Abiding in the Luminous Dark

Abiding in the Luminous Dark

With Mirabai Starr  •  Dec 1–15, 2017

A 3-part Webinar Series

The 16th century poet-mystic, St. John of the Cross, coined the term “dark night of the soul” to evoke the kind of spiritual crisis that leads us from profound unknowing to radiant transformation.

Through the dismantling that occurs in the depths of the dark night, we discover that our own ideas and agendas have no power to assuage our innate longing for the sacred, and that it is only through radical surrender that we find the sweetness of connection we have been searching for.

In this gathering, we will explore how this perennial wisdom teaching gives us the tools we need to be of service in a world in crisis. By learning to listen deeply, cultivating stillness, humility and fearlessness, we harvest the vigor, humor and tenderness of heart we need to be able to offer ourselves in service of the causes and beings that most clearly move us. From this revitalized place, we can effectively activate our “passionate compassion.”

In each session we will engage together in:

• Contemplative readings from Mirabai’s fresh, contemporary translations of the poetry and prose of John of the Cross & other mystics

• Silent and guided meditation

• Reflective teachings by Mirabai

• Questions and Responses

• Writing Exercises

Further Reading
Dark Night of the Soul, John of the Cross, translated by Mirabai Starr (Riverhead Books, 2012)
Caravan of No Despair: A Memoir of Loss & Transformation, Mirabai Starr (Sounds True, 2015)

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Part 1: Entering the Desert

Dec 2, 2017 3:30am PST

John describes the first station of the Dark Night of the Soul as the “Night of Sense.” This is when the juicy feelings of spiritual connectedness that had previously motivated us begin to dry up. Although it may feel like something is broken and needs to be fixed, all that is required here is to ease ourselves into the arms of the emptiness and be still. We are being weaned from the Divine Breast, ready to stand on our own and eat of the “robust bread” of the mature seeker.

In Christian mystical theology, this is the first phase of the Via Negativa, known as the Via Purgativa – a time of blessed time of purification and surrender.

In this session we will explore different versions of desert spirituality across the traditions.


Duration: 1 hours, 30 minutes

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Part 2: Radical Unknowing

Dec 9, 2017 11:30am PST

John describes the second station of the Dark Night of the Soul as the “Night of Spirit.” This is where all our spiritual concepts unravel and our belief systems are dismantled. Not many seekers arrive at this station because they’re too busy trying to solve what they perceive to be the problem of the Night of Sense. But when we take the “exquisite risk” of dropping our preconceptions, we can attain the spiritual nakedness necessary for having a direct encounter with the Beloved.

In the Via Negativa, this corresponds to the Via Iluminativa – when the chamber of our soul, which we have helped the Holy One to sweep out, is filled with light.

In this session we will explore the blessing of getting out of our own way.


Duration: 1 hours, 30 minutes

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Part 3: Reclaiming Longing

Dec 16, 2017 11:30am - 1:00pm PST

As it turns out, the perceived darkness that descends on our souls as we mature is nothing but unutterable radiance. When we allow ourselves to come undone in the depths of the darkness, we develop new eyes with which to perceive the divine radiance. The mystical paradox is that suffering we experience in the Dark Night of the Soul yields to an intensification of yearning for union with the Beloved, which is inextricable from connection to the Beloved.

This corresponds to the Via Unitiva in the Via Negativa – in which the divine light that comes pouring into our empty soul melts the container altogether and we dissolve into the One.
In this session we will reclaim the power of longing for God and connect this with our personal losses and our grief for the pain of the world. We will activate our broken-heartedness on behalf of all beings and the earth herself.


Duration: 1 hours, 30 minutes

Mirabai Starr

Mirabai Starr is an award-winning author of creative non-fiction and contemporary translations of sacred literature. She taught Philosophy and World Religions at the University of New Mexico-Taos for 20 years and now teaches and speaks internationally on contemplative practice and inter-spiritual dialog. A certified bereavement counselor, Mirabai helps mourners harness the transformational power of loss. Her youngest daughter, Jenny, was killed in a car accident in 2001 at the age of fourteen. On that same day, Mirabai’s first book, a translation of Dark Night of the Soul, was released. She considers this experience, and the connection between profound loss and longing for God, the ground of her own spiritual life. Her latest book, WILD MERCY: Living the Fierce & Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics, was named one of the “Best Books of 2019” by Spirituality & Practice.  Mirabai is on the 2020 Watkins List of the “100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People of the World.” She lives with her extended family in the mountains of northern New Mexico.