Resources For Attendees Of My Talk On Darkness Retreats

Note: 

  • This is a collection of resources and recommendations I compiled for attendees of a talk I recently gave on my experiences in darkness retreats, and with other forms of healing practice, many of which involve of non-ordinary states of consciousness. 

Recommended Practices

“I love you” Loving Kindness Meditation

  • This is the version of loving kindness meditation that seems most effective at breaking negative thought loops in darkness retreats, and seems to lead to a boost in mood and cognitive function in the hours after I do it. It has the same effects in every day life. Out of all the practices that I work with, it is the one that I recommend most highly. 

Instructions to perform this meditation: 

  • Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. 
  • Think the name of a person you love. You can also visualize their face as you think their name. 
  • Think the words “I love you” to them, three times, as though you were saying these words to them, but using thoughts instead of your voice. 
  • Gradually, you can expand the range of people to whom you direct these thoughts. For example, you can direct therm to acquaintances, people you know of but have never met, and even people who bother you. I think you’ll find that if you practice for a long enough period of time, you can develop love for just about anyone. 

Variation: 

  • Go to a public place and glance at a person long enough to get an image of them in your mind. 
  • Look away from them, but keep them in your peripheral vision. 
  • Think the words “I love you” to them, three times, as though you were saying these words to them, but using thoughts instead of your voice.

Recommended Reading on this topic: 18 science backed reasons to try loving kindness meditation today (Published in Psychology Today)

 

The 10 Points Practice

  • Click here for guided audio instructions on how to do this practice, given by its creator, Dr. Reggie Ray. 
  • It’s of the best meditation techniques I’ve ever found. It often leads to the release of memories which hadn’t come to mind in years, and induces the flow of subtle energy. 
  • The I’ve found that effects of the 10 points practice can be significantly amplified by first practicing the “I love you” meditation described directly above. Preceding 10 points with said meditation seems to improve my ability to both location tension within my body, and to release it. 

 

Breath Jogging 

  • Very good for breaking negative thought loops, releasing repressed emotion, combatting insomnia, and calming an overactive mind. 

Instructions: 

  • Breathe slightly more rapidly and slightly more deeply than normal for 5 – 15 minutes. 
  • The rate and depth of the breathing should be akin to that which would occur on a light jog. 

 

“Just Sit” Meditation

  • One of my primary practices in Darkness Retreats. 

For instructions, and some interesting thoughts on meditation in general, watch the video below. Although Naval recommends doing it for an hour (which can definitely do good things) I find that two hours seems to be the best amount of time to do it when not in darkness (although even half an hour can be great). 

  • One of the reasons that I like to do it for an extended period of time is that I generally find it less than twice as challenging to go for an hour than to go for half an hour, and less than twice as challenging to go for two hours instead of one. 

A quick hack for breaking thought loops during this type of meditation: 

  • If you find yourself stuck in a thought loop, see if you are are unconsciously clenching the muscles in your face and, if so, release this tension. Weirdly enough, I always finds this reduces the intensity of the loop, and sometimes eliminates it entirely. 

Another hack for boosting the efficacy of this meditation: 

  • Do yoga beforehand, or the “I love you meditation” described at the top of this page. Both practices consistently and noticeably increase the depths to which I go when doing this practice, and the amount of subconscious material it ends up bringing to the surface. 

Here’s one of my favorite yoga practices to do prior to a session of just sit. 

 

Holotropic Breathwork 

  • Described by some as “heavy duty meditation” this form of deep rapid breathing can induce powerful releases and profound healing of both physical and mental issues (such as the complete eradication of a chronic knee issue I had for two years, and which had resisted all forms of conventional physical therapy)
  • I’ve had my best results with this practice when doing it in the presence of a trained facilitator. If you would like to work with the facilitators I’ve worked with, or learn more about the practice, I would recommend reaching out to Breathwork Northwest, or reading the book “Holotropic Breathwork” by the practice’s creator, Dr. Stanislav Grof. 

 

Requests / Intentions / Asking 

  • As I mentioned during the talk, I have increasingly come to believe that there exists a form of Sacred Other that hears us, and sometimes responds to our requests. Some call it God, others call it the universe, others call it the subconscious mind. Although I’m unsure as to what it actually is, I am quite convinced that it is real, and can be communicated with. Here’s how I generally go about doing so: 
  • Beginning meditations with a request, starting with the words “please help me…” “please teach me…” or “please show me…”
  • Examples: “Please help me heal” “Please help me forgive myself” “Please teach me how to learn more quickly” “Please show me what I need to see”
  • Beginning meditations in this way, both in darkness and in normal settings, can have some amazing effects, including the surfacing of insights and memories that are related to the request that was made. I also sometimes make such requests at random throughout the day, and have received insights related to them in the following hours or days. 
  • A similar technique is employed by chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin. He calls it “The Most Important Question” practice. To do it, simply ask a question of the universe at some point in the evening, then let the question out of your mind. Then journal on what thoughts come to you about it the following morning, or just wait for an answer to come to you. 

 

Expressive Writing

  • A form of writing which numerous studies suggest can lead to improved health outcomes and boosted markers of immune function. 
  • To perform this practice, write about the most traumatic experience(s) of your life in as much detail as possible for 15 minutes per day, 4 days in a row. 
  • The lecture below is given by the creator of the practice, Dr. James Pennebaker, who is professor of psychology at The University of Texas. In it, he describes how he ended up creating the practice, and the results of studies on its efficacy. Lecture starts at 1:40. 

 

Recommended Reading/Listening 

Your Breathing Body, by Dr. Reggie Ray 

  • Contains guided audio instructions for many of the most effective somatic meditations I have ever worked with. Wonderful for releasing physical, emotional, and energetic tension, and cultivating a deeper connection with one’s subconscious mind. Side note: In my experience, the deeper your connection to your subconscious, the better your life will be.  

Holotropic Breathwork, by Dr. Stanislav Grof 

  • One of the best books on both breathwork, and healing in general, that I have ever read. 

The Cosmic Game, by Dr. Stanislav Grof

  • Description from Amazon: 

In this, his culminating work, the leading international figure in consciousness research masterfully synthesizes his vast findings, drawing not only upon psychedelic therapy and Holotropic Breathwork, but also from literature, cross-cultural studies, ancient mystical sources and psychological data, resulting in a profound consolidation and articulation of what is now known about nonordinary states of consciousness.

The Cosmic Game discusses the broadest philosophical, metaphysical and spiritual insights gleaned in Grof’s research concerning human nature and reality, addressing the most fundamental questions human beings have asked about the nature of existence since time immemorial.

Insights from research into nonordinary states of consciousness portray existence as an astonishing play of the cosmic creative principle that transcends time, space, linear causality, and polarities of every kind and suggest an identity of the individual psyche in its furthest reaches with the universal creative principle and the totality of existence. This identity of the human being with the Divine is the ultimate secret that lies at the core of all great spiritual traditions.

The Body Keeps the Score, by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk 

  • Amazing book on how the body stores trauma, and how it can be healed.

Probing the Enigma of Multiple Personality, New York Times article written by Dr. Daniel Goleman

Notes: 

  • I believe this one is behind a paywall if you don’t have a subscription to the New York Times. If you’d like a copy, let me know and I’ll email you a PDF. 

Excerpts: 

  • In people with multiple personalities, there is a strong psychological separation between each sub-personality; each will have his own name and age, and often some specific memories and abilities. Frequently, for example, personalities will differ in handwriting, artistic talent or even in knowledge of foreign languages.
  • Multiple personalities typically develop in people who were severely and repeatedly abused as children, apparently as a means to protect themselves against the pain of the abuse. Often only one or two of the sub-personalities will be conscious of the abuse, while others will have no memory or experience of the pain. It is unclear why some abused children develop the syndrome while others do not.
  • For more than a century clinicians have occasionally reported isolated cases of dramatic biological changes in people with multiple personalities as they switched from one to another. These include the abrupt appearance and disappearance of rashes, welts, scars and other tissue wounds; switches in handwriting and handedness; epilepsy, allergies and color blindness that strike only when a given personality is in control of the body.

 

Recommended Watching 

  • Best objective evidence I’ve ever seen to suggest that togetherness is one of the most important pillars of health, perhaps more so even than diet and exercise. 

 

  • This interview contains a description of the flooding in of repressed memories that during occurred during a vipassana retreat. 
  • Skip to 59:05 to hear it. Tim Ferriss’s description of this event is incredibly informative and speaks volumes to the relationship between the mind and body, the relationship between physical tension and emotional repression, and to the general nature of the healing journey.