About three years ago, I discovered Dark Room retreating while surfing one day on YouTube. I was immediately fascinated and a little apprehensive about the possibility of doing such a retreat, but gradually found myself inexorably pulled toward it. I’ve been practicing Spirituality for 40 or so years now and have passed many milestones on the journey and at a certain point, realized that I was going to take the jump. I researched the various offerings of facilities on the internet and eventually settled on one in Guatemala, as this was the closest to my home in Brazil.
I found the first twenty four hours of darkness the most difficult part…Several times during this time, I almost came out as the sheer boredom and isolation were extremely hard to bear. Basically, I clenched my fists and teeth and just made a strong determination to continue…no matter what. Sometimes, the passage of time (or what seemed like it) was agonizingly slow and at other times it felt to be passing quickly. I knew the intervals at which meals would be delivered, so this gave me some connection to time, although not completely. At times, I was almost “sweating” on that meal arriving and at other times, the bell rang unexpectedly. I never got completely used to finding my way around the room when I had to use the bathroom or shower and try as I did to feel my way along the wall, I always seemed to be bumping into things. The disorientation in darkness can be very strange, as sometimes I knew where my suitcase was and at other times, I could not find it and had to crawl around the floor on hands and knees looking for it.
The second and third days were fairly routine, with nothing much happening save the constant onslaught of thoughts. Late into the third night, however, things began to happen. I awoke from sleep to see a television screen on the wall in front of me. It had no picture, just an empty blue screen. It seemed so real, I immediately thought, “Oh, there was a T.V. in here that I didn’t notice when I first went in and now, somehow, it has been turned on”….I closed my eyes for a few moments and opened them again and…..the screen was gone!…In that moment, I realized it was an hallucination….I closed my eyes again, waited for thirty seconds or so and again opened them. This time there appeared a wooden picture frame on the wall and inside it was a picture of an old, bearded man, who started talking. He said only a few words and the image disappeared and I can no longer remember what those words were.
These were the only hallucinations I had and I fell asleep again. Early in the morning of day four, however, something altogether different happened. I awoke with the usual stream of thoughts in the mind and as I lay there on my mattress, all those thoughts suddenly started to slow down, like an engine coming to a stop, until there was a completely thought free space inside my head. Along with this came an extraordinary sense of relaxation and lightness in the body and this was soon followed by an expanding sense of perfect inner peace and tranquility. These feelings intensified, until I entered a state of ecstasy that I later named “The Blessing”. Soon after this, there appeared a vision (not hallucination) of a lake with a kind of Greek temple standing in the middle of it. I’m not exactly sure how much time passed as all this happened, but I guess it was about two or three hours. Eventually, I drifted into a deep and satisfying sleep and awoke the next morning feeling a sense of total refreshment and wonder as well as deep gratitude for what had been revealed.
The last two days were uneventful and during the evening before the morning of coming out, I began to feel the anticipation of being “in the world” once again. What would I take away from this retreat, if anything at all?…I wasn’t sure. As I felt my “womb of darkness” opening into the natural setting outside, I felt quite vulnerable and a little unsteady on my feet, yet my senses were alive to all the colours and sounds I was suddenly immersed in once again.
Two days later, I was in the main airport in Costa Rica, en route to Brazil. The cacophony of the airport was not easy to bear and I sat in a coffee shop to get some peace and quiet. Sitting directly opposite me was an American woman, very obese, with three relatively “normal” looking adolescent children. They all ordered large quantities of hamburgers, french fries and cokes……
Welcome to the “real” world,