Friday 28 July 2017

The Dark before the Dawn

There is a saying that the darkest hour is right before the dawn. Personally, I am not up and about enough at this time of the day to prove it true or otherwise. I can, however, vouch for it's truth in my life over the last year.

In my training and my own reading, I have come to understand a little about what St John of the Cross describes as 'The Dark Night of the Soul'. This phrase comes from a 16th Century poem written by St John of the Cross to describe the journey of the soul to mystical union with God. The darkness is not about terrible things happening in life, but about the unknowable nature of God.

I must confess, I thought I knew what the Dark Night was all about. I thought I had experienced desolation and the necessary spiritual emptiness that is necessary to allow us to grow closer to God. Perhaps I had - on a small scale. But nothing could prepare me for the new experience I have been through over the past months.

I want to be clear. At no point did I feel depressed or even completely lost. Yes, it was difficult, but mostly because of my own resistance and inability to see a different way of being. Spiritual desolation is described as a feeling of emptiness, an absence of God or a dryness. I must say, after encountering 'The Dark Night' it is a difficult experience to put into words. Last November, I gave it a shot.

The Dark Night

So, this is the dark night.
I stumbled into it.
First in fear,
I cowered in the corner,
too uncertain to reach out.
Dreading the unknown touch.

But now, it is named
and the grip has loosened.
I still cannot see my hand
in front of my face.
The darkness has depth,
    substance and weight...
    and weight.

This thick, soupy air
fills my lungs
each breath a burden
I try to resist.
No light pierces
this pit of mystery.
What is there to do?

Searching my surroundings
it feels familiar and warm.
I stretch... I breathe... I rest...
and sleep, a deep slumber.
I breathe, rest and wait.
I am one with the dark.
The dark night is me.

Now, the dawn is breaking. I can see the light that was there all the time. New paths are calling me and fresh possibilities are opening before me. The darkness of the womb gives way to birth. The cold, dark soil breaks a seed open to create new life. The darkest hour brings a stillness before the dawn breaks and the bird songs begin.

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