10 Days in a Dark Room.
On May 20th, after a week in meditative retreat with one of my wisest teachers here in the states, I will be heading down to Guatemala and entering into a 10 day Dark Room Retreat.
When I mention this to people, I often hear, “Excuse me, you’ll be doing what?”
And then two main questions arise.
The 1st question is usually, “So, just what is a Dark Room Retreat? It can’t be what it sounds like.”
Actually, it is. 10 days, 24 hrs a day in a room that is totally, can’t see your hand in front of your face, dark!
This particular “room” is built into the side of a mountain at The Hermitage Retreat Center on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala and is imbued with a beautifully grounding energy.
There is a hot shower, toilet, sink, bed and meditation platform.
There is also a double-doored food box lets in no light and through which is delivered 2 healthy vegetarian meals a day.
When I first enter the room I will have a candle lit so that I can orient myself to the space. And when I am ready…… Poof, I will blow out the candle and not emerge back out into the light for 10 days.
I will be alone. There will be no entertainment, internet, reading, writing or sound, other than perhaps some bird calls from outside and occasional thunder from the storms this time of year.
Basically there is nobody there but me and nowhere to go and nothing to do except be still and present and listen – within, or as I tend to feel into it, Beyond.
This leads to the 2nd typical question, which is:
“And……Just why are you doing this?”
I’ve been intrigued with the idea of a dark room retreat since the first time I heard about it a year ago. This kind of experience aligns powerfully with my dedicated meditation practice.
My meditations are vehicles for pointing awareness to the ISness of Being that exists beyond thought and beyond mental constructs of self. The dark room retreat is a way to deepen the experience of knowing the Nature of Being, beyond constructs.
To understand the motivation for both the meditations and the retreat, it helps to understand constructs. Constructs are made up images and ideas we have of ourself. They live in the mind, and they are what we’re typically referencing when we say “me”.
They are the “I” that we believe we are. In the state of personal identification, they are what follow the declaration of “I am….” I am this or that. They are our story of self.
When asked, “Who are you?” Most likely you will automatically reference the idea of self that lives in your mind, your construct.
Constructs are ‘constructed’ out of conditioning, your past, your beliefs and your stories.
They are constructed out of thoughts, which are referencing previous thoughts, which were validated by even earlier thoughts. In other words, our construct of self is making itself up, continuously.
So essentially, this thing you call “you” is a construct that you made up and it exists solely within your mind. And it pretty much runs the show. When we really investigate this deeply and really grok the consequences of this reality, it can be quite shocking.
“Wait, this thing that I call me and that makes all my decisions and tells me everything that I think is true about myself, about all my relationships and about all my needs, wants and desires is basically a very dense and complex thought form that I made up?! This self that I use to navigate my entire life is actually just a very suspect piece of programming?”
Seeing it from this perspective, it kind of gets your attention!
But how does the Dark Room Retreat relate to this?
One of the ways these constructs of self are reinforced and maintained is through our visual interactions with the world. When we see something, anything really, the mind habitually runs through certain types of self referencing questions with lightning speed:
“What do I think about that?” In that unconscious question the I, which you made up, is reinforced.
“How does that relate to me? In that unconscious question the me, which you constructed, is reinforced.
Is that a threat to me? Is that of value to me?
Does that validate me, offend me, please me, amuse me, anger me, depress me….. And on and on it goes.
Through visual stimuli, the idea or construct of self (me and I) that lives in the mind is constantly being referenced and reinforced as the primary self that exists.
Me, me, me. I, I, I.
The questions that are so rarely explored are:
What is the stable and enduring truth of Self that is ever present beyond the always changing, self generated construct of self?
What is the natural, authentic and pure essence of being that exists beyond, or prior to, the construct?
What is the ISness of Being that is always waiting to be engaged when we stop identifying so heavily as the personal story?
Think of it like a window that is looking out on a vista where the weather is constantly changing. One day sunny, the next day stormy, then snowing, windy, cold, hot, dark, light, cloudy…..
Now, see the constantly changing weather patterns as your image of self. They don’t stabilize. Neither does any idea of self that you are constructing in your mind. If you try to cling to any one weather pattern you will eventually be frustrated because you are attaching to something that, by it’s very nature, is transient.
The shift in perspective here is to know yourself not as that which comes and goes, but as the stable and eternally present window that witnesses all changing weather patterns. You are the unchanging window that is aware of all that comes, goes, arises and disappears in front of it. You are the awareness itself, not that which appears in front of the awareness.
The Dark Room Retreat provides an opportunity to STOP all visual references that reinforce the I and the me so that the self generated ideas and images of self can relax and let go.
Basically I am entering into this dark room retreat to more deeply experience the ever-present Aliveness of BEing that is always available when the illusion of “I” is no longer hogging center stage.
As this embodied knowing of True Self matures and the constructed self falls away, we begin to meet all life’s conditions with an authentic love, peace, grace, kindness and acceptance.
For me, this living as authentic presence and grace is true freedom.
The dark room retreat is an opportunity to allow my love, my devotion and my meditative inquires to guide me further and deeper into this Truth of BEing than ever before.
I look forward to sharing more from a deeply enriched perspective on the other side of….. The Dark Which Reveals the Light.