I have posted this on behalf of Lougaya ….. this is from the perspective of choosing an assistant for your personal darkroom. some of the criteria also apply to visiting a darkroom facility where a guide/assistant if provided. also Lougaya did not have a double -door, which is not ideal. as the guide/assistant must be extra vigilant. a double – door as in a photographic darkroom, the first door is shut before the second door is open, thus maintaining pitch darkness at all times. the darkroom was well built and was comfortable. Marion
Being a good assistant is not something that is obvious for everyone… Choose a person that you feel comfortable to communicate with. At best someone that is not stressed and working on other things but one that can be available to fully support the retreatant in this life-changing experience. It is essential that this person has read the book and understands well the whole protocol and how the room works.
Ideally, they would have already retreated themselves. I felt a bit like a baby in need to call their mother quickly to answer basic needs. The assistant takes the role of an ideal mother even if they are not physically present with the retreatant. The assistant is a mighty guardian, a compassionate ear, a trusted presence.
Here is my idea of a good assistant:
A good assistant is available and present near the retreat.
It is easy to call them and they are able to answer quickly.
They assure that the retreat will not be interrupted and that the place is kept safe and functional for the retreats purposes.
Before entering the room, they will make sure that they are welcome and that they will not let light in unless the retreatant has covered their eyes. If they let light in, they will close the door as soon as possible and use a red light if needed.
They will communicate about their moves and when the retreatant can uncover their eyes again.
They are clear-headed and focused when they meet the retreatant.
They keep in mind that the retreatant is probably undergoing deep processes that need no interruption. They will not pollute the retreatant with complex questions and will likely choose to ask simple questions that can be answered by yes or no. They will not talk about themself or the outside world and they will be talking with a gentle and calm voice.
They will make sure the compost is emptied regularly and the water and food is available in sufficient quantity at all times. They will make sure that the food is still fresh and will do their best to select a good quality of tasty fruits and vegetables. (Poor tasting and old raw-foods are very unsatisfying).
When they maintains these facilities, they will make sure that they put all things (bowls, spoons, compost bucket…) in the exact same location that they found it. (It is very disturbing for a retreatant in the dark to not know where to find things anymore).
They can ask the retreatant if they need anything special and if they want to talk. If demands are expressed, they will try to fulfil them shortly and if things are not clear they would ask for clarification. If fulfilling a demand of the retreatant is not possible, he will find an alternative solution that puts the priority on maintaining the right conditions for the retreat to operate without interruption.
The assistant understands the mechanics of the room (darkening, ventilation, water supply, toilet…) They do a daily check-up to make sure everything functions well. If there are dysfunctions, they will find a solution without disturbing the retreatant. They must communicate with the retreatant, being as brief as possible to explain what needs to be done and can assess if the retreat can be continued or not.
If the assistant is not always present/reachable they makes sure that the retreatant has everything they need and that they feels safe and confident to stay in autonomy during that time.
My retreat did not happen in good conditions yet I was still able to foresee the potentials of darkroom retreating and to rest a little bit. I wasn’t able to judge if any improvement was occurring during the retreat. In fact, it took me some time to realise what happened and to recognise that some functions had been restored like my visual perception.
Feeling safe and being in a quiet environment where rest is not interrupted seems to be an obviously crucial point to receive optimum benefits of a darkroom retreat. I thought my location was quiet enough but I wasn’t prepared for times when there would be more noise than usual. Building a dark room is already a challenge, light sneaks in in every little holes and cracks, but noise goes through everything and is unpredictable. I was in the dark yet it still wasn’t enough, I had feelings and the thoughts of wanting to “be in the womb of my Mother” again.
The Ideal BioPod
I think many off us remember playing hide-and-seek and entering the wardrobe or the dressing room and hiding in the depth of clothing. It was dark, warm, soft, even our own sounds were absorbed, only our excited breath would remain as we would wait silently for our friend to find us… You know that feeling? That quiet, that padded! That is the feeling I am looking for (with more air 😉
The only time I recall experiencing something similar and that was in a Museum in Berlin that had a whole section dedicated to this Artist (will try to remember his name) that worked a lot with felt. He had been rescued by a tribe in South America after he had a plane crash, his body had been totally burnt and his chances to survive were very little. They covered him with oil and wrapped him in soft material before burying him in the ground. Only his head was out. I think he tried to reproduce the sensation he had in this time of his life. His art piece was a big room with walls shaped like a natural cave, but this time, the walls where made out of very thick felt or isolating material. As soon I entered the room, I had a sensation of relief. The air, the space, felt very soft and was very quiet. I wanted to lay down or rest against the walls. I could have stayed there for hours if the museum was not about to close. I was breath-taken, I felt suspended, it was a timeless zone.
I remember being deeply moved by the art of this man and left the museum crying loudly.
The ideal place for me would be one that is really safe, padded, felted, soft, comfortable, stable in temperature, quiet and dark of course. Like a nest. I imagined myself wrapped-up in animal skins, far in the depth of a cave. Natural, soft and warm materials would be preferred.
A good air flow being essential as well. If any sounds were to reach me, I would like it to be the sounds of nature, or the sounds of my family, continuing their lives around me that is resting, knowing that they are there, guarding me. But the sounds of engines and machines and are the worst, their vibrations are highly disharmonious and disruptive, they must be avoided!
In the two previous examples, it’s the soundproof quality of the room that gave me this feeling of being perfectly safe and held in the space. I know that this is a major key for me to experience emotional releases and to be able to surrender to let my autonomic body take care. Instinctively, as soon as I enter a space that feels warm and safe, filled with beautiful materials and soft colors, my body relaxes. It feels HOMELY.
After All, Don’t We All Try to Find Home?
When will we feel comfortable enough inside ourselves to feel at home in our bodies, in our hearts, in our guts, in our womb space (sexual organs)? When that day comes, we will stop seeking comfort by buying things or seeking relationships that comfort us, we will have healed ourselves from the traumas we are distracting ourselves from.
But for that day to come, I believe that we have no choice but to experience what we have missed to experience: be held in the safe and peaceful womb space of a healthy and happy mother and environment. In the optimum conditions, we will mother ourselves in the dark until we are ready to be reborn into the world.
Birthing a New Culture
I observe the Indonesian people around me and they do not seem to have the same nervous system dysfunction that I have or that I can observe in most people born in the western-culture. People are generally very calm and laugh easily, they rarely are angry and aggressive. They are capable of hard work but stay cheerful and they can endure easily what we think is unbearable to the senses.
I relate this to the fact that here babies are always in someone’s arms being carried around held on the hip of their mom in a simple piece of fabric wrapped around the shoulder. If they are not in someone’s arms, they are closely held in the web of a small hammock. Young children are confident and do not fear strangers, they talk easily and loud, they are self-assured. They are used to work and play with others. Their lives are simple and the have a lot of free-time. Still not so long ago, all they knew was the soft and abundant heart of the Mother jungle. They always lived with their family and friends, they did not know stress.
I understand that our life-style and our culture are intimately related to our inter-generational information background or in other words how much trauma is crystalised in people’s body. As a whole, healing ourselves will undoubtingly have an beneficial effect on our life-style, our society, our planet…
“Dark Womb Retreat”
I foresee that the ideal darkroom retreat to be a “universal rebirthing space” and I believe that it must be treated as such. Doing a darkroom is something very special and one must be very careful with preparing the favorable conditions for it so that one will not risk to increase the trauma. In my case, it feels like my fear for thieves and my sense of insecurity has increased a little…
Giving birth is an initiation, it is sacred, it is natural and also has some degree of risk and that is why it is usually assisted by a midwife (or more) or someone that is trusted and can maintain a safe and calm atmosphere even in intense situations… The assistant of a retreatant must have similar qualities and the retreatant must be aware that they will have to face intense moments with trust that the body is perfectly taking care of this natural process.
With this metaphor, we also understand that the transition period will be crucial for the future well-being of the retreatant, as much as it is crucial for a new-born baby to have a smooth transition from the womb to the world to become a healthy person.
Bringing Darkroom Retreats to People in Need
As we see, our society is very sick and almost everyone needs to undergo a darkroom retreat. With the experience of Andrew and other pioneers in this subject, I realised that it takes experience and skill to transform a room into/build a functional BioPod and that not everyone has the appropriate place to do so. Not only that, people that need it the most are the least capable of making it happen for themselves and even if they were capable, not everyone has the skills to do so or enough time to study the subject. It also takes experience to be a good assistant.
I have a vision of creating a “Dark Womb Rebirthing Retreat Center” and/or a “Dark Womb” design that can fit in most people’s house so that they can retreat as much as they want. But eventually that person would retreat enough and not be in need of the facility anymore, In which case, a “Dark Womb” kit could be sold like a IKEA kit thing but kits could be rented as well for certain length of time. A relay center would make sure the BioPods stay clean and functional and would take care of the transportation logistics. At best, it could become a service that offers a network of portable “Dark Wombs” on trailers that some specialised “Dark Womb Rebirthing Midwifes/Guardians” would travel with to meet their retreatants where they live instead of people having to move to the retreat. People would have nothing to do but to provide the space and watch the BioPod be assembled together in their living room or their bedroom and get in. They would be assisted by the same person that takes care of the biopod from setting up to packing up.
The principle of a DARK WOMB design is to be a room within a room, like a uterus in a belly…
The room/house provides shelter for the retreat and a first layer of protection (security, rain, wind, cold, noise…). The kit is an easy to assemble shelter that includes floor, walls and ceiling. It is sound-proof, light-proof, and has it’s own ventilation system that plugs in no matter what the ventilation system in place in the house is to make sure that there is always enough airflow in the BioPod. Ideally it is made of modular panels meaning that according to people’s finances, space and needs, the “Dark Womb” could be built in different sizes and even different shapes.
It could connect with a black fabric tunnel to an existing bathroom that will be darkened in simple ways or it can include a basic dry toilet module/ a compact bathroom module in option. The bathroom does not need to be sound-proof because not much time will be spent there.
If the climate is very hot or very cold, a heating or a cooling system can be plugged into the ventilation system. But most homes would provide a fairly stable and viable temperature range. In this case, a hot climate would need it more than a cooler climate because the BioPod would have the tendency to keep the warmth inside.
Size : It should be big enough to provide space for the bed and for stretching and exercising. People could put their own bed inside it.
It would have a double sided shelf inserted in the wall where food and drinks can be delivered without entering the room and silently. When it is closed inside it keeps the room’s property of light and sound proofness. It has a door that can open from the outside for deliveries. When opened from the inside, no light comes in because the door will be closed on the other side.
A special talking tube/”phone” that would be a simple air channel wire connected to a cone would be used to communicate with the assistant without needing to talk loudly through the walls.
Ideally the materials used will be natural and/or eco-friendly. They should not smell. They should be resistant to mould.
Panels could be something from 1×1.2 m big to 1x2m big. They should be light enough for a person to easily be able to handle a panel by themselves. The whole kit must fit in a small trailer or a small van when folded together.
Ideally the panel and its connector are also structural and do not need another skeleton to reinforce the stability of the shelter.
These kits could be made by a community or an eco-village to finance themselves in a ethical way that benefits the planet and people. They could also be a retreat center and teach people how to make their own BioPod kits which would lighten the labor if the work was reduced to sourcing materials, providing the machineries and teaching how to make the kits to motivated future owners.
These are the ideas that came to me and I am looking forward to work more on this. I hope Andrew and I will be able to collaborate to design a functional, affordable, compact and nomad design of the ideal BioPod to enable more and more people to access dark room retreats safely. The money generated from the retreats, the kits, etc can be managed by a trust or a foundation that makes sure that its benefits are redirected to helping more people access the Darkroom retreats and support to grow the network of people that will take care of retreatants.
Thank you Andrew for your dedication and your generous help and support, Thank you for your willingness and your work to make this more available to the world.
Thank you Marion for bridging people and supporting Andrew, for believing and persevering with this.
Thank you Joe, Kev and Eliot for enriching the study group with your energy, your heart felt sharing and your presence.
Thank you Joachim for innocently making the mistakes that take us further and building the room together.
Everything is Possible Together
Saving the world is not a one-man job, it’s a one human at a time job and everyone can decide to take their responsibility for it NOW!
From my experience of community building, when the intention is guided and pure, and that several individuals unite their manifestation powers on that same intention, everything becomes possible!
If this is true, a person could safely and naturally heal hundreds if not thousands of year of accumulated human trauma and damage in less than a year. Imagine if hundreds of people do it every year…
like my visual perception… After a few weeks was able to see myself with the strength to do activities that was too tired to do before and I realised that I was able to overcome the challenges in my life with much more ease and grace. So even in terrible conditions, my retreat and continuing to sleep in the dark has definitely increased my vitality. It just took me a little adjustment time to realise it!
Lougaya, August 2018