Darkroom Retreat for new year’s eve!.
New year’s eve would normally mean heading out for some sort of party. But this year, Yoshi and I decided (for some bizarre reason) that 31 December would be an appropriate time to start a darkroom retreat: 2 weeks in the COMPLETE DARKNESS! Instead of going out, we were firmly destined to go in.
It was the most extreme experience we’d ever attempted, but the darkroom retreat proved to be completely life-changing. Here’s the full review (make sure to watch both videos for the full low-down).
PART 1: the space & practicalities
This 6-min video shows a tour of the space before we blew out the candle, and some practical details of doing the intense darkroom retreat!
A darkroom retreat is actually a very simple concept… it’s simply a room that is COMPLETELY shut off from all light, and you spend as much time in there as necessary.
There is a silent retreat centre in Guatemala (details at the bottom of this page) with a darkroom that can accommodate 1 or 2 people, which was perfect for us as a couple looking to share the experience. We chose to book the room for 14 days, then it was completely up to us what we did in the dark during that time. Before going in, the only rule I set for myself was that I wasn’t going to leave before day 14. I was determined to complete the full 2 weeks.
The darkroom was a single room housing 2 single beds, toilet, shower, sink, drinking water on tap, and enough floor space for a couple of yoga mats. Food is provided through a double trap-door system, where they can deliver food from the outside, and it can then be accessed from the inside, maintaining the darkness throughout.
It might sound obvious, but the room was VERY dark indeed. In our daily lives there is at least a tiny bit of light in all situations, meaning you can normally see something, even if it’s faint. But in the darkroom there was not even a hint of light, which is very unusual for most of us.
3 days of snoozing – what a luxury!
I decided to give myself 3 days of unadulterated rest. I didn’t do any yoga or meditation during this time, and ended up sleeping long nights and snoozing in the daytimes too. It was incredible how much I was sleeping – it just proved how exhausted I am in normal day-to-day life!
It also took me several days just to get used to the darkness! Everything takes so much longer when you can’t see squat… like going to the toilet and having a shower. And putting toothpaste on your toothbrush is just impossible as you can’t see how much is going on. We used over half a tube in 2 weeks – not sure where it ended up!
I’ve done two 10-day vipassana meditation retreats and other hardcore retreats (such as ayahuasca ceremonies in Peru and magic mushroom sessions in Jamaica), so although the darkroom retreat was challenging, it was still manageable (even 2 weeks). Saying that, it definitely helps to have a daily practice of some sort, to stop you going totally crazy!
After my 3-day snoozefest was over, I ended up doing around 2 hours of meditation per day and an hour or more of yoga. Yoshi and I also did a rebirthing session for each other 2 out of every 3 days. This helped to go inwards, and the sessions lasted around 4 hours per day so it used up some of the time!
Even though Yoshi & I were in the same room, we agreed we wouldn’t speak for most of each day. We were silent from when we woke to around 4pm each day and sometimes later (7pm or even 10pm). Timings were rough, of course, because the only way to tell the time was that we knew breakfast arrived at around 9am and dinner around 3pm. And there was a vocal handover between the birds and crickets at sunrise and sunset, that you could faintly hear outside.
After 4 or 5 days in complete darkness, your brain stats to produce DMT and the visions begin. The visuals I experienced were always faint – like shadows amongst the darkness – but I could definitely make objects out. Most of them was my brain trying to work out what was in the space, as I could often see a much larger room than was actually there, with garden chairs and exercise machines dotted about and sometimes people wondering around too.
The visions did get stronger in the evening time when I was getting tired. It was particularly interesting when I moved around the room based on what I thought I could see, and ended up bumping into furniture!
That’s about it for the practicalities. Now for the important bit… the outcome and life-changing benefits of doing a darkness retreat!
PART 2: the life-changing benefits!
This 12-min video features the top 6 life-changing insights I gained from the darkness retreat. Who would have known something as simple as darkness would be such a profound teacher?! I honestly feel like a different person after the experience.
The sensory deprivation basically puts all of your attention onto your thoughts, and this inward focus highlights a LOT of things about yourself. Also, without all the distractions of normal life, it gives space for your intuition to be heard, and profound insights can come to the surface. Completely mind-glowingly, life-changingly incredible!
The 2-week darkroom retreat completely shifted my perspective on several aspects of life. Here are 6 big life lessons that I learned (and there were quite a few smaller ones too!).
1. I’m a control freak!
Throughout the 2 weeks in the darkness, I kept on running through multiple scenarios of plane crashes in my mind. I was trying to work out how to survive in an emergency! This was quite confusing, because I’m not actually scared of flying. It wasn’t until later that I realised it wasn’t about flying at all… it was about control.
Flying is a situation where you have zero control of the situation. You get on the plane, the doors are locked and someone else is in control of flying… and your safety. My brain just don’t handle not being in control, so it would run through scenarios over and over to work out a way to be in control – obviously an unwinable game!
If I’m 100% honest with you, I’d admit that I’m a total control freak and try to control everything in my life. This has been highlighted to me over the past few years and I’m still working on it. The above proves that I’ve definitely got more inner work to do!
2. I’ve still got grudges to deal with
I noticed that I was having conversations with certain people in my mind, all with a subtle underlying intention of trying to prove that I’m right, and therefore trying to prove that they are wrong.
Very similar conversations kept playing on a loop, and this was clearly showing me that I have some unresolved relationship issues to deal with. The funny thing is that I thought I’d internally dealt with these, but apparently (very apparently in the dark!), I’ve still got some grudges with certain people.
You think you don’t have any grudges, and the darkness proves that you actually do! This is super valuable information because you can then do what’s necessary to find a resolution. Either internally through forgiveness, or externally by talking to the people involved in a very open, honest, loving way so that everyone benefits.
3. I don’t want to do it!
I HUGE realisation was that I have a constant, very subtle, underlying attitude of “I don’t want to do it”. And this slightly negative attitude is actually affecting my moment-by-moment experience of life. It was completely mind-blowing to realise this! From getting out of bed, to work, to even brushing my teeth, there is a base level of “I don’t want to do it” that is tainting my experience of just about everything.
As soon as I had this realisation, EVERYTHING changed. When I notice this happening in my daily life, I can now simply change the attitude to “I’m doing it” and just get on with it in an accepting and positive way. My whole world has shifted!
Since getting back to London, because of this realisation I get up much earlier than before, I’ve started running, it’s easier to get on with any task in life, and everything just seems far less annoying than it used to! It’s amazing how one small realisation of awareness can change your whole outlook of life. Wow!
4. The benefits of gratitude
I received some fascinating insights on gratitude… the finer details of how it works, and how important it really is. This is a big topic that deserves it’s own blog post and video, so stay tuned for these! I’ll include details of the 2 profound messages I received: “Gratitude is the new happiness” and “Gratitude will fix all of your problems” (and it explained exactly how).
5. How energy flows
I also received a very interesting insight about how energy flows. In a nutshell, we live in an artificial, transaction-based world (I give you £3, you give me a cup of tea. I’ll give you £40, you give me a massage). However, energy doesn’t flow like that naturally. Energy actually flows in one direction, and eventually comes back round.
If we were looking to exist more harmoniously, we could align ourselves with the natural flow of energy. So if a friend buys you a tea, instead of paying them back the £3 (or even buying them a tea next time), you could PAY IT FORWARD by doing something for someone else. Even though this isn’t what we’re used to, it’s a much more natural way of us all being connected, rather than existing in isolation (which is what the transaction-based system accidentally promotes).
6. Diet, exercise, life purpose
If there was 1 insight that shone through, it was this final one. It came up again and again throughout the 2 weeks of the darkroom retreat. The message from the universe was a direct instruction on what I needed to do with my life. 3 things and 3 things only… diet, exercise and life purpose.
The guidance stated that if I concentrate on those things (and only those things), everything else in my life would fall into place. It’s to do with the cycle of giving. The universe gave me a specifically life purpose – why I’m here on this planet. If I honour that gift by using my life purpose to give back, the universe will then provide financial support. If I use those finances to continue living my life purpose and give to other worthwhile causes, then the universe will provide me with relationships that will nurture my being; people who will support my life purpose and dreams. So diet, exercise and life purpose (focused on the cycle of giving) is all you ever need to concentrate on, because if you do this, the universe will provide everything you need.
What can I say? I am extremely grateful this darkroom retreat came across my path – turns out the darkness is an unbelievable teacher! I feel significantly different because of it, and truly believe the lessons learned in this profound experience won’t be forgotten. What a gift!
Would you do a darkroom retreat?
And what about you? Did any of the insights resonate with you? Would you be up for doing a darkroom retreat, or does it sound like your worst nightmare?! I would LOVE to hear what you think – get involved and leave a comment below!
- Retreat: Darkroom Retreat
- Location: San Pablo La Laguna, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
- Centre: The Hermitage Silent Retreat Centre
- Duration: You choose! (we did 13 nights)
- Cost: $35 USD (£26) for 1 person, or $53 USD (£39) for a couple, per day
- Includes: A very, very dark room with 2 beds, toilet, shower, drinking water
- Food: $16 USD (£12) extra per person per day (for 2 vegan meals)
- Total cost: $1150 USD (£847) for 2 people for 13 nights, inc meals & payment fee