What Happens To Your Brain After 7 Days In Total Darkness
The Darkness Retreat With Shashi Solluna
I just had one of the best months of my life at a resort called Serenity living with some of the worlds top tantra practitioners in a stunning location on a magical island called Koh Phangan in Thailand. This is a co-working co-living community curated by my dear friend Shashi Solluna, a taoist tantra teacher who I had co-created her debut meditation album that is now being signed by Hay House.
We are all at around the table on one of last few days together having a last supper to celebrate the launch of our album with the rest of the community. The soaring highs, deep depth of connections, and positive insights and emotions created from this month of embracing tantra at a deep level for the first time over shadowed any thoughts of the trip I was about to embark on to Zorba The Buddha. This is an osho based retreat centre found in a tranquil sanctuary in the heart of Delhi, the capital of my mother land India.
I had no idea of what I was about to really put myself through and the real seriousness of the revelation and deep insights I was about to receive. All talk of this amongst my friends was making fun of the obvious question why on earth would anyone want to spend an entire week in complete darkness?
How Can The Darkness Awaken You?
Many spiritual and shamanic traditions have used meditations in pitch darkness as a method of healing, transformation and awakening. How can this simple technique be a catalyst of transformation?
If we take a look at the chemistry of the brain we can begin to understand the biochemistry behind awakening.
The Pineal Gland
It is thought that the biological structure associated with the third eye, or inner eye, is a gland called the pineal gland. Some theories say that the gland can become calcified, and thus our inner vision becomes dulled or blocked. By purifying this gland, it is decalcified and thus activated.
Activation of the pineal gland may be what ancient mystics have called “opening your third eye”. Spiritual awakening is a shift in perception. It is not the outer world that changes, but the inner world. When the perception shifts from seeing separation to seeing oneness, it is said we see with our inner eye open. Along the way, the practitioner may or may not experience shifts in perception such as psychic abilities, astral travel and lucid dreaming.
The pineal gland has been called “the seat of the soul” (Descartes and Bailey) and is thought to be a very profound spiritual center of the brain. In Tao Tantra, there is a term called the “crystal palace” used in meditation. This is said to be connected to both the third eye and the crown chakra. Thus to activate it is to activate the higher spiritual centers.
DMT in the brain
The chemistry of the brain gets really interesting when we start to look deeper into the pineal gland. We find that under circumstances of light deprivation, the pineal produces a psychedelic substance called DMT. This is a naturally occurring substance, which occurs at birth and death in the human.
DMT also occurs in a shamanic plant medicine called “Ayahuasca”, which is drunk for visionary purposes. However, it has been discovered that an individual can develop release of DMT naturally within their own brain, in a more natural and gentle way through meditation, darkness retreats and pineal decalcification.
To enter darkness for extended periods of time has been a practice used in many traditions. In Tao Tantra it is seen as a time to sink into the deep yin, or mysterious feminine aspect of life. Like returning to the womb, we let go of the activities and stimulations of normal daily life and rest in the deep peace from whence we came.
When we see in daylight, the concept of separateness is continually enhanced. “you” and “me” look separate. When we are in darkness, these boundaries disappear and we shift perception into our energy body. Instead of feeling like a particle, a separate entity we feel like more a wave of energy, part of the whole of existence.
This is a journey. This is a vision quest.
After extended time in darkness, is known that the brain releases DMT. This is a chemical that is also released in birth and death or after ingesting powerful substances such as ayhuasca (a shamanic power plant). Darkness can create this chemical naturally and thus we shift perception. We are enabled to enter our depths and the depths of life. t is also deeply restorative, as we have a break from stimulation and sink back into the world of non-doing.
These retreat will be a series of guided meditations and practices all conducted in darkness. The rooms will also be in darkness. Participants will be guided from the practice hall to their accommodation whilst blindfolded and at night time.
- Inner Alchemy Taoist Meditations (drawing darkness into the pineal gland, building the energy body, opening the heart)
- Restorative Practices (supporting the detoxfication of the body and entering deep relaxation)
- Breath Meditations (relaxing breathwork and also rebirthing breathwork)
- Sound Healing and Chanting
- Osho Nadabrahma Meditation
- Osho Kundalini Meditation
- Osho Chakra Sounds Meditation
- Meditations from the Vigyan Bhairav Tantra (Kashmiri Shaivism)
- Death Day: a day without food, structure or talking in which we can really let go on a very deep level, releasing what no longer serves us and touching into the Source. We take several days to prepare for this experience (don’t worry: you won’t really die! just you get to let all experience and all that is manifest die)