The Dark Night (You didn’t need that ego, did you?)
After my first visionary experiences I enthusiastically decided to follow the shamanic path. (Little did I know that I was already on it.) I thought, “Hey, there seems to be a lot more to this reality thing than I ever imagined. Wouldn’t it be cool if anything truly was possible?” The potential was staggering. Upon retrospect, however, I have to admit that in the deep recesses of my psyche the idea of pursuing the shamanic path appealed to my need to feel special.
By the time I started having visions, I’d already been introduced to the ‘law of attraction’ – the concept that you can draw anything to you if you follow a certain formula (e.g., pronounce your desire in the present tense, see and feel yourself attaining what you desire, do 40 push-ups, and then surrender your desire to the universe and wait for it to manifest. Piece of cake.). And I fancied myself quite the ‘manifestor.’ Within a year of practicing the law of attraction I found my soul mate, created a new life for myself in a city where I knew no one, started the best job I ever had, and purchased my dream car – a 1967 Mustang.
The world was my oyster and I was ready for dessert. Unfortunately, for me – the only selection on the menu was Humble Pie.
Let me tell you about my relationship with Mustangs. I wanted one since I was 6 years old. You see, the Mustang gene runs dominant in my family. My mom got one the first year they came out when she graduated from high school in 1964. It was a burgundy coupe with shiny chrome rims. She muscled hers out by jacking up the back end, throwing on a hood scoop, and installing a loud throaty exhaust. You have to picture my 26-year-old mom dropping me off for my Brownie meeting in this car and then peeling away in a cloud of dust while all of us girls stood there transfixed in our little brown and orange outfits. My mom was one very hip lady. Hip and powerful. I was intoxicated. This image of coolness burned into my developing ego like a cattle brand.
Twenty-five years later I was sitting behind the wheel of my very own vintage mustang. I had it painted burgundy, bought some chrome rims and low profile tires which were actually too big for the car’s frame and would rub against the wheel wells whenever I hit a dip in the road. But I didn’t care. I had my badass Mustang. This car made me smile all the time. I couldn’t keep my eyes off it. I’d even take little breaks at work to look at it through the window. Pathetic, but true. It was as if I was unconsciously checking to make sure it was still there, like I thought it would suddenly disappear.
I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that this car was an external manifestation of my identity – which was born out of my desire to be like my mom. When I bought the car I felt, in a sense, complete . . . like I had arrived.
So it was an absolutely brilliant gesture on the part of my higher self when a year and a half after buying my Mustang and investing about $3000 to make it a reliable daily driver that it was stolen. I was devastated.
But wait, it gets better. With my new found manifestation skills I came to the conclusion that the ‘universe’ intended for me to have a BETTER Mustang and that this was obviously the reason my car was stolen in the first place. Of course!
So I ‘manifested’ a handsome check from the insurance company. They not only reimbursed me the price I originally paid for the car, but they threw in an extra $3000 for the repairs I’d made. Sweet.
Check in hand, I went on the hunt for a better Mustang. This time I decided I wanted a car that had been converted – a vintage chassis housing a modern motor and transmission. I found a white 1966 coupe whose owner had installed a 1990 motor and 5-speed transmission. Perfect. Just what I asked for. And guess how much it cost? Exactly the amount of the check I got from the insurance company!
I was convinced that my magical thinking had created this situation and I had no doubt that it would all work out. My faith was so strong that I ignored some very blatant signs telling me that I should run far in the other direction.
First sign: The owner of the car wouldn’t let me test-drive it. I had to beg him to let me drive the car.
Second sign: My boss found out who I was buying the car from and told me, “Wendy, don’t buy that car. I know that guy and he’s a liar.”
Third sign: I ignored the promise I made to myself that I would never buy a vintage car without first having my mechanic check it out. On so many levels ignoring that promise felt wrong. But no, I had the universe on my side. The universe and I were pals.
Three days after buying my shiny new Mustang I walked out to find a puddle of coolant under the front end. Fortunately, I was able to drive the car to my mechanic. He lifted the hood and after a quick glance shook his head. My heart sank as he said, “Wendy, why didn’t you bring this car to me before you bought it?” He explained that everything about the conversion was done wrong – that the fan was the wrong size and the electrical system was wired incorrectly. And then when he sat in the driver’s seat he yelled, “Holy shit, is this the fuel line running through the interior? You could’ve been killed!”
At the risk of sounding dramatic, I felt like everything came crashing down around me. My belief in a magical and abundant universe, my sense of identity, my dreams – all destroyed within five minutes of pulling into the parking lot of a service station. And this was just the beginning. I’ll spare you the embarrassing details, but for the next six months I spiraled down into a pretty dismal place where I ended up standing face to face with my shadow self – and she was a wretched mess. I wasn’t feeling very special. I felt like a tool.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, I had entered a phase in my spiritual development commonly referred to as the dark night of the soul. Not only had my Mustang – my identity – been stripped from me, but I discovered that my magical thinking was hollow. Everything I had to come to think about myself and the world was put in question.
It was EXACTLY what I needed – a little initiation in the form of ego dismemberment. This is when your ego – who you think you are – is shred into tiny little bits in order to make room for who you really are. Come to find out that in order to be an effective healer you need to clean your own house before you can go traipsing through other peoples’ houses.
It was also EXACTLY what I asked for. When I made the commitment to walk down the shamanic path I unknowingly invited my higher self to enroll me in spiritual boot camp. Here’s my take on spiritual boot camp: First you’re assigned a bunk and a locker to store all your self pity, then you stand in line for a really long time, then hundreds of rats come and rip you to shreds with their tiny little teeth and you die a symbolic death, and then your spiritual corpse marches for miles and miles through the middle of all your fears and insecurities in really uncomfortable leather shoes, then someone throws mud on you and calls you names, and then when you’re about to throw in the towel and go AWOL . . . you notice a pinprick of light in your heart.
What a relief to discover that underneath all the layers of crap was my true self. It was there all the time just waiting for me to uncover it. This insight has been my anchor through every subsequent initiatory experience I’ve been through and continue to go through.
My initial dark night experience is what led me to write the article “Navigating the Chaos.” I believe the human race is currently going through a collective dark night of the soul. As a result, we’re grasping for anything we can get our hands on to feel a sense of control, which is why the ‘law of attraction’ is hugely popular right now. The thing I realized, though, is that creating your reality is much more complicated than simply wishing and visualizing it in a new way. Changing your reality is about discovering your soul’s purpose and then taking the necessary risks to actually live it. It’s about becoming aware of and stepping through your fears and insecurities. And it’s about recognizing the difference between what your ego desires (e.g., a vintage mustang) and what your soul desires (e.g., being of service to others).
There’s no handbook for this stuff.
© 2010 Wendy Halley