Since ancient times darkness has been utilized as a vehicle bringing healing and wholeness and strength in spirit. Labyrinthine structures of many diverse cultures were constructed for purposes of leading adepts into a dark interior-journey, meandering at first, but eventually leading to the center that produced profound spiritual transformations.
Raymond Moody, author of Life after Life and The Light Beyond, talks of the ancient oracle sites of Greece, called psychomantions, which usually feature dark caves and labyrinthine subterranean passages where visitors may explore and experience heightened states of awareness in which their own inner knowing and divinatory powers may be stimulated or, indeed, their ability to speak with the dead. One of these sites, the Oracle of Poseidon (also known as the Oracle of Souls) near Sparta, for example, also contains a tunnel, now covered over, which was said to lead to the Kingdom of the Dead. (ibid, pg.9)
These subterranean tours of the mind induced a level of primordial consciousness, or revisiting the original dark before the light came into being—and darkness was upon the face of the deep. Modern day excursions in to these unknown mind realms are known as “Darkness Meditations”.
Darkness Meditative Therapy is based on the principle that complete darkness holds deep and powerful secrets of healing and spiritual elevation. Deriving from both brain research and traditional uses of darkness, we have created a dark room that offers you a profound experience of healing, rejuvenation and meditation. It is like a Himalayan cave in the midst of Berlin!
In our dark room, which is designed like a monk’s cave, you can enter the world of silence and darkness for different amount of hours and using different supportive programmes to enhance your experience.
Deeper darkness, deeper rejuvenation. Ancient practices of dark room therapy or dark room meditation are extremely rejuvenating and have numerous benefits for the body and mind. The practice of spending extended periods in complete darkness – anywhere from 1 to 14 days – has been a higher meditation practice in many cultures around the world. The benefits of such practices are extensive but include the production of high amounts of melatonin. With no presence of light emissions, melatonin continues to be produced and we can receive the mental, physical and emotional benefits from removing ourselves from not just the light but from the busy, noisy society that we have created.
Similarly, Heaven and Buxton’s work (as found in their book, Darkness Visible—awakening Spiritual Light through Darkness mediation) highlights a process whereby the participants “live in total blackout for a period of five days or more. Their experiences suggest that darkness is potent as a means of accessing the infinite.”
During retreats into darkness like those discussed above, there is an opportunity to purify the self, to shake off the socialized and separated mind, and, simply, to re-member—that is, to bring ourselves back together….
Darkness practice may assist us in this integration, producing psychological insights, spiritual illuminations, and the experience of repressed material and unusual phenomena, such as remarkably lucid levels of uncommon consciousness, in which the borders between dreaming and not dreaming diminish or disappear altogether. What it always does is heal. The chatter of the mind ceases and we are able to explore our luminosity, experiencing the world as we all first saw it: as a sea of energy beyond the forms of all that surrounds us. (ibid, pg. 14)
While I have found elements of their methodology helpful in my own practice, in particular the first half of the book, however thereafter the emphasis shifts and relies too heavily on psychoanalytic techniques that just reinforce the skandhic mind and its outflows. An Unborn Mind adept must not forget the primary focus in any such techniques is to encounter that “superessential darkness”, or the UNBORN SELF THAT is beyond all beingness:
Nothing is except Myself, i.e. the mind of perfect purity: No-thing is outside of this Mind, the Mind that reverberates with creative actuosity. Mind is Perfect-Suchness in an endless bravura of actuosity (Abundant activity).
Listen, great Bodhi-Being! I Am the Source of all the sacred texts and instructions and spiritual disciplines…they are all well and good in pointing towards my Supreme Essence, yet one must not become totally dependent upon them since in coming to Me, all striving and achieving needs to be muted-out in favor of My own Self-Same Spirit. Indeed, I Am the Absolute Climax of all such teachings and spiritual methodologies.
Ergo, it’s not the skandhic mind, but the nirvanic mind that best utilizes the creative function. And it is via darkness when we enter into the imageless hue of the Unborn. Any such Primordial Darkness Retreat must be conducted with this realization. For instance, the blog Yoga of the Manomayakāya highlighted this supernal function by actively engaging and evoking that superessential-darkness via the Manomayakāya which is the Mind-Made-Vehicle that enters into the very Mind-Stream of the Tathāgatas.
One tool I have utilized in my own practice is the use of a Mindfold:
Participants cover their eyes with a Mindfold, a flexible, black plastic faceplate backed with high-density soft-foam padding that fits snugly to the face. Its internal cutouts allow the user to experience total darkness with eyes open, thus creating an ongoing environment to encourage the shamanic art of seeing in the dark. (ibid, pg. 39)
The following is one such Mindfold that I purchased and have put to good use:
The cone-like objects at the bottom are earplugs.
I have found that the Mindfold nicely prevents phenomenal light from getting through, thereby enhancing the way for the supernal translucent darkness of the Unborn to become more normative. Spending two hours every day in my hermitage has proven sufficient in terms of practicing this technique. At first there is a vast array of thoughts that want to dominate the darkness—plugging it up; but if one remains one-pointedly fixed on the Unborn Lord, then one is triumphant against all sensate attacks. This is accompanied with a feeling of weightlessness as the body consciousness no longer has any object (image) in which to anchor itself. While this all usually occurs in silence—indeed silence is a bed of darkness—occasionally some appropriate meditational music is employed.
I love this idea, having experienced a dark retreat that was very healing.
At the time, i used a usual eye-mask, but looking online at mindfolds; where did you get the one you’ve posted? Seems different from the one’s I see online at a glance.
Oh, I’m sorry for my confusion!
I will look more on Amazon, my confusion was due to the picture you posted being different than the ones i found on Amazon with the mindfold label on them.
In researching them the one I purchased has a more comfortable contour–it works great!
Glad to see you’re posting again.
Excellent idea. Do you have a link to the particular model you recommend?
I don’t have any in particular, but if you google-it I’m sure you’ll discover the various models and workshops offered.
Actually I was thinking of your preferred mindfold item for dark retreats, for as someone already mentioned, the one I found on amazon.co.uk (I’m in Europe) looks different. (By the way, has the artificial material bothered you in any way? I wonder if any of the products made of natural materials are equally effective…)
I wish you all the best for the new year. May the Buddhas bless you with deeper breakthroughs in your practice.
With the skhandic body adorned in private modesty with the black robe, cowl and domra. Settled serenely in the darkened cave of expedient and skillful design. Remain still in this mysterious womb. In the transcendent radiance of the great primary clear light of the unborn darkness, may the steadfast renunciant attain oneness with Samantabhadra and even nameless attainments far beyond. Ineffable and Unborn. May IT be virtuous.
By Jove that’s It!