What I have learned throughout my life of soon to be 7 decades is to be with the pain, to be with the angst. Write it all out, writing until you can write no more. I’ve learned to allow myself to completely fall apart while in an emotionally challenging period of transition, or as I like to call it, the Dark Night of the Soul.

Embracing the Dark Night

When we don’t face the darkness we use up all of our energy trying to keep body, mind and soul together. This leaves no energy left to do what really needs to be done. In a dark night of the soul, I believe we are called to go deeper into who we are. We are being led into an intense walk within our being.

We reassess our character, our beliefs and our values, our fears, our challenges, the roads we’ve walked before and the road we are now on. It is important to look to what was, what is, and to the possibilities of this life. We are pushed to open ourselves in ways that we never imagined.

Don’t Be Afraid to Listen

Life is constantly sending us messages from our fears, our angst, and our doubts. Messages that invite us to decode them. Pay attention to them and notice the patterns woven into them.

It can be difficult to be still and to listen… just listen. To must mindfully discern what we are being asked or guided to. The truth is the majority of people don’t listen. They are usually about 5 years behind the transformations longing to unfold.

Why? Simply put, it is hard, it is difficult, it can be debilitating and it can bring you to your knees. But listening is the essential element of self-evolution and the whole self-actualization process.

Make Sure to Learn Your Lessons

I entered a convent when I was eighteen. I began with a full heart and great expectancy, believing this was a place that I would and could make a difference in the world. However, once there it wasn’t long before I started to feel like a caged animal. I prayed every night for release, and eventually my prayers were answered – but not at all like I had expected.

I was lamenting one night, so depressed and questioning myself out loud as to why I was there. What was I thinking when I made the decision to enter the convent door? I was in the middle of unloading all this on one of my friends, a fellow postulant, when she turned to me and said,

“you know, if you don’t learn what you came here to learn you will just repeat it someplace else – a different place – a different circumstance, but nevertheless the same lesson.”

It was like a bolt of lightning shot through my entire body. I knew I wanted to grasp whatever it was that I had been lead there to learn. From that moment on, I threw myself completely and totally into everything I did while I was there. And when I eventually did leave, I left knowing I had mastered the lessons I had come to learn at that point in my life.

Don’t Waste Your Dark Night

The Dark Night is about grieving, letting go, and then ultimately growing. It’s about facing the places where we are stuck and working to clean them up and clear them out. This season of your life is all about healing. True healing takes time, patience, courage, tenacity and the growing of wisdom. And, there is also a sacrifice – the cost is your willingness to step over the threshold of the next door in your life. The more you are willing to pay, the greater your reward.

There are many examples in nature teaching us that in order to achieve transformational growth we must first enter the darkness. Think of the caterpillar who must enter its cocoon before it can emerge a butterfly, or the seed which must first be planted in dark soil before it can grow.

The lesson my friend taught me so many years ago has served me all my life. Whenever I am in a difficult or challenging place, I remind myself that I can either stay and address the problem in front of me, or I can take the make-up-test later. And, I have always found the make-up tests are unfailingly far more difficult.