I first came upon the idea of doing a “dark retreat” when I started exploring a nighttime practice. The instructions, as I have talked about before, are quite simple. One simply visualizes a white “A” at one’s center and relaxes into it. The target is to stay aware of the “A” as one falls asleep. If you can do this you have the full presence of state of natural light. (Whatever that means.) This allows you to be aware as you sleep and to be able to easily recognize when you are dreaming. Hence, your dreams are lucid.
Now if you can do this, great! If not, Namkhai Norbu suggests a dark retreat may be useful in developing this level of contemplation. This recommendation spurred me to put “dark retreat” on my bucket list. I have not yet investigated what the retreat involves, but I know that is requires pitch darkness for at least twenty-four hours.
There is one room in my house that has no windows. That is a small bathroom. Perhaps that would suffice for twenty-four hours, but it doesn’t really have enough room to lay down in. Ideally, I would have access to that bathroom and the living room. And since there isn’t a door between the kitchen and the living room, I might as well throw in the kitchen.
It has been interesting for me to think about what it would take to get my house completely dark. And beyond that, what activities would need to be given up to maintain darkness. For instance, while I could turn off the light in the fridge, cooking anything will always emit light. Or if I want to just adjust my thermostat the light will go on. And many of you know my attachment to my swamp cooler this time of year. I hate to give it up, but it requires the incoming air to be vented. An opening to the outside that doesn’t allow light in may be difficult to devise.
The first step will be devise a way to get the house dark. The second step will be to plan my lay out of things so that I can find what I need in the dark. No reading labels during the retreat! And with no clock to consult, how will I know when I am done retreating? I imagine I could figure out day from night by temperature changes. My walls get warm when the sun comes up.
What else will I need to do to prepare? What would it take for you to do a dark retreat at your place?