My dark night of the soul
Even though I was in my late forties when I went into spiritual breakdown, I had struggled in different ways for many years. I spent decades trying to fix what I perceived as my fundamental flaws. While I often appeared to function well, I struggled with food issues, anxiety, sensitivity to criticism, perfectionism, relationship issues and a deep lack of self worth.
After a period of breakdown in my late twenties – a precursor to the dark night – I explored psychotherapy, meditation, complementary medicine and a variety of spiritual teachings. I learnt many valuable things, but nevertheless my issues persisted to some degree or another. By my mid-forties, I was the co-founder of an award-winning health project. My life was on track and I felt more functional than ever. And yet something still didn’t feel quite right. When I lost my much-loved job in early 2007, my life and I fell spectacularly apart.
The most intense part of my dark night of the soul lasted for four years. Everything I had ever tried to fix, heal or escape from came to the surface. Terror, panic, grief, shame, anguish, humiliation, yearning, shock, neediness, trauma; the floodgates opened and I began to face the legacy of my troubled childhood. I couldn’t work for several years. Occasionally, there were moments of grace or gnosis, moments when it became clear I was undergoing a profound transformation, a radical disillusionment. This was the reality of spiritual awakening, far removed from what I’d read or fantasised about.
From emergency to emergence
Having stumbled my way through most of the dark night without much support, I eventually began exploring embodied inquiry. Over the last seven years, fellow-travellers and I have co-created an organic, fluid, responsive, evolving, gentle and radically profound form of inquiry, which forms the foundation of my current practice.
I now work with men and women from around the world, many of whom are going through a dark night of the soul. Together we journey into their interior landscape, discovering light where there was dark, dark where there was light, and often something entirely different on the other side. An experienced and perceptive soul friend, I support people to reconnect with and deepen into their real selves. I, in my turn, am supported by others in my ongoing unravelling. Our collective deepening continues; the cycles of rising and falling do not end.
I am also the author of The Art of Finding Yourself: Live Bravely and Awaken to your True Nature, a collection of articles about the Living Inquiries. I love acting, occasionally write poetry, and live in Nottingham, UK..
“So much gratitude for you, Fiona, for your willingness to show up in all the messiness. You model what it’s like to live from a place of “I don’t have all the answers, I don’t know what’s right and I’m ready to meet you here, raw and open…” That’s what I get from you the more I spend time with you. So much love!”
Dr Melanie Balint Gray
“I often marvel at how my dark night turned out, how being in that place of excruciating anguish, untold terror and immense pain brought me so much. When it began, I could not imagine surviving it, let alone thriving again, but it was the making of me in ways I could never have foretold in the bleakest days and nights.”
Afterword, page 155
“In the glow of the dark night’s embers, I began to revel in living itself, in the sheer aliveness of life. How had I missed this for so long, this incredible, beautiful, heartbreaking, soaring, funny aliveness? How could I not put “Oh my God” at the end of every sentence, every sight and sound? Yet I had pretended to ignore the magnificence and the mystery. I had had the chutzpah to pretend I knew what was going on when in reality I didn’t have the slightest idea.”
Chapter Nine: Emerging, page 154