one can come to understand the facts, there is no alternative.

    There is nowhere to go. There is nowhere to run. There is nowhere you can find peace inside of THAT.

    To seek any solace outside yourself will only get you more disappointment.

    I don’t want to tell you what to do. But I can say what I am doing. I am just letting go.

    It is hard to describe the letting go process. But it begins with realizing that there is nowhere I can go for peace and fulfillment inside of THAT. I am slowly, slowly losing the expectation that anything outside me can bring fulfillment.

    But letting go doesn’t mean I just drop everything I am. There is too much stuff, too much momentum on too many fronts. So, I am trying to let it coast, to not push on it. To minimize making new karma, and to try to let my old karma work itself out.

    So…screw your book. Quit giving a shit. And then, it will just come out anyway. Because it is in there and it wants to come out.

    (Don talking to himself) I’ve been trying to write a book I call in my mind “ATOM”. I wrote it several times. They are all here on my hard drive and I don’t like any of them. So, I just let go of it. What am I writing it for anyway? To get “famous”? What the hell does that mean? Get famous…how stupid. To make money then? No, I’m not doing it for that. Well for what then? Is it just an ego boost for me? I don’t think so… I think I have useful things to say. Useful to who? How presumptuous you are? Well, I guess useful to me, to just get it out of my systems. Perhaps maybe it will help foster my further growth. There you go, now you are starting to make sense.

    So, I let go. And I wrote two books in the mean time: What is Science? and Experience.

    Well, Jessica, hope you don’t mind the long comment. This whole process is like improvising to me. I sense your vibe and vibe back against it…just like music improve. That above is what just came out.

    Anway, hope you don’t mind. 🙂

    Don

    Liked by 1 person

      1. HaHa, good one, cabrogal! Well, the medical establishment can certainly try! In one of his writings, Swami Krishnananda says that suppressing the mind by force is like trying to hold a basketball under water. The harder you push it down, the more forcefully it comes back to the surface.

        One of the great things about that passage in the Gita is it makes very clear that God’s will triumphs over everything. What is the old cliche? Resistance is futile…!

        🙂

        Don

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t mind at all, Don. Thank you for such a thoughtful comment.

      One word captures it perfectly: world-weariness. I’ve felt some form of world-weariness, or divine homesickness, for as long as I can remember, but it’s really come to a peak of intensity in the last few years. Letting go has become my project too, but it’s tricky. If you try to let go you get stuck because the desire gets in the way. Then there are the times you manage to convince yourself you have let go, only to find out later that you were fooling yourself and there’s another layer of something else you’re still stuck to deeper down. It’s a never ending process – like you’ve talked about on your blog with the eenie weenie!

      I’ve been reading a fascinating book in the last couple of days by Anita Moorjani called ‘Dying to Be Me’. It’s about her near death experience and how she almost died from cancer, and how it’s changed her perspective on life, death and God. I’ll probably do a little review of it here when I’m finished.

      Anyway, she talks about how she saw that everything is a manifestation of universal love, even the challenging and dark stuff. She calls it your ‘magnificence’, but you could just as easily call it Buddha Nature or Atman or whatever. The idea is to just relax and allow your magnificence to be expressed. Things only become problematic because you block the natural flow by thinking you have to control it.

      This is her website if you’re interested in reading more: http://www.anitamoorjani.com

      So yes – screw my book! You’re absolutely right. It most definitely wants to come out and I keep getting in my own way by thinking about things that are totally irrelevant. Finding some inner peace is my number one priority. If I can’t live with myself, then nothing I do will work effectively.

      Thanks for the encouraging words, Don, and keep up the good work! 😀

      Like

      1. Hi Jessica!

        I am relieved to hear your reply. Thank you for that.

        Yes, it has many, many layers. In that video I just posted by Jay Lakhani (We’re Fed Up of Being Whacked Left, Right and Center), he says (to the effect): ‘what is this desire? I solve one and three more rise to take its place. What is this? It is so bothersome and tiring dealing with this!’

        It certainly seems never ending. Krishnananda speaks to this too, talking about how when one starts on this path, it looks like an unsolvable problem; one stands before a veritable mountain of past karma. The temptation to stop because of the sheer enormity of the task is ever-present. There is no easy way to deal with it. Ultimately it is simple logic. If you don’t deal with it, the mountain gets bigger. If you deal with it, the mountain will inevitably shrink.

        It is tricky. But like anything, the more you practice the better you get. The key, like everything else in life, is starting and sticking with it. This is why vairagya is such an important word in yoga: dispassion.

        There are only two aspects of yoga: abhyasa and vairagya. Abhyasa is all of the practices taken together, all the steps of meditation from asanas through all the forms of samadhi. This mountain of technique is placed on equal footing to vairagya, which is just an attitude, the attitude of dispassion. It’s really quite amazing when you think about it, that just having the right attitude is given equal importance to all the technical stuff in yoga.

        What we are calling “letting go” is the first steps towards vairagya. I really think it leads to a virtuous cycle: the more you do it, the better you get. Just by doing it, one gets smarter, and what once seemed to be a mountain shrinks to a mole hill. And over time, it doesn’t seem so bad. Like my old boss used to say: nothing breeds success like success.

        Thanks for passing on the info about Anita Moorjani’s work. I’ll definitely check it out.

        BTW, Alan Watts autobiography was entitled: In My Own Way. Hehe, that guy was such a clown! 🙂

        Best,
        Don

        Liked by 1 person

  2. If you can find a non-Amazon, non-Paypal distributor for Addled, you’ll get at least one more sale. But I’m not prepared to do business with companies that collaborated with the US government to try to silence Wikileaks.

    Like

      1. If I was going to publish an e-book I’d use Smashwords.

        There’s more flexibility regarding pricing and distribution and they’re more indie focused than Amazon. Their distribution network includes over a dozen major retailers (but not Amazon) as well as libraries. Their deal with Flipkart in India would probably be a particularly good option for you (I’ve been to lots of Indian bookshops, street-stalls and book fairs and they seem to have quite an appetite for books about spiritual journeys). They only expect non-exclusive rights, so they won’t mind if you also use other publishers and distributors.

        Disadvantages include no-DRM (if you’re into that sort of thing) and a 40% commission for books sold via third parties (but only a 15% commission for those sold through Smashwords itself, as opposed to the 30% Amazon charges). So if you direct your website users to Smashwords instead of Amazon you’ll get more money per sale.

        IMHO the best thing about them is their ‘pay what you like’ pricing option, but it would be even better if you could adjust your payment after reading the book.

        Like

        1. Thanks for the info Cabrogal, I’ll look into it. I’ve been wondering about alternatives for a while and Smashwords was on my list – although to get paid I’d have to have a PayPal account!

          It would be nice to have a hardcopy version of the book too, but low-cost or free POD services tend to be shoddy quality. You get what you pay for. I’ll keep hunting for a solution. Watch this space…!

          Like

Comments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s