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.

Darkness Retreat Experience: Jeremy Spang

following is an EXTRACT of an article authored by Jeremy Spang in two parts: December 25 2014 and January 4 2015.  the full article in two parts begins here.


When speaking to someone about darkness retreats, the words pscychedelic, life changing, and dmt are just a few descriptions that might be thrown around particularly when being explained by a Westerner. It’s a practice that has been engaged by many religions for thouands of years and has been recently re-establishing itself in western culture.

2 week Darkness Retreat Experience Part 1 – A Scary Lucid Dream

The First Week
After spending just a day in total darkness visions started to occur especially when resting the mind in non conceptulization during meditation. These visions were not anything extreme just subtle black and white patterns similar to what you might see in one of Alex Grey’s painting (like the one above), but what was intense the first few days were the dreams and their high level of lucidity.

Having scary dreams has become virtually non existent for me, but in the darkness retreat, some past experiences of my childhood lying around in my subconscious surfaced and led to the first scary lucid dream i’ve ever had (lucid dreaming is where you realize you are in a dream and can then control what you want to do in the dream). A series of one lucid dream after the other then occurred until I woke up somewhere between 2 – 4 hours later. Most of these dreams involved trying to flee something so at some level they all had messages of aversions that I needed to overcome.

An aversion type of dream is one of only two types of nightmarish dream that you can have, but encountering one where you know you are dreaming is another issue all together and is what really made me realize there’s a serious issue here that I need to work with.

In buddhism, one of the main points or keys to the four noble truths is to avoid attachments and aversions, which translates as hopes and fears. If all aversions are rooted out, then there is no situation that could occur for the ego to react to in a fleeing type of way. When we encounter a dream where we try to flee, its a chance for us to work with divine information on how to overcome an aversion in our life.

Learning, Meditating, Contemplating
From this dream I realized that there are issues from the past that I have been disregarding for so long that I have forgot that they were there at all. After the dream I meditated and authentically confessed the issue that gave rise to the aversion in the dream. I then contemplated on how, if a dream like this would arise again, I would act differently and not try to flee the situation.

From the act of listening to the dream, confessing the issue that led to the fear, meditating to clear distractions, and then contemplating on what course of action to engender, one can genuinely overcome one more layer of fear to the point where after death it will be more likely to not get carried away and react to situations in a fearful way. Its up to us and it is irratatingly possible to put in the work required to overcome our ego labeling something as a “scary situation” to just another curious situation for us to explore.

Darkness Retreat Part 2 – Rediscovering an Ancient Dream Practice


The 2nd Week
By day 7 of being in complete darkness I almost threw in the towel. This is ridiculous I thought, what am I doing in here? Who told me this was a good idea? This is stupid! It was frustrating because as the line of thought goes the whole idea of a darkness retreat is to go into an unknown place to find answers to questions that we don’t even know we have.

The visuals I was seeing since day 2 were not getting any more intense and I was beginning to lose patience in waiting to see how they would develop. The only thing that kept things really interesting were the dreams. As soon as I would fall asleep I would start dreaming right away and they would continue until I woke up 5 – 10 hours later, one of these resulted in a very unusual semi out of body experience, but this alone wasn’t enough to keep me going.

The only motivating factor was that I knew by day 9 or 10 the dmt phase of the darkness retreat was supposed to begin. This is in accordance to the Taoist knowledge of Mantak Chia. The idea kept me thinking it’d be worth the wait, in which case, because of my blind (literally) persistence I found out it was. By the very beginning of day 10 it was like the vehicle I was in for the past week and a half went from being in 1st gear to jumping into 4th very quickly.

Dynamic Visuals Begin
As I was lying in bed, looking up at the ceiling, the wall became a type of canvas with a light tan colored background and dark black colored abstract shadows in the shape of people. They began dancing around holding hands and taking off their hats to greet people. Or throwing flowers and other similar objects in the air. It was all pretty abstract, but the movement, contrast, and definition of the visuals shocked me. I couldn’t believe my mind was creating this.

In some way these shadows instantly reminded me of things I’ve seen outside of my waking reality in this lifetime like in the early stages of an out of body experience when I’m trying to find my vision. Usually when I have an OBE (out of body experience) it takes me a minute before I can begin seeing things and knowing where I am. I have to feel around on a wall and the texture then makes it easier for my minds eye to pick up a visual representation of the environment

As the next day arrived and I began my meditation these shadows became accompanied with 3d moving elements moving around sometimes towards me or just around me. Then, blue lines appeared and would be on what I thought were the walls surrounding me in the room creating a holographic looking environment.

Later on, I went downstairs with my mindfold mask on to get a drink and decided I did not want to tap out of these hallucinations so when I went down the stairs it looked as if I was in front of a jungle. There was the loose interpretation of stairs that I saw in my minds eye, but they were covered by bushes with a tree on the left side and vines hanging above me.

It became actually almost dangerous to walk around at this point because the environment took on such a different form that I would easily bump into a wall if I let myself get too carried away by them.

The visuals continued to develop from here. Shortly after when lying in bed the ceiling became like the night sky where I saw stars everywhere and sometimes one would flicker brighter or one would shoot across the room. I eventually would see these stars on the floor too.

At first I would only be able to tap into this visual experience by resting my mind in non conceptualization, but after letting myself remain in that state for an extended period of time it became harder to tap out of the experience then it was to tap into it. This is because of the alluring nature that the visions had on me. Regardless, being in a state/environment of prolonged non distracted sensory deprivation, I was able to take a few minutes to tap into an immersive psychedelic experience or tap out of one at will.

At this point I realized that doing a darkness retreat in a large space, like a temple, would be an even better experience because you could allow yourself to get more lost in the environment that your mind’s eye creates. I imagine it could be such a spacious liberating feeling that having an OBE while fully awake would be a realistic possibility.