Dark Night of the Soul

What follows is something I should have addressed long ago. A personal foray into the topic of mental illness is something I have refrained from discussing, partly due to my own confusion and uncertainty on the subject. However, I feel as if I have finally reached a point where my thoughts on the matter might do some good to those who are interested. My journey is never ending, and I cannot claim to be a perfect authority. But I hope I can bring some insight and wisdom to the suffering we all endure.

Being one of those unlucky individuals with probable depression, I have often wondered why I have been cursed with such a plight. The unfairness of the world weighs heavy as I contemplate the darkened state of my mind. Why do these successive patterns of negative thinking have no end? Why can I not look upon people and the world with joy and optimism? I feel that looking into my past, and my reactions to past events, is the best place to start this inquiry. There was a time when the child within me reveled in every delight. There was a time when I felt nothing but curiosity and adventure upon thinking about the world. Those bygone times have since faded into obscurity and dull memory. But why?

I can remember the day, after my parent’s divorce, when my mom told me we were moving to Kansas City. I recall the thought of leaving my family and friends behind, of switching schools and starting my life anew. At that moment, my heart was imbued with more excitement than anything else. I had yet to experience the harsh reality of my entire world being turned upside down and ripped to shreds.

My eagerness and bright-eyed wonderment lasted quite awhile. In my new environment, surrounded by new and strange people, I managed the culture-shock seemingly beautifully. It was an undercurrent of resentment, personal failure, and disenchantment with society that ultimately led to my embitterment. I feel as if I squandered the last of my energy in high school, with no future intake to supplement it. By the time college rolled around, I was running on existential fumes. It’s amazing how long I was able to deny to myself the full extent of the problem.

Life is comprised of cycles and tidal movements of energy. For a successive period of years, we can live with forward momentum, our sheer force of will and passion carrying us onward. But in a brief moment, all of this enthusiasm can change for the worse. The forward momentum gives way to spiritual friction, or resistance. This can commonly arise from some form of trauma, but in my case it also happened to be a procession of existential realizations. It may be a controversial claim, but this is the beginning of a natural process.

I suffered one of these traumatic realizations without recognizing what was happening. The act of my world turning upside down destroyed my momentum and instigated the friction. Looking back, I see how unavoidable this process was. I was indeed on the doorstep of a personal “dark night of the soul.” This was something that garnered the scorn of my subconscious. This was something that I could not accept on a truly innate level, and I therefore made it infinitely worse. I wish I could have realized my folly sooner, but alas, I could not.

One of my biggest flaws has always been misguided idealism toward the people in my life. With my cursed ability to see the potential of humanity, I unfairly hold others to unattainable standards. I see the possible greatness in everyone, but often at the expense of not accepting their imperfections. When I finally started to see that the people I loved were not living up to my idea of them, a painful and bewildering dissonance befell my soul. This comprised the gist of my existential realization. In hindsight, much of this mental shift could have arisen from simply growing up. But I believe the combination of a major life change and an evolution of my awareness created the situation.

So many of us fall into depression at some point in life without recognizing the process for what it truly is. With a healthcare industry that puts emphasis on the material and chemical, we are often left in the dark to depression’s true meaning. While we treat our symptoms in order to remain functional members of society, the underlying causes of our inner darkness are left unaddressed. According to Buddhist teachings, life itself is suffering. But the growing pandemic of mental illness highlights the singular nature of this moment in time. It is indeed a repressed spiritual nature and an ignorance of the natural cycles of the soul that are grievously dampening our wellbeing.

As younger generations become increasingly unfulfilled and lost in this materialistic society, they are taught the wrongness of depression. The dark night of the soul is a time where old concepts and attachments die. With proper guidance and understanding, it can lead to a state of renewal that is necessary for spiritual growth. The metaphor of a phoenix rising from its ashes embodies this rebirth philosophy. We all have the shadow of depression in us, but sweeping it under the rug and denying its existence lets the darkness fester and eventually consume the soul. So many of us never receive the direction we need to traverse our shadow.

Depression settles on me now, and I feel the icy clutches of nihilism reaching out. How do I combat the dark insights my tainted intuition conjures up? Am I failing, or am I working through a process that is a natural part of my spiritual development? These are the questions I ask myself on the most difficult of days. The disappointment I have toward society mirrors the disappointment I have toward myself. Hate for others is rooted in a fundamental hate for oneself.

All of my introspection has led me to the simple conviction that love is the answer. The part of our soul that lies in obscurity and depression is just as worthy of love as the part we take pride in. Only by having compassion for our inner darkness can we transcend the breaking down of tired concepts and attachments. Only by recognizing and accepting our shadow can we eliminate the power we give it through denial. Only through true love for ourselves can we fulfill our spiritual destiny.

Note: Dipping my toes into the world of podcasting, I thought it wise to play around with possible formats. This simple narration was easy for me, and it provided the experience I needed to create a better workflow in the future. I have ambitious plans for Head Junk, and I can’t wait to divulge more in my official introductory episode, which is coming soon. For now you can find my episodes on Anchor, but they will soon be available on most streaming platforms (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, etc). Thank you for all of the interest and support, my dear friends.

Death: A Reality Check

I present a short musing that marks my hopefully triumphant return from the annals of writer’s block and apathy. It’s been too long since I’ve felt proud of a single sentence in anything I’ve written, including this. But how can I better perfect myself without even trying? Anyway, I digress. It’s time to purge this nihilism from my system.

The briefness of life is akin to a single breath of air. An inhale, an exhale, and then it’s over. The effects and memory of our meager existence in the universe are left to disperse and decay. I realize that I will not be upon this earth forever, for in fact my essence is as transitory as weather in the midwest. *chuckle* In this existence, my body is merely a shell that I must maintain in order to continue experiencing the perception of this particular state of reality. But this is a highly metaphysical, somewhat dry perspective.  

The simple, unalterable, absolute truth is that I’m going to die. 

I’m going to be rendered obsolete, wiped clean from the collective body of society, and ultimately eliminated from the engorged pool of humanity. It’s a frightening thought, but one I’m learning to embrace. Because embracing the inevitable is the best reality check. It frames your existence within a new context. It teaches you to see the aspects of life that matter on a true and profound scale. It unveils how many years you’ve wasted on trivial pursuits of material intention. But most importantly, it’s humbling as hell.

To cope with the realization of my looming annihilation, I have searched for a greater purpose. As if in rebellion against the void, I’ve analyzed the patterns of causes and effects underlying every event, looking for some meaning. This has led to a greater awareness of actions and reactions on both a micro (personal) and macro (universal) scale. Perceiving the inherent interconnectedness of everything and everyone, with no exceptions, has not been a forthcoming achievement. I realize that my way of thinking and priorities in life are not in line with convention, which has culminated in a self-centered yearning to be understood that I struggle to overcome. It’s spiritually inhibiting.

Liberation from spiritual death is understanding that the distinction between your individuality and the rest of the universe is not absolute. At best, it’s an illusion crafted by the limited awareness and material grip of this state of reality. The intrinsic and interconnected nature of life proves that we can not exist without sending ripples of effects out into the universe. And we are most certainly not immune to being affected by the ripples around us. It is indeed a metaphysical ocean we live in, and an unstoppable force that binds us all.

I meditate on this realization when the absurdity of existence takes its toll. What lies after death may not be possible to know with certainty. It may not even be within my capabilities, for all the speculating books and Sanskrit translations I’ve slogged through. But it’s my newfound understanding that this knowledge isn’t necessary. Realizing how inherently interwoven I am with the workings of the universe gives me a place and a calling. Spirituality frames the narrow truths of nihilism within a grander, far nobler context of divine purpose.

Death is but one side of the great balancing act of the universe. The story is so much larger than any individual soul. By striving to develop a perception of our interconnectedness, we can be inspired to live in a state of unconditional compassion, liberated understanding, and servitude toward our fellow man.