I have just emerged from a week-long retreat in pure darkness 24 hours a day, which I co-facilitated with a shamanic healer called Luca Firewolf. During the retreat we followed some of the methods from Vigyan Bhairav Tantra, a Tantric writing that is a few thousand years old. There are some sutras in it in which one is guided to enter darkness for meditation and contemplation. We listened to Osho’s discourses from this sutra, which included the following:
“Essenes say that God is darkness, and there is something in it. One thing: darkness is eternal. Light comes and goes and darkness remains. In the morning the sun will rise and there will be light; in the evening the sun will set and there will be darkness. For darkness nothing will rise — it is always there. It never rises and never sets. Light comes and goes; darkness remains. Light always has some source; darkness is without source. That which has some source cannot be infinite; only that which is sourceless can be infinite and eternal. Light has a certain disturbance; that’s why you cannot sleep in light. It creates a tension. Darkness is relaxation, total relaxation.”
This whole idea that God, that the Creator, is actually darkness is quite different from the more popular idea of the Divine as light. Yet there is something quite profound within it.
As we started the retreat, we sat in a circle in our lightproof meditation hall, each person with a small candle. We gazed into the candle flame and contemplated the ephemeral nature of the light: the flame constantly flickers, reminding us that the light is ever-changing. The light began when we struck the match and will end when we blow it out…it is finite.
After blowing out our candles we look into the darkness. Quite different from looking at a flame, which is an object you can focus on. The darkness has no point of focus, nor any boundaries can be found there. It is limitless, formless, eternal. You look and look and you see the infinite. Of course at first you may be tempted to project your fears into the darkness, but if you simply sit and face those then you will come to see that they are not real. Then your mind becomes clear and comes face to face with The Eternal. In the pure darkness there is nothing there and yet there is something.
Now all of these are words frequently used in association with God: eternal, limitless, infinite.
Yet we associate the dark with many negative things: evil, manipulation, ghosts, crimes…how can it be that darkness has such negative associations whilst pure darkness is relaxing, calming and eternal? These dark associations are still part of duality…in the world of light, there are also shadows. As soon as we turn on the lights again, then form appears as an appearance of light and shadow.
As I sit in the pure darkness I feel that I am sat face to face with the Creator of all. This darkness was there at the beginning and will be there at the end when all has gone again. It is actually there the whole time, like a crucible holding all of existence. The darkness holds the candlelight, even though we miss it because our attention is drawn to the appearance of the light. But when you sit in the darkness meditation hall, you come to realise how eternal the darkness really is, like a silent presence holding everything.
And you can see how light is the form of this formlessness. Light is the manifestation of this eternal darkness, just as sound is the manifestation of silence. Light is the created, darkness the Creator. Perhaps the Eternal Existence simply wanted to experience itself, and thus it created light (didn’t God say “let there be light!”). So turn out the lights and gaze deeply into pure darkness and you can return to the Creator. Simple as that! Instant enlightenment in the dark!
And somehow as you sit with the deep peace of darkness, you can see how clear light is a pure creation of this formlessness. The shadows that are created by the light may simply be the price we pay in order to see the truth manifested as light. The shadows are just a trick of the light! And when we blow out the light, the shadows also are extinguished.
It is an incredibly simple yet profoundly strong way to enter non-duality: enter the darkness. Pure darkness, 100%…because even a small shaft of light will create illusions. And then all light and shadow is gone, all good and bad is gone, all beauty and ugliness is gone. There is nothing to judge. Nothing to cling to. And the body-mind starts a deep deep relaxation, returning to its source. A week spent as if resting back in the womb. A detoxification healing process of body, mind and emotions begins all on its own, taking us back to our original nature.
“Darkness seems to be the womb out of which everything arises and into which everything falls.”
I recommend to everyone to try at least one Darkness Retreat in a lifetime, to have the great privilege to die without dying. Like taking a sneaky peek behind the veils of illusion, turning off the movie of life for a brief pause, resting in the presence of the Creator with nothing to do…an opportunity to re-frame your whole perception of life and to emerge reborn and ready to live life afresh. As the sufi’s would say: get drunken on darkness!!!
“Sufis have used this method, a particular sect of Sufis, and those Sufis are known as drunken Sufis. They are drunk with this darkness. They make holes in the ground, and they lie down in the holes every night, and they meditate lying down in their holes — meditating darkness, becoming one with it. And their eyes will show you that they are intoxicated. You can feel from their eyes such deep relaxation, such a relaxed vibration, that it can happen only if you are deeply intoxicated or feeling very sleepy. Only then can your eyes show that expression. They are known as drunken Sufis — and they are drunk with darkness.”