Imagine being isolated and alone in total darkness.
For a prisoner locked in a cell, this is one of the most cruel and feared modes of punishment. Some have lost their minds, emerging as madmen, never to regain sanity. Others are deeply traumatized and marked for life.
It’s curious that people on a spiritual journey at some point will seek the exact same environment of isolated darkness in order to realize obvious truths about their minds. For them, the dark retreat is a chance to make solid progress by facing what is in the mind, how consciousness behaves and what it consist of as basic nature.
A yogi is someone who actively tries to understand the truest and most full meaning of life and then tries to be that truth. The dark retreat is for the yogi who has come to a point in life of readiness to go beyond the normal patterns of experience shaped by habitual concepts of the known. The darkness is merciless, and the open sphere of experience is the playground for confusion or liberation.
For the advanced meditator, a week in darkness can give clear and sound knowledge about how stable one’s understanding is. Inside a completely pitch black room, silent and isolated from all external sensory input, the yogi may remain for 7 or 49 days. Here one eats, sleeps and remains in equanimity in a way that is both spacious and filled with loving kindness.
When sitting with eyes open and seeing into the darkness, interesting things may unfold. The first signs are the ten inner winds as visuals and felt displays. You may already know some of them by being observant while falling asleep. But then, in the dark retreat, the walls, the roof and the floor all begin to disappear, and the body too. After that, the experience can shifts to a mode that is sublime and boundless. When you are prepared, and practice under the the watchful eye of a qualified teacher or helper, the darkness becomes a great support to practice.
In entering a dark retreat, it is important to cultivate loving kindness in the form of a softness that holds no barrier. Devotion, the sense of trust and being secure in self confidence, will help you to let go and simply be in a dignified and compassionate way. This tenderness that is both trusting and kind hearted is the most powerful weapon in the battle with our timeless display.
Confident tenderness is a catalyst, like the philosopher’s stone in alchemy. You discover it as intrinsic, your own true nature, through the guidance of an authentic teacher.
Share this Post