How I Emerged From a Recent Dark Night With Runes of Light

by | Jun 4, 2023 | HSP, Intrusive Thoughts, OCD | 17 comments

I’ve mentioned in a few places that I was plunged into a spiritual descent this past winter, initiated in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time. The details of the experience ask to remain mostly private, but what I will share is that it was extraordinary: extraordinarily terrifying and extraordinarily alive.

Something bigger than me – my unconscious, priestess of night – grabbed me on a November afternoon, just after the time change and the loss of light, and dragged me into its womb. The only way through – or the way that was presented to me – required a profound deepening of my spiritual practice.

I was held aloft by song,

buoyed by starlight and moon belly that

requested my own voice

to be a bridge to steadiness, to wholeness.

Towards the end of the 7-week apprenticeship, I heard this song at a winter solstice concert. It spoke directly to an element of what I was journeying through. Here’s the chorus (I highly recommend listening to the full song):

Sing to the moon and the stars will shine
Over you, lead you to the other side
Sing to the moon and the stars will shine
Over you, heaven’s gonna turn the time

Like all good initiations – and by “good” I don’t mean fun or happy as to be initiated must include element of terror by definition – I emerged transformed.

I am still unpacking what emerged, still finding the words that can hold its shape, but what I know and knew all along is that my spiritual practices were essential to survive the descent and gather the runes of light that are always glimmering in the belly of these dark caves.

When I shared what was happening with my sister-friend, Lisa, who is a rabbi, she said, “Spiritual practice is our medication. We need it daily.”

It’s true. This has been true for decades, but before this descent I had a lot more leeway; if I missed a few days, I was still steady.

That is no longer the case.

My practices continue to be my root, my anchor, the foundational stone of my days and mostly my nights. If a couple of days pass without the practices, I feel unsteady, like a piece of me has been left behind. The most important piece.

I believe that this is true for everyone; I believe we’re all thirsty for regular, meaningful spiritual practices. Even if you’re not in a dark night of the soul, we are all being knocked off our center these days because of the global transitions we’re in.

Highly sensitive people feel the world is breaking open, because it is, and we need steady internal structures that can support us. In the past, we found these spiritual technologies and the columns of community through organized religion, but for many people, this has lost its luster (and many have experienced religious trauma). Even if organized religion is a source of comfort for you, I believe that we’re still being asked to find our own, meaningful spiritual practices that we can bring into our homes and practice daily; our personal, individualized ways of connecting with a divine source.

This is what I teach in Grace Through Uncertainty – a roadmap to create your own personal, spiritual practices that can hold worry and the fear of loss – and I’ve never been so excited to lead this course. If my spiritual practices hadn’t been firmly in place, the 7-weeks in winter would have looked very different. And while I was propelled to both my metaphoric and literal meditation cushion (some mornings I couldn’t get to my mat and pillow and tallit and prayerbook and trees and candlelight quickly enough), I wasn’t expecting to deepen the practices to the depth that I did.

From this place, I would love to guide you to establish or deepen your own spiritual practices so that you rely on these sources of support as you navigate this season, and this life.

If I had one remedy for intrusive thoughts, worry, anxiety, and OCD, this would be it: to know and regularly reach for the places that connect you to something bigger than yourself, to your wholeness, to a reliable resting place where we know that everything is okay.

I hope you’ll join us for the 6th round of Grace Through Uncertainty: A 30-day course to heal worry at the root and become more comfortable with change, which will begin on Saturday June 24th, 2023, and includes two live group coaching calls and consistent support in a beautiful forum community.

I very much look forward to guiding and meeting you there.

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17 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing so deeply, Sheryl. 🙂 When I am feeling darkness, I am inspired by remembering approaches you have shared, especially the way you honor darkness. It helps me honor the moment even in the fear and discomfort. Love 🙂

    Reply
    • That’s so good to hear, Jamie. I, too, take solace in the ways that others have walked with darkness. Mary Oliver was a lighthouse through the winter. ❤️

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  2. Sheryl, it’s really valuable to hear you share this and how you need your spiritual practices each day. What an incredible source of support to have that it can carry you through those dark night periods and even strengthen at the end. A voice that often arises for me is that there must be something wrong if I need these practices when other people just get up and read the news or sit around drinking coffee. It’s always a bit of a stumbling block to me, as I want to sit and relax on a Saturday morning with my partner and drink our coffee (tea for me!) like ‘normal people do’. Anyway, just a really interesting piece of resistance. Another interesting piece is finding that balance of being flexible and not being really rigid about them (trying to do it ‘right’) but also committing and having that regular stability. My spiritual practices have come a long way but I’ve been waiting for this course to open for months and I feel as though it would be incredibly valuable to explore the resistance and also the ways I can take my current practices and root them deeper into my life. ☺️ Thanks for offering this course!

    Reply
    • maybe drinking your coffee with your partner can itself be a sort of ritual. I have a cup of coffee in bed with my wife every weekend and it certainly has a ritualistic flavour to it – not all rituals have to be religious.

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      • Yes, Joshua! A ritual is anything we do regularly that carries some sacredness and intention.

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    • I’m very excited that you’ll be on the course, George, and your questions/anxieties are very common. I wonder how you might respond to that first one from a loving, wise, compassionate voice inside of you 😉.

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  3. “to know and regularly reach for the places that connect you to something bigger than yourself, to your wholeness, to a reliable resting place where we know that everything is okay.”

    I love this, and I think it is something that many approached to mental health either ignore or disparage.

    Thank you for this article.

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    • sorry I meant ‘approaches’, not ‘approached’

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    • I agree. Spirituality, like emotions, seem to be often overlooked and/or disparaged, and yet for me they’re the two most important realms when it comes to deep and sustainable well-being.

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      • I think that is true for me too. I’m not spiritual in a religious sense, but when I am connected to my art, and to wife, it certainly takes on a spiritual dimension. Doing things to foster these connections has the by-product, over time, of easing anxiety symptoms. It’s not a quick fix – it’s the work of a lifetime.

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  4. Thank you so much for this reminder, Sheryl and particularly for sharing that you also have your dark times and how important these practices are in grounding and remembering who we are.

    I also loved the song by Laura Mvula, so powerful to feel the words and music in my body.

    Reply
  5. I’m sorry to hear you’ve recently experienced dark times Sheryl. When I last did (a few years ago now) I used to reach out to you by sending messages like this ….. & your replies comforted me. I sought counselling (on you advice) & truely believe both you and my counsellor were gifts from god.
    This year I’ve started reading a little bit of the bible each night & by the end of the year will have read the whole NT. This is my new rictual & I feel gods forgiveness gives me strength and teaches me where to be a better person. Forever grateful to you & the wonderful work you do x

    Reply
    • That’s a beautiful nightly ritual, Lynn. Through darkness we know greater light. xx

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  6. Oh my Sheryl! Talk about perfect timing!! Last night while trying to get to sleep, I was struggling and decided to not struggle to sleep but got up and looked outside. I saw twinkling lights among the trees and thought they were stars. Excitedly, I put more clothes on and went outside. All around in the trees, lightning bugs were talking to each other AND to me! It was spectacular. I broke out into song, Amazing Grace. I realize I need to take better care of my spiritual needs. My soul is missing that. I’m missing that sharing with others as well. I took the Grace class a few years ago and I am going to look at my notes and look and listen for where to go from here. It was awesome. Thanks 🙏

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    • What an absolutely gorgeous comment 😊❤ thank you for sharing that story. I moved recently, and the home I moved into is the same one I lived in when I was 5 or 6 years old. In the first few nights, I saw the lightning bugs come out at dusk. The places I lived in between being 5 and now didn’t have lightning bugs, so when I saw them again, it filled me with a childlike wonder, a sense of hope and good luck. I felt so held and so excited by them. I held one in my hands and watched until it flew away. In the midst of multiple transitions, I am comforted to know that the lightning bugs still come out to greet the world each summer evening. That’s important for me to remember on particularly fearful days. Special little creatures!

      Reply
    • This is absolutely gorgeous, Annette! My soul is swelling from reading it.

      Reply

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