It has been 6 years since my last retreat in the domes. I have been away from the dark retreat center for 5 years and decided to again run the retreats last year. First, It has been about renovating the center and running the retreats in a fresh and creative way. At this point, it has kept me busy and I did not feel in a position to retreat.
I have now booked a 28 days retreat in May. I recently felt the call to stop and drop everything.
This time, it's my turn to go in the dome.
For the last 6 months, both domes have been opened, I have enjoyed a life in full service. I found myself often having conversations with participants through the ventilation pipes, sometimes deep, sometimes casual, just to support beings who want to be checked in every day or every now and then.
I don’t want to put myself in a teaching position but more from sharing my experience. Experience from all the retreats I sat but also from serving so many beings and learning from their own experience.
It’s in coherence with the vision for the center. It's to offer a supportive space for truth seekers who want to face themselves. What do I mean by that?
Regardless of their background of practice, they are in a stage where they feel they have done and learn enough for now and feel ready to rely on inner truth to guide them to freedom.
It comes a time when they feel the pull to try out their practice without the physical presence and support from a teacher or the supportive energy of a group.
It's rare to find such a place, its a common format with retreats or workshops to rest on the teacher/student relationship. I have nothing against this format, I have a lot of gratitude for many teachers alive now or who left their body long ago. They helped me and still support me with their presence and teachings.
All true teachers point to the truth but can not carry you there.
It’s all about offering a space to go inside, to trust the heart guidance, silence and to fully accept where you are at. It's a time that reveals hidden identifications, shadows and reset, readjust you to a deeper sense of you.
Am I up for that? Oh yes. A yes without second thoughts. The fire of wanting to sit alone in the dark is hot enough to burns all doubts and hesitations. They will come up but the fire doesn’t give them a chance to grow.
I don’t need to sit a retreat in order to go inside, in order to live in truth. It’s definitely not going to improve my social skills, bring more abundance in my life and even make me a better person. What is there that pushes me to sit days after days alone in the dark?
In our society, it’s regarded as the highest form of punishment, when someone has done something really bad, he is locked in solitary confinement. It’s deeply ingrained in our psyche, the fear of being rejected from others and ending up alone in a dark cell.
Well, I am certainly not a masochist, I love life, I love my friends and family and I am easy to be with. I feel connected to the world, I am very active, I enjoy to have this body and mind. My main purpose in life is simple, live in truth and share love.
It's radical to seek the truth. Nothing more radical than truth itself.
There is a space within that I have been cultivated since my first meditation retreat 30 years ago. Yes, I started young. The first seed. Space itself never changes, from that space life is changing. In the spiritual jargon, this space is referred to as awareness, mindfulness, the non-self, the self and more. But really, it can not be described. It's beyond the mind.
That space is me. Not the me I refer to as myself when talking to people, but an infinite sense of me. Once it became more revealed, its unstoppable, I can not go back, I feel like a particle in the gravitational field of a black hole being inevitably absorbed.
When entering the dome and sitting every day in the pitch black space, pure awareness becomes alive, vivid and more difficult to forget. Personal identifications, the shallowness of the inner dialogues of the commentator and the listener become hard to miss.
The joy to come home is so sweet, I never experienced anything that can compare with such a subtle yet irresistible love.
When I was questioned by a friend about the retreat, my mouth expressed those words:
"I feel ready now to go in, I feel curious to see where I am at, truly. Also, I am stable enough now to stay there that long.”
It’s not about how long the retreat is but on the quality of the awareness during the retreat. I choose 4 weeks, it looks a lot for some people but its nothing for a Buddhist monk that come out of a 3 years dark retreat.
The most important is to feel the confidence that comes from inner wisdom and years of practice.
A deep clean up has been done already, it doesn’t mean that during the retreat shadows will not come up, it means that the recognition of the awareness space has become embodied enough within that I can watch shadows, bliss, light, great and mediocre without getting to identify.
It doesn’t mean also that I will not get identified, even this doesn’t worry me as I know it's the natural way to see the yet unseen identifications.
It all boils down to the realization that everything that has movement changes,
"What is it that doesn’t change ?” Moojibaba
Written by Santosh, the founder of Dark Retreat Center. He now lives in Thailand where he manages retreats on his land. He is a meditation and yoga teacher but prefers building sustainable sacred dwellings at the moment.