A spiritual path with a dark & stormy night

“Dark Night of the Soul.”

I have no idea what Saint John of the Cross meant when writing about his spiritual struggles several centuries ago, but I feel as if I’ve been going through one all day today.

Just now I threatened to punch my roommate in the face after I felt humiliated by him when he not only told me to take off my stinky socks, but he demanded I wash them – and my damn feet – before returning to the room where we just arrived  following a two hour trip in a van.

Had he said one more word about my feet, I would swung at his big Irish head, caring not one lick about the consequences. To hell with any spiritual pilgrimage. To hell with finding answers to this life and any other god-forsaken one!


Emotions run high in darkness, but clear light will always prevail

I felt out of sorts earlier in the day and had confided with the minister for six of us making up the Philadelphia contingent for the Centennial Celebration for WON Buddhism. She noticed I was down and advised me that another person I had some friction with would need to work out problems they had themselves.

I felt uplifted and meditated on a park bench outside of a magnificent soccer stadium where more than 50,000 people would  squeeze into the facility and get an inspirational sermon from the dharma master, only the fifth one in the line of major spiritual  dharma leaders since WON Buddhism was started April 28, 1916.

I ate like a native Korean, stuffing myself with delicious rice and beans, tender fish and a hearty portion of beef. I didn’t mind the vegetables which come with every meal, including breakfast. (I don’t know of anyone in America who ever had to eat vegetables for breakfast. I’d call that un-American.) But I heartily ate what tasted like little pancakes which I knew had green and red things mixed in because it was good for you!


I resonated with much of what the Prime Dharma Master Kyongsan said, particularly about reincarnation and how we as a society have made the elevation of “matter” — what I believe he meant as science and technology — more important than our spiritual lives.

“With this Great Opening of matter

Let there be a Great Opening of spirit.” – Founding Master Sotaesan

This is the “founding motive” of Won Buddhism’s teaching, this holy man said. And it made a lot of sense in 1916 when telephone lines were being introduced into Korea (for the royal family) and tracks for the coming of the railroads were laid in what was still a united country. Little, if any, emphasis was given to the moral compass of the nation or to the human spirit of the entire world for that matter.

Hence, the creation of a “spiritual power” that could conquer the material power that has, (in my words) “run amok.”

I wanted to dwell in the spaciousness of what I had just heard from this holy man of whom I met earlier this week, genuflected in front of, and bestowed a kiss on his hand before he realized some crazy American had fallen in love with his very presence.

I wanted desperately to talk about it with others moved by such an eloquent understanding and discourse on the human condition that the latest dharma master said was barely surviving today in the “emergency room.”

But, I had to rush out and get into a van and travel dozens of miles with no discussion or debate of what my heart was just exposed to and longing to open more for. I felt deflated following such an exuberating outing. I felt unfulfilled. I felt alone.

When my roommate brought up my stinky socks I took them to the bathroom and washed them — and my feet. But when he said more when I came back, he was lucky I didn’t hit him with every  negative feeling this post-traumatic stressed-out veteran with a near- blinding red rage was having trouble keeping boiled up inside.


Where had my peace of mind gone? Where was the love? What kind of monster switches from such a loving and understanding person, to one who wants to do bodily harm to another spiritual seeker, and care not what wounds he might receive in return?

If that’s not a “Dark Night of the Soul” on a spiritual path, then I don’t know what you would call it. I’m glad I didn’t swing. I’m happy for both our sakes that I left the room with a lot of cursing on my part but no physical contact.


Calmness has returned. Getting away from the stressful situation is the first thing psychologists tell those of us with PTSD to do.

Writing about it also helps. It is as therapeutic as meditation can be.

I just hope someone seeking a spiritual path like the one I’m on doesn’t get turned off by this public Internet confession.


(Note. My roommate and I just made up before midnight and I’ll be returning to the room with less smelly feet and a heart that is on the mend. His too!
That is, his heart and not his feet.)

10 comments on “A spiritual path with a dark & stormy night

  1. sam davies says:

    I am curious, M.J., after that nasty fall you took, are you still wearing the same old sandals Jesus might have worn? Could be the cause of the foot aroma…Miss you. Love you from afar. Sam


    • contoveros says:

      You tripped me up on that one.
      Yes, I stupidly wore them to Korea and trudged through the mountains, but tossed them out the day after the fall.

      My roommate (see the story above) wanted to burn them and hold a ceremony of sorts, but I didn’t think Jesus or Buddha would have approved of such an indoor ritual.

      Michael J


  2. Ha! These are the times that try men’s souls. You were provoked and did the right thing, walked away, so give yourself credit. Someone on a spiritual path, my not be a Dale Carnegie Graduate. He obviously, could have asked you in a nicer way to please take a moment to wash your socks and feet. Obviously this was not the case, and perhaps he had something troubling going on as well. Maybe that came out in the make up session?

    Richard Finley talks at length about the Dark Night of the Soul. His lectures and even a free Podcast are available from Sounds True. He is an amazing teacher. You may find your reactions do not change, but developing the habit of non-violence, of walking away, and reflecting, is so important to your own soul growth as well as the growth of others.

    As far a the heart connection you are feeling with this teacher – You should explore it in time. Often when we expect answers are not when the universe is ready to give them to us. Take in the entire experience, it may take years to fully integrate everything you are learning.

    Good that you write it out. It is the best way to reflect on your feelings … Enjoy!


    • contoveros says:

      I like everything that you say Grandfathersky, particularly the part about exploring the heart connection with my teacher. She always appears calm and understanding. I am learning much from her and look forward to much growth. I just hope it doesn’t hurt as much and that I can get my ego out of the way.


  3. pkcapaldo says:

    I have had experiences coming down off of a spiritual high and hitting solid ground with a thud. How can the “saint and the sinner” live in the same head and heart? Because we’re human. Be kind to yourself.


  4. No stone throwing from this end. We all have a dance of anger inside. There’s no beating yourself up over it but rather give it compassion and allow it to teach you (which it seems like you have already done). Being human is challenging. (Especially when you have smelly feet and socks). 😀


    • contoveros says:

      Have I told you lately that I loved you?

      I LOVE YOU!

      From the bottom of my aromatic feet to the top of my bad hair-day head.

      We must have have quite a lot of adventures in one or more of our previous lives. You know me too well for us to have just met up in the last, what two or three months?

      Thanks for your compassion and your humorous take on this short experience we call life . . . Sometimes all we can do to get through it is to grin and bear it.

      Michael J, having one of his tantrums. Again.

      Liked by 1 person

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