158: Nick Onken – Exploring The Deeper World Around Us


“I think a lot of my self-worth in the earlier times in my career was found in who and what I was shooting, and there was a point where that kind of fell to the wayside.”
Nick Onken

Hey, guys, welcome back to ONKEN RADIO (previously NION Radio). In this podcast, we explore the body, mind, and soul of the creative entrepreneur. It’s my goal to help you take your creativity, business, and life to the next level. I’m so glad you’re joining me on this journey!

You’ve probably seen on Instagram that I’ve been going through a dark time over this last year. As challenging as it may be, I think that the dark times are necessary so we can experience the light times, too. 

That’s why today, I want to talk about how we can go one step further into exploring this sometimes isolating, scary, and deep world around us. I believe that doing so is an essential step to fully undergo the process of Identity Alchemy. I think it can help us bring our most creative selves into the world.

So in this solo episode, I’ll use my personal experiences to talk about the dark times of our lives and why they happen. I’ll also discuss why it’s crucial to heal from them and share the different modalities I used to aid my own healing. In this way, I can help you stay resilient, happier, healthier, and more productive!

The Dark Night of the Soul

Have you ever felt a deep sense of feeling lost or empty? Sometimes that feeling is brought on by specific factors, but it can also just appear out of nowhere. If you’ve had that feeling, then you might be experiencing the dark night of the soul.

The dark night of the soul is a kind of spiritual depression where you can’t find meaning in anything. It’s what Eckhart Tolle describes as an interruption into your life where you feel a deep sense of meaninglessness. Last year I found myself in that exact hole, trying to figure out what was left of my identity and being.

Many different things can trigger a deep night of the soul. It can be a break-up, losing a job, the death of a loved one, or the loss of your own health. Sometimes it may just happen because you’re changing and people around you aren’t ready to accept it. 

In my situation, I experienced that dark time when I was navigating my career and finding meaning in a different space from it. In my earlier days of being a photographer, I found my self-worth was on who, what, and which brands I was shooting for. So when the business went wayward, it deeply affected me emotionally. 

That was the first trigger to my dark night of the soul. The second one was watching the Jim Carrey documentary, Jim and Andy. Andy Kaufman was an actor who took comedy and performance art to the edges of irrationality and blurred the dividing line between reality and imagination. Similarly, Jim Carrey is a method actor, and he becomes the character he portrays on and off the set. In the documentary, Jim Carrey shares his experience of feeling lost when a film wraps up, and he had to go back to being Jim. He was like, “Who is Jim?”It was as if he went through a massive identity crisis too tricky for him to solve.

Now, this dark night of the soul is something we all go through at some point in our lives. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re going crazy or losing touch with reality. Many artists and creative entrepreneurs go through this: They feel there’s no meaning in what they’re doing, feel like it’s not enough, or something is just missing. However, again, this step is crucial in the process of knowing ourselves more profoundly.

Healing from a Dark Night of the Soul

There are ways to heal and stay healthy when going through these dark times. In my experience, I’ve discovered specific modalities that helped me to be in a much different space and explore the world around me deeper. These are a few I suggest for everyone.

#1: Read Books

I know it’s obvious, but reading books is vital. There are so many excellent books out there that can help us get through our dark times. You don’t even have to read one book at a time. You can pick up a few or even start journaling about what you’re feeling right now because writing down your feelings helps tremendously, too.

Personally, Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth helped me deal with this experience. The book led me to the discovery of the idea of ego versus awareness. Ego identity is who we are here on this earth, but not necessarily as a spirit and a soul. It is a set of beliefs, experiences, recognitions, and accolades, but it’s not really who we are. 

Knowing this is important so we can drive into awareness of who we are as spiritual beings. The more we are aware, the more we feel our soul’s purpose. We’re able to fall in love with ourselves and our lives, as unideal as they may be.

Another book that helped me get through my dark night was Joe Dispenza‘s Becoming Supernatural. That book changed my life. Basically, the book describes the science behind Wu, a Chinese concept on awareness, consciousness, or spiritual enlightenment. It also explains how thoughts are energy that can turn into matter. It discusses how feelings of hyper vibrational, emotional frequencies can heal our bodies. Similarly, it also outlines how low vibrational, emotional frequencies like anger, resentment, judgment can become toxic and lead to death, cancer, and other illnesses. 

#2: Practice Breathwork

Breathwork has been an enormous healing modality for me. It can help you transcend into different states like holotropic states of consciousness. “Holo” means wholeness, and “Tropic” means moving toward, so “holotropic” means moving toward wholeness. 

Breathwork is something that we all can do anywhere, anytime, and any place. It has been a vast integration piece in my journey. I even had psychedelic experiences from breathwork. Not only is it a spiritual experience, but it’s also very healthy for the body. It pumps your body with oxygen, among other things.

#3: Try Psychedelic Medicines

Five percent of the way we operate is conscious, 95% is the unconscious mind wiring us. The unconscious mind is programmed by the belief systems that we were brought up with. We don’t necessarily have to believe them, but they can affect our lives because they’re wired in our subconscious.

I would like to share another piece of advice with everyone about why you should consider trying psychedelic medicines to learn more about the world around us and ourselves. If you’re doubtful about their effectiveness, Michael Pollan‘s book, How to Change your Mind, provides the scientific background and research on the benefits of psychedelics. The book talks about his experiences interviewing 15 to 20 different facilitators for psychedelics like magic mushrooms, Ayahuasca, and many more. He explains that the experience turned out to be a real spiritual discovery for him.

Another exciting aspect of the book is the awareness that spiritual exploration is affected by how much one can let go of their trauma, personal beliefs, or biases. The more you can let go, the more you let the medicines work on your subconscious. For example, Psilocybin mushrooms are now used to treat PTSD and depression. 

After I read that book, I became more open to the idea of psychedelics and plant medicine. I realized that plant medicines can heal and help you get deeper into your subconscious. They can unlock traumas from your subconscious mind and bring them to your consciousness so you can work through them. 

However, it’s crucial to know that these medicines should be used properly. In my experience, I write down intentions and set the context around to create a space where I feel safe. Sometimes, I also use a playlist to let the music take me on a journey of knowing and healing myself.

Dark nights of the soul aren’t easy to handle. They require you to face your shadow pieces and integrate them together so you can shine a light on them. I encourage everyone to utilize these modalities, rewire their minds, and create shifts in their lives. You can also use workouts and meditation, which are also helpful modalities for your exploration and healing.

Explore The Deeper World Around Us 

We all have our traumas from growing up, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have any inkling of our higher self. The more we can live within that higher self, the more self-expressed and the freer we can live.

But before that, we have to close that gap between who we are here and who we want to be. The modalities I talked about earlier can help us get to that. Personally, I’ve experienced many beautiful things as I have started practicing them in my life. They’ve helped me mentally get through my dark times. They even helped me release the energy stuck in my body, eliminating my creative blocks.  

So whether you prefer breathwork, meditation, plant medicine, or working out, remember that these modalities all improve our subconscious programming. This can help us live in our highest self and in a higher vibration. When we live in a higher vibration, we attract all the things we desire and want into our lives. 

Strive For A Higher Self

If you’re still doubting if you can get in touch with your higher self, remember — you can. There are a lot of different spiritual tools out there that are readily available for you to use.

Alchemy is defined as the process of taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary, sometimes in a way that cannot be explained.

With that being said, I define Identity Alchemy as the process of deconstructing who you don’t want to be to realize who you want to become. 

Through it, you’ll be able to identify your shadows or the things you don’t want to be true about you and shed them slowly. I believe that the deconstruction process of life and your inner world is such a massive piece of understanding who you are to curate who you want to become. In general, I noticed for myself that the more inner work that I do — the deeper shadow work that I do to understand myself — the better life becomes towards the path of wholeness.

When we start to get in touch with our higher self, we can step into who we truly are. I hope that the things I shared today can guide us to the path of growth and true identities. Keep in mind that the amount of work we want to put in and how much we want to grow can help us achieve our journey.

Thank you so much for joining me today, guys! If you liked what you read and want similar free content to help you out on your journey, don’t forget to check out my website! I hope you enjoyed this episode — if you did, please screenshot it and post it to Instagram and tag me, @nickonken, and if you’ve got time, leave me a review on Apple Podcasts! I’d love to hear your feedback.

Now go strive to be the best version of yourself there is. And remember — you have the courage and the tools to get through your personal dark nights of the soul.

Thanks, everyone! I’ll catch you next time!

Nick Onken

You can Subscribe and Listen to the Podcast on Apple Podcasts. And please leave me a Rating and Review!


“Just 5% of our thoughts are conscious; 95% is unconscious.”
Nick Onken

Some things we learn in this podcast:

  • Nick’s recent dark night of the soul [1:27]
  • How breathwork along with meditation has aided Nick in his spiritual journey [5:59]
  • The books that inspired all of Nick’s spiritual work [6:56]
  • How psychedelic drugs are being used to help people suffering from PTSD and depression [9:10]
  • What many plant medicines do to help heal past traumas [10:37]

Links Mentioned:

A FREE email series to create a personal visual brand authentic to who you are.

  • Accelerate your personal brand growth through the Identity Alchemy Method
  • Discover the authentic stories you want to share with your audience
  • Build your personal brand vision and crystallize it with a photoshoot
  • Learn how to ideate and create storytelling visual assets to enhance and up-level your personal brand
  • .. PLUS! You’ll get access my brand building book recs and favorite resources

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