May 21, 2022

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In Depth Tactical Solutions

The Dark Night of the Soul Part 6: The Ferryman.

6 min read

It takes courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. Even if the familiar is the cause of your pain there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. “There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power”.  –Alan Cohen

You must disregard the illusion of happiness, that you have a right to be happy. If you continue to chase things that you think will make you happy then you will always be chasing until you die, unless you die young then you will soon realize an old man cant chase much. Your life subscription to the pursuit of happiness means incidentally you will always be pursuing it, and when you do think you have achieved it you will just as quickly realize that satisfaction becomes the death of desire, and thus the cycle of endless chasing continues. This generally occurs at your own expense psychologically but often at the expense of others, usually those closest to you.

If you have made it through the deepest darkest part of the woods which I talked about in Part 5 of this series then you will most likely have now made it to what you could describe as the theoretical river or crevasse. In the visualization of what this looks like it can be a Ferryman waiting to take you across or if for you are on the edge of a crevasse there is a dubious looking rope bridge in front of you. There are many other descriptions of this point but these are two that stood out for me and the people I have worked with. Either way the principal is the same. The ferryman will not let you take you and all of that baggage across the river in his boat and similarly that unsound rope bridge will break if you attempt to cross it with such a heavy load. Neither the bridge or the ferry is a certainty but what is certain is you cannot embark upon either carrying such a load.

What may be most frightening is that you can’t see what is on the other side or the river or the crevasse, it is shrouded in mist. Part of you knows that you need to go there but fear and a false sense of comfort is holding you back along with all of those painful things you are carrying. This may be for some one of the hardest parts of this journey, ultimately deciding what to let go of. It is foremost painful and difficult. Many of the things you cling onto are causing you pain long term but in the short term you have convinced yourself they are worthwhile. This riverbank or crevasse edge is timeless. You can stay here forever, trying to see what is on the other side but alas it is unknown. If you just turn around you can maybe go back to where you came through, there is familiarity and comfort there. Even though you know it will be destructive to go back right now it feels like a better idea than getting onto this boat or putting my foot onto the first bridge plank. But you must have faith…

“When I emerge from the dark forest I find myself standing at the edge of the river, the water flows very slowly. It is dark and misty. I can see the shadowy figure of the ferryman standing in his boat waiting to take the next one who emerges from battling the demons of their past across to the other side. Just as quickly as I emerge, I take a couple of steps backwards, the Ferryman remains statuesque. He has seen this before many times. Behind me I can faintly hear old ways and memories echo through the dark forest. Surely I can go back? The voices from the forest grow louder, they promise comfort and avoidance, they promise to not be painful. I turn and look at the Ferryman once more. His stance remains constant, I cannot see his face but he has not moved. The Ferryman will not influence my decision; I myself have to make this decision. The voices grow louder and more frequent, the voices are lies. Only pain lies back there behind me and I have just fought my way through it, I have walked the deepest darkest part of that forest and faced the worst demons. The demons are lying, they just want me to come back and be scared so they can continue to erode my soul and carve it up into pieces for themselves”.

“In my haste to snap myself out of a poor decision I step almost briskly towards the boat. It is now the stone like Ferryman springs to life. His arm extends and blocks me from boarding. I stand there in surprise; I want to board the boat. In the same movement the Ferryman points to a sign hammered into the riverbank that reads ‘No excess baggage’. I attempt to look at him in a vain effort to reason in silence; his black hood shadows his face enough that I cannot make eye contact. He continues, unwaivered by my haste still rigidly pointing at the sign. I step backwards, a breeze picks up and I can hear my demons in the forest whispering now almost, beckoning me back. These demons of mine, they know during my darkest days they were the only thing that held me. I can’t go back, I can’t, they are lying to me, and I know this now”.

The hardest part of this process is the letting go, deciding what you need to let go of is difficult but there is no growth without it, this is a contract in which there is no negotiation. This can take a different meaning for people, but for most it’s letting go of how you used to be. In the bridge analogy this is the same, if you step onto that first plank the bridge will creak and strain, the more bullheaded and delusional will step on the second plank and the bridge will shudder almost to the point of breaking. The bridge to enlightenment can’t take the weight of your past and you know it. Pack only what you need.

“I begin to cast some more items aside, lies, half-truths, painful memories and things I foolishly held dearly. The cloaked Ferryman begins to relax in his shape, the more items I let go of it appears the Ferryman’s arm begins to lower until it eventually reaches his side. I shuffle towards the boat again. The ferryman extends his arm once more. He knows and I know that I am still carrying the biggest most painful part of my past. Again no words are spoken and I step backwards. I try to look past the boat once more to the other side, to where this boat might be taking me, looking for some kind of reassurance before I remove the biggest scab, the biggest plaster, the heaviest item. The fog hangs low over the river, I cannot see beyond the boat. The voices stir up from the forest behind once more. These voices, these demons want me to fail; they want me to fail at the final hurdle. They sense my reluctance to get rid of the final piece of this load once and for all. These demons would welcome me back in a heartbeat. The voices reach almost a fever pitch now. I snap myself back into thinking straight again, don’t keep looking back, you aren’t going that way”.

“I look at the Ferryman once more. He remains unwaivered. It makes little odds to him to wait on the next soul to emerge from the dark forest and onto the riverbank. I drop the last piece of baggage; it feels like I have literally left a piece of me behind. The pain is excruciating and it takes all of my resolve to let this thing go. I check and double check my pack one last time then step towards the boat. The Ferryman lowers his arm and takes his seat. The breeze picks up to a light wind and the Ferryman pulls on the halyard…”


“You set your sail when the tide comes in….

…. And you cast your fate to the wind”.



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