10 days in darkness
"Character, like a photograph, develops in darkness."
10 days in darkness, silence and isolation
In May 2022, I will once again venture back into pitch darkness, complete silence and pure isolation.
3 years ago, I went into a 7 day darkness retreat. It was a profound and life altering experience. Before signing up for it, I thought about going in for 5 days to build up my capacity to endure the deafening silence of stillness. But the lady who ran that darkness retreat center in Germany told me to to go in for at least 7, and ideally 10 days. She said the most powerful experiences in the dark tend to occur after day 5.
She was right…
I remember seeing the brightest white light I’ve ever seen in my life on my 5th day in the darkness. It was so bright, I kept trying to shield my eyes from it by covering them up with my hands. I repeatedly touched my eyelids because I couldn’t tell if they were open or closed anymore.
On day 6, I experienced an even more intense light show. Laying in my bed, my arms became locked by my side and I couldn’t move. As surreal as that sounds, that’s what happened. I felt paralyzed. Right above me, I saw green and red lights envelop the ceiling. It looked like millions of stars in a galaxy. With no sense of time, I couldn’t tell how long this voyage to the infinite lasted. I wandered into this mystical realm for what must have been hours.
Then on day 7, I returned to the light.
I wonder what might have transpired and what new worlds I might have explored had I continued my dance with the darkness…
This May, I will find out. This time, I will be going much deeper into the dark. This time, I will go in for 10 full days.
I have no idea what will show up on day 7, 8 or 9, or any of the days for that matter. Considering the intensity of my experiences on day 5 and day 6 the last time, I am very curious to see where I will go on the 2nd half of this darkness retreat.
Beyond just the length of time in the dark, I believe this next journey will be an entirely novel experience for another reason as well.
The last time the darkness called to me, I went into it to heal the past. This time, I am going in with an eye into the future.
I am choosing to return not just for my continued spiritual evolution, but primarily as a part of my training for a never before accomplished feat of endurance. One so arduous, that a man often referred to as the “world’s greatest living explorer” deemed it to be “probably impossible.”
The odds of failure on this feat are far greater than the odds of success. To successfully accomplish the impossible, I must train my spirit, just as much as I train my body and my mind. I must master my relationship with myself. I must tap into the limitless power of the human spirit.
So I am entering into the darkness from a very different space and level of consciousness. I don’t know how that will shape the experience. I’ll find out soon enough.
Just like the last time, I am not going in with any intention. I tend to be a very outcome oriented, goal driven person. But I found that when going into the darkness, it is best to just surrender to its power and see what it reveals.
I will keep a journal in the dark, just like I did last time, but I don’t have a plan or an outcome in mind for what answers I hope to find. All I am seeking is continued mastery over the mind and spirit.
I am nervous and scared about reentering the dark. The prospect of being completely still with myself and doing absolutely nothing for 10 days is daunting. By shutting off one of the primary ways in which we engage with the world, our visual sense, I will have nowhere external for my mind to go. My consciousness will have nothing outside the self to latch onto. Inevitably then, I will be forced to go deep into my own soul.
This odyssey will open new doors within. I have no idea what waits for me on the other side of those doors. I cannot control it. I can simply open them, and whatever comes through, I must face. No matter how heavenly… or horrific.
By venturing into unknown worlds within, I will be bringing to the surface both my demons and my divinity. But that is why I go.
These forces live within me, as they live within all of us. But rarely, if ever, do we get to know them and come face to face with them. They run our lives without our awareness.
For as Carl Jung said…
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
I go back into the darkness to bring into the light all that still lays dormant inside me. The last time I went in, I found some answers. But We can’t do something once and expect all the answers to be revealed. There is still so much I do not know.
Evolution doesn’t stop. We never truly arrive. The only real final destination is death. Until that moment comes, there is always more to explore. Each new quest to the fateful frontiers of our limits expands them further and further.
T.S. Elliot once said…
“We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time.”
I am going back into the darkness to continue my exploration of the human soul and to come one step closer to truly knowing it for the first time.