From apathy back to life again

From January through March 2014, I had fallen into the pit of the void, a very calm and peaceful place, but also very low energy, full of apathy and listlessness. But life would not let me rest there for too long and gave me some tasks in order to drag me out of that state.

The sick budgie

In March 2014, one of our budgies became sick. He started to throw up food frequently and looked very tired and exhausted.

On March 13, 2014, I asked before sleep how I could help my budgie. Maybe there was a homeopathic remedy I could give him. But which one? Could I please get an answer?

But instead of an answer from an inner voice or a dream, I woke up with pain on the back of my nose. Very unusual. It felt as if someone had just given me a blow on the nose.

What did that mean? Was it an answer to my question about my sick budgie?

I thought that it meant that my guides gave me a blow on the nose in order to get me out of my lethargy. Maybe the budgie became sick so that I had someone to take care of? Then I would get a sense of urgency and purpose again and get out of my apathy. When I remembered this event in my life later, the analogy to the moving story of the famous book A Street Cat Named Bob came to my mind where the drug addict had been saved because life led him to take care of a sick cat. What a clever strategy! It worked. My energy level went up a bit.

I also pondered how the bird was mirroring me with his sickness and tiredness.

On one hand, I felt this apathy. But on the other hand, there was also a sense of restlessness and urgency which welled up at times. As if I had an important task to do. I just wasn’t aware what that task was.

I tried two homeopathic liver remedies for my sick pet and took him to the vet who also prescribed several liver remedies. And it helped. The budgie recovered.

Invite friends!

My energy level was a bit better after the event with the sick budgie, but the unseen forces behind the veil (my guides, Source, Holy Spirit, whoever that was) weren’t done with me yet.

On March 29, 2014, the inner voice of guidance came through very clearly in the phase between sleeping and waking after a nap. I was told to invite a bunch of families with kids for brunch. They were old friends with whom I had connected during my days of BalFolk dancing and we had not met for a whole while since everyone was busy with work and taking care of little children. I was even given the specific date for the invitation. May 1st, which is a holiday here in Germany.

But I resisted and discussed this with my guides. Why on earth would I have to do this? There was no special occasion. No birthday party or something like that. And I still had low energy and felt listless. With horror, I thought about how I could possibly muster enough energy to clean the entire house and set up the living room so that about 20 people could be seated. And then all the little children in our house… Imagine the chaos! Merely thinking about that evoked a feeling of overwhelm and panic.

But the inner voice was very insistent.


Can you imagine how strange this felt? There was this inner voice from discarnate entities or whatever, sternly telling me to do something which I did not want to do. If I had told this to anyone who was not into spirituality and guides and so on, he would have shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, if you don’t feel like doing it, then just don’t do it. What is the problem?”

But from my experiences in the past, I suspected that I would run into trouble if I resisted again.

Therefore, I asked for more time to think about it – and also for signs of confirmation, please.

And the universe would respond to my request.

The next day, I took my Sunday walk around the fields and through a small forest. During the walk, I overheard the following piece of a conversation, “Guys, I really appreciate that we meet again.”

Then I overheard another conversation in a different group, “When one doesn’t initiate things, it will just peter out. If you leave it just to itself, then nobody is going to participate.”

Afterwards, I ‘coincidentally’ met an old friend whom I had not seen for a while. We walked a while together, talked a lot, and then she recommended the book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware to me. I had not told her about the request from my inner voice. She just mentioned this book out of the blue.

When I looked up at home what the regrets of the dying were in the book, one of them was ‘I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.’

I was moved. Okay. These were three signs. And all of them had been given on the same day. Obviously, the inner voice was not just a product of my imagination. And my guides were serious about their request.

After more pep-talk by my guide, the inner voice indicated that it was not only important to keep in touch with old friends. It was also important to come out of hiding and share what I had experienced. And not only to a single person during the occasional lunch, but also in a group. I was told sternly to not put up such a fuss.

Sigh. Okay…

I gave in and later invited the families for brunch on May 1st.

The brunch took place as planned. Even though it was quite stressful for me beforehand, the event itself was very harmonic and everone enjoyed it. We had a yummy brunch and danced some BalFolk dances together. And I even shared some of my stories about burned out light bulbs and manifested wishes with one of the friends who was on a spiritual path.


In the metaphor of the hike, I had rested on the riverside again. Only this time, I was not running in procrastination circles. It was rather like drowning in a puddle or a little pond at the riverside. And having to become active (by taking the sick pet to the vet and inviting friends over) was the loving push I received which nudged me to go back into the flow of the river again.

This also underlines the message that it was important to keep swimming actively while I was in the river. Going limp and assuming that the river would carry me was not an option.



This post is part of a series about my spiritual journey (if you want to start to read this from the beginning, I suggest that you go to the table of contents).


Zen sickness

From January till March 2014, I hit a very marked stage of apathy. Somehow this whole process of the journey with the anger and the subsequent painful letting go, the Awareness Watching Awareness meditation of looking back at awareness, the shift of perception that I am consciousness, all of that made me feel flat. I had very little energy or interest to do anything. Nothing seemed to matter.

If I was consciousness and this body and personality was just something like a character in a virtual reality game, then why invest in the screen avatar? What goals were worthy of achieving? Before the awakening, I used to have goals in life. But now, nothing was important anymore.

If awakening to what we are was the goal of the game, and if I had seen myself as consciousness, then I assumed that I could consider myself ‘done’. But then what was important now, after being ‘done’?

I was almost constantly in the witness position, not only to the stuff happening around me but also to my body.

That witness stage felt a little strange. It was as if I didn’t inhabit my body anymore in a natural way.

Once, I saw a short documentation on tv about a device that would allow a man to steer his wheelchair with his thoughts. That was pretty amazing. The wheelchair reacted to the thoughts. Think left, and it turns left. Wow!

In the same way, I kept wondering about how reliably the wish to raise my arm actually resulted in raising my arm. That is something which we usually take for granted and do not think about. But during this phase of my journey, I felt that I as awareness was different from my body. And that my body was like a cool meat-suit I had been given for that virtual reality game. How amazing that it did react to my thoughts! And how awesome that it came complete with input channels called sense organs that let me see, feel, and taste everything around me as if these things outside were separate things.

It was amazing. But even though I had a new appreciation for my body from that new perspective, life suddenly seemed unreal.

I wondered whether there was a difference to a depersonalization-derealization disorder (DP/DR). There was plenty of discussion on the internet about whether DP/DR was a clinical disorder (and should be treated by medication) or was a part of the journey to enlightenment.

Not only did everything feel unreal, but I also felt flat, low energy, purposeless, everything was sort of gray. I had no motivation whatsoever.

I searched the internet whether others on this journey had gone through similar phases and found stories about zen-sickness and falling into the ‘pit of the void’.

It was comforting to know that it was probably a normal phenomenon and nothing I needed to worry about. I hoped that it would pass eventually.

As it turned out later, life wouldn’t let me rest in this phase for more than three months, but my guides devised some clever methods to pull me out of the pit of the void, which I will discuss in my next post.


This post is part of a series about my spiritual journey. If you want to read the story from the beginning, you can go to the table of contents and then page forward through the chapters like in a book.


Dark Night of the Soul

“Geez, I thought I signed up for peace. And now this!” I cried as I observed waves of uncomfortable emotions running through me. Layer after layer of anger, sadness, and guilt showed up. Some feelings I didn’t even know a name for. In an intensity I didn’t know I could endure.

Welcome to the Dark Night of the Soul.

In order to understand what is happening here, we have to zoom out a bit and look at some important milestones of the spiritual path.

  1. Start
    We usually start out by assuming that we are a body-mind. We end at our skin. Our life ends with the death of the body. And consciousness is just a by-product of the activity in the brain.
  2. On the way
    We turn within to open-space awareness and encounter the ‘void’, which is our Source.
  3. Goal
    Those who have travelled the path quite far, reach a permanent stage where they report that they are one with their surroundings. Adyashanti felt himself merging with the dresser drawer. Suzanne Segal drove in a car and said that she felt she was driving through herself as she was the surroundings. Bernadette Roberts wrote that seer, seeing, and seen are one. In short, eventually the separate self falls away and with it the subject-object relationship. We realize that we are consciousness which is beyond the 3D world and at the same time is the substratum of the visible world.

The spiritual path may start out as a path of self-improvement. Becoming a happier, more loving and caring, more peaceful version of ‘me’. But it is not about that.

Rather, the identity shift is what it’s all about.The rest is a by-product.

And that identity shift necessarily involves a letting go of the former self-image we have been so used to.

If we look at the path, there are (at least) three stages where it can become uncomfortable:
A) Pain of letting go of the former self-image
B) Fear of the void
C) Welling up of formerly unconscious emotions when we rest in awareness.
I’ll cover each one below with examples and possible remedies.

A)  The pain of letting go of the former self-image
Inherent in that identity shift of the spiritual path is a letting go of the former self-image. Letting go of the screen character of the computer game. Finding out that we have been sitting on the chair in front of the screen all the time.

How is that letting go accomplished?

We can either sit down with pen and paper and do a Spiritual Autolysis as described by Jed McKenna. Write down something that we think is true and then question it from every angle. Try again, until we find something that is absolutely true. This eventually boils down to answering the question ‘Who am I?’

For folks like me who prefer a less brainy approach, the universe has some wonderful methods of helping us to find those unconscious areas of the former self-image that we have to let go of. That is really the point: bringing the formerly unconscious attachments into consciousness. (And then letting them go.)

The universe’s ingenious approach:
tailor-made disturbances to the former self-image

We will be disturbed. Intentionally. Purposefully. For a good cause.

But the ego doesn’t like it. And then we experience the Dark Night (of the ego).

So, all these uncomfortable emotions like anger and grief are a by-product of the letting go of the former self-image. They are the ego’s temper tantrums when its toys are taken away.

Adyashanti was a competitive biker and was proud of being a super athlete. That was part of his self-definition.

How did the universe wean him from this self-image? By putting him to bed twice for several months with various illnesses.

After that, he finally got the message and said that it is hard to define yourself as a super athlete if you are as weak as a puppy.

Margot Ridler was a self-employed professional doing constellation work. After a spiritual flash insight about the emptiness of the self, she quit her constellation work practice and experienced a breakdown where she was about to be homeless and penniless. What followed was a surrender into the guiding arms of Source. Then, she experienced a period of traveling for several years where – one by one – all her former beliefs were stripped away and she learned to be guided by Source only. The experience was frightening but liberating.

(Here is a (20min) video of Margot Ridler where she compares her breakdown process with Adyashanti’s.)

My experience: A large part of my self-image was being a high achiever. I was studious and bookish. Good grades and prestigious scholarships all over my résumé, and with it much striving, perfectionism, and pride.

And what did the universe do to deconstruct this?

Well, today I find myself working in the corporate world with not a single promotion after more than 17 years. I’m being weaned from the need for appreciation and from the need to define myself as an achiever.

And that was not the only part of my self-image which I had to let go of. There was more. Each part got its own tailor-made demolition squad. For each part, I went through the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) according to the model by Kübler-Ross.

That’s how it works. Whenever we have an attachment with the attitude “I bet that I must have this in order to be happy”, God says,
Wanna bet? I’ll take it away from you, and then you are invited to turn within and seek true happiness there.”

What helps during this phase is  knowing that this is part of the path. And then allowing it to happen. The more we resist the ripping away of the former self-image, the more painful it is going to be.

B) The fear of the void
Falling into the pit of the void can also become uncomfortable. By psychologists, this is pathologized as depersonalization/derealization disorder (DP/DR).

Suzanne Segal lost her former sense of self and spent ten years trying to understand the nature of her confusion and fear about this. None of the psychologists had any clue. Eventually, an Advaita teacher pointed out to her that she was just waking up to her true nature. That was a turning point.

Hans Burgschmidt lost his sense of self suddenly and was terrified by it.  Pilates, weight training, and yoga helped him feel grounded in his body again.

My experience: I was hanging out in ‘transcendence land’ for three months early in 2014. This felt peaceful, but unreal, lethargic, listless, and emotionally flat. What helped me was that the universe forced me back unto the stage of this play called ‘life’. I had to take care of a sick pet. And my inner voice urged me to invite a bunch of friends over.

What helps during this phase is very different for each seeker. Therefore, it would be best if everyone relies on his/her own inner guidance.

C) Welling up of formerly unconscious emotions
If we abide as the peaceful witness, as open-space awareness, then that is an invitation for formerly suppressed emotions (of this life or even of past-lives) to rise to the surface and enter our consciousness.

Dr.Willoughby Britton, a clinical psychologist and neuroscience researcher, went on a meditation retreat. She reports,

“I thought that I had gone crazy. I thought I was having a nervous breakdown. I mean I really had no idea why I was suddenly having all these, like terror was big symptom of mine. And I found out much later that these were actually classic stages of meditation and I was woefully uninformed.”

After this experience, she became the most prominent researcher of the Dark Night phenomenon. She has found an amazing range of disturbing experiences due to meditation practices. These include headaches, nausea, muscle twitching, seeing light, concentration difficulties, anxiety, depression, an inability to socialize or to have a job or to take care of children, in severe cases lasting for years.

Dr. Britton is courageously speaking up about the Dark Night  even though critics have attempted to silence her (after all, mindfulness practices are popular in business nowadays; but the focus is on how to be a better version of one’s former self , and not about how to lose one’s self and find the truth of one’s real being.) Her website with more helpful resources is     (In case this site is down, you can also go to her facebook page for more information,  .)

What about help in this phase?

Many people feel already comfortable if they are reassured by a teacher that these experiences are normal and will subside over time.

For me, the most valuable advice was to let the emotions come up and to witness them. That is, don’t judge them, don’t suppress them, feel them fully,  but don’t get engaged too much in them. Afterwards, direct attention 180 degrees backwards to awareness itself – to our real being.

The fine line between feeling emotions fully and drowning in them too much was tricky for me (I had to rely on inner guidance, like dreams, that would tell me when I was off track). When this process was done, often layers of emotion were revealed, like in an onion. They came up, were felt fully, and then released.

It is important not to pathologize these experiences. I like to think of them as the healing of an infected wound with a splinter in it. Concealing it with a band-aid won’t heal it. Rather, there will be an immune reaction with inflammation and pus in order to remove the splinter and the dirt. This phase doesn’t look pretty. But that’s the nature of the healing process.


So, that’s the paradox of this journey. In order to find peace beyond understanding we must give up our illusions, our belief in separation, our attachment to our mistaken identity. And usually, this process entails some emotional turmoil.

Let me end with an ACIM quote:

Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God.