Transformed by Despair
Everyone, even the likes of Tony Robbins and Eckhart Tolle, has a bad day. And if you’re one of the few who swears you’ve never experienced dark times, I question if you are human. Some can use spiritual or Zen rhetoric to pontificate that there is no such thing as “bad,” that it’s simply perception. But if you were to strip out the spiritual jargon, a bad day is a bad day.
This is especially if it’s not only bad but you’ve reached your lowest point. You’ve hit rock bottom. Taken from 16th-century Spanish poet, Saint John of the Cross and his famous Noche obscura del alma. Translated into English it means The Dark Night of the Soul. Tolle and others have used the poem’s title to describe a moment in their lives when the feeling of utter despair became all-consuming.
Have you ever experienced “the dark night of the soul?” And in case you need a great description of it, Tolle said it best. This is an exert from an October 2011 newsletter on his website:
“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.”
Some people who have experienced this type of sadness have been fortunate enough to reach a breakthrough, as was the case with Tolle. Everything he conventionally believed in, put stake in and gave meaning had lost its meaning. Suddenly he experienced such deep despair he considered suicide. In an Oprah interview, he said that he found himself saying, “I cannot live with myself any longer.”
Like some of us, Tolle grew up in a dysfunctional home where he witnessed a lot of chaos and fighting between his parents. This made him very sensitive and his “pain body” grew large. As he describes, the “pain body” is our physical form that absorbs emotional pain from external forces, the environment, circumstances, and experiences. Tolle goes on to further explain:
“This accumulated pain is a negative energy field that occupies your body and mind.”
He makes note that the pain body is often unconscious, but it eventually surfaces and becomes active. Some of us have quite active emotional pain that we’ve had to receive ongoing counseling and therapy. And sometimes our “dark night of the soul” is experienced more frequently than others. Eckhart Tolle was fortunate to have used the lowest moment of his life to make it a transformational event.
In his interview with Oprah, it’s refreshing when he states that those of us like him who have heavy pain bodies are more sensitive than others yet are often the ones that experience the greatest awakening. This inspires me and I hope it inspires you, too. Despair can feel never ending. It can feel like there is no way out and perhaps you might even feel like you can’t live with yourself anymore. Despair can be all-consuming, but it can equally become a pivotal moment in our lives and like Eckhart Tolle we can become transformed for the better because of it. If it weren’t for having experienced deep despair, he wouldn’t be the person he is today. And as much of an amazing superhuman and positive force he is, he is still a human being who was able to overcome depression.
The Bottom Line:
If it wasn’t for my personal pain body of experiences that went from dormant to active, I don’t think I would have been inspired to start this blog or even write at all. It is through the moments of deep despair that I have found myself experiencing a transformation. But I don’t think that everyone transforms in the same way or at the same rate. I know that despite my ongoing battle with depression I am in the process of transforming into a better, more awakened version of myself. Some of us truly transform and awaken immediately. It can be a quick process.
For others, like myself, the transformation is ongoing and the process of healing emotional wounds might very well take a lifetime. When I am experiencing despair that challenges my ability to see the light, it is in those moments of my worst bouts with depression that I allow myself to simply be. Sometimes, the only thing you can do is to experience it and then let that moment pass without judgement or labels. The light of possibility does shine and we can get through this. It’s a matter of refusing to believe the lies that our negative feelings feed to our mind. If you can see your pain as a transformational process, then you are so close to awakening. Unlimited happiness is possible or at the very least the joy of contentment that is not swayed by external forces outside of our control. It’s always important to continue to maintain healthy habits that act as coping mechanisms.
I am still transforming and believe I will awaken. It’s not so much a matter of faith, as it’s a matter of altering my belief system.
2 thoughts on “Transformed by Despair”
September 24, 2015 at 8:26 PM
Great post…I have read A New Earth a number of times and I learn or remember something new every time. It’s not that we’re not going to have bad days, but that we can be present and let them pass through rather than clinging to the story.
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September 24, 2015 at 10:12 PM
I love Echkart Tolle and all his books. He’s got a way with inspiring others. I think the hardest part is being present and in the moment. Especially if you’re experiencing “the dark night of the soul.” When despair or depression hits you and your having an especially rough night. Not fighting it, but experiencing it can often be uncomfortable.
Learning to take a negative experience or emotion and convert into something good takes some real courage. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂
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