Update, May 31, 2018
This Spring I’ve felt unusually challenged by stress and low moods. Since much of my work is about finding freedom from both of those, there have been times when feeling stressed out, anxious, or blue has caused me to question my expertise and the value I provide. While I was often at peace with simply not feeling the way I might prefer to feel, I sometimes wondered what I was missing such that I would be having such a dark time.
It’s easy to fall for the illusion that how we are feeling is telling us about how we are being and doing. As I wrote the first time I shared this video, “Insight often leaves us with a good feeling, so it’s understandable that we may conflate feeling good with being wise or insightful. But our underlying wellbeing and access to wisdom don’t go away when we are in low moods or experiencing emotional pain. They may (or may not be) obscured, but they are certainly not absent.”
I went on to observe: “It seems to me that nothing can be truly wasted in the universe. That all of life is interconnected and of immense, if sometimes unknown, value. Perhaps when we experience dark nights of the soul our hearts are being educated in ways that language cannot capture. Just as the beauty of flowers is nourished in the darkness below ground, the beauty of our hearts may be nourished by sadness and other challenges.
“This is not a call to figure out what your heart is being taught during tough times. Far from it! If analysis and figuring things out were adequate to the task, there would be no call for this silent, deep education. Rather, simply know that nothing, including your pain, is ever wasted. Trust that your heart and soul are unfolding just as perfectly as the crocus or the flowering tree. Give yourself over to your experience and know that it is not the measure of your value or your possibilities.”
If you are having a difficult time for whatever reason, I hope these reflections remind you that beauty is often created in the dark.
Approximate transcript of the video
It’s spring in the Pacific Northwest and crocuses have been bursting through the ground for a few weeks. Some of the flowering trees have begun to blossom, and I’m reminded of the beauty that is created in the dark.
This morning I was reflecting with a client on how freeing and healing it is to realize that our well-being is not defined by our experience. There is an essence that’s independent of the fluctuations of our moment to moment and day to day experience, and that that essence is always whole, always resilient, always creative. At one point it occurred to me that sometimes when we realize this we may get hung up on the good feeling that realization gives us or seems to give us. It may seem like feeling good and being happy is the payoff for insight.
It’s certainly often been my experience that insight has left me with a really good feeling. But then it occurred to me as well to that nothing is wasted in the universe. When I remembered that, I saw that feeling good is not actually the point. As lovely as it may be to feel the joy of realization, sometimes we experience what John of the Cross called dark nights of the soul. While I don’t pretend to understand what the heck is going on in those dark nights, it truly seems to me that something beautiful might be being created in the dark just as the beauty of the crocus or the tulip or the daffodil is created in the dark underground.
So, while I would wish for everyone watching this to experience oodles of good feeling, a multiplicity of insights, and a lovely elevated state of mind, it also feels really important to equally wonderful things are happening even when you feel low and in the dark. In fact, I think it must be that, on some level, your heart is being educated in those dark times, and that you don’t need to figure out what the lesson is any more than the tulip has to figure out how to bloom.
I would wish for you to know when your low times that you are always okay, and that you don’t have to feel okay for that to be true. And that your not feeling good is not an indictment of anything about you. That beauty is often created in the dark.
Let me know how that lands. Take care.