Marek Malůš – Float Conference 2015

i really love this talk by Marek. it is brilliant. wonderful. i am a fan.

marek talks at float conference 2015

Marek Malůš is a researcher from the Czech Republic that has been focusing on Chamber REST, or as it’s known in the Czech Republic, Dark Therapy. Chamber REST involves spending long periods of time (several weeks) in isolation in a specially built completely dark house. Marek presents the basics of Dark Therapy, explains how it’s been quickly gaining popularity as a commercial service in the Czech Republic, and goes into some of the research he’s been working on.


How Utter Darkness Could Heal Lazy Eye

How Utter Darkness Could Heal Lazy Eye

ed: i have read in a couple of accounts of darkness retreatants, of the improvement of their eyesight.  following is an extract for full and original post go here

lazyeye research

Benjamin Backus (left) and Morgan Williams, after emerging from the dark room.

click image for source

The email from a professor offered an unusual spring break adventure: Come spend five days in complete darkness. To Morgan Williams, then a sophomore at Swarthmore College and a psychology major, it sounded like a great way to spend his vacation week. “I’m not really one for going to the beach,” he says.

For those five days in 2012, Williams and neuroscientist Benjamin Backus lived in a large room that had been carefully outfitted to ensure that not a ray, not a gleam, not a single photon of light would reach their eyes.

Could 5 days in the dark fix lazy eyes?

ed: it worked will kittens, why not humans? (see bottom of this post)

The setting was a converted attic space that formed part of Backus’s apartment in New Rochelle, NY. Every aperture was sealed off with the aid of heavy theatrical blackout curtains. Electronic devices that lit up in any way were either modified or banned from the room. Instead of an airlock, they had a “lightlock” room that separated them from the illuminated world. A helper left their meals in that buffer room (a bathroom), and the pair retrieved them once they could be sure of doing so without light exposure.

Each day the two men tacked up a large piece of photosensitive film used in radiology. Days later, after they’d left the room, Backus developed those five sheets of film and was gratified to find them pure black, indicating zero exposure to light. “For our experiment, 23.9 hours of dark isn’t enough,” Backus says. “We can’t let those visual neurons have any hope of visual input coming back.”

There were also daily tasks. They used voice recorders to make notes on the experience. They took turns on an exercise bike, on which the light-up buttons had been covered with stick-on bumpy buttons. They listened to audio books, meditated, and studied a book about braille with their fingertips.

Their meals arrived on a strict schedule to preserve the normal rhythm of their days. They sometimes dined on handheld foods like tamales and sandwiches, but also tested themselves with more complicated meals requiring silverware. Backus says he found eating in absolute darkness to be a tricky business. “The problem is knowing if the food has been speared with the fork,” he says. Unless he used his fingers to confirm that he’d successfully snagged a piece of ravioli, for example, he’d often bite down on air. “I never got good at it,” he says ruefully.

So what was the point of this extreme exercise? Backus, a professor at SUNY College of Optometry, was doing a trial run. He needed to answer logistical and safety questions before he could embark on his real experiment involving people with a type of amblyopia, the visual disorder commonly known as lazy eye or amblyopia.

The researchers hope to help people with anisometropic amblyopia, which begins in early childhood but can go undetected for years. In this disorder, the eyes themselves are fine, but something goes wrong with the connections between the eyes and the brain’s visual processing center. The brain never learns to take in fine details from one side, causing blurry vision in that eye.

The disorder can often be corrected if caught early: A young child’s brain is still learning how to make sense of the visible world so the visual cortex is still “plastic” and changeable. In one standard treatment, the child wears an eyepatch over the good eye, forcing the brain to work with the bad one.

However, sometime between the age of two and six a child’s visual cortex becomes set (it varies between people). If the amblyopic child hasn’t received treatment by that point, he or she will be stuck with that blurry vision. “Even if they get glasses, it’s too late for the brain to use the good sharp retinal image,” Backus says.

Hence, the approach: Restore amblyopic people’s visual cortices to that changeable, childlike condition with a stint in total darkness.

Backus thinks the darkness may serve as a factory-reset for the visual system, and may therefore improve the patients’ symptoms. A neuroscientist at the University of Maryland, Elizabeth Quinlan, has kept amblyopic rats in total darkness for ten days, and demonstrated that the synapses in their visual cortices became more plastic. When they came out of the dark, it was as if they were seeing the world anew.

Staging a similar experiment with humans was the obvious next step. Will amblyopic people emerge from days of light-deprivation with new eyes, as if emerging from the womb?

“We hope that we will cure the amblyopia, but we don’t know if that will happen,” Backus says. “The effect could be anything from no benefit to complete cure, but we won’t know until we do the study.”

Now, with funding and approval for the full-scale experiment involving amblyopia patients, Backus is seeking 24 volunteers who are willing to live in the pitch black for either five or ten days this winter. He knows whom he needs to recruit: “We need people who are adventurous, who are team players, people who would be good astronauts,” he says.He’s looking for amblyopia patients with the right stuff.

Backus enjoys this comparison. During his trial run with Williams, he called the two of them “scotonauts,” based on the Greek word scoto for darkness. Their mission was to prepare the way for the next crew, the ones who may really take science a step forward. Backus and Williams were like the Apollo 10 astronauts who orbited the moon but never landed, preparing the way for Neil Armstrong’s big step.

They had a number of practical questions to answer. They needed to confirm that they could establish the proper experimental condition of pitch blackness, and also determine whether research participants would be able to perform the activities of daily living without sight. And one more thing: They had to be sure that five days spent in utter darkness wouldn’t drive the participants completely bonkers.

Backus can reassure prospective recruits on this count. “I was very relaxed and happy after five days,” he says. “I didn’t want to come out of the dark.”

Eliza Strickland is an associate editor for the science and technology magazine IEEE Spectrum. Find her on Twitter @NewsBeagle.

ed: extract from another article here.

Of course, for these 5 weeks in neuroscientist, Williams or 2012 Benjamin Backus lived in a great room that had been carefully outfitted to ensure that not, a ray and even not a gleam a single photon of light should reach the eyes. Obviously, the setting was a converted attic space that formed an important component of Backus’s apartment in modern Rochelle, NY. Nevertheless, every aperture was sealed off with heavy aid theatrical blackout curtains. Then, electronic devices that lit up in any way were either modified or banned from the room. Now regarding the aforementioned matter of fact. They had a lightlock room that separated them from the illuminated world, after an airlock.


ed: an extract from here.

Overall, our findings suggest that sudden and complete visual deprivation in normally sighted individuals can lead to profound, but rapidly reversible, neuroplastic changes by which the occipital cortex becomes engaged in processing of non-visual information. The speed and dynamic nature of the observed changes suggests that normally inhibited or masked functions in the sighted are revealed by visual loss. The unmasking of pre-existing connections and shifts in connectivity represent rapid, early plastic changes, which presumably can lead, if sustained and reinforced, to slower developing, but more permanent structural changes, such as the establishment of new neural connections in the blind.

Vision restored with total darkness in kittens with amblyopia

ed: see the full post here.

Restoring vision might sometimes be as simple as turning out the lights. That’s according to a study in which researchers examined kittens with a visual impairment known as amblyopia before and after they spent 10 days in complete darkness.

Hygienic Use of Darkness by Andrew Durham

ed: below are extracts from Andrew Durham’s book “Hygienic DarkRoom Retreat”.    Andrew Durham’s website.

Hygiene is passive toward healing. In other words, the will is mostly passive. The unconscious is active and drives the process. The will is secondary, a servant. Its main purpose is to rest so the being can restore itself to wholeness. Hygiene is thus a peacemaker, allowing the distressed will to finally rest and recover.

Hygiene primarily depends on the autonomic self—omniscient, omnipotent, and infallible—to accomplish the work of healing. This hints at limitless results. There is nothing mystical, disciplined, or complicated about this approach. It is rational, safe, and natural: a reliable miracle.

Hygiene’s passive emphasis on rest and healing is very important because it defines the appropriate attitude toward retreating. I learned in fasting that how one approaches a retreat has a great effect on what happens in it.

The mind becomes extremely powerful when it is resting and purifying. If one’s attitude is really to passively support the omnipotent healing forces of the organism in doing everything, the effect of this internal unity will be much greater than if one has the conflicted doer-attitude of a practitioner

Three things the hygienic use of darkness is not:

1. discipline, such meditation

2. therapy

3. a psychedelic trip

These three approaches all share the vain attempt to end suffering by subjecting the unconscious to conscious action, as if mere attention, analysis, or reconditioning could fix the unconscious.

They try to willfully improve what they regard as an inert, even resistant unconscious self, as if it were incapable or disinclined of doing so itself.

Unfortunately, this attitude is ignorantly coercive toward the injured conscious self and discouraging to the omnipotent autonomic self. It is internalized tyranny predictably accompanied by triune brain-drain.

In contrast, hygienic use of darkness is passive as regards the will. The conscious self only plays a supportive role. The unconscious autonomic self is the principal actor. Zero conflict. Maximum efficiency. Perfect result.

The essence of the hygienic approach is the recognition of the power of the  autonomic self. Hygiene involves no gold-leafed statues or exotic rituals or substances, but it has the virtue of being cheap, quick, easy to remember, and vastly more effective

1. It is not discipline, such as meditation. Discipline is consistent exercise of the will. Will is the most delicate, energy-consuming, and, due to atrophy, ineffective part of the psyche. The psyche is the system most in need of rest. So discipline sets into motion and takes energy from the healing of the faculties it depends on while giving the least possible benefit for time, energy, and effort expended. Granted, it produces results impressive by the tragically low standard of ordinary people. But it prevents accomplishment of the top priority: full recovery of the psyche from its catastrophic damage.
Spiritual meditation, like all spiritual practice, entails supereffort to force access to subtle energy reserves to fuel transformation. The hygienic approach entails exactly the opposite: profound rest to conserve movement and energy for self-restoration. The conscious self at- tempts nothing to ameliorate suffering. It only provides conditions of healing to the unconscious, autonomic self, whose job is to heal the organism.
Discipline begins with accepting as real, as natural, the appearance of an intrinsic internal conflict: original sin. Next, one struggles “against nature”, fighting habits with practices to achieve an ideal. Hygiene begins with an assumption of natural harmony, of non-contra- diction and a logical explanation of illness. This naturally motivates one to easily fulfill its aim, which is healthy in reality.
Lastly, discipline sets up artificial dangers and obstacles by partially retaining willed control of the process. Then it spreads fear about retreat- ing without the necessary preparations guided by experts of the tradition. It’s a self-fulfilling delusion if not an outright racket.

2. It is not therapy. Therapy is done to a passive organism from the outside. The therapist, therapy, and therapeutic substances are the principal actors in a therapeutic session, not the organism itself. While depending on the organism to react to treatment, therapy views the organism as incapable of initiating a movement toward health. It fails to see such movement in disease itself.
In a darkroom retreat, darkness does nothing. Like air or water, it merely presents an opportunity to the self-preserving organism to better pursue its ceaseless tendency toward wholeness. The principal actor is life, not its conditions nor any treatment.

3. It is not a psychedelic trip: consciously experiencing normally unconscious phenomena using abnormal conditions like sleep-deprivation or chemicals, natural or artificial.

Andrew Durham’s website.

Tao Tantric Darkness Retreat, Zorba the Buddha, Delhi, India



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Since the beginning of time, spiritual seekers, mystics and shamans, have been using different kinds of practices to enter a deep meditative state to achieve self-realization. One of the most ancient practices found all over the world is a retreat in darkness.

When we are in darkness, time magically slows down. Once we get acquainted with the motherly womb that darkness offers, we relax and find peace inside ourselves. In darkness, we enter the state of non-duality and non-judgment as we are no more conditioned by appearances. After getting familiar with darkness, we surpass our usual perception of it as something scary and recognise it as a cosmic womb, a space from where everything took form. If we perceive God as Light, then we realise that darkness is the Mother of God.
In this retreat, with the guidance and individual counsel of the teacher, we have the opportunity to reach a profound state of awareness, awakening and bliss. We will alternate moments of silence with guided meditations, breath techniques, sharing and self inquiry with the teacher, individually and in the group. The first level of this Darkness retreat will last four days. There will also be an advance level of two days right after the first level.

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