The Dark Night Survival Kit (Part Two)
6 Outer Practices
Listen to Andrew Harvey describe the 6 Outer Practices here:
There is nothing more terrible than the intensity of the Dark Night of the Soul…
… and nothing more beautiful than emerging from it, resurrected as a wiser, more enlightened version of yourself.
If you’re going through your own Dark Night, mystic scholar Andrew Harvey urges and implores you to remain active and engaged with your physical self and the outside world.
In the potent audio recording below, Andrew explains that the intensity of the Dark Night is so overwhelming, and the suffering involved so terrible, that unless you’re working to create a container for “the energies that the Divine will be flooding you with as it empties you of yourself, you can be shattered, you can go mad, and you can even die.”
Indeed, he cautions, not everybody gets through the Dark Night: “Unless you prepare yourself, you will be hard put to survive it except through its extreme grace. So please get very real about the necessity of deep practice and transforming your life so that your whole life can be a container for this tremendous transformation.”
If you’re imprisoned in your own Dark Night, Andrew offers six potent outer practices which helped him survive his own 10-year plunge into darkness.
He distinguishes these outer practices from his earlier list of inner practices because they involve the external world. They can help you relate to joy even when you're not feeling joy, beauty even when everything feels disfigured, and peace even when you’re in turmoil.
While these practices are valuable for anybody going through trauma, loss, betrayal or deep depression, none of those things are the authentic Dark Night. The phrase Dark Night is used very casually in the modern world, but the real Dark Night refers to the mystical passage from dying to the false self into dying into life.
Only when you emerge from the Dark Night, says Andrew, will you realize, “Oh, my God, what I thought was annihilation is resurrection. What I thought was death is eternal life. What I believed to be the end was the end of one life and the beginning of one unimaginably more beautiful and more powerful.”
With that context in mind, Andrew offers this caveat: “These are the most powerful practices I know, and it is very important to approach them with humility and awe and deep devotion. Do not play with these practices. They have the power in the spiritual realm of napalm. Don't pursue them without truly devoting yourself to the Divine as you understand it because if you do play with them and if you don't do them with devotion they will, in fact, be less helpful to you. They could even be dangerous.”
1) Go out as often as you can into the healing glory of nature. Strive to feel the presence of and see the beauty of the Divine in the presence and beauty of nature, and “you will find that nature will suddenly take on the most amazing and lustrous intensity of love and beauty. Nature will be your mother and give you enormous sacred support.”
2) Cultivate your physical health. One of the great dangers of the Dark Night process is that it can, and sometimes does, shatter your health because of the enormity of the energies needed to dissolve the false self. So do your best to eat and sleep properly, however terribly you feel. Walk, exercise and stay as strong, grounded and centered as you possibly can.
3) Connect with your deepest sources of inspiration. Even in the throes of despair and agony, force yourself to turn toward the hidden sun of the Divine Beloved. Deepen your love of music, of painting, of mystical poetry… of whatever radically inspires you. Even when you feel inwardly confined by darkness, fill your reservoir up with beauty, glory, passion and truth. Make a list of the ten things which most inspire you; make a commitment to turn to those sources of inspiration every day and you'll find you’ll be collaborating with and protected by divine love.
4) Cultivate sacred relationships. During the long, lonely days of the Dark Night, many whom you thought were friends may abandon you. You may lose your world, your safety, and all sense of security. Yet you’ll find that astonishing relationships will develop with people you may not have liked before, people who spring to your help or suddenly show themselves in the most beautiful light. Also, opening to unconditional love through relationships with animals can completely transform your inner life.
5) Cultivate a sacred physical discipline, which builds on the earlier practice of keeping your body as strong as possible. Yoga, for example, enables you to invoke the divine light down into your body to immeasurably strengthen and purify it, and also bring the innate bliss of the body alive. Sacred dance is another option. When you come to a place where you feel so demolished by suffering and so stressed out that you can hardly think, get up and dance it out — dance out your pain, dance out your rage, dance out your despair.
6) Make a radical and persevering commitment to use your suffering as a way of going deeper into the suffering of the world, and doing what you can to relieve it. “One of the deepest and most transformative functions of the Dark Night is to open you not only to the depth of your own suffering but to the depth and savagery of the suffering of the world. What helps most, whatever you're feeling, is to start to serve those who are even worse off than you are.”
Remember, Andrew cautions, in the depths of the Dark Night, you’ll be feeling agonized, you'll be feeling abandoned, you'll be feeling you're in an immeasurable and utter darkness. That is an illusion. The reality is that you have never been closer to the light; your senses just can't register it. And you have never been closer to God because the process that you are in is the Divine's fiercest imaginable love expressed at its fiercest imaginable mercy.”
It is God’s kindness to terrify you in order to lead you to safety.
Click here to read
The Dark Night Survival Kit
Part One: 6 Inner Practices
Andrew Harvey is an author, speaker and founder/director of the Institute of Sacred Activism, an international organization focused on inviting concerned people to take up the challenge of our contemporary global crises by becoming inspired, effective and practical agents of institutional and systemic change in order to create peace and sustainability.
Andrew has taught at Oxford University, Cornell University, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, The California Institute of Integral Studies and the University of Creation Spirituality as well as at various spiritual centers throughout the U.S.
He was the subject of the 1993 BBC film documentary, The Making of a Modern Mystic, and appears also in Rumi Turning Ecstatic and The Consciousness of the Christ: Reclaiming Jesus for A New Humanity.
He is co-author of the best-selling The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, and has worked with the great Iranian Sufi dancer, Banafsheh Sayyad, in producing a film, In the Fire of Grace, which marries Sufi-inspired dances to the stages of Rumi’s understanding of the path of Divine love.
Andrew's new 7-week course, Reclaiming the Fierce Feminine, begins November 20.