Grappling With The Dark Night Of The Soul
“Talents are best nurtured in solitude, but character is best formed in the stormy billows of the world.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Who are you in your quietest moments when no one is looking? How do you feed your soul when you experience pain and heartache? A wildflower by the side of the road endures the elements and yet blooms in silence. Therefore, strength is gained when others are oblivious to our struggles because we choose to feed our soul with nourishment. During such a moment we experience a shift in awareness that marks the mental landscape of who we will become. I’m reminded of the passage by the Zimbabwean author and poet, Billy Chapata who wrote: “The strongest ones bleed in silence. Have no one applauding their growth. Have no one watching their healing process. They bloom in silence.”
Take a moment to reflect upon the growth taken place in your own life. What events or circumstances have shaped your development? Did you resist it at first, yet realise it was exactly what was needed for your personal growth? As you may know, growth is never linear, we may experience one step forward and two steps back. However, if we dwell upon our setbacks, we are not seeing the entire picture, but judging the fragmented pieces of a puzzle that will eventually come together.
Personal growth is an arduous journey lined with moments of despair, interspersed with joyous ones. This journey called life is a voyage of highs and lows. There is never a time when everything is smooth sailing because that would mean remaining idle and not developing our greatest strength. Perhaps we shouldn’t cling to the good times but appreciate them when they arrive. I believe life is not meant to be a sea of happiness nor the depths of despair. Our journey is a transient tale of dualities, so we can experience our true nature amongst the peaks and valleys.
For example, has life been a series of good and bad times or is it smooth sailing? I’m yet to meet anyone who claims life has been easy-going. Even the wealthy with their material riches encounter problems. No one is immune to the ravages of life. Though, how we respond to our circumstances determines our level of growth or whether we remain mired in our problems. The strongest amongst us wrestle and toil with the fabric of their existence in silence, some of them grappling with the dark night of the soul. They bleed in silence. They bloom in silence and emerge stronger than before, for their wounds are sacred gifts to themselves and others. It is what spiritual author Matt Kahn means when he writes in Everything Is Here to Help You: A Loving Guide to Your Soul’s Evolution: “To alter someone’s experience is much like continually moving the seeds planted, hoping to find a more ideal spot for growth. Each time a seed is moved, the growing process is interrupted and disturbs the roots that are meant to sprout along their own rhythm of time.”
Meet Others With Kind-Heartedness
“You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one.”— James A. Froude
We all have our cross to bear. Some of us carry heavier burdens than others but this does not diminish their self-worth. In fact, their spiritual path may be greater than others because of the challenges they face. So if we stumble across those experiencing hardship, instead of judging them, we may like to send them a quiet blessing. Because in the solitude of their existence they endure pain and suffering we take for granted. They do not need our sympathy nor do they need our judgement. Their pain and suffering is more than enough. What they need is thoughts of love and compassion. A Buddhist saying I often recite when I learn of someone’s pain is: “May you be safe. May you be peaceful. May you be healthy. May you live with ease.” Through this simple declaration I send them loving thoughts because what I wish for them, I wish for myself. I meet them from a place of kind-heartedness because I recognise their humanity, knowing our souls walk different paths. I remind myself they are not less worthy but they have chosen earthly experiences that demand greater growth.
It’s no secret: how we treat others reflects in how we treat ourselves. The greatest gift I can offer myself is to treat others with compassion even if I can’t do anything for them. It was the Dalai Lama who once said: “If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.” If they need to suffer in silence, we ought to allow them the space to find their strength and courage. It is their path, and ours is not to judge nor castigate them but greet them with kindness and humility. The strongest amongst us suffer in silence because in those moments when they are grappling with their inner demons, they are close to awakening their inner power.