To some people the idea of spending two weeks in complete darkness sounds scary, claustrophobic even, but for others it brings an exciting opportunity for deep internal work. From when I first heard about the darkroom, I knew this was a threshold I wished to cross.
Ten years into my Taoist training and personal practice, the timing was right and I did my first Darkroom Retreat in Tao Garden, Thailand. Held and facilitated by Master Mantak Chia, who guided us skilfully through Taoist terrain and across cosmic fields, this was an experience that would transform my entire being.
The darkroom offered a haven for rest. There were long sleeps reminiscent of hibernating bears. The senses were relieved of many functional duties and reveled in the respite from neural activity. We kept silence, ate simply and there were no unnecessary stimuli. And the question that everyone asks – didn’t your eyes adjust? In a word, no! It was darker than dark. However, after a few days – the light appeared. There was light, there were colours, but still I could not see the mundane world.
The mind eased into stillness – no meetings, no phonecalls, no Whatsapps, no social media notifications. There was nowhere to go, nothing to do, except to be present to myself and to the insightful teachings of Taoist Inner Alchemy.
My body softened. My cells let go. I had an acute awareness and appreciation of my physiological self. I was in awe of my anatomical structure – in love with my spine. And I was in tune with my chi – the bioelectric magnetic energy that Taoism is famed for cultivating.
The darkroom chamber has been used for eons. In olden days they sought the perfect cave with the right amount of darkness and a cool temperature that would not attract animals and insects. In this environment the higher Inner Alchemy practices could elicit experiences in the psychic and spiritual realms, offering a return to the primordial force.
Throughout the retreat I had a distinct sense of being in a cave. The DMT effect carved soft cave-like formations in my perceptual field. Eyes open or eyes closed – I saw the same patterns. Curious to test my brain chemistry, the gentle hallucinations that enveloped me and the third eye theory, I reached out to touch what vividly lay before me. My fingers ran through air! I was amazed by this synchronicity of the cave experience and it created a very safe, held space, which was also womb-like in essence.
Days were filled with nothingness ‘Wu Wei” and Tao practice (guided by Master Chia or self-practice) – Chi Kung, Nei Kung – bone breathing, Tao Yin, primordial breathing, Fusion of the 5 elements, Ovarian Kung Fu and of course the Kan and Li practice which was the primary teaching practice of this enlightening retreat. My consciousness extended far into the infinite Universe – connecting with the North Star and capturing the Violet Light for healing and transformation within. I was met with deep love and wisdom, and felt stellar frequencies vibrating through my body. What a gift – to be so open, so aware, so able to receive knowledge beyond the limitations of the mind. Held snugly in a cosmic embrace.
Many truths unfolded in my time in the darkness, some were tangible and actionable. Others were beyond me, but I did not grasp at them – my soul was taking notes. Months later this vast, incredible experience of the Darkroom continues to influence the direction of my life in ways I do not understand nor want to. I trust in the mystery. And I embrace The Way.
I would like to extend deep gratitude to Master Mantak Chia for offering this opportunity to experience the Darkroom and his dedication to helping his students to progress to levels of practice that was once reserved for Taoist adepts, shrouded in secrecy. Thanks also to the staff at Tao Garden for the kindness and care during the retreat.