Dark Night of the Soul

March 31st, 2005 by Steve Pavlina

One of the things I’m struggling with in my life right now is making the leap to what I see as the next level of awareness I want to experience.

I’ve reached the point in my life where I’m very clear about my purpose, and it has become a powerful driver for me. Whenever I align myself with the purpose of serving others as best I can and expecting nothing in return, my motivation is powerful and I live totally in the present moment.

At the same time, part of my life is still being run at the level of business, career, and money. This is the level where my ego gets involved, and I think about things like writing and self-publishing info products, generating income, building a business, putting on my own seminars, building a brand, etc. But I can also see that this is a lower level of awareness than that at which my purpose draws me towards.

When I work at the level of purpose, my concern for these business factors fades. When I work at the level of business, my ability to live my purpose is weakened. The problem is that these are two different levels of consciousness; they’re incongruent. I can shift between the two states, but I can’t remain in both simultaneously.

The level of business suggests that I build a line of info products to sell and/or make money as a professional speaker. I have to support myself and my family financially. But at this level, I’m creating information that I “own,” protecting copyrights, and creating a business entity whose survival I must then protect — from fraud, competition, etc.

But the level of purpose means that I devote my life purely to service. This is the level that suggests that no true teacher seeks material gain. At this level, I write and speak for free. Material gain is irrelevant. I only need to cover my basic needs, so I can keep doing my best to help people.

I ran Dexterity Software for many years at the level of business. I know very well what that level is like. Creating cool products, dealing with customers, outsmarting competitors, negotiating contracts, etc. It’s an exciting ride. But that level ceases to provide any meaning for me now. I’ve simply lost all interest in working for material gain. At one time money and success in business were very motivating to me, but now they’re empty and hollow when compared to other pursuits. I’ve read that the Buddha experienced a similar shift in his thinking in his late 20s, when he realized he could no longer enjoy his princely riches while there was still suffering in the world. I can relate to that.

The level of purpose has become so much more real to me now. I would rather invest tremendous effort in helping someone solve one of their most difficult problems for no material gain whatsoever than become a billionaire. I know that may sound like an exaggeration, but at the level of awareness I’m at as I type this, it’s true for me. This is the level at which I’ve been working for the past six months. I’ve been writing for free and speaking for free, doing so primarily out of a desire to grow and to serve others. And even though I’ve only scratched the surface of my purpose, it’s been tremendously fulfilling.

I can feel that when I try to take this purpose and turn it into a business motivated by profit, that type of thinking lowers my awareness and my energy. And yet somehow, when I don’t worry about the money, I always seem to have plenty. At this level I’m tapping into a source of abundance which is more powerful than the level of business. Instead of exchanging information and ideas for money, I just give everything away without expecting anything in return. I could have written and self-published a book or two by now and generated a small pile of cash if I focused on that instead of writing for free. But deep down I know that my purpose must be centered around service first and foremost. When I work at that level, everything seems to work effortlessly.

When I ran Dexterity Software, I never quite understood the people who contributed to “free” open source software for no material gain, often seeing them as a lower life form compared to those who created “real” software to sell. This view is fairly common among shareware developers, who work hard to protect their copyrighted materials from piracy because it’s the source of their income. My perspective has changed, however, and I now see such selfless contributors as potentially living at a much higher level of awareness than I gave them credit for.

And yet still it’s very tempting to return to the level of business that I’m familiar with. But I know it’s only fear that’s holding me back. I need to raise my awareness to a high enough level where I can transcend the fear of not being able to meet my basic needs (and those of my family). As long as this universe continues to allow it, I will do my best to continue putting my focus on service first. Right now I can still feel myself oscillating between these two levels though — I haven’t yet completed the quantum leap to the higher level. One thing that will help is if I can attract into my life someone who’s already at that level and can help me make this transition, so I’m focusing on that intention.

I can see glimpses of the state of being I wish to reach, and for brief periods I experience it, but it is not yet real in my daily existence. I’m in the state right now which has been referred to as the “dark night of the soul,” where I’ve left behind one reality but haven’t yet landed in the next. Because I’ve pushed myself to grow so much over the past decade, I’ve experienced this point before. One previous episode was right before I created the game Dweep — just before developing that game, I transitioned from a lower awareness level to a new higher level, where I was driven by the desire to put something out into the world that was really my best work and which would positively impact people who experienced it; business success was not my primary motivation.

So here I am once again, now trying to reach a level where I am driven purely by the intention to serve, wondering if at such a level, there is indeed no need to worry about meeting one’s basic needs. I intend to continue along this path as long as this reality will physically allow it.



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