On Sunday (2 Feb 2020) I’m going to be going into a completely dark room. Alone. For six days. The room is about four by four meters, has a single bed and a bathroom inside. Twice a day food gets delivered through a double door that prevents any light coming into the room. The door locks from the inside. I can open it if I need to get out.
‘Why on earth would you do that?’ is what I get asked when I tell someone about my dark retreat.
Here are my thoughts.
I’m fanatical about optimising my human experience. I want to extract every last drop out of life. Savour every moment. Make the most of the time I’ve got here.
From what I can tell, our minds are the most powerful tools that we have to control this experience. They create frames and stories that determine our choices. An external event triggers a story in my mind and that notifies the rest of the body. This event is good, bad, safe, dangerous. Often this is exactly what I need to feel. But, sometimes, it’s not. Someone cuts me off in traffic and that starts a story that leads to stress and rage, is that what’s best for me? If I’m aware of the story driving this behaviour, I have the choice to change it if I want to.
Our minds let us know how to feel at each moment of the day. They control how motivated we are to exercise or go to work or follow our passions.
Every feeling that we have, every time we worry or choose to workout (or not), it’s a choice. We support the choices that we make with an internal narrative about why we have made that choice. These thousands of choices that we make each day, determine what unfolds in our world around us.
So what does that have to do with being alone in a dark room for six days? Every moment of the day our mind is processing all the information it’s receiving. Filing it into boxes. Building stories. If we don’t take time to slow this stimulation down, we make decisions by default. Our mind has no choice, there’s too much to process. Technology and the never-ending to-do list adds to the stimulation. Always doing. Never done. Making decisions by default means we’re living our lives by default. Out of control. Our lives living us.
Mindfulness practice helps us develop an awareness of our stories. It’s like exercise for the mind. When we stop ‘doing’ for a while and sit in meditation, we create the opportunity to observe our minds. We get to see how hard it’s working and hear the incessant stream of chatter. Sitting in darkness, alone and in silence removes even more of the stimulation.
I am hoping that this time alone observing my mind, creates increased awareness that I can bring back to my life. Awareness that’s available when I get anxious about projects taking longer than planned. Awareness in more moments when my internal stories are ones where I judge other people.
“He must be so successful”. “Who dresses like that? what a weirdo.”
Awareness of the stream of stories that create separation between me and the world. Hoping to take an altered state and make it an altered trait.
Here are some of the experiences people have reported from doing a darkness retreat:
- Regenerating the psyche, soothing an uncertain mind;
- Increase in sensory perception;
- Creativity and imagination may develop, which may have been subdued;
- Accessing higher states of divine consciousness and connecting with the soul;
- Feelings of oneness with all;
- Facing the fear of death;
- Opening up the third eye, clearer intuition;
- Altered states of perception;
- Out of body experiences/astral projection;
- Lucid dreaming/hallucinations;
- ‘Prisoner’s cinema’ – lights;
- Feelings of immense peace, calm and relaxation.
Benefits reported from doing an extended darkness retreat:
- Melatonin, a hormone produced by the body during periods of darkness, is beneficial to the immune and cardiovascular systems. It may help with general health and well being, hypertension and cardiovascular disease;
- Shortening healing times after an injury or post-operative surgery;
- Aiding in treatment for people with CFS, obesity, diabetes and addictions;
- Slowing the pace of life;
- Easing stress and facilitating relaxation;
- Slowing the ageing process;
- Maintaining excellent physical health and youthful vitality;
- Usual physical benefits of a detox;
- Dropping the ego, old stories and conditioning.
My concerns about six days alone in the dark.
- It’s dark.
- There is no light.
- I love being around people.
- I have so much still on my to-list
- What if I have ideas that I want to write about?
- What if I get bored?
- Two meals a day. (There seems to be one missing here)
- Facing all the craziness happening in my mind with nothing to distract myself with.
What I’m taking with me.
- A yoga matt to stretch, do yoga and exercise.
- A foam roller.
- My grippers
- A notepad and pencil (I will scribble in the dark if there are things I want to remember)
- Warm comfortable clothes
- Meditation cushion
- A child-like sense of wonder and a good dose of patience.
Preparation before going into the darkness:
- Eating clean.
- No alcohol in the days leading up to the retreat.
- Keeping my current meditation practice consistent.
- No caffeine or marijuana.
- Continual awareness of my lucid dreaming practises.
- Doing a pregame. (A practice where I list all the things I’m grateful for before an event. Then list all the things I want to get out of the event as well as how I’d like to feel during the event)
Next week’s 30 Second Thursday will be sent using the magic of my amazing team and a “scheduled send” in my email service provider. Even though I’ll be in the dark, you’ll want to check it out. I’m planning another experiment while in the darkness that I’ll share in next week’s newsletter.
If you’re looking to develop mindfulness practises to improve your life, check out our free tools at livemoreperfectdays.com
Till next week, sending love and light (see what I did there?)
Recommended guided meditation:
I have installed a practice in my life called “Word for the Year”. This year my word is “surrender”. For me, this means letting go and trying to control everything in my life. This free guided meditation “Learning to Surrender” by Sarah Blondin on Insight timer is a great resource that I’ve been listening to from time to time and thought I’d share with you too. (8 min guided meditation).
PS. I’d love to hear your comments, questions or feedback on this content. If you have other hacks, ideas or apps that you’re loving I’d love to hear about them. Please tweet me and use the #30SecondThursday hashtag so that I can find your feedback.