An existential crisis is defined as, “a moment at which an individual questions the very foundations of their life: whether this life has any meaning, purpose, or value.” In spiritual circles, it is often referred to as the “dark night of the soul”. This term originated from the book, Dark Night of the Soul by the ancient mystic, Saint John of the Cross. In this realm, it’s described as a spiritual crisis in a journey towards union with God.
Eckhart Tolle describes it as, “a collapse of a perceived meaning in life…an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness. The inner state in some cases is very close to what is conventionally called depression. Nothing makes sense anymore, there’s no purpose to anything.”
Lately, I’ve had little interest in chasing the dreams I’d spent the better part of this year pursuing. What felt “juicy” only months earlier, now tastes like sand. With each day, my footsteps retreat instead of progress. The lists and goals sit on my desk, forgotten and faded in the sunlight. I’d rather be washing dishes, reading metaphysical books at coffee shops, or wandering through grocery stores. These solid activities feel grounding.
This weekend, I woke up with a disturbing thought. How much of what I do matters? As an overachiever and self-driven Aries, it comes as a shock to my system to even toy with such an idea. Mind you, I cannot rationally accept we are without purpose; I’ve experienced too much for that. What settled into my brain was what if my own pursuits and dreams didn’t amount to a hill of beans?
I’m one of those people who likes to muse, contemplate, read, and explore ideas to their end. I enjoy following the unsettling thought, breaking the mold, and seeing what emerges. So, when this thought tugged inside my body, I had to chase after it, grab hold of its shadow, and say, “Show me.”
And show me it did. It took me down the rabbit hole of sadness, depression, and grief. I lay on my floor, sobbing for every lost dream I’d ever grasped, envisioned, and made to let go, both past and present in my life– marital ideals, successful careers, and passionate purposes. That’s when I asked, or rather begged, “God, please, give me a thought of comfort.”
I suddenly remembered another time, ten years ago, I lied on floors, too depressed by circumstances to eat or move. My brain quickly turned the pages of the calendar and I saw people, words, and resources placed in my path despite the fact I had no conscious direction in mind. These words then popped in my head, I mattered enough to You to save back then. I matter to You now.
Something in me knows there is a reason behind our dark times, but we will only know it if we have the courage to watch our feelings gush through us like running rapids without running away. If you can do that lovingly, compassionately, and patiently, you will witness something die, only to be there to witness something else arise.
As I lay there, my body empty, I felt a tender warmth slowly illuminate like the light of dawn, beginning at my feet, climb up my legs and settle in my heart. The wave had passed; now only peace remained.
When something collapses inside, something new awakens. Rest assured, if you are finding yourself feeling the effects of lack of purpose or meaning, you are not lost, you are in the process of being found.
Till then, be patient, be kind to yourself, and compassionately allow whatever is in you to pass through you like a river. On the other side, you will know a new meaning to what you call “life”.