My beloved spiritual teacher told me a couple of weeks ago that I’m experiencing a classic dark night of the soul. It wasn’t news to me, but in an odd way it was comforting to hear her say it.

Despite the fact that I’m a preacher-chick with a pretty good understanding of the path and its peaks and valleys, like many spiritual travelers I’ve met I tell myself the ridiculous story about how if I were more spiritual I wouldn’t feel the way I do, wouldn’t be struggling, blah blah blah. It’s a lie, of course. I remind myself of these terms: spiritual journey; the path; a closer walk with thee. It’s not like one is supposed to find some level of understanding and faith and then build a house there. No, the point is to deepen, evolve, be on the journey. Anything else is known by another name: rut.

Anyhow, my teacher and I were attending the Circle of Love Gathering at Ghost Ranch in northern New Mexico. (If your path is New Thought with an emphasis on the heart-way, this retreat is exquisite. You can find out about it here.) I spent a good bit of time in contemplation of my surroundings — a spaciousness the high desert conveys to my soul — and another good bit of time focused inwardly, on the cycle or wheel of the breath.

And that’s when it came together, became very real and intimate for me in the metaphor of the breath: The in-breath is not fully possible without the out-breath. The in-breath is that time of filling and newness that leads to fullness, and it’s beautiful and life-giving. But it can only happen after the exhale — that time of emptying that rids us of what is stale and fetid and no longer serves.

I’m breathing now. I’m allowing the breath to remind me of how important this dark night, this time of emptying, is. I know that what awaits me once I’ve fully surrendered to this part of the process will be the embracing of a fuller, deeper, more grounded version of myself. For now, I’m in the exhale.

About the author

Chris Terry is the minister HeartSpace Spiritual Center in Dallas, TX. Her favorite spiritual practice is giggling. The lights of her life are her daughter, Micah, and the HeartSpace community members.