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The joy that waits on the other side of disillusionment

It can be utterly devastating when the way we see the world, or more to the point, the way we see our own life, hits an iceberg the way the Titanic did, and we suddenly realize things are not the way we thought they were.

Wikipedia describes the dark night of the soul this way: "A treatise written by Spanish poet and Roman Catholic mystic St. John of the Cross. It has become an expression used to describe a phase in a person's spiritual life, a metaphor for a certain loneliness and desolation. It is referenced by spiritual traditions throughout the world."

Truth is on the move in this world whether anyone likes it or not. There is a very good chance that disillusionment, in one of its many forms, perhaps severe disillusionment, is in store for a great many people.

There is good news however. As painful and devastating as disillusionment can be, if we stay steady, something will shift. The "dark night," as we may think of it, or as we may experience it, will change its nature and character. We will behold, as if by magic, a light shining in the midst of overpowering darkness.

It is the light that the British poet Richard Lovelace wrote about in his famous 17th century poem, “To Althea from Prison” --"Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage."

In our own distinctive, unique way, we begin to realize that no matter how dark or hopeless our situation may have seemed to be, there is something we can never lose -- and it is the truth of our own being.

About three years ago, I was in the grip of a major clinical depression. It arrived suddenly and unexpectedly, and with complete abandon, quickly began to steal not only my energy but the flesh from my bones -- before long I resembled a scarecrow in motion.

It was a grueling nine-month ordeal, but as I look back upon it, I realize there was a pivotal moment when everything changed. I had gone for a walk in the neighborhood, trying to keep a little strength in my limbs, a spark of hope burning in my heart. I've always loved walking. It was distressing, to say the least, to realize how weak and wobbly I was.

I soon left the pleasant little cul-de-sac in which I live and passed our neighborhood mailbox station. A gray, windy day, as I recall. No one else around, no traffic. And then, as I passed the mailboxes, something truly terrifying occurred.

I realized, in the blink of an eye, that the way I had seen my life -- and in particular, my contribution into life -- wasn't quite accurate. Not at all. I had liked to think I knew the truth, for example, and lived a rather fine spiritual life. Maybe I had to some extent. But all too much of it, I realized in that terrifying instant, had been based in theory.

As I say, it was a devastating moment. But it was also the moment, I now realize, when I began to emerge out of depression and come home to stillness – true stillness, the timeless peace of my own eternal being.

It was like life stripped away the imitation so that the masterpiece could be seen more clearly.

Is this process of renewal or restoration finished? I doubt it. But I know this. The masterpiece of my true being is quite unharmed and untroubled by any of the antics and adventures, the failures and achievements of my human life – and yours is too.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Jill Campana June 24, 2009 at 6:03 am

Hi Chris. I’ve shared your blog on my Facebook page. I, too, had a dark night of the soul experience back along the way and what came from it was most magical. You mentioned a “9 month” process — much like the gestation period leading to birth, eh? Thanks for your blog. Jill Campana


Christopher Foster June 25, 2009 at 9:39 am

Thank you so much for your words Jill, and for sharing my blog on Facebook. Facebook is a mysterious world for me as yet but I’ve put a toe in at last. More of me to follow, of course. What you say about a gestation period is most interesting. A saying JoAnn and I both love goes something like this, ‘God moves in mysterious ways His wonders to perform.’ Good to be sharing this extraordinary adventure we call life with you. All the very best.


Jill Campana June 25, 2009 at 1:09 pm

I found you on Facebook! YAY! You took the plunge. I’ve noticed several of my Facebook friends chatting about your blog. A couple of them have joined it — rock on Chris. Letting the world be uplifted. Love, Jill


Shawn (LCC) June 26, 2009 at 10:03 am

Chris, you are an inspiration to many of us reading your blog. Your positive loving energy is very infectious. I always look forward to reading your blog twice a week. I love all of the poets, scholars, writers, and spiritual seekers you speak of. I have become my own happy seeker 🙂 See you soon!


Marilyn Doren June 29, 2009 at 9:46 pm

Hi Chris! I too, have posted this article on my Facebook page and have gotten many positive comments! Thank you so much for all you do. Okay, now I need to go find you on Facebook!!!


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