If you feel your life is lacking meaning and purpose, you’re not alone! I hear from awakening souls around the world who are experiencing what I’ve come to believe is a spiritual health crisis.
This picture was taken of my husband and me a number of years ago at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, one of the highest mountains in the world.
The ironic thing was that I was standing literally on top of the world and yet on the inside, I had never felt emptier. My life was lacking meaning and purpose.
I was 50 and traveling around the world after a long fulfilling career as a Nurse. I had 2 grown children that were successfully launched, a great husband, family, and friends.
When my husband retired and wanted to start traveling more, it seemed like the right thing to do to leave my career and explore the next chapter of my life.
Everybody that knew me was envious of my life and thought I had it all and was living the dream.
I was living the dream until I developed what I now call soul hunger. A deep longing for a more meaningful and purposeful life that aligns our inner gifts with our outer purpose.
I found myself becoming increasingly unhappy with my life. I was busy, but not busy doing things that felt meaningful for me.
In the book The Upside Of Stress: Why Stress Is Good For You, and How To Get Good At It, Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. shared research findings that a lack of meaningful stress may even be bad for your health. It was ironic that a life that looked like I was living the dream was causing stress and impacting my stress hormone, cortisol.
I was living in a spiritual desert and this disconnect was impacting not only my emotional health but my physical health as well.
I tried many different things to find meaning in the life I had created. I traveled, golfed, socialized, painted, volunteered, did triathlons, and took courses in interior design.
Sounds great, but I was deeply unhappy and was trying to figure out why with so much to be grateful for did I feel something was missing in my life.
I got to the point where I felt my soul was dying and I knew that I needed to make some changes.
I had experienced low points in my life but this was different. I questioned, Is This Depression, Or Am I Experiencing A Spiritual Awakening? I now know that what I was going through has been described as the dark night of the soul.
The dark night of the soul goes back a long way and has been described by Eckhart Tolle as, “what one could call a collapse of a perceived meaning in life…an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness.”
During this confusing time, I intuitively knew that the answers were not out there somewhere but that they were inside of me.
I began to learn about the power of meditation and decided to give it a try. As I established a regular practice, a shift and transformation began to happen. In the post, With So Many Choices, What Is The Best Type Of Meditation For Me? I shared a guided meditation and some suggestions on where to begin if you’re curious.
My meditation practice enabled me to quiet my mind in order to hear my soul and the little voice inside of me.
I had profound insights recognizing that I’d lived my life to meet the needs of others and that my decision to retire was made for my husband and not for myself. I was so used to going with the flow, that I had lost touch with my own flow.
I realized that the dark night of the soul ended up being the bridge between the first half of my life and the second half of my life. The first half was where I fulfilled all my roles and the second half was where I was guided by my soul.
When I connected with my soul, I knew that I had not finished serving and sharing my gifts with the world. I experienced what Eckhart Tolle described as a “ kind of rebirth. The dark night of the soul is a kind of death that you die. What dies is the egoic sense of self.”
As I emerged from the dark night of the soul I made changes to reconnect with my soul’s purpose, I needed to navigate my life in a new way and be guided from the inside out. I found this both challenging and exhilarating. I intuitively knew I was on the right track although I experienced some resistance. In the article, The Biggest Reason We Get Stuck When Seeking A More Meaningful Life, I explored this in more depth.
My journey through the dark night of the soul was ultimately about a midlife awakening, however, I hear from younger folks around the world who are awakening to a deeper sense of meaning and purpose as young adults.
They’re questioning the material values that place a great emphasis on the needs of the ego and their souls are stirring at younger ages.
Seeking meaning and purpose are signs of spiritual awakening and we have a younger generation of budding mystics amongst us who are confused and asking the big questions – Who am I? What’s the meaning and purpose of my life? Why can’t I just be happy? We have a spiritual health crisis.
We also have a huge opportunity to nurture and honor our awakening soul that is beckoning us to heal, evolve, and become more fully our true selves.
As we become more fully who we’re meant to become, our lives blossom and we feel at home within ourselves and find our place in the world.
If you feel inspired, please leave a comment below. Our community would love to hear from you!
(Original post September 15, 2015; Updated May 21, 2022)