Hi Friend, I’ve been signing up for workshops on how to be a better writer so that I can bring more life to this blog. So let me set the scene for you (that’s what I’ve been told is a good thing to do): I’m sitting behind a coffee shop in Chicago on a gorgeously decorated patio filled with white hydrangea flowers that seem to add a cooling effect to the overall look of the place. For the beginning of August, it is an unseasonably chilly 70 degrees, and with everything in me I absolutely love it. The signaling of Fall does something to my body & mind. It feels like the crisp opening of something new like standing in the doorway of a fresh start.
On the contrary, the three months leading up to this absolutely did not feel this hopeful. After doing some digging into the cobwebbed subconscious corners of my mind, I am certain what I experienced for the past two years (on a low-grade level) which began to roar in intensity within the last three months was a journey coined by the 16th-century Spanish mystic and poet ,St. John of the Cross, as the “Dark Night of the Soul”. The “Dark Night of the Soul” is a process by which a person undergoes a painful and significant transition to a deeper perception of life. It is in effect a shedding of the concepts one previously created their life around (identity, relationship, career, belief system, etc.) - anything that was thought to give life “meaning”. So yeah, let’s take every single accept of my life that I theoretically “hung my hat on” and strip it away, fun right?
No not fun. But worth it? Yes - a million times over.
I can say for certain, there is a new quality to life on the other side of the darkest mental journey I’ve taken, a journey of finally facing the fragmented pieces of my soul that were never fully dealt with or felt.
What do you get on the other side of said journey?
Clarity, wisdom, and a sense of responsibility to “reach back” to those who will make the great journey themselves. Yes - there is certainly a mental component involved in “getting through” this journey, but I want to place more emphasis on actionable steps because getting so lost in the mental aspects was not helping me. What helped me was actually applying myself to my life through actionable steps. In the experience of “doing” I was able to observe and transmute my mental state. So here are the actual real tangible steps I took to see the light at the end of this journey:
The 75-Hard Challenge. I’ll be honest, when I first heard of this challenge I thought it sounded rather douchey, but my scattered mind was craving the structure. So I said why not! The Challenge includes no alcohol, 1 gallon of water per day, (2) 45-minute workouts per day (one of them has to be outside), and I believe there is a reading component as well, but I am an avid reader so that was a non-factor for me. The challenge overall, was most useful to me for two reasons 1) Cutting alcohol during this time was very necessary for me. Alcohol can have a “numbing” effect for the anxieties we feel. My anxieties needed my undivided attention to finally be seen, fully felt, and in turn dissolved. 2) It was a simple, not easy, but simple structure to follow that allowed me to really key my energy in on the specific day at hand. I would wake up knowing “okay it is Day 46. Complete the tasks of the day”. For one of my 45-minute workouts per day, I would commonly walk or run the track near my home. No AirPods in, no outside thoughts, only me, my breath, and counting the laps I was completing one by one. This helped me to finally hear my higher self.
I tuned back into Eckhart Tolle’s work. I first discovered his work around 22 years old and I liked what he was saying, but I can see now that my understanding was limited to my level of consciousness at the time. Now, at 28, his work hit me at an entirely more profound level. Most of my adult life has been spent “achieving” and “manifesting” - these things can be great, but when overdone they force you to miss a lot of your Life. The Life that is occurring here in the present “Now”. I was experiencing a lot of mental whiplash from always plowing forward and living in the future. Eckhart’s work reminded me how beautiful and plentiful the present “Now” is, and showed me that most of the anxiety I was experiencing was because I was always in the future instead of having my feet planted in the here and now.
I asked for help. I previously had this story going in my head (founded in childhood) that I was the one everyone could lean on, that I was supposed to have it all figured out, that I was a “leader” and it wasn’t appropriate for me to ask for help. Our subconscious stories can be sneaky and generally untrue, as they are founded mostly on our pain instead of on Love. I finally voiced what I was going through to the people closest to me, and instant relief washed over me. Our negative stories or thought patterns thrive in the dark. Once brought to light they lose a lot of their power over us. Clearly and concisely stating where I was at and what I needed really helped to show me that there are so many people who love and support me. I simply just needed to be able to articulate what I needed.
I got disciplined about the “Profit First” method. “Profit First” is an incredible budgeting and accounting method created by Mike Michalowicz (I highly recommend his book for business owners). For almost 2 years now, I have had his method set up, but in all honesty I was not being as disciplined as I could have been about fully following it. I have always had a lot of emotion attached to money, and this became very evident and in my face during my dark night of the soul period. Actually surrendering to this method and staying disciplined to it helped me a great deal in taking the emotion and stress out of managing money.
I made my bed right when I woke up. Simple, yes. And simple is good. While making my bed each day I said an affirmation my Dad gave to me, “today is the first day of the rest of my life”. Something about this affirmation just brings me so much joy and peace. Making my bed upon rising also allows me to start the day off in integrity with myself by completing a task I know is good for me.
I limited my intake of books, podcasts, and social media. I have always been fascinated by learning, but it was becoming evident to me that I was doing a lot of consuming and not a lot of implementing. Books, podcasts, and posts on social media can be eye-opening and wonderful for informing, but taken in at high-rates can be really hard on our brain. I am now finding it more effective to just zero in on 10 pages of a great book and really meditate on the message from those short pages throughout the day. Or I listen to one podcast a day and really reflect on the essence of what was being shared.
Keep journeying, friends. Life is not all rainbows, vision boards, and “high-vibe” energy. And that is okay because it’s still beautiful & it’s still worth every moment (no matter what that moment looks like).
Dani Lee, Owner/Founder Shop D. Lee