Dark Night of the Soul · Dharma Diary

Shadow Attack: Instant Karma & a Wake-up Call

Awakening is a tricky business. Pre-satori, I believed that if I could see clearly, all my problems would be solved and I’d live happily ever after. My hang-ups and fears would magically dissolve and I would be free. Ha!

It’s a little more complicated than that. To grow on the spiritual path you must become whole, which means embracing the darkness and re-integrating your shadow. I realised this and was diligently cleaning out my dark corners, but I didn’t know what was waiting for me in the darkness.

Shadows on snow

Living the Nightmare

Back in 2010 I was surfing a wave of creative inspiration that was bringing a lot of joy into my life. It was the year I started blogging, and began to write my first novel. I was practising gratitude, letting go of the past and opening to the life I believed my soul desired (and deserved). In a fit of excruciating and deluded madness, I said to the universe: I’m ready for my highest good. Bring it on.

You’ve probably guessed from the title of this post that what happened next wasn’t what I was expecting.

(Quick aside: you should NEVER say you’re ready for your highest good! You have no idea what you’re asking for or the price you’ll be asked to pay. You don’t know what your highest good is – it’s so far from your normal perception of reality, you have no frame of reference that can even comprehend it. That said, your Higher Self knows what it’s doing, so maybe it’s okay… Even so – be careful what you wish for!)

From that moment on, I was a marked woman. My number was up. The genie was out of the bottle. The toothpaste was out of the tube and smeared all over the bathroom mirror. I was about to be hit with a full-on Shadow Attack and an eruption from my subconscious of the darkest, soul-destroying demon: The Predator.

Nutshell version of the saga: I live in a block of flats and early in 2010 I got a new neighbour – let’s call him Ian. I was busy writing the first draft of Addled and my intention was to finish it before my 40th birthday (and I did, despite what follows). One night there was an explosion of urgent hammering on my front door followed by a torrent of abuse and death threats. I was so surprised I didn’t take it personally and just thought he was drunk and shouting at someone on his phone. (Goodness knows why I thought that – it’s amazing the stories you can concoct when you’re trying to rationalise something insane.)

A week later it happened again, only this time I could tell he was definitely shouting at me – ranting about how I’d not get out of here alive and that he’d do time for murder. There followed another two years of madness: more death threats and false allegations made against me for anti-social behaviour. It wasn’t just me – others in the block suffered too.

It was clear Ian had mental health problems. I tried to understand and be compassionate, and discovered how hard it is to put lofty spiritual aspirations into practise. I’d never had a proper ‘enemy’ before. Love is easy at a distance, but when the object of your supposed compassion is standing in front of you in all his dead-eyed menace… well, let’s just say I failed.

In the meantime I lost my job along with thousands of other public sector workers. By then my health had deteriorated and I was struggling with colitis and a collapsing immune system. My skin was breaking out in angry boils and eczema, and my hair was falling out. At one point, my neck and face were so raw it looked like my head had been boiled like a ham. I was seething with rage and jumping at the slightest noise. I felt like a caged animal.

Everything began to unravel. Anything that could go wrong, went wrong. The universe seemed to be opposed to my every thought and action. When I was positive and had faith that something would work out – it would go disastrously wrong. If I was fearful and convinced something would be a nightmare – it would resolve itself perfectly. I couldn’t think and I couldn’t not think. It got so bad that I was scared to switch on the oven in case it blew up in my face. My fears were like boomerangs – every time I let one go it hit me between the eyes.

Instant karma hurts!

Thankfully the troubled neighbour moved out and my health began to improve. By some miracle I managed to write through the whole fiasco. The dust began to settle and I thought I could finally risk poking my head above the parapet.

In January 2014 I published Addled.

Nothing went wrong! I relaxed, maybe it was over…

A week later one of the heroin addicts who lived downstairs blew himself up and set the building on fire.


I stood outside and shivered, and watched the fire brigade battle the flames, overwhelmed by absurdity. I just wanted to laugh.

What the hell was going on?


Black Holes and Revelations

Before we delve into the whys and wherefores, I should say that nobody was hurt in the fire and there was minimal damage. The hapless junkie was carted off to a police cell never to be seen again. There was a rumour he’d been mixing crystal meth. (I live in a most salubrious location!)

Anyway, back to the plot…

Throughout this whole period I struggled to maintain my spiritual practice but I kept getting thrown off centre. I was on a learning curve so steep it defied the laws of gravity. When I did manage to meditate and calm down, the guidance I received kept repeating the same message:

There is nothing to fear.

This is what I believe happened: I had been resisting my deepest fears and using creativity as defence against the darkness. I hadn’t overcome my nihilism and my death wish – I’d buried it. When I declared my intention to open to my highest good, the truth had to come out. I had to face it.

So my death wish took form, moved in next door and threatened to kill me!

I was able to relive the fears of my past within a larger context and finally learn to let them go. The chaos and destruction weren’t happening because I’d done something wrong – far from it. It was happening because I was seeing through the illusion. I’d entered the dark night of the spirit and was having trouble integrating nonbeing into my life.

In fear of my own power and light, the ego lashed out to keep me from growing. My shadow rose up and tried to stop the light burning it into steam and dust.

Ian wasn’t my enemy, we were both scared – and scarred. We both felt powerless. He was one of the most frightened people I’ve ever met. To get a sense of power and control he starts fights, winds people up and causes problems. It’s the only way he can feel powerful and have an effect on other people. They can’t ignore him if he’s threatening them. It stops him disappearing and being insignificant.

Me? I’m a classic neurotic. When someone attacks me I assume it’s my fault. It takes an enormous ego to take responsibility for the world’s problems!

This experience was a wake-up call to stop pandering to the fears of my smaller self and open to the larger reality that I know is my true nature. Ultimately, it’s about radical acceptance and faith. I had to learn the difference between my death wish and surrender to nonbeing in oneness with Life.

Rays of Light

Dying to Live

I’ve had a death wish for as long as I can remember. It goes like this: I should never have been born. I don’t deserve to exist. How can I be happy or good? I’m a piece of shit. If I let go and let the universe put me where I belong, I’ll end up face down in the dirt with all the other losers and useless bastards. I’m nothing – how can I be Buddha?

When my life exploded into chaos it triggered all my worst fears. Everything seemed to be saying that I was a failure. If I surrendered, as my deeper Self was directing me to do, I would end up dead in a ditch with a knife in my back. I would lose everything.

This is deluded. It confuses nonbeing with the death wish, and was why I was creating defensively and why my spiritual practice had stalled. I was seeing nonbeing as a kind of nihilism, a withdrawal from life and a denial of everything I love and care about.

But that’s not what surrender into nonbeing means. Surrender isn’t a denial of life. It’s the only way you can live fully. If you don’t surrender the ego you’re locked inside the contraction of believing you’re separate from life. How can you live fully from that position? It’s impossible.

I also kept thinking of surrender as being submission to something outside myself, an authority figure like God or somesuch. But that’s not right either. You’re surrendering to your deeper Self, which is within. It’s your own Awareness – which is emptiness and so pervades everything. All you’re doing is surrendering to the present moment. You’re saying yes to reality and opening to it, whatever it may bring – not at some unforeseen point in the future, but right now.

(Aside: yes, I know God, Awareness, and emptiness are really the same ‘thing’, but calling it ‘God’ makes me polarise it in my head and I get confused. It’s bad conditioning, what comes of growing up in a deluded culture with clunky language.)

It makes no sense for me to think: if I surrender I’ll end up in the gutter. Why would I? In this moment, right here and now, there’s no way that could happen. This endless circling of the problem, the excuses and evasions, are all ego tricks to keep me in chains. It’s just conditioning. These thoughts aren’t true and they never have been.

I’ve been running in circles my whole life. My ego and its evil twin, my shadow, locked in battle, rolling around on the floor with their hands at each others’ throats, screeching. I’m sick of it.

And it’s so undignified 😉

I need to embrace nonbeing not because I want to die or because I hate life and don’t want to be here. I need to embrace nonbeing because that’s the only true and full expression of a genuine love of life. I want to be free because I love life and want to live. I want to be more conscious, more joyful, more alive.

This is what my highest good means and why I had to be hit full force by what I was denying. Much of what I encountered came out of my personal shadow, but the worst of it was something else. It was so extreme because my desire to step into the light triggered a powerful archetype that lurks in the psyche ready to pounce on anyone foolish enough to evolve.

The Predator is one of the biggest obstacles on the spiritual path. It’s a part of the psyche that doesn’t want to be conscious and it tends to be constellated when you’re on the verge of a breakthrough. He functions as a threshold guardian, ready to strike anyone not ready to move forward.

I wasn’t ready.

I am now…

…I think!

Addled new coverRead the book that almost never was:

Addled: Adventures of a Reluctant Mystic

Follow the link or click the cover…



Image: Double Helix

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32 thoughts on “Shadow Attack: Instant Karma & a Wake-up Call

  1. I’m currently going through my 8H saturn transit and so much of what you describe happening in this post feels relatable – perhaps not so much the actual events but having to confront literally all of my deepest fears especially to do with 8H matters. This post and your 8H saturn post have been such a huge source of comfort, words can do no justice to express how grateful I am, I keep revisiting them. Reading these posts have helped me put a lot into context, and put *some* distance between these fears and my ‘Self’, at least, I think it has?!

    I may be going through an ego death ???? but who knows! labels schmabels. its been a terrifying ordeal, and I’ve realised I need some guidance when it comes to finding a way to navigate this – its very hard trying to rationally deal with issues rooted in the subconscious when so much of this exists to evade you anyway. If you have any recommendations as to how I could do this, I’m open, because otherwise, it’s a pretty lonely road! (although, maybe that’s the point of it all? lol).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you found this helpful, Rad. The important thing to remember about ‘ego death’ is that it’s not really death. The ego is just a collection of ideas and beliefs so it’s actually a process of disillusionment rather than death. It’s just that your ‘ego’ tends to react as if it is dying – silly old ego!

      There’s some other bits and pieces on this blog that might help, if you haven’t seen them already:

      The Handless Maiden series on the dark night of the soul: https://jessicadavidson.co.uk/2017/06/05/the-handless-maiden-healing-a-dark-night-of-the-soul/

      The Evolution of Consciousness series: https://jessicadavidson.co.uk/tag/evolution-series/?order=asc

      And tons of resources and other sites that might be interesting: https://jessicadavidson.co.uk/2016/12/13/resources-for-surviving-a-dark-night-of-the-soul/


      1. I had no idea you’d gotten back to me – glad I checked my junk mail! I’ll be sure to check out the links you have provided me with, very grateful.

        Turns out that the bulk of my first ego death ( still unsure if that’s what it was) coincided with not only saturn 8H no longer being supported with my 8H jupiter(return) as jupiter had ingressed into my 9th but more specifically, pluto squaring my sun. It was around the 0 degree mark although not exact. Had no idea how much an outer planet could cause such deep havoc. This all has me terrified for the next two years when it will be exact! Heres hoping I’m ready, although from the little research I’ve done now on such transits, I assume I won’t be, lol.

        Thank you so much again for replying!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Is there some way to make this transformation less striking or easy to handle? Like meditation or chanting shloka..?.Or everyone has to take the free fall? cause I guess there are many like me who wish to travel this path but are taken aback thinking they might not make it .also pl tell me where do seva, bhakti or meditation stand in this picture. are they merely spiritual bypass or do they really help….
    thanks a lot. I loved your write up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi snehal, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. This can be a difficult process, but it doesn’t have to be. Many people have problems because they’re starting from a troubled place: basically, the more screwed up you are, the more likely it is that you’ll have some sort of difficulty. The trouble is, you don’t know how screwed up you are until you start digging around in your subconscious – you don’t know what’s going to come up. But if you follow a spiritual path properly and get good guidance from a teacher (preferably somebody who has been through it too) then you should be able to heal whatever comes up.

      There’s nothing wrong with practising meditation and other spiritual practices like devotion and service – they can provide a lot of support. The only problem is when you start to use them to avoid the darker side of your experience – that’s when it becomes spiritual bypassing. So it’s really about how self-aware you are and how honest you are with yourself about why you’re doing things.

      There really is no need to be scared of the process. Waking up is why you’re here, so it’s best to trust that your higher Self knows what it’s doing and have faith that you’ll be guided to whatever you need. You will make it! In fact, you can’t fail – because your true nature is already free. You just need to remember! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you VERY much Jessica for sharing this so authentically. It’s actually very rare for a person on a (true) spiritual path to be so open, honest and vulnerable about facing the massive challenge of having to cease to exist. I very much appreciate it…and YOU.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I so needed this rn. So grateful for your vulnerability. I’m entering my Saturn 8th this week and life has already given me an intimation of the #deepwerk to be done. Ok, let’s do this with dignity.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Fantastic post! Thank-you for your great insights. This gives me food for contemplation about my own experiences with mentally disturbed individuals and people with violent personality disorders. Something I’ve been needing to see/understand. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ok. I do believe something is in the air that calls for such writings. Have just went over a similar writing put down two months ago, on devil archetype and will put it up today. Thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on Shamagaia and commented:
    For anyone who thinks the spiritual path is only for wishy-washy mung bean scoffing peace-nik types. Think again! The mystical path is nothing less than heavy duty boot camp for the soul. Jessica Davidson details this in fine style in her bloggings and book Addled, Adventures of A Reluctant Mystic.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Wow. Powerful stuff. Surrender is terrifying to the ego that’s for sure. Again though it keeps me coming back to that Mac Kenna quote: “falling into the abyss and finding that it’s a feather bed.”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My shadow manifested as a death curse. Took over nine years to shake the fucker off too.

    The deaths were real of course but the idea that they were caused by some sort of curse on me was just ego (or shadow?) projection. Maybe when the nascent non-dualist truth starts to impinge upon phenomenological ego-bound dualist reality (I don’t really think non-duality and duality are any more or less real than each other) it tends to extend the denied, externalised parts of your ego to all forms of ‘not-self’, so you start blaming your(ego)self for everything that goes wrong.

    OTOH, you can also try to take credit for everything that’s right. Hence delusions such as the messiah (or boddhisatva) complex that seem to lie in ambush on so many spiritual paths.

    I really think the fundamental dualistic division is self/other and all other polarities flow from there. Perhaps the primary ‘miracle’ of non-dualist realisation is the reintegration of all of those externalised aspects of the dualistic split with the internalised ones. Death, of course, is a pretty scary manifestation of the externalised ‘other’.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Really nice post, Jessica, thank you.

    It will be interesting to hear other people’s sense of what “Surrender” means in the context of non duality.

    your post calls to mind Ramana Maharshi’s wonderful image – ‘When you’re traveling on a train, you don’t need to carry your luggage the whole time. Put your “baggage” down and let the “train” (the Shakti:>) carry it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love that image, thanks Don. It helps to remember that you don’t need to make such a fuss about whatever is going on in your life. Just accept it and let it be. Easier said than done, of course!



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