What it feels like… to go through a “Dark Night of the Soul” in your mid-20s, lose everything and realize it’s all OK anyways.
By Jake Sasseville, New York.
I couldn’t pay the rent on my New York City mansion. I was living in the top floor of a large home I shared with my best friend. It was a hot July, and I was producing audiobooks for prolific author friends of mine to earn money and get by.
In the year previous, I filmed my show for ABC Family (“Delusions of Grandeur,” which I starred in and executive produced), had that show cancelled two weeks before it launched in October, spoke at the David Letterman Lecture Series, had my house washed away in New York by the destructive Hurricane Sandy, watched “Delusions of Grandeur” grow an audience of 2.5 million viewers in two months online and traveled to Maui to watch my best friend get married.
I also had a show in development at NBC, got that pulled, lashed out at my agents, lost those agents, traveled to Toronto to meet with the $100 million CEO of AshleyMadison.com (a site for those who want to have discreet affairs) to try to rally advertising money to keep the machine going.
Needless to say, my life in the year before hitting my bottom was a whirlwind mess. I thought I was in the driver’s seat, that I had the power to turn it around and that I could manage. I was powerless over it all, and my life had become unmanageable.
Now my greatest fear: I was moving back to Maine (“for a month,” I told myself). My greatest fear was being back in Maine. I avoided it since I moved out (and to France) at age 16.
I loved my family but Maine was a symbol of sadness and discomfort for me. My brother died a year before I left. I watched my parents mourn.
Now, after debting and wrecking relationships, I had no where else to go besides Maine. It was time to be quiet in the beautiful forests and it was time to face all fears. I wasn’t ready.
A month turned into two, into three and into almost a year.
I remember the winter came. I hadn’t spent a winter in Maine in a dozen years. I’d go for walks in the forests, thinking I could still turn it around if I just adhered to a proper twelve-step program and its principles. I’d spend four, five and sometimes six hours in the woods a day.
I’d just walk and listen to music. I’d cry. I felt hopeless. It is the closest I’ve felt to a meaningless life, and yet I wouldn’t say I was depressed. It wasn’t all that dark, it was more hollow. To describe this part of my journey as “dark” would be to suggest that it was filled with something. It felt devoid of any meaning.
Desire was gone. I wasn’t suicidal. It wasn’t that type of dark. I just thought if I can’t get something going now, then how will I live my life? I could do nothing except Be.
There’s a presentness in being that allows for flow to return. I didn’t see it at first. But you have no other choice. Eventually, even if it’s when you croak, you’ll be forced to let go. I’d rather let go while alive and well.
I had no idea what a Dark Night of the Soul was until my dad whispered to me that I may be experiencing one. I looked it up.
After six months of not understanding what was happening to me, perceptive came. A Dark Night, according to my online research, is akin to a journey traveled by many of the most spiritual beings among us. It is a time of shedding of the skin. It is ego death. It is a realization that the spiritual pursuits I’ve taken before haven’t been spiritual at all, but rather filled with ego. Nothing much feels worthy of your time or attention. There is little focus, and yet there is very little to be distracted by.
In reading about the Dark Night of the Soul, this is my favorite portion, the final paragraph of an article. It reads in part:
Dawn of a New Life
Here in this dark night, the lifelong ego sense dies: impotent. Having fulfilled its part, now weak and incompetent, it is dissolved — transmuted. From a higher sense now awakening within you, you slough off your false sense of self. You now know yourself to be a different person than you thought you were. Your ego was merely experiencing some of the attributes, some of the qualities, of your true nature, while at the same time obstructing others.
You, in passing successfully through the dark night, enter the realms of higher consciousness. You’ve been cleansed of the most deep-rooted sickness: your ignorance of your true nature and your inadequate, often totally wrong opinion of who you are. You now cease your inner conflict and abide serenely in your true nature. The night is over. The dawn of a new life in higher consciousness transforms your bleak life of the past few months into one with a heavenly nature. You have been delivered of the intolerable bondage to ego.
Henceforth, you will walk the earth seeing others afresh, living a new life, and abiding in your true nature. You have become a son or daughter of higher consciousness. Now your words and actions will be attuned with your true self. Now you express inspiration and comfort.
The dark night has passed. It is over.