From Dark Night to Rebirth: Psychotherapy and Counseling for Spiritual Awakening and for the Spiritually Awakened

“When I get through this, I will help others do the same,” I vowed on a chilly December afternoon as the winter-white light barely shone between thick raindrops pouring against my bedroom window. Huddled beneath blankets and feeling lost in mental darkness, I focused on my breath and tried to create space for the emotions that were arising. The future reality I’d just created with my heart and mind—that one day I’d offer others the comfort I longed for in that moment—brought me peace.

For this was my Dark Night of the Soul (also known as a spiritual depression), on the heels of the most profound spiritual experience (or kundalini awakening) of my life.

About a half-year prior, I’d awakened from the dream in which I’d played the role (as we all have) of someone who was unlovable or not enough, that I was a victim, and that I was unsafe. It was more than life-altering; it was lifetimes-altering. For weeks after, I wandered around as though I was watching a movie in which I’d once been an actor who didn’t know I was acting and mistook each scene for reality.

Upon realizing the truth of who I was (perfect, holy, divine, powerful, and so much more), I experienced a shift in my sense of Self. I’d broken through Abraham Maslow‘s apex ceiling of self-actualization and reached self-transcendence.

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Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

 

Everything beautiful outside of me I perceived as a reflection to my own beauty and an expansion of my Self. Peering into the eyes of a cottontail rabbit, hearing a coyote call at dawn, watching the moon rise at dusk, or gazing at bright-white clouds against sunlit-blue skies, I could easily cry or laugh with the kind of bliss we feel when in love!

I was in love with myself. Madly. Passionately. For the next several months, I was on a honeymoon with the All-That-Is.

Because I had allowed in so much light, literally and figuratively, by summer’s end I sensed my inner shadow elongating. What had remained unacknowledged or lay dormant in my subconscious, cells, energy field, and ancestry was illuminated, calling out to be healed.

My experience was more intense than it needed to be; I learned later that this had much to do with some deep-down beliefs I held regarding personal transformation and growth having to be painful (more on that a few paragraphs later). If you can relate, though, to some of what I describe following, please know that it is temporary. Seek the support of a spiritual healer, shaman, or a transpersonal psychotherapist trained in kundalini syndrome if your symptoms are similar. (They can be easily misdiagnosed.) [i]

I began to doubt my recent peak experience, wondered if I’d made it up or was tricked. I grew increasingly uncomfortable. I was ultra-sensitive to sounds, tastes, light, color, smells, texture, and other people’s emotions. I seemed to have sprouted antennae that sensed the subtle differences in the vibrations of people, places, and things. The grit, grime, and angst I once found endearing in the city where I lived for 16 years aggravated my nervous system. It mirrored what within me was releasing as I shed layers of who I was not.

Spoken words and even thoughts projected colors and images in my mind; those that were negative affected me physically and emotionally. I lost interest in my friends and in the activities that once inspired me.

Fortunately I’d read books, letters, and personal accounts by Thomas Moore, Adyashanti, St. Theresa of Calcutta, Pamela Kribbe, Eckhart Tolle, St. John of the Cross, and others during years prior, which described experiences similar to mine—so I understood that I was not crazy.

Yet I had expected miracles, a diploma for acing Earth School, a portal to exit the matrix of human existence (not yet understanding that my role was to anchor “heaven” on earth).

“The miracles you seek are in the mundane,” said a shaman who became my guide. She too had once traversed the Underworld and, like Persephone, emerged intact. “You want to see heaven? Look in a blade of grass.”

Her laughter and her calm certainty that I was going to be OK were the soothing balm for my soul and medicine for my heart. As the months wore on, she not only reminded me of sacred mysteries I felt I’d once known, she sat shiva by phone as I grieved my former self.

On Good Friday, the day collective awareness was on death and resurrection, she told me gently, “The belief that this has to be hard is just a belief.” No one expected me to carry a cross and be crucified, she pointed out. Light pierced through the darkness. I laughed. She laughed with me. And when we hung up the phone, I laughed myself to tears.

The spell was broken.

I’ve kept my promise to extend a welcoming hand to you too as you cross the bridge between harsher duality-based living and the world that together we are birthing. I understand that it can feel disorienting at times, but I also know that our intentions are powerful enough to navigate this transformation with grace and ease.

I write this now for two reasons:

1. To encourage you to put up lights in your Dark Night, to rename it Bright Night or whatever name you choose, and celebrate. We’re not Jesus. We’re not Persephone. We’re the co-creators of a new reality filled with peace, joy, unity, and unconditional love. And we can make this fun.

2.  You don’t have to “wake up” alone. Yogi, spiritual director, Registered Nurse, and awakened supermom, wife, and friend Erin Miller Shrader of Sacred Grove Wellness has begun offering counseling and energy healing part time at Body Talks Therapy‘s Lancaster office.

I too will continue to offer somatic, psychospiritual depth work and energy healing to assist you (whether awakened or awakening) in bringing compassion into your own shadows and fully embodying your Higher Self. I’ve found that the more healing work we do in preparation for our awakening, the easier it is to navigate the purification process when it occurs.

Meanwhile, know this: What you feel now is an indication of what’s leaving you because it no longer resonates with how bright you’ve become; the discomfort is not who you are. Breathe. Try not to think of how long it will last, for the mind can create more suffering. Stay in the present moment; it is a portal to healing past and future.

Sing. Cry. Take salt baths. Cook gourmet meals. Dance.

You are not alone. And you are so loved.

Allison Brunner, LCSW, RM, Body Talks Therapy

[i] Spiritual transformation impacts us physically, emotionally, and mentally, so trust your instincts, heed your inner wisdom, be kind to yourself, and use caution. Take good, physical care of yourself, because being human is divine. Safe and slow can be the most powerful way to accessing the ultimate love within.

 

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One Way to Heal Emotional Pain: Do Nothing

As a client, I fell in love with experiential psychotherapy with each shift from emotional or existential anguish to insight, clarity, and release. Like any human being, I long for relief, and my clients do the same.

Often, though, we circle back to a clearing, and there is no place else to explore. We’ve done all we can “do.” We’ve examined every angle, we’ve scoured the unconscious, perhaps we’ve even reintegrated fragmented parts. But the present moment now calls us to sit with what is, even if what’s present is uncomfortable.

Often, that’s what life asks of us: to sit with discomfort instead of trying to fix it.

A therapist friend and I joke that we are addicted to self-growth. Like an artist who cannot not paint, she and I cannot stop reflecting, stretching, and navigating the depths of our underworlds. I wonder too, if like me, she prefers this “doing” to “being.”

Other non-clients look to me for answers: Should I break up with so-and-so; should I take an antidepressant; how do I forgive this-or-that person? What should I do?

Even if I had the answers, they’re not mine to give. So I sit with people in the questions and be a loving presence as they dip into their angst. That is where much of the healing lies, in the murky waters where we can’t see where we’re going or do much while we’re in it. Sometimes the most healing thing we can “do” is nothing.

The trick is to be mindful when doing nothing. Alternate between feeling your feelings and observing them with some distance. (Do not get mired in or over-identified with how you’re feeling.)

First, see if you can rest in your emotion, whether it’s sadness, anger, depression, fear, etc. Identify where it lives in your body. Say hello to it. Notice its size and the boundaries or edges of it. If you’re able to tolerate it, then I ask you this: Can you purposely feel it even more? (You may think me harsh, but to resist your feelings strengthens them.) Notice what happens as you do this. Take your time.

Next, add a special ingredient—one that can transmute your suffering over time: awareness. Observe the emotion that is present. Notice that it is part of and not all of you. Now re-label it energy.

You’ll note that, as Quantum Psychologist Stephen H. Wolinsky, PhD, explains, you, your emotions, and everything around you is basically energy. The matter you can perceive with your eyes (e.g., furniture, the walls of the room) is denser energy.  Your emotions and the space around you are lighter, less condensed, so they seem invisible. They are energy too.

See if you can rest your awareness in the space around you, then to the space beyond (perhaps outside the room and into nature). Imagine now that some of the molecules of that space enter your body and float between the molecules of energy we formally referred to as emotion. Spend some time here. Notice the way it feels.

Finally, allow even more space to enter into the formally denser energy of what we called your emotions, your body. Re-label all of it energy. There is no longer a difference between any of it. It’s all just energy.

You can use this exercise as often as you’d like, but its purpose is not to get rid of your pain. If your intention is to surrender to what’s present, over time you’ll likely see a shift and find relief. For everything is temporary and this, too, shall pass.

Disclaimer: The exercises, tools, and insights I offer on this blog will not work for everyone. Each of us is unique, and I am not the expert of you, your mind, your body, or your experience. Listen to your own body-mind wisdom. None of my writing should take the place of a licensed mental health professional if you are experiencing unyielding or overwhelming distress. If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or others, I urge you to call (800) 273-8255 or go to your nearest emergency room. 

Acknowledgments: This exercise combines techniques originated by Quantum Psychologist Stephen H. Wolinsky, PhD, and author of The Open Focus Brain, Les Fehmi, PhD. But I credit my own therapist foremost for introducing me to this work, for guiding and supporting me through my dark nights of the soul and in inspiring me to become a therapist and to integrate her knowledge and methods into my own skill set. She’d likely have written this differently, but I confess unabashedly that I’ve modeled most of my own therapeutic approach after hers. From the bottom of my heart, Martha, thank you. 

—Allison Brunner, LCSW, RM, Body Talks Therapy