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Heart Sutra: Hidden Meaning Of the Sacred Text

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Heart Sutra, also known as The Essence of Wisdom is a popular sutra in Mahayana Buddhism. Recited daily by many Buddhist practitioners, this is the shortest of the Perfection of Wisdom texts. Heart Sutra practice opens the connection between the understanding of emptiness and the five stages of the path to enlightenment. In this article, we will share with you this beautiful sutra and its hidden meaning.

The Essence of The Heart Sutra

The Sutra basically describes the teachings of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, who in this context represents the virtue of wisdom.

Avalokiteshvara refers to Shariputra, who in the Sutra represents the early Buddhist school of “perfect wisdom”. The bodhisattva especially emphasizes that “form is emptiness, and emptiness is form” and declares the skandhas to be equally empty.

After this, Avalokiteshvara talks about some of the most important Buddhist dogmas and explains that they are simple explanations of reality, but not reality itself, and therefore are not truth in the highest sense of this concept. In other words, a Buddhist cannot rely on words or traditional dogmas of teaching. The bodhisattva, as an archetypal Buddhist, relies on the perfection of wisdom, which perceives things as they really are, that is, perceives reality directly.

This perfect wisdom is centered in the mantra of the heart Sutra, also called Mahamantra:

गते गते पारगते पारसंगते बोधि स्वाहा

GATE GATE PARA GATE PARA SAM GATE BODHI SVAHA

Which can be translated as “gone, gone, everyone gone to the other shore, awakening, svaha“.

Which means complete liberation from illusions and welcomes enlightenment.

The peculiarity of this Sutra is that the teaching does not come from the mouth of the Buddha himself (which is traditional for all sutras); instead, the Buddha only confirms the correctness of Sri Avalokitesvara’s conclusions regarding Prajnaparamita.

The Translation of the Heart Sutra

Heart Sutra Image

There are multiple translations of the Heart sutra. Here is the most common version.

Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, meditating deeply on Perfection of Wisdom, saw clearly that the five aspects of human existence are empty, and so released himself from suffering.  Answering the monk Sariputra, he said this:

Body is nothing more than emptiness,
emptiness is nothing more than body.
The body is exactly empty,
and emptiness is exactly body.

The other four aspects of human existence —
feeling, thought, will, and consciousness —
are likewise nothing more than emptiness,
and emptiness nothing more than they.

All things are empty:
Nothing is born, nothing dies,
nothing is pure, nothing is stained,
nothing increases and nothing decreases.

So, in emptiness, there is no body,
no feeling, no thought,
no will, no consciousness.
There are no eyes, no ears,
no nose, no tongue,
no body, no mind.
There is no seeing, no hearing,
no smelling, no tasting,
no touching, no imagining.
There is nothing seen, nor heard,
nor smelled, nor tasted,
nor touched, nor imagined.

There is no ignorance,
and no end to ignorance.
There is no old age and death,
and no end to old age and death.
There is no suffering, no cause of suffering,
no end to suffering, no path to follow.
There is no attainment of wisdom,
and no wisdom to attain.

The Bodhisattvas rely on the Perfection of Wisdom,
and so with no delusions,
they feel no fear,
and have Nirvana here and now.

All the Buddhas,
past, present, and future,
rely on the Perfection of Wisdom,
and live in full enlightenment.

The Perfection of Wisdom is the greatest mantra.
It is the clearest mantra,
the highest mantra,
the mantra that removes all suffering.

This is truth that cannot be doubted.
Say it so:

Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!

The Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore

Thich Nhat Hanh Sutra Image

Let us also share with you the new Heart Sutra translation by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Avalokiteshvara while practicing deeply with the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore, suddenly discovered that all of the five Skandhas are equally empty, and with this realization, he overcame all Ill-being.

“Listen Sariputra,
this Body itself is Emptiness
and Emptiness itself is this Body.
This Body is not other than Emptiness
and Emptiness is not other than this Body.
The same is true of Feelings,
Perceptions, Mental Formations,
and Consciousness.

“Listen Sariputra,
all phenomena bear the mark of Emptiness;
their true nature is the nature of
no Birth no Death,
no Being no Non-being,
no Defilement no Purity,
no Increasing no Decreasing.

“That is why in Emptiness,
Body, Feelings, Perceptions,
Mental Formations and Consciousness
are not separate self entities.

The Eighteen Realms of Phenomena
which are the six Sense Organs,
the six Sense Objects,
and the six Consciousnesses
are also not separate self entities.

The Twelve Links of Interdependent Arising
and their Extinction
are also not separate self entities.
Ill-being, the Causes of Ill-being,
the End of Ill-being, the Path,
insight and attainment,
are also not separate self entities.

Whoever can see this
no longer needs anything to attain.

Bodhisattvas who practice
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore
see no more obstacles in their mind,
and because there
are no more obstacles in their mind,
they can overcome all fear,
destroy all wrong perceptions
and realize Perfect Nirvana.

“All Buddhas in the past, present and future
by practicing
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore
are all capable of attaining
Authentic and Perfect Enlightenment.

“Therefore Sariputra,
it should be known that
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore
is a Great Mantra,
the most illuminating mantra,
the highest mantra,
a mantra beyond compare,
the True Wisdom that has the power
to put an end to all kinds of suffering.
Therefore let us proclaim
a mantra to praise
the Insight that Brings Us to the Other Shore.

Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!
Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!

Hidden Meaning of the Heart Sutra

Now let’s dive deeper into understanding the hidden meaning of the Heart Sutra.

Let’s take a closer look at the mantra that is found at the end of the Heart Sutra.

GATE GATE PARA GATE PARA SAM GATE BODHI SVAHA

Gate means gone.

Paragate signifies gone to the further shore and is a stock Sanskrit expression used by Buddhists and Jains to refer to arahants. (The word para signifies the bank of a river opposite to the one on which one is presently standing).

Parasamgate signifies completely gone to the further shore. (The syllable sam means: altogether, thoroughly, or completely.)

The syllable bodhi is a feminine noun that signifies awakening, knowledge, and enlightenment.

The syllable svaha is an indeclinable part of Vedic Sanskrit. It is said to be the name of the wife of Agni, the god of fire. This syllable is used at the end of a chanting that accompanies a burnt offering made at a Vedic sacrifice (rather as “amen” is used at the end of a prayer in Christian liturgy). This syllable cannot really be translated since it is a performative word.

We can read the first “GATE” or “gone” as an incentive to enter the path of accumulating merit, and the second “GATE” or “gone” as a way to prepare the mind for a deep perception of emptiness.

Gone to the further shore” refers to the path of seeing reality, the direct perception of emptiness. One who attains this vision becomes Arya, or “noble.”

The words “completely gone to the further shore” indicate the path of meditation in which the practitioner through constant practice becomes familiar with emptiness on a deeper level.

The last words of this mantra “Bodhi Svaha” are an incentive to take root in the soil of enlightenment, that is, to enter the final Nirvana.

Stages of enlightenment image

There are five stages of the path to enlightenment:

  1. accumulation;
  2. preparation;
  3. vision;
  4. meditation;
  5. no further learning.

These five stages can be connected with various fragments of the main text of the Heart Sutra.

Four-part representation of emptiness at the beginning of the Sutra:

“Body is nothing more than emptiness,
emptiness is nothing more than body.
The body is exactly empty,
and emptiness is exactly body.”

is a way of practicing emptiness in the first two stages – accumulation and preparation.

The emptiness of the eight aspects of phenomena, expressed in the words:

All things are empty:
Nothing is born, nothing dies,
nothing is pure, nothing is stained,
nothing increases and nothing decreases.

is the realization of emptiness at the stage of vision.

The words:

There is no ignorance,
and no end to ignorance.
There is no old age and death,
and no end to old age and death.
There is no suffering, no cause of suffering,
no end to suffering, no path to follow.
There is no attainment of wisdom,
and no wisdom to attain.

indicate the method of practicing emptiness at the stage of meditation.

The words in the next section:

The Bodhisattvas rely on the Perfection of Wisdom,
and so with no delusions,
they feel no fear,
and have Nirvana here and now.

indicate the practice of emptiness of the last of the ten levels of bodhisattva, where he resides in a state of meditative concentration.

The actual transition from one stage to another takes place while you are in a state of meditative balance.

At the initial stage, when the practitioner goes through the path of accumulation, his understanding of emptiness is primarily intellectual. Practitioners with a sharp mind can reach a sufficiently deep understanding of emptiness before generating the altruistic attitude of bodhichitta. Those who are less inclined to intellectual thinking, first develop the intention to free all living beings from suffering.

In any case, a deep understanding of emptiness has a powerful effect on all other practices, enhancing and complimenting them. It can lead to a powerful renunciation, which is the desire to free oneself from the sufferings of the cycle of being, as well as to become the basis of strong and all-encompassing compassion.

In the accumulation stage, awareness of voidness is mainly the result of learning, reflection, and intellectual understanding. Through meditation on what has been learned, the practitioner further deepens his understanding until eventually, he attains full clarity of penetrating vision.

From this moment, the preparation stage begins. Here the understanding of emptiness is no longer purely intellectual or conceptual, but rather has the character of an experience, although it is not yet a direct comprehension of it.

In the preparation stage, the understanding of emptiness becomes more and more deep, subtle, and clear. The use of conceptual thinking in meditation is gradually fading into the background.

When all the dual perception of subject and object, conditional reality and self-existence is eliminated, the practitioner enters the path of vision. At this stage, there is no division into subject and object. Subjective perception and its object merge into one, and meditation is carried out in the direct perception of emptiness.

As this direct experience of emptiness deepens, the practitioner steadily counteracts the various obscurations that occur during the stage of meditation or assimilation by passing through the so-called seven levels of contamination.

In a Nutshell

Dalai Lama Sutra Image

According to Dalai Lama XIV interpretation, the stages work like this:

Accumulation refers to realizing emptiness as an intellectual exercise.

Preparation represents actually experiencing emptiness, but indirectly. Here one progressively sees emptiness while concepts gradually recede.

The path of Vision is attained when dualistic perceptions of subject and object are removed, and where emptiness becomes unmediated and direct.

During the stage of meditation, one progresses through subtle “imprints” of mental afflictions, eventually eradicating them.

This finally leads to full Buddhahood, or the stage of No More Learning.

The Bottom Line

First, it may seem very difficult to understand Heart Sutra. Therefore, it is recommended to meditate on it. By meditating on the Heart Sutra, you will, again and again, enter deeply the mysteries of these sacred words. And by making the Mahamantra your daily practice you will see that you’re observing your life experience from a higher perspective.

Spirituality

Ishvara Pranidhana: The Art Of Living For a Higher Purpose

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Spiritual Bypassing Image

Are you one of those who sincerely turn to the path of knowledge of spiritual truths, the search for the meaning of life, the comprehension of the essence of being? Do you seek to understand the nature of your Soul and your true purpose? Then you are one of those spiritual wonderers who is able to see the world beyond the material limitations of the physical world and strive to live your life for a higher purpose. In this article, I want to introduce you to Ishvara Pranidhana which means attunement to the supreme consciousness. The practice of this Divine principle will help you to plant in your heart the highest degree of piety through which the mind comes to Samadhi.

Yoga Sutras Of Patanjali

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are a collection of 196 Sanskrit sutras on the theory and practice of yoga. It describes the goals of yoga and the principles of techniques needed to achieve them.

The two first stages that the Sutras describe are the principles of Yama and Niyama.

Yama is a set of ethical norms that teach us to communicate with others in the right way.

There are five Yamas:

  1. Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा): Nonviolence, non-harming other living beings.
  2. Satya (सत्य): truthfulness, non-falsehood.
  3. Asteya (अस्तेय): non-stealing.
  4. Brahmacharya (ब्रह्मचर्य): chastity, marital fidelity, or sexual restraint.
  5. Aparigraha (अपरिग्रहः): non-avarice, non-possessiveness.

Niyama is the step of forming self-discipline and uplifting spirituality.

Five Niyamas are:

  1. Saucha (शौच): purity, clearness of mind, speech, and body.
  2. Santosha (सन्तोष): contentment, acceptance of others, and of one’s circumstances as they are, optimism for self.
  3. Tapas (तपस): austerity, self-discipline, persistent meditation, perseverance.
  4. Svadhyaya (स्वाध्याय): the study of self, self-reflection, introspection of self’s thoughts, speeches, and actions.
  5. Ishvara Pranidhana (ईश्वरप्रणिधान): contemplation of the Ishvara (God/Supreme Being, Brahman, True Self, Unchanging Reality), attunement to the supreme consciousness.

All these principles are interdependent. If you break one of the Yamas or Niyamas, you are bound to break the others. And if you improve in the practice of one principle, then the practice of other yamas and niyamas will also be improved.

For example, if you violate Satya by allowing yourself to lie, you will not be able to practice Ahimsa. Or, if you do not observe the principle of Saucha and pollute your body and mind, it will be difficult for you to practice Brahmacharya.

What Is Ishvara Pranidhana?

What Is Ishvara Pranidhana Image

Ishvara Pranidhana is the fifth niyama described Patanjali which means the contemplation of the Ishvara (God/Supreme Being, Brahman, True Self, Unchanging Reality), or attunement to the supreme consciousness.

Ishvara is a Sanskrit word that can be translated as “supreme, God, the Absolute Brahman, True Self, or Unchanging Reality”. Pranidhana means “dedication, devotion, or surrender”.

In the Upanishads, the word Isvara means “a state of collective consciousness”. In this sense, there isn’t a Godlike figure we are supposed to worship or devote our actions to, rather ‘God’ represents a state of collective consciousness, and therefore represents all of us too.

Thus, the fifth niyama teaches us to surrender to God or Higher self, meaning, cultivating a deep and trusting relationship with the universe and making each action an offering to something bigger than us.

A person who practices Ishvara Pranidhana, dedicates the merits of his actions to the Supreme, and coordinates every step he takes (all actions, thoughts, words) with the expediency for the benefit of spiritual development. He is not looking for personal gain, his actions are pure and sincere.

Thus, when we are talking about the practice of Ishvara Pranidhana, we mean our complete surrender to God (our own higher self). If we can dedicate our lives to serving the God that dwells within everything and everyone, we will move beyond all feelings of separateness and free ourselves from the dualistic mindset. If we can say without reservation, “I give You myself: my body, my mind, and my heart, to serve the Highest Good of all,” then we will be freed from the stress, anxiety, self-doubt, as well as from negative karma.

The Idea Of Surrendering

Dopamine happiness hormone image

In our modern society, the feelings of separateness and disconnection prevail. Ego and pride are people’s main motivators, and being strong and domineering over others are the main qualities of successful people. Most of us silently accepted that this is how life goes and there is nothing we can do about it. Our egos made us believe that we, human beings, are somehow in control of the universe. Therefore, the very idea of surrendering seems like something negative, as it implies a sort of weakness or defeat.

Our minds were programmed since ancient times that surrender means losing. This belief comes from military terminology where surrender means the opposition to the victory. And it makes sense since the very nature of any war or competition is built on duality. For us, human beings, it’s normal to see surrender as something bad because our minds are stuck in the duality and it’s hard to see something beyond these limited paradigms.

In spirituality, however, we don’t limit our beliefs with “right or wrong” labels. Instead, we are learning to see the hidden meanings of everything by overcoming the dualistic mindset. Thus, victory is attained as we willingly surrender our limited idea of who we are (i.e. our name, our jobs, our problems, etc.) and create the space needed to feel our true Self, our Divine Spark which is limitless.

Surrender requires self-discipline, trust, and faith. Ultimately it will take far more effort to cling to the smallness of the ego than it will surrender the Higher self.

Applying the Practice of Isvara Pranidhana to Life

#1: Examine your path

Isvara Pranidhana Definition Image

Start with introspection. Ask yourself what you are guided by in your life when you choose the path that you follow throughout your earthly incarnation. After all, intentions are the main criterion that reflects the sincerity of your actions, words, and thoughts.

Examine your path, the purpose you live for. Are your intentions dictated by ego, prestige, greed, or pride?

Think about your strongest motivation in life. Are you motivated by selfish motives? Or, is every action you do aim at improving this world, creating good, bringing light and love, joy and warmth to this world? Answer these questions honestly. What do you live for? A sincere answer to this question will clarify for you the meaning of your existence and direct you to the true path of life.

#2: Practice letting go and non-attachment

Letting go of the fruits of our actions and non-attachment are a focal point of the Bhagavad Gita

If we’ve put a lot of effort into something, we often get attached to a result of our actions. Questions like: “Will they like me?”, “What if I’m not good enough?”, “Will my project be successful?” are perfect examples of attachments to a result. All this worrying about things we have no control over is the main cause of our suffering.

Instead of worrying and focusing on the result, concentrate on the process and the idea of service – meaning, dedication of the process of doing to God. In this case, you’ll be fully engaged in the action without thinking about what might or might not happen.

The practice of surrendering requires us to acknowledge that we can do our very best in each situation, but we can’t really do any more than that. Realizing this simple truth essentially allows us to fully engage and be present in what we’re doing, bringing all our energy to the present moment and experiencing it fully just for what it is.

Such attitude to the process helps us to develop trust and faith that are essential for our spiritual development.

You can do the same action with or without God. However, when you’re doing it without God (guided by ego) you’re facing all kinds of challenges, obstacles, worries, and suffering. But when you’re acting with God (focusing on offering your action to the Divine), you know that any outcome is beneficial because this is what God wants. This approach gives you satisfaction with any result – because you have your trust and faith that whatever happens as a result of your actions is for the highest good for all.

#3: Stay open

Awakening during Brahma Muhurta hour image

In our daily life, Isvara Pranishana can be also seen as an opening up to what isThat is, instead of fighting against life’s twists and turns, you are remaining open to experiencing life as it unfolds.  

When we are remaining fixed and rigid in our conditioned patterns, habits, and limitations, we are doomed to a limited life. Whereas surrendering has an expansive nature that boosts your development. Surrendering is hugely challenging because it means transcending the ego, and the ego will do everything it can to stay in control over your mind.

Worries, conditioning, judgments, and perceptions are the “hooks” that the ego pulls us by. Without those “hooks” the ego would not exist. Therefore, it tries desperately to cling on when we work on quietening it.

Surrendering requires trust in the Universe and the courage to express ourselves for who we are, as we are. Each time we choose to surrender, we move closer to freedom. 

Conclusion

When we see ourselves as a part of one whole, we are no longer in the illusion of separation (duality). This leads to the emergence of healthy altruism towards all living beings and a sincere desire to share the divine light of our hearts, which becomes possible due to the disclosure of this light in our souls. When we observe the principle of Ishvara Pranidhana we become free from egoistic motivations in our behavior and in our activities.

  

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Spirituality

Divine Union: Achieving the Ultimate Freedom From Enmeshed Reality

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Divine Union Image

If I had to choose one neurosis that we all hold as a collective, it would be the understanding of ourselves as separate from source. Throughout history and until the current moment humanity is known for enduring strife and challenges that have led to profound cognitive distortions. The idea that we are separate from the ever-unfolding creative energy that exists in all the universe has become an embodied reality.

How Did This Neurosis Unfold?

Whether it is due to an orchestrated amnesia or the seeds of ignorance, we have all been vulnerable to a false power that is the influence of the mind; the very thing that breeds separation, illusion, and fear.

Throughout history – religious, scientific, industrial, and social movements have all moved beyond the natural and organic. This has been coined as evolution, however, without the heart leading the way it has undoubtedly altered our ability to perceive ourselves as part of the whole.

What we understand instead is a system that keeps our minds in shackles and tension under the illusion of security and control. The neurosis that something is unquestionably wrong with us, society, our world as we know it plagues us in a way that we seldom recognize. The need to fix, improve, calculate, and just push towards a better something has kept us in perpetual unease. Our need to avoid discomfort and suffering has irrevocably separated us from the grace of divine order.

“The fear of experiencing that which we judge wrong keeps us from experiencing the love that truly does protect us from all things.”

We do not feel safe, held, or supported, and as the Samsara wheel churns, many fall further and further away from the tree of life. Instead of experiencing the self as part of a vast and organic whole, the tendency is to reside in a deep unconscious state where the appeal for a false sense of control has become prominent. The fear of experiencing that which we judge wrong keeps us from experiencing the love that truly does protect us from all things.

There is fixed enmeshment with this man-made reality that profoundly disconnects all from the truth and from the vibration that is unconditional love, which indeed emanates from in every sparkle of an eye, every speck of sand, every Tsunami and every other materialized construct within the infinite universes that exist.

What Happened to Faith?

born healer image

Faith is a word that has lost its true context – it is now loosely understood as believing in or trusting that an outside force may or may not meet one’s intended desire. This notion of faith is a diluted interpretation of the vitality in which the word truly resides.

Faith, as it has revealed itself to me, is the actual embodiment of union and it is not limited to the concepts of the mind nor is it something to be manipulated by demand. Faith speaks of an enlightened expression of the union with the source of all that is.

“There is truly an emancipation held for all by the mathematical perfection that are the universes. Suffering breeds from not feeling worthy of this and being attached to that which we believe is our identity and yet is not our true nature.”

The term, enlightenment in this prose refers to a conscious awareness of the small self as well as the Self that is attuned to the love that is the whole. The paradox itself is hard to grasp- it defies all things defined in the polarity in which we believe ourselves to exist, and it challenges the fixed status quo. However, this conundrum is the very place where we can find peace from the endless chatter that speaks of unrest in the mind, in the body, and most importantly in the self.

There is truly an emancipation held for all by the mathematical perfection that are the universes. Suffering breeds from not feeling worthy of this and being attached to that which we believe is our identity and yet is not our true nature. We were born beyond the endless constraints of logic and calculated manipulation and still we walk in those very shackles forgetting ourselves as boundless and infinite creative expression- this of course superseding even death.

We stopped trusting our intuitive nature and instead allowed our minds to become masters. Still, the field beyond right and wrong as our beloved lover and poet, Rumi would say; truly does exist.

Divine Union Is Not In the External

Divine Union Experience Image

Divine union is not a choice but an absolute truth that can only be experienced through the liberation of the small self. It is not about attracting the ideal quantum partner nor is it in the glory of a manifested desire. It means transcending the alleged separation and surrendering to the simplicity of being.

Freedom comes from allowing ourselves to embody our union with the divine as paint on a canvas would trust the strokes of its artist. There is a masterpiece that we are all part of and yet because of universal free will, we continue to lose sight of it.

Divine union is within every breath we take, we need only provide the space for it to bloom the way a flower unfolds in the Spring; petal by petal, not worried about the contours of its shape. She simply becomes its full radiance with focused intention allotted to her by her very existence, and the most subtle of expressions that derive from her simply being. Its vibrancy trusts; it does not fear decay, nor does it try to manipulate the direction or the speed at which it will flourish. Without knowing she embraces the pure fluid state that by default is all of existence; mankind included.

“Freedom comes from allowing ourselves to embody our union with the divine as paint on a canvas would trust the strokes of its artist.”

Re-union Is Definite

gates of heaven image

The labyrinth that our egos journey through paves the way for remembrance. All paths lead home as the slogan goes. There is no bypassing the organic process from our forgetting to the collective unraveling of our true essence. The enigma brings forth a rise in consciousness where we can feel into that which lies beyond the veils of our manifested reality. With the shift of the ages, we now have additional support through the more expansive access to higher dimensional frequencies that supersede the matrix consciousness.

There is a light pouring in from the cosmos that is summoning us from our sleep state. It is bringing great awareness to the depths of the collective complex of perceived abandonment. The gates of heaven are now truly accessible to all – the journey there is within. In the stillness of the mind and emptiness of the small self, the subtle whispers of conscious awareness ripple through and beloved to ourselves we become.

“The gates of heaven are now truly accessible to all – the journey there is within.”

The Bottom Line

I like to remind my clients of how fortunate they are to have incarnated at this time. Although they may perceive me with questioning eyes at such a statement while they are still deeply enmeshed with their severance; there is something that stirs in them. It is then that the invitation to remembrance becomes alive.

If they choose to answer they are ignited to explore the alchemy that is life from a higher perspective; one that doesn’t undermine the organic process that is life but instead highlights the beauty in the complexity of its nature and the absolute safety of its colorful landscape.

The heart is the gateway – we need only seek in that direction and recall that it is not a pragmatic excursion. Remembrance transcends the confines of the logical mind and calls forth the frequency that has and will always permeate above all – love.

About Ishtar

Ishtar is a psychotherapist (LCSW) who earned her masters’ degree from New York University in 2006. She is also a KRI certified Kundalini Yoga instructor; licensed in 2013 at Goldenbridge, New York City. Prior to this training, in 2008 she experienced what she coins as divine remembrance and has spent the last 13 years in service to others as a wayshower in the ascension process. As a Christed pillar of light embodying the solar crystalline frequencies; she carries the codes of gnosis and sacred transformation. Ishtar is a Rose priestess of cosmic lineage and holds a multidimensional awareness that guides clients from all walks of life into divine union. Currently, she resides with her daughter Ixchel Inanna in the city New York and remains committed to activating divine remembrance through a myriad of sacred tools.  ​

About Luminous Magik

Luminous Magik practice focuses on traditional integrative psychotherapy infused with an array of healing modalities intuitively tailored to your specific needs. The sessions can include Kundalini yoga and Meditation, Energetic Alignments, Light Language, Shadow Work, Ancestral Clearing, Womb Activations & Cosmic Coding. For more information, visit Ishtar’s website luminousmagik.com.

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Spirituality

Dark Night of the Soul: The Signs and Counter Measures

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Dark Night of the Soul Image

Picture this: You have the dream job that you always wanted. Your mortgage payments on your dream home are up to date. And, you just proposed to the partner of your dreams. It is such a time that you should feel content, if not excited for your accomplishments, right? But, why are you losing interest in pursuing more goals? Why the unexplained sadness, confusion, or a sudden loss of focus? Chances are you going through the Dark Night of the Soul.

What Is It?

The Dark Night of the Soul refers to a transitional stage when we undergo a ‘spiritual depression’ before getting an intense perception of life. It involves letting go of our past perceptions of our careers, relationships, and belief systems and replacing them with a life appreciation that leads to spiritual growth. This letting-go process can be painful, therefore, triggering sadness or feelings of getting lost. Hence, despite doing well in your career or social circles, a state of despair or suffering in humanity can leave you feeling sad when you should be happy.

The Origin

The term “Dark Night of the Soul” was first used in the poem of St. John of the Cross, depicting trials or purgation that the Roman Catholic followers go through before attaining a Divine union or illumination. In this poem, only one light lights the soul as it goes through the night. This light is what leads the soul towards Divine union.

The Symptoms of the Dark Night of the Soul

Symptoms of the Dark Night of the Soul Image

Everyone on a spiritual journey undergoes the Dark Night of the Soul before achieving spiritual enlightenment. However, we all experience it differently. And, unless you know what is happening, this transitional period can be confusing and scary. Here are 5 key signs that you could be going through the Dark Night of the Soul:

#1: Bouts of Sadness

The Dark Night of the Soul is a crisis in faith that can trigger a spiritual depression characterized by sadness. Think of persons with immense Christian faith like Elijah, Jeremiah, and David. History documents show how these spiritual leaders struggled with anxiety, depression, and failure (Psalm 51, 1 Kings 19, Jeremiah 20). Likewise, Mother Teresa is said to have dark night experiences that lasted for close to 50 years. 

#2: Feeling Powerless or Hopeless About Your Current Situation

Anyone undergoing the dark night experiences becomes overly aware of their incompleteness and imperfection to God.  You feel an overwhelming confusion. It is a discomfort that comes with a lot of hopelessness.

For example, the death of a loved one may remind you of how fragile life is, triggering a sense of powerlessness and sadness. Yet, unlike depression that brings about suicidal thoughts, or resentment towards God, the pain in dark night experiences is for a purpose. Hence, the loss of pleasure towards things of God is only temporary.

#3: You Desire to Connect with People

Are you active on social media, or lead a public life where you enjoy impressing the masses? A dark night experience may evoke a desire to connect with your followers or audience. For, this spiritual transformation process causes you to question everything that you once thought was true. Hence, your mind tries to derive meaning in all your interactions with others, letting go of interest that is no longer serving your audience.

#4: Lack of Interest in Your Passion

Often, a spiritual crisis leaves us listless and with no motivation to do the things we once enjoyed. In turn, we isolate ourselves with our friends and loved ones, sinking deeper into depression.

#5: Longing for “Home”

If you feel frustrated and conflict to the extent of getting homesickness for an imaginary place you want to call home, it is a clear sign of a dark night experience. See, the spiritual trials make us long for normalcy that we associate with our loved ones of the home environment. It is a natural response to any life transition that comes with a feeling of loss and a need to adjust to the new norm.

Overcoming the Dark Night of the Soul

Overcoming Spiritual Depression Image

If you are going through spiritual depression, here are some tips to make this experience bearable: –

  • Maintain a journal of your dark night experiences.  This approach helps you see what triggers the sadness, emptiness, and anxiety. More so, it will give you the insight necessary to assist another person going through a similar experience.
  • Understand how your subconscious mind works. Knowing your thought process helps you anticipate and avoid an emotional breakdown. Plus, it will give you a chance to identify any areas in your life that bring about cognitive dissonance.
  • Let go of your fears, feelings, and old beliefs. Instead, be open to the present moment.
  • Embrace the dark night experiences with a positive attitude. The experience is only temporary, and the result is a profound perception of self.
  • Enrich your soul. Here, taking part in yoga sessions, forest baths, reading motivational books, or listening to sleep meditation provides an outlet for the anguish you feel inside.
  • Practice living in the present. Remember, sadness, hopelessness, or anxiety comes about when we have regrets or conflicts about our past thoughts.
  • Stay active. A regular brisk walk can help wade off thoughts of depression and loss of interest in our passion. Likewise, if you know you enjoy camping or traveling, start by making a campfire in your backyard.
  • Find support. Spending time with friends and family can uplift your mood.

Conclusion

Meister Eckhart the great philosopher, once said, “We rarely find people who achieve great things without first going astray.” Indeed, this is the essence of the Dark Night of the Soul. It is a spiritual disconnection that leads us to a deeper understanding of our soul and who we are. Only, these dark night experiences may trigger an overwhelming sadness, insatiable cravings, or lack of interest in what you once enjoyed. Learn to identify the symptoms of dark night experiences to embrace them positively. More so, differentiate them from symptoms of clinical depression or chemical imbalances so that you may seek appropriate help.

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