When I am in the spiritual desert it is a dark, lonely and unforgiving place. It’s as if all the vast emptiness of the universe resides in this place. I have found myself in this empty wasteland many times in my life so I am familiar with it’s setting. I both fear it and hate it. It fills me with dread, a kind of soul-foreboding and a sense of inner isolation, cut off at a soul-level from the universe and any higher power that governs it. In this place the darkness looms, the ground is hard and God is nowhere to be found. It’s like the universe has given me the naughty step.
When the goose hangs high and life is good, when I’m winning and everything seems to be going my way, it’s like I’m riding the crest of a wave and I’m convinced I have arrived. Work booms and money rolls in, my relationships are happy and living is not that hard after all, it’s just a matter of having the right attitude – success! Obviously all the bad times, behind me now, we’re only stepping stones to my true fate of living the life of Riley.
Then someone turns off the tap and the good times run dry, the lights go off and the party’s over. The work starts to fail and money becomes tight, relationships start to falter and I feel like I’m about to drown under one negative wave after another. I look back at my rightful place – riding the crest of the wave – and strive to get back there, refusing to accept or acknowledge the signs that I have placed material pleasure, ambition and success ahead of the spiritual. Slopping about in the sludge of life is not for me – no sirree. So I push, pull and hammer at the door to the good life demanding that I be let back in. But it doesn’t budge and no one answers.
Me, Myself & I
And then I’m back to just me, myself and I in the spiritual desert, wandering through the dark knowing I’ve lost something important but not sure what it is or how to find it again. And there’s the rub. I know inside myself that I will stay wandering this barren place of my soul until I connect again with that something I left behind when the goose hung high. According to Ignatian Spirituality this place is called Desolation. It’s a place of resentment, ingratitude, selfishness, doubt and fear. Personally I call it a seriously shitty place. They say it’s due to wandering away from God, a Higher Power, Spirit of The Universe or whatever. Being led away from the spiritual path by other influences.
I tend to get into desolation a lot in my life, so much so I kind of expect it. I’m not a conformist and I’m not religious but I do believe in a higher power or God…just not a religious one. My problem is I’m just a bit stubborn, stupid and surface deep when it comes to spirituality but that does not stop it knocking, very loudly, on the door of my soul. Sometimes I try to drown out the knocking, as it gets so bloody loud, by obsessing on something like work or…. well just work in my case. After ignoring it for a while the universe gives me time out, and hey presto I’m wandering around lost in a barren desert of self with no map and no internal guiding voice. Just me and empty space. Brilliant!
I can choose to use this time to learn, reassess, change and grow or I can do nothing and drown in self pity as the emptiness grows more and more unbearable. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross said:
“Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences. All events are blessings given to us to learn from”.
So my way out of the spiritual desert is to take time out to reevaluate my life, grow my faith and listen harder for that still small voice that has become drowned out by life’s clamour. Easy to say but hard to do. Trying to have faith when all around you seems to be failing and you feel like your losing in life is hard graft in my experience. But it can be done, and I choose to opt for faith when things are dark otherwise I am left to the quiet despair or hopelessness.
A Jewish girl once wrote on a wall of a German cellar during the holocaust:
“I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love even when I cannot feel it. I believe in God even when he is silent…”
I aspire to have her amount of faith and strength in the face of such dark times.
Back To Basics
So back to basics I go and rebuild my connection with the source of my life, my joy and my hope. I pray (in my own way), I talk to understanding like minded folk and accept my lot as it is. If I can learn to whistle a joyful tune as I walk in the gloomy desert trusting that even though I can’t see, feel or even understand what good can come out of this gloomy phase, it will be alright. I trust a higher power to keep me safe and I know I’ll be looked after. I think my time in the spiritual desert will pass a lot quicker without the rocks in my backpack of self pity, doubt and fear and I’m sure Ill reach an oasis or two along the way.