Almost everyone I know has periods of spiritual dryness. I certainly am not past that; I’m in such a period right now. There’s a lot of doubt underneath the surface—”Is any of this helping? Am I stupid for seeking enlightenment? Isn’t meditation just a waste?”
I know these voices—and I think every mystic is familiar with them. Sometimes they seem more convincing than others. I think it’s strange we don’t talk more about our doubts and fears in the spiritual life. Instead, it’s much easier to keep up the mask of certainty. Almost all of our spiritual leaders do; uncertainty cannot be countenanced. “The Bible says . . .” “You must believe . . . ” I distrust such degrees of certainty now—too often a past certainty can lead to a present spiritual blindness. “God is on our side, we must destroy the evildoers, etc.”
And I’m not really distressed by the blankness of my spirit, or God’s silence right now. I’m trying to make it a part of my practice, to listen to the doubts, and fears “little Jon” has, and smile at them and let them pass. It isn’t always easy. In December last year, for a few weeks, it became a pretty rough time, with some feelings of despair. Many mystics, such as St. John of the Cross and Eckhart Tolle, have described “the dark night of the soul,” a period (often long) of despair and depression before God breaks through upon their consciousness and instills a never-ending awareness of infinite grace.
Fortunately (I think it’s fortunate), I’ve never had to deal with that, although a close friend of mine has. But last December for me was more like a shadowed nap-time of the soul. And this is nothing compared to that. Everything is practice, every emotion, even the fears and doubts.