I live my life in ever widening circles, each superseding all the previous ones. Perhaps I never shall succeed in reaching the final circle, but attempt I will.
I circle around God, the ancient tower,
and have been circling for a thousand years, and still I do not know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a continuing great song?
Rainer Maria Rilke
Tr. Albert Ernest Flemming
The path, AKA life, is absolutely steep, winding, and treacherous at times. I too have experienced periods of overwhelming emotions that led to hopelessness. Fortunately, today I am holding a shining light and shouting loud and long for others to see through the darkness and keep on going until they are grounded and reach a safe landing. Others have been the light and the voice of encouragement for me during difficult times. They have included family, friends, teachers, poets, and mystics who have offered themselves in various ways as a beacon of hope and even shined the light on me and shared their belief in me.
In the evolution of the self or the soul, it is to be expected to experience both darkness and light, yet for some, the total collapse of meaning in life can occur from out of nowhere. This is often referred to as the dark night of the soul when a sudden loss of meaning one has ascribed to their achievements, their life, or where they were going in life is lost. It is a sort of death and what is lost is the egoic self and this can be very scary and painful, like a deep terrifying depression. However, it can also give rise to a rebirth- the egoic self can ultimately be transformed by letting go of the concepts of the mind, most importantly the limited concept of self, and by awakening to something deeper, a new sense of Self emerges that no longer uses the mind to perceive, but rather the person is open to experiencing life fully and freely without the constraints of the culture and conditioning.
This does not come easy, yet people who experience this ultimate letting go and awaken the egoless-self share, only retrospectively, that they had to go through the pain to reach the other side. Fortunately, they serve as the light to others who are in the dark. Are you in the dark? Or are you a shining light for others? Perhaps you have been both at times in your life. There have been plenty of dark times in my life to give me a sense of the dark night of the soul, and in spite of trusting that the other side is far greater than this limited vantage point, I too am scared to let go completely. So, I will continue to place a toe in the water and enter slowly and methodically unless life throws me in without warning and then I can only hope that my practice and my supports will be a light in the darkness.
These may seem like dark times, but never forget that the light is waiting to emerge. Practice mindfulness with passion and patience. Stay connected to love and kindness- even small amounts can conquer hopelessness and despair. You are not alone. Not connected? Reach out, open your eyes and ears and never ever give up!
With love and gratitude for the light and love of others,
Dr. Patty and The Sacred Treehouse Faculty
Patty Thomas Shutt, founder of Sacred Treehouse, is a licensed psychologist and co-owner of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches. Dr. Shutt is passionate about helping others discover the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. She offers Beginner Meditation & Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse, in addition to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindful Self-Compassion and various book studies throughout the year.