Sunday, February 14, 2010

Darkness within Darkness

So the time is at hand. 3 days until I begin my dark room retreat @ Sierra Obscura retreat center in Nevada City. The basic structure of the experience is like this: a residential home in the Nevada City area has been converted to a retreat space. The downstairs of the house has 5 individual rooms and one community room, as well as several bathrooms and a massage room. The upstairs of the house is where all the food for the retreat-goers is prepared, and where various servers stay and operate during retreat times. The retreat begins with 2 days acclimating to the space in dim lighting, followed by 14 days darkness, ending with 1 day integration. Here is a blog site run by the center --->

So the basic idea is that I will have ample time to go inward, to meditate and contemplate, to observe and attune my awareness, to recalibrate my physiological systems so used to and abused by sensory overload, as well as many other things. I intend to use it as a time to go deep, deep within. To contemplate the years past happenings, and to integrate and embody as many of these powerful teachings that have come through to me in the Tao de Ching. Healing, release, renewal, rebirth.

Rebirth. Going into the darkness, going into the womb to grow and develop and emerge anew.

Though I am excited about the experience, I feel it will be quite a challenge for me! Just the other day I sat down and closed my eyes for 5 minutes, and just watched my breath and meditated, & it seemed like an eternity! But it was only 5 minutes. So I really can't imagine just what my experience will be like for some 300-something hours in pitch black, but I imagine immersing myself in the dark for such a long time will enhance the light that much more, at the very least.


So I want to tie in a few passages from the Tao De Ching to help me contextualize my experience before going in, & to give me a few things to contemplate and practice. I have chosen all the passages in the Tao that mention the word "dark" or "darkness." And perhaps on emerging from this womb I will understand these ancient phrases through my own experience, beyond any intellectualizing or theorizing. Perhaps...


The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.


Look, and it can't be seen.
Listen, and it can't be heard.
Reach, and it can't be grasped.

Above, it isn't bright.
Below, it isn't dark.
Seamless, unnamable,
it returns to the realm of nothing.
Form that includes all forms,
image without an image,
subtle, beyond all conception.

Approach it and there is no beginning;
follow it and there is no end.
You can't know it, but you can be it,
at ease in your own life.
Just realize where you come from:
this is the essence of wisdom.


Stop thinking, and end your problems.
What difference between yes and no?
What difference between success and failure?
Must you value what others value,
avoid what others avoid?
How ridiculous!

Other people are excited,
as though they were at a parade.
I alone don't care,
I alone am expressionless,
like an infant before it can smile.

Other people have what they need;
I alone possess nothing.
I alone drift about,
like someone without a home.
I am like an idiot, my mind is so empty.

Other people are bright;
I alone am dark.
Other people are sharper;
I alone am dull.
Other people have a purpose;
I alone don't know.
I drift like a wave on the ocean,
I blow as aimless as the wind.

I am different from ordinary people.
I drink from the Great Mother's breasts.


The Master keeps her mind
always at one with the Tao;
that is what gives her her radiance.

The Tao is ungraspable.
How can her mind be at one with it?
Because she doesn't cling to ideas.

The Tao is dark and unfathomable.
How can it make her radiant?
Because she lets it.

Since before time and space were,
the Tao is.
It is beyond is and is not.
How do I know this is true?
I look inside myself and see.


When a superior man hears of the Tao,
he immediately begins to embody it.
When an average man hears of the Tao,
he half believes it, half doubts it.
When a foolish man hears of the Tao,
he laughs out loud.
If he didn't laugh,
it wouldn't be the Tao.

Thus it is said:
The path into the light seems dark,
the path forward seems to go back,
the direct path seems long,
true power seems weak,
true purity seems tarnished,
true steadfastness seems changeable,
true clarity seems obscure,
the greatest are seems unsophisticated,
the greatest love seems indifferent,
the greatest wisdom seems childish.

The Tao is nowhere to be found.
Yet it nourishes and completes all things.


In the beginning was the Tao.
All things issue from it;
all things return to it.

To find the origin,
trace back the manifestations.
When you recognize the children
and find the mother,
you will be free of sorrow.

If you close your mind in judgements
and traffic with desires,
your heart will be troubled.
If you keep your mind from judging
and aren't led by the senses,
your heart will find peace.

Seeing into darkness is clarity.
Knowing how to yield is strength.
Use your own light
and return to the source of light.
This is called practicing eternity.


Yes yes yes! Wow. So these passages fully illustrate my main intention for the retreat. To emerge from the darkness and be able to say, "Ah yes, I don't just understand this passage, I've experienced this passage." or better yet... ----> "I am this passage." Whoa! If I can say this about any one part of any one passage, I will feel fulfilled in my ~postmoderntao~ blog journey. Either way, I'm sure whatever I experience with will be rewarding. :)

So, 2 more quick things relating to darkness that have come up for me just recently, and that relate to the retreat @ hand and the postmoderntao blog. One is that I intend to have dark field blood work done before going in and after coming out. Dark field blood work is otherwise known as "live blood work," and contrary to light field work, examines a complete, living blood cell. Last time I had an analysis done, I saw some pretty incredible stuff. One of my white blood cells looked like Florida, and I said to the Doctor, "say, what's with this?" And the Doc said, "Well, don't you have some relationship to Florida?" And I said, "Why yes, I am going to a yoga retreat there this December, and I've been trying to arrange my transportation there for the past week." ----> So me thinking about Florida caused FL to literally show up in my blood. I have other friends who have seen some pretty wild stuff in there relating to their psyche, childhood, life experiences, things they need to heal or address to move forward, etc. One friend of mine had many of her blood cells in the form of yogini ballerinas. Cool huh?

The second thing related to darkness is that I have by chance met a fellow who is opening a sensory deprivation chamber retreat center (really its a "day spa") in the Nevada City area right before I finish my dark room retreat, and we have arranged for me to be picked up from Sierra Obscura on March 4th to go to one of the Sensory dep. tanks to see what that's all about! The chambers are basically big water holding tanks that were originally used to transport Dolphins. In this case the water is adjusted to body temperature and is loaded with epsom salts, so one can't feel the water and can easily float in it. This creates or simulates the very real experience of primordial womb conditions. Some people apparently have floated for as long as 6 hours, but I think a very common time is a 30 min. to 1 hour journey.
So that will put the cherry on the Sunday of the dark field work & dark room retreat. Dolphin tank anyone?

So okay, perhaps the picture I've painted of the coming 3 weeks of my life seems rather insane, but I embrace the possibility of deep transformation and realization, and hope whatever happens will be of practical use to me and my reality--all my friends and family, all networks, all my relations!

Much love all!

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