A Journey Into The Darkness

The Self Discovery Trip of A Lifetime

Did you know that there's a village in Norway called Hell? It freezes over during the winter, leading to the popular phrase "When Hell freezes over." So, technically, you can say you've been to Hell and back!

Today’s Itinerary:

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  • A Journey Into The Darkness

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A Journey Into The Darkness

Deep in the forest among the rolling hills of Ashland, Oregon is a place called Sky Cave Retreats. What makes this destination special is it is known for hosting “darkness retreats”. 

What is a darkness retreat? A darkness retreat is a period of time spent in seclusion in a completely dark space for a set number of days in an isolated location, deprived of light and sensory distractions. 

This practice has appeared throughout history in ancient Egypt, Rome, India, China, Colombia, Australia, and many other places with the goal of healing trauma, increasing mindfulness, shifting mental awareness, and reconnecting to one’s essence. 

From the moment I heard about it, I couldn’t wait to experience and see what it uncovered in me. For first timers they recommend 3 or 4 days in darkness. I signed up for 6 days/7 nights. 

Why so long? Because I wanted to make sure I got the FULL experience, I wanted to see what happens after the 4 recommended days, what’s on the other side? 

Nick’s Darkness Retreat Home for 7 nights

Ok, so how does it work?

I was picked up from the airport in Medford, Oregon by Scott the owner/operator of the facility, and on our drive he had a lot of questions for me about what I was hoping to get out of the experience and what brought me to the decision to do this in the first place.

#1. What was I hoping to get out of the experience?

I wanted to see what it was like. I wanted to HAVE the experience. I wanted to find out who I am in that situation and in those circumstances. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll come out on the other side a better person, more grounded and more insightful. 

Maybe I’d have some kind of magical powers when I came out. Maybe my eyes after that much darkness would heal and I wouldn’t have to wear glasses anymore.

I don’t know. Laugh if you want, but that’s what I was here to find out.

#2. What brought me to the decision to do a darkness retreat in the first place?

I heard an inspirational speaker talk about having just finished a darkness retreat and they described it as being one of the most impactful and difficult things they had ever done. I didn’t even know it existed. So as soon as I heard about it, I immediately felt that I must do it, I wanted that experience.  And so here I was.

We arrived at the property and it was absolutely gorgeous. I had forgotten how beautiful mountains covered by lush green forests can be. I made a mental note to look into cabin vacations upon my return. Scott gave me a quick driving tour of the property showing me the walking paths that led to the river, the greenhouse, the sauna, and of course, the darkness retreat buildings (they have 3) which were away from everything else.

I got a tour of the building I would be staying in. I was to stay for a full 24 hours in “normal” conditions first, to get acquainted with the space and settle in, then I would be in that same space in complete darkness for 6 days and 7 nights.

The layout was simple. A bed, a camping type lounge chair, and two small bean bag style meditation chairs. There was a large bathtub, a sink, a toilet and a little desk-like table where I would be eating my meals.

How are the meals?

You get 3 organic meals per day, all served at once in the evening which were placed in a cabinet in the wall from the outside, where you could retrieve them from the inside without any light exposure. 

Here was a typical 24-hour supply of food: a thermos of hot herbal tea, a thermos of soup, a large salad, a small container of olives, 2 hard boiled eggs, a sliced apple, carrot and celery sticks with hummus, chia pudding, a small container of pecans, a banana and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. 

I got settled in. This place was so beautiful and peaceful. 

Next Day:

After spending the night in the cabin in a normal fashion, I woke feeling rested and optimistic.  There was no phone signal so I had to hike a quarter mile down to the sauna where there was Wifi.  I checked in with my loved ones and then went for a nature walk before returning to the cabin.

That afternoon, I had a two hour session with the onsite therapist. This is an optional add-on but highly recommended to make sure you are properly prepared to go into the darkness.

The therapist taught me how to stay grounded in my body so that when in the darkness I wouldn’t get lost in my thoughts (which apparently can become a problem and cause you to “freak out”). We had a solid therapy session and then she left and said I could begin whenever I felt ready.

I went for one last nature walk. Scott arrived with the food, so I had dinner first, then entered the cabin, closed the door, and double checked the layout to be sure I knew where everything was.  I felt excited and a little bit nervous. 

There was a little shrine type area in the corner with a tea light candle. I lit the candle then went and shut off the light switch that had a hard plastic cover over it so you don’t accidentally hit it in the dark.  I walked back to the candle and knelt before it. This would be the last light I would see for a week.  

I said out loud “Ain’t nothin’ to it but to do it! Carpe Noctem!” and blew out the candle.

I was bathed in inky black darkness, alone, in silence.

6 days/7 nights later at about 9am, Scott knocked on the door “You ready?”

I placed the blindfold on, and opened the door. Scott took my arm and led me out into the light and sat me down in a chair. He said, “when you are ready, take off the blindfold”

I eased off the blindfold, squinted against the brightness…

and I was back!

Before me was the most majestic and beautiful mountain scenery. Lush and green rolling hills that went on forever, with crystal clear blue skies above. 

 So…How was it?

There is nothing to compare it to, it is it’s own thing.

Everyone’s journey will be a little different, but everyone who does it will definitely be going on a journey.

I’d describe it like this. It’s like the movie “The Wizard of OZ” the group goes on a journey to see the Great and Powerful OZ to get something they had the whole time and that OZ had no power to give them. BUT…it was the journey that uncovered the truth to them. If you would have told Dorothy and the group they already had the stuff before they took the journey, they would have no idea what you were talking about. They HAD to go on the journey to be able to see it.

The darkness retreat is the same way. It takes you on a journey and on that trip a lot of things within you are uncovered. And at the end, hopefully, you leave with a different perspective, a “shift” in how you perceive and relate to yourself, people, places and things.

I had the rest of the morning to myself to adjust back into the light and to go on nature walks.  In the afternoon the therapist returned and we had another 2 hour session to go over the experience. It was a very enlightening talk. I loved it!

The next morning I was dropped back off at the airport to fly home and reflect.


Do I feel I emerged a better person? 


I unfortunately still have to wear my glasses and didn’t get any superpowers that I know of. But, without a doubt, I feel like a better version of myself on the other side of that experience.

What’s it like sitting in the dark for that long?

There isn’t a riddle or mystery to it. I was sitting there in the dark, by myself on one of the chairs or the bed for 6 days and 7 nights. What you imagine that would be like, that’s what it was like.

Do they check on you from time to time?

Yes, Scott stopped by in the morning and evening to have a quick chat through the door to see how I was holding up and offer any necessary guidance. I’m grateful for that.

What did I do? Did I get bored?

There is nothing to do but sit there in the dark, that’s what I came for and that’s what I expected. Grounding myself in my body to spend as much time in the present moment as possible just like the therapist showed me.  Sometimes my attention would go to the past, sometimes it would go to the future. Then I’d bring it back to the present moment. I was in there sitting in the dark in silence, alone.  Simple as that. Since I had that inner work to do, I never got bored. 

Did I wish I had chosen a shorter time?

Nope, I believe I had the perfect amount of time for my situation, however I don’t want to glamorize it. I think 3 or 4 days is more than enough for most people. I wouldn’t

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