Breakdown or Breakthrough: The Dark Night of the Ego

(A Letter from Lockdown)

In the end what you don’t surrender – well the world just strips away.

– Bruce Springsteen

Dear humanity, at long last, our collective wake-up call has arrived!

Consciousness has been the consistent love of my life. I spent years immersed in books studying the long trajectory of human consciousness from the prewritten history of the Paleolithic era until today. What l learned, was that not only was each stage essential to humanity’s evolutionary complexity, but that we were once again poised to take a dramatic leap forward.

Consciousness can change in the blink of an eye . . . what we believe takes so long, is actually the external manifestation of the changes; they take longer to implement. And so, I’ve been waiting patiently for our collective moment of shift . . . and praying actually, as humanity’s inability to grapple with the enormity of its collective crises has left us paralyzed and speeding with increasing rapidity towards a precipice of catastrophic proportions.

I wondered back in September of 2001, if humanity would see the 9/11 attacks as a wake-up call. And again when the global economy collapsed in 2008. Every time a catastrophic occurrence has shaken collective culture and we’ve managed to prop up our systems and continue to delay the inevitable, a bigger and bigger sense of dread has been building inside me. Philosopher Martin Heidegger highlighted in Being and Time, that the ‘taken for granted’ usually goes unexamined until it breaks down. I’ve understood more and more that only the most extreme collective circumstances seem to rattle us into mobility. And that for the entire species to wake up, mostly all at once, we would require something so collectively catastrophic that every single one of us on this planet will feel its affects. And then Covid-19 arrived . . . something so enormous, it has shaken the foundations of human life on every level to its very core.

Shattered. Optimistic. Overwhelmed. Grieved. Bewildered. Bolstered. Angry.

Facing the current pandemic, means also facing the rollercoaster of accompanying emotions . . . and there are many! When I sit quietly and reflect on what we’re all going through, it’s next to impossible not to feel a steady stream of thoughts and emotions bearing down on me. So I come back to my breathing, I sit in meditation, I dance to music I love, and I ease my way into trusting how the collective crisis will reshape all our lives for the more conscious and potentially positive. Maybe not tomorrow . . . it’s likely tomorrow will feel very challenging. But the challenges will eventually give way, like clouds parting, to reveal the light behind the darkness.

There are those moments – we’re all having them – when disbelief sets in and the mind races ahead wanting to control the situation and find ways to fix whatever is within our power to change. This is the ego and it likes to be in control. And until now, it’s been the prevalent consciousness of our “doing” paradigm.

Egoic consciousness is the consciousness of the patriarchal epoch.

It’s the consciousness of control, accomplishment, and individualism. It’s the consciousness of consumption and materialism. It’s the consciousness that has wreaked havoc on all sentient beings and the planet we all inhabit. And in recent centuries, decades, years, months, and even days – since change occurs exponentially now – we’ve been witnessing the erosion of its power and grip on humanity. Many have already made a conscious commitment to the evolution of their consciousness, but many more still need to do so; we need a critical tipping point if we’re to change humanity’s destructive trajectory.

The fear we feel, the uncertainty, the anxiety, this is all coming from an ego that has lost its bearings and is now working to reestablish its sense of security, authority, and autonomy. Our challenge is to rise above the limited, reactive consciousness of the ego. Not because it’s going to make us more comfortable while we shelter in place, because that’s certainly true, but because egoic consciousness is unsustainable for our species and life on our planet. It’s time must come to an end.

The only choice is surrender and vulnerability . . .

The ego is dependent upon past experiences. It utilizes everything we have known in order to take control of what’s ahead of us. In this way, it projects the past onto our future, thus undermining the opportunities – the potential – the future holds. If we allow our ego to take control of our current circumstances, what we face is nothing short of a collective breakdown. What we’re facing is outside the scope of past human experiences to navigate and make sense of and therefore, cannot be controlled with the unconscious tools we’re accustomed to.

All we can do is be reflective enough to acknowledge that we don’t know. We don’t know duration, outcomes, consequences, none of it. We don’t know! We must allow enough conscious spaciousness in our current circumstances to surrender to what’s possible without needing to know . . . rather than the attached grasping the ego is accustomed to, we must allow what wants to birth through us at a time when we’re between the past that’s been devastated and devastating, and the future we create with the knowledge and wisdom we carry forward.  We’re in the space between paradigms; a space of collective stop and one, I believe, of hope.

We’re all in formlessness right now: each and every one of us was made for this time, for this challenge, and all the ways it reshapes our consciousness, so we can reshape our lives, personally and collectively.

Our souls have chosen to undergo this transformation. And our present circumstances demand that we drop our attachment to utilizing our ego to function. Reality sinks in as a reminder that almost nothing is within our control now. We can decide to have a breakdown, because we’re all shattered and working to make sense that reality as we knew it has come crashing down around us. Or, as we push towards that emotional threshold, something else is also available to all of us . . . a breakthrough into more heart opening and a transcendent consciousness.

This is the moment to stop: to be tender with yourself and self-reflective.

Ego Development Theory teaches us that the ego develops through levels of consciousness, each new level subsumes the prior and offers a more expansive worldview. Vertical growth is attained when enough dissatisfaction, friction, and conflict incites a resolution process where assumptions and worldviews are reconfigured towards a more sophisticated outcome. As the ego develops, it expands to include a less autonomous and more interdependent understanding of creation. Eventually, if we’re committed to our growth, there is enough dissolution of the ego as the central processing center of consciousness, that awareness becomes transcendent: attaining the highest measured level of development at the Integrated stage. This Integrated stage is marked by the transcendence of the limited, separate self into more altruism.

The long history of consciousness illuminates the next potential stage of human evolution as the merging – integration- of the pre-patriarchal consciousness of the matriarchal, goddess cultures, an epoch marked by more feminine principles and intuitive consciousness, with the more analytic, masculine principles of the egoic consciousness of today. Each stage of human consciousness has been one of growth and increasing complexity. Each stage adds value through its respective advances and wisdom to the next epoch. Imagine what’s possible through the marriage of feminine and masculine principles, intuitive and analytic actions: an egalitarian culture that values all ways of being and doing; unity in diversity.

I have set before them an open door, and no man can shut it.

– Rev. 3:8

I believe wholeheartedly that the next leap for humanity’s consciousness is spiritual.

Spiritual development is a movement from the restrictive consciousness of the ego into more cohesive and transpersonal levels of being. The patriarchal epoch was all about the ego. Everything, from the inception of the alphabet – which helped us use language to create labels and hence, separation – to the subjugation of feminine principles, have been in service to the development of the ego. It wasn’t always this way and so too, it doesn’t have to be; the ego must never be taken as the ultimate authority on authenticity and access to the spirit.

What we’re experiencing as we navigate the formlessness of collective experience during the outbreak of the virus is essentially the dark night of the ego. Here is the space between paradigms, the shifting of epochs, the opportunity for each and every one of us to confront those parts of ourselves that do not serve a higher vision for our own lives, humanity, and our planet.

What egoic consciousness offered was primarily concerned with survival and worldly successes in a social context. I believe we’ve all seen enough of both the positive and negative impacts that’s had on us collectively and our planet. It was a necessary step for the evolution of consciousness, but not its ultimate manifestation. The ego’s drives for gratification, certainty, and sovereignty must be humbled if we’re to access more transcendent appreciations for the sacredness of life.

When we sit in the quietness of our own being, when we reflect on what we’ve lost, we’re aware that some part of us has been in deep grief for a long time .  .  .

Consumption as a way of life has taken a toll on every aspect of our life in some way. We work too much and don’t connect with the ones we love enough. We rush around always chasing after something bigger and better, without being in gratitude for what we already have. All the while, making a bigger and more devastating impact on our beloved Mother Earth. Some part of each of us has been dying slowly on an emotional level for far too long. But our biography becomes our biology, so something like a worldwide virus was inevitable, because at an unconscious level collectively, we’re all feeling the same grief without acknowledging it. So, that collective unconscious grief was bound to find a way to make itself known eventually.

Our collective stop is all about moving through our emotions. There is nothing to fear, because this transition is happening to everyone simultaneously; there is real safety in numbers. So the choices you’re facing that feel frightening and cause contraction within, are likewise being felt universally. Don’t allow the ego precedence, when there is no reason to face your fears alone. The transition is collective and so too, shall the solutions be as well. This time is about a return to our vulnerability, about learning to grieve gracefully, and about showing up honestly for ourselves and each other.

And I want to stress the importance of our grief and moving through our emotions in a flow. Our emotions, most especially grief, will come in waves. Suffering can pass when it’s greeted with the necessary recognition: give yourself permission to feel it, let it wash over you, and ultimately, cleanse you – by letting it go – rather than defining you. This time is about learning to open our hearts to the full spectrum of human experience, most especially the emotions that we so often aren’t taught how to embrace with compassion. What does that mean for each of us? How does it inform our interactions with others? How does it influence the future we’d like to create as we transition into a new paradigm?

On the other side of fear and contraction – egoic consciousness – there is hope.

If you’re like me at all, then you’re already looking for the silver lining in our collective crisis. I see it: neighbors helping each other, strangers smiling and waving as they walk their dogs, dolphins and swans swimming in the channels of Venice, stars seen in the night sky due to the reduction in air pollution, goats roaming city streets in Wales, Italians playing music to each other from their balconies, and so many more examples of the ways we’re benefiting from slowing down, connecting in creative ways, and opening our hearts because we share a common vulnerability. It’s taking a global pandemic to realize what we’ve lost, what we’ve gained, and that no matter what we’re living through, we all share a common human experience: we are one . . . and now is the time for the revolution of love.

Humbly, gratefully, yours in love,




P.S. My expertise is navigating chaos, fear, and the dissolution of the ego. If you’re struggling with fear, loss of control, overwhelm, or other emotional fall out, I offer free initial discovery sessions and I’ll work on a sliding scale. I don’t want you to feel alone or to struggle through this experience. Please reach out!