Eckhart Tolle on the Dark Night of the Soul (conventionally called depression)

Tolle is a well-known spiritual teacher who openly shares his experiences with depression and with the dark night, and he has helped many people to navigate these difficult times. The “dark night of the soul” is a term that goes back a long time. It is a term used to describe what one could call a collapse of a perceived meaning in life…an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness.

A few months ago I experienced the dark night. It was an excruciating experience that I was not prepared for. Honestly, I do not think anyone can prepare for it. It lasted for roughly 4-5 months, but I did not realize what it was until the end. The entire time I was beating myself up for not feeling myself because I wasn’t motivated to do any of the things that had previously brought meaning in my life. Which took me by surprise having experienced a rather significant awakening 2.5 years ago which helped me to target and release many conditioned beliefs that were not serving me, to make room for a life that felt more like truth. To go from feeling like I was co-creating with the universe to feeling abandoned by it felt like a massive punch to the gut.

My first awakening and beginning of my spiritual journey happened about a decade ago. Since, I have been aware of the value of shadow work and acknowledging the painbody, so I entered the dark night with this perception in mind which I feel helped the experience along. But, as to be expected, the conventional opinion would have been that I was experiencing depression.

The Dark Night of the Soul and Depression may not be the same, I suppose this is up for debate, but I feel confident in saying that the dark night is often mistaken for depression. And, sometimes, the dark night can turn into depression if perceived and treated as depression. I sit here wondering how many people are treating themselves for conventional depression when they are truly experiencing a natural spiritual process.

Tolle is a well-known spiritual teacher who openly shares his experiences with depression and with the dark night, and he has helped many people to navigate these difficult times. For those of you who have experienced the dark night, does he speak the truth? For those of you who have experienced depression, do you think it may have been the dark night?  If you are willing, share your thoughts or experiences after reading Tolle’s thoughts below.

Q: Have you ever experienced the dark night of the soul? Your teachings have been so helpful through this difficult period. Can you address this subject?

Tolle: The “dark night of the soul” is a term that goes back a long time. Yes, I have also experienced it. It is a term used to describe what one could call a collapse of a perceived meaning in life…an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness. The inner state in some cases is very close to what is conventionally called depression. Nothing makes sense anymore, there’s no purpose to anything. Sometimes it’s triggered by some external event, some disaster perhaps, on an external level. The death of someone close to you could trigger it, especially premature death, for example if your child dies. Or you had built up your life, and given it meaning – and the meaning that you had given your life, your activities, your achievements, where you are going, what is considered important, and the meaning that you had given your life for some reason collapses.

It can happen if something happens that you can’t explain away anymore, some disaster which seems to invalidate the meaning that your life had before. Really what has collapsed then is the whole conceptual framework for your life, the meaning that your mind had given it. So that results in a dark place. But people have gone into that, and then there is the possibility that you emerge out of that into a transformed state of consciousness. Life has meaning again, but it’s no longer a conceptual meaning that you can necessarily explain. Quite often it’s from there that people awaken out of their conceptual sense of reality, which has collapsed.

They awaken into something deeper, which is no longer based on concepts in your mind. A deeper sense of purpose or connectedness with a greater life that is not dependent on explanations or anything conceptual any longer. It’s a kind of re-birth. The dark night of the soul is a kind of death that you die. What dies is the egoic sense of self. Of course, death is always painful, but nothing real has actually died there – only an illusory identity. Now it is probably the case that some people who’ve gone through this transformation realized that they had to go through that, in order to bring about a spiritual awakening. Often it is part of the awakening process, the death of the old self and the birth of the true self.

The first lesson in A Course in Miracles says “Nothing I see in this room means anything”, and you’re supposed to look around the room at whatever you happen to be looking at, and you say “this doesn’t mean anything”, “that doesn’t mean anything”. What is the purpose of a lesson like that? It’s a little bit like re-creating what can happen during the dark night of the soul. It’s the collapse of a mind-made meaning, conceptual meaning, of life… believing that you understand “what it’s all about”. With A Course in Miracles, it’s a voluntary relinquishment of the human mind-made meaning that is projected, and you go voluntary into saying “I don’t know what this means”, “this doesn’t mean anything”. You wipe the board clean. In the dark night of the soul it collapses.

You are meant to arrive at a place of conceptual meaninglessness. Or one could say a state of ignorance – where things lose the meaning that you had given them, which was all conditioned and cultural and so on. Then you can look upon the world without imposing a mind-made framework of meaning. It looks of course as if you no longer understand anything. That’s why it’s so scary when it happens to you, instead of you actually consciously embracing it. It can bring about the dark night of the soul – to go around the Universe without any longer interpreting it compulsively, as an innocent presence. You look upon events, people, and so on with a deep sense of aliveness. Your sense the aliveness through your own sense of aliveness, but you are not trying to fit your experience into a conceptual framework anymore.

Source: https://www.eckharttolle.com/newsletter/august-2011/

 

Mental Healing – Is Your Physical Illness in Your Mind and Can You Self-Heal?

There is little time spent on some the more important factors to healing from an illness. We hear phrases such as “Watch your stress levels”, “Pay attention to your lifestyle”, “Watch what you eat”, and “Exercise regularly”, but how are all these things connected to one another? And, why are these things more important than popping a pill?

The idea of wholeness, holistic healing, is often considered bunk, outrageous and new age-y. In truth, a wholeness approach to healing should be at the foundation of every person’s life and western medicine should be an advanced practice for additional support – not as a replacement to our whole body functionality.

healthy-person-vitamins

The idea of self-healing is a rather foreign concept for most westerners.  The first reaction of many modern day people is to visit a doctor when they feel ill, especially Americans.  It’s no secret that most modern day doctors are heavily influenced by sales reps and the government to administer un-natural prescribed medicines that have a longer list of negative side effects than benefits to the user.   Then, the user needs another pill to counteract the side effects from the pill they originally need to take to help one health issues that causes even more health issues.

There is little time spent on some the more important factors to healing from an illness.  We hear phrases such as “Watch your stress levels”, “Pay attention to your lifestyle”, “Watch what you eat”, and “Exercise regularly”, but how are all these things connected to one another?  And, why are these things more important than popping a pill?

The idea of wholeness, holistic healing, is often considered bunk, outrageous and new age-y.   In truth, a wholeness approach to healing should be at the foundation of every person’s life and western medicine should be an advanced practice for additional support – not as a replacement to our whole body functionality.

Let’s return back to the questions above – these are statements we hear often, but how do we achieve such advice?   One of the unique gifts of being a human being in comparison to other species on earth is our ability to visualize the future and create our own realities.  In some cases, the vision we have for ourselves is truer than who we are today.  The vision you have for yourself today creates the person you are tomorrow.

When a person loves life – life breaths love into the person.  This person is filled with healing energy – love, compassion, connection to others.   When a person hates life – life creates a slow death.

One of my favorite quotes from Lao Tzu says, “At birth, people are soft and yielding.  At death, they are hard and stiff.  All green plants are tender and yielding.  At death, they are dry and brittle.  When hard and rigid, we consort with death.  When soft and flexible, we affirm greater life.” (TaoTeChing76)

What does that mean?  Well, I can tell you now that it is the opposite of what most of us are taught.  We are taught to be these strong people from the inside out, firm in our beliefs and attachments.  A soft heart is a weakness.  A tough mind is ideal.  Never be vulnerable.  Control all your emotions.  Our way of living is often handed down from our parents or institutions who say we must do these things in order:  get a stable job, get married, have kids, work your entire life and save for retirement.   Also, get your fun out while you are young since adulthood is all about business!  It’s no wonder people do not want to grow up!  That sounds far from fun!  Maybe for some people it is, but for the majority of people I imagine most thinking “I wish I traveled more”, “I wish I let myself love more”, and “I wish I followed my dreams”

So, what is the secret?  The goal is to life in wholeness.  Embrace all of yourself.   We must affirm a greater life – inside and outside.   You must help your mind, body and spirit connect by creating a conduit for self-healing energy.

It has been proven time and time again that people can worsen their health with stress, worry and anxiety.  People can also heal themselves with a placebo pill just with faith alone – the belief of it working.

How do you begin with self-healing?  Well, it begins within your Heart-Mind connection.

The purpose of forming a stronger heart-mind connection is to really tackle the issue of letting lower emotions such as anger, worrying, anxiety and depression take over your life and consume your entire being.  It is natural to have these emotions, but they should be felt and flow through you by being processed accordingly.

If these feelings persist, they take energy – the energy that you need for your own self-healing.   When you successfully align your mind-heart, you will notice a larger abundance of self-healing energy by shifting through all the unnecessary negative energy you have been holding onto for years – even decades.

Here are some ways to increase your Heart-Mind connection:

  • Tell Your Mind to Move Over and Make Room For Your Heart.

It is no secret that most people value intelligence over emotions and the mind over the heart.  The heart is irrational and sometimes makes no sense.

To remedy this we let the mind become our conductor to life by keeping emotions in check – pushing them away.  The truth is feelings and emotions are NEVER wrong.

We are obsessed with having our emotions validated by others to know if they are right or wrong.  Emotions are always right.  They are always right because they serve us as cues to what we need to heal or what needs our attention.

If you have an emotional trigger reaction to when someone does something, this is your cue to figure out why.  How deep or far back does it go?  When you understand the source of your emotional trigger, you can heal it and eliminate it so the next time you are in the same situation you will respond with more awareness or most likely catch it before it even happens.

This is how the heart becomes your conductor and the mind becomes a trusted advisor by creating the heart-mind connection.  Both serve a purpose.

Imagine the roles of a traditional male-female couple.  The woman behind the man helps him to understand his motives and his purpose, helps him heal his past by being a safe haven to the outside world, she is there for him through thick and thin.  He then protects his woman physically, emotionally and spiritually, and then carries out his mission-purpose to the outside world.  Their relationship is priority above all.

This is the traditional masculine-feminine principle, but these 2 energies live in both men and women.  Modern day couples tend to struggle with roles in relationships, but it could be remedied when both people understand how they each are energetically matched.

It is hard when both man & woman are mainly feminine or mainly masculine in energy.  A feminine man and masculine woman can have a very successful love relationship.   Each partner being balanced in masculine & feminine can also work well even if it’s harder to define the roles.

  • Discover Your True Purpose – Your Essence.

This cannot be achieved unless #1 is complete.  Your essence cannot be found within the mind.  It is found within the heart.  The mind is only your advisor on how to visualize your purpose and make it a reality.

There are signs and methods to discover your purpose in life:

1) You can list all the things that come naturally to you since childhood.  Maybe they morphed into something different as an adult such as a natural inclination for rhythms like in dancing, singing or a playing music, but as an adult you are just a music lover.

2) You have an odd fear attached to something like performance anxiety or public speaking.  You always want to speak up in your philosophical club, but you are too scared of how your odd views will be taken.   This is a cue that you should be sharing more of what scares you most.

3)It is something that has nagged you your entire life.  You have always wanted to build orphanages in other countries, but you cannot find out how to practically do it so you write it off as impossible for you – maybe someone else.

The solution?  Discover your true purpose and break down your walls that keep your from it.

  • Break Down Your Walls.

There are multiple people residing in every person.

1) There is the child who is full of wonder, no limits to their potential and is completely vulnerable.  This is usually the time in a person’s life where people are most themselves – as a child.

2) The person you are today who is normally full of multiple influences from childhood and times within their life that teach certain conditioning that convinces them to operate from the ego.

3)The person you will become due to your current mindset and/or visualization power of the future you.

The current self needs to visit all the other people within you – the child and the vision.

Once you have targeted your purpose with the help of you heart-mind connection, you can now target what keeps you from being your true self by visiting your past self.

By using the emotional triggers explained in #1 you can begin shifting through what needs healing so that it no longer controls your destiny or gets in the way of you achieving your destiny.

When you do this, you can then place more time into the vision of yourself without wasting time going in wrong directions.  Understanding your past is no easy feat.  This requires a lot of forgiveness, support and extra learning.

  • Actualize Your True Self.

Now that you have done the ground work to form your connections to your heart, discover your essence, and break down your barriers, you can now be yourself.  Your true self.

This is not a step I can guide you through since this is your own destiny and you are the only one who has the answers.   However, I do wish you luck with your journey!

If you stumble along the way, make sure to set up systems to get yourself back on track.  Create a village of supportive friends, have a journal with all your goals and thoughts to refer to occasionally, create a dream board, etc.

Once you have reached this level, you will understand that you can visualize yourself being healthy and your body will respond with a blend of positive action and belief.

At this point, you might be asking yourself “why can’t I just eat right and workout?”  Quick answer – you can.  Some people do this with much success, but normally these people enjoy both and it helps them to create positive self-healing energy.  This is not the case for everyone.   Some people require a wider, higher degree in the holistic healing approach.

What are your thoughts on the idea we can self-heal?