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    Thread: tell me about dark retreats

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      tell me about dark retreats

      i've read a little about them but don't really know much other than that they are time spent in total darkness. i've heard it's to simulate the experiences one has after death. how so? how does it work, what are the details? rules? methods? any info at all would be nice, thanx.

      to be clear: no one should try this! it would be a bad idea and is not safe for anyone.

      according to what i have read these practices are extremely dangerous and should not be used by anyone. the only people that do them are tibetan buddhist monks with years and years of training and even they have problems sometimes. it can cause psychosis.
      Last edited by somniumrex; 01-12-2011 at 06:27 PM.

    2. #2
      I am become fish pear Abra's Avatar
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      The best places are those you've never been to, except in the dark. And it must take two miles minimum to get there.

      Alternatively, you could just duct tape your eyes shut for a bit.
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      Abraxas

      Quote Originally Posted by OldSparta
      I murdered someone, there was bloody everywhere. On the walls, on my hands. The air smelled metallic, like iron. My mouth... tasted metallic, like iron. The floor was metallic, probably iron

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      Quote Originally Posted by Abra View Post
      The best places are those you've never been to, except in the dark. And it must take two miles minimum to get there.

      Alternatively, you could just duct tape your eyes shut for a bit.
      are you being cryptic and/or poetic or is this a type of dark retreat? like you stay inside a dark area and walk an equivalent of two miles? or walk two miles in the dark?

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      Hungry Dannon Oneironaut's Avatar
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      Okay, from wIKIPEDIA:

      Dark retreat (Tibetan: mun mtshams[1]) refers to advanced practices in the Dzogchen lineages of the Nyingmapa, Bönpo and other schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The time period dedicated to dark retreat varies from a few hours to decades. Dark Retreat in the Himalayan tradition is a restricted practice only to be engaged by the senior spiritual practitioner under appropriate spiritual guidance. This practice is considered conducive for navigating the bardo at the time of death and for realising the rainbow body. The traditional dark retreat requires stability in the natural state and is only suitable for advanced practitioners. Ayu Khandro and Dilgo Khyentse are examples of modern, if not contemporary, practitioners of significant periods of Dark Retreat sadhana.

      Ayu Khandro performed the Yang-Ti (Tibetan), an advanced practice of the Dzogchen Upadesha, a version of the Dark Retreat.[1]
      From what this says, I understand that one must be able to dwell in non-dual calm abiding awareness with stability. This is advanced. One who does this dark retreat would seem to us as already enlightened and advanced teacher, as Dilgo Khyentse is. Dilgo was an amazing teacher with great loving humble yet powerful energy that even comes through in photographs of him. He has already been reincarnated and one can recognize his reincarnation as him, same energy, same eyes, same smile. Dilgo Khyentse - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

      I bet that the dark retreat usually lasts 49 days as this is the standard amount of time that the journey through the bardos lasts. I am guessing here, since it is probably very secret, but one would invoke the benevolent and wrathful deities which one encounters in the bardos with appropriate mantras.

      Very interesting.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      Okay, from wIKIPEDIA:



      From what this says, I understand that one must be able to dwell in non-dual calm abiding awareness with stability. This is advanced. One who does this dark retreat would seem to us as already enlightened and advanced teacher, as Dilgo Khyentse is. Dilgo was an amazing teacher with great loving humble yet powerful energy that even comes through in photographs of him. He has already been reincarnated and one can recognize his reincarnation as him, same energy, same eyes, same smile. Dilgo Khyentse - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

      I bet that the dark retreat usually lasts 49 days as this is the standard amount of time that the journey through the bardos lasts. I am guessing here, since it is probably very secret, but one would invoke the benevolent and wrathful deities which one encounters in the bardos with appropriate mantras.

      Very interesting.
      thanks dannon. i read through the wikipedia stuff. one of us needs to read a book about them or something. it seems like there is a lot of risk involved in practicing them. also a lot of myth. i read one woman did one for fifty years. that doesn't sound real. i'm pretty sure you would be blind after that long in total darkness. the weird thing is that total darkness causes hallucinations via the ganzfeld effect. i would have imagined that adjusting to darkness would be just a matter of learning to get around without seeing anything but it seems one would have to be able to contend with hallucinations as well! i'm pretty sure the whole practice would be a terrible idea for anyone but a person very close to enlightenment, like you said. and certainly no one should try one without approval and guidance of a master of this type of thing and only after years and years of training. supposedly there's so much risk involved that most people aren't even allowed to do them! so weird. maybe no one should do them period!

      although i guess if you spend twenty years or more training your mind to recognize weird hallucinations at the time of death then you could handle it and then if you did this practice you would be totally prepared for death!

      i'm really interested in the intricate details of how this would even be accomplished though. like how do you get food? what do you have with you? do you exercise? wash? what does it do to a persons vision? how does a person make the deities appear specifically instead of just random hallucinations? what kind of trainings lead up to this?

      i don't think i could ever or would ever want to do such a practice but i'm still really interested in learning more about it.

      apparently miners who have been trapped in total darkness after a collapse report seeing ghosts and other oddities. these things i'm sure are the same as what a dark retreat person would see. however your average miner has not trained for that kind of thing so it's probably horrifying! whereas if a tibetan master who had done a retreat before was unexpectedly stuck in a mine they would probably be just fine. i guess to be fair any person who is really very close to enlightenment or is actually enlightened can handle just about anything though.
      Last edited by somniumrex; 01-12-2011 at 06:28 PM.

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      Hungry Dannon Oneironaut's Avatar
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      People bring food. I have heard that the ideal cave has a little stream in it that you shit and piss into. There is a breathing technique that cleans you, although I don't know what it is. The way to get specific deities to appear takes a lot of visualization practices with mantras. The way I practice navigating through the bardos is I eat a bunch of shrooms (1/4 ounce) and crawl into my sleeping bag. I spend the night going through the bardos and re-emerge sometime in the morning totally reborn. The sleeping bag is a womb. I should ask my teacher about the dark retreats, he would know. I know that in traveling through the bardos one must purify one's emotions. There are negative emotions that catch us. Fear is a big one.

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      i'm pretty sure shrooms are a no no in any kind of buddhist practice. not to mention bad for you and illegal but if it works for you and you're okay with it then good for you! i would imagine you have probably experienced similar things to being in a dark retreat and you are probably fairly prepared for the bardo as well, that's really cool man! that's a field that doesn't have enough study since it is so controversial but i've read some things that imply that the use of such things can bring one close to similar mind states that one would reach through great amounts of meditative training. i have however also heard that, generally speaking, these things can show you the door to ultimate reality but drug free meditation practices and purification methods are the only way to walk through it.

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      Hungry Dannon Oneironaut's Avatar
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      Yeah, there is a controversy about psychedelics and spiritual practice, particularly Buddhism. But didn't the Buddha say something like "believe nothing, even if I said it, or if others say it, or even if it written in scripture, or it is the status quo, unless you try it for yourself and it agrees with your reason and experience."? I agree with what you say about it, but i think that in moderation it is beneficial. The thing is to not let it become a crutch. As for it being bad for you, it isn't bad for you, especially if it is in moderation. It is a sacrament, and should be treated like one.

      Anyway, my teacher got back to me. This is what he says:

      I have memory of doing a very long dark retreat. It is the first lifetime that I had a past lifetime memory of, before I read anything about them in books. It does require "stability" in calm abiding in the primordial state. There is no need to invoke the peaceful and wrathful dieties, they will arise by themselves, they are reflections of the transformed subskandhas mentioned in the abhidharma. The Egyptians used a Kath isolation box for a similar practice. Some of the pyramid chambers served this purpose. Complete isolation is not necessary, though, I was walled up in a cave during the lifetime in question. I eventually left this cave, because of intestinal problems. Without sunlight touching the eyes, certain metabolic cycles have more problems regulating digestion. Mastering Lucid Dreaming or Dream Yoga is needed first. Blessings.

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      I am become fish pear Abra's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by somniumrex View Post
      are you being cryptic and/or poetic or is this a type of dark retreat? like you stay inside a dark area and walk an equivalent of two miles? or walk two miles in the dark?
      Walk two miles in the dark, to your retreat.

      I don't know if it's an official type of "dark retreat." I think it's fun.
      Abraxas

      Quote Originally Posted by OldSparta
      I murdered someone, there was bloody everywhere. On the walls, on my hands. The air smelled metallic, like iron. My mouth... tasted metallic, like iron. The floor was metallic, probably iron

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      Yeah, there is a controversy about psychedelics and spiritual practice, particularly Buddhism. But didn't the Buddha say something like "believe nothing, even if I said it, or if others say it, or even if it written in scripture, or it is the status quo, unless you try it for yourself and it agrees with your reason and experience."? I agree with what you say about it, but i think that in moderation it is beneficial. The thing is to not let it become a crutch. As for it being bad for you, it isn't bad for you, especially if it is in moderation. It is a sacrament, and should be treated like one.

      Anyway, my teacher got back to me. This is what he says:
      yeah he did say something like that. so yeah if it works for you then that's awesome! sounds like a good practice. i don't have the spiritual strength or mental constitution for that kind of practice. i follow his rules to the T as much as possible. i don't let a drop of alcohol touch my lips, nor other intoxicants and i don't even use caffeine. but like the saying says, that works for me so i should do it and if your method works for you then that's your way

      it's interesting your teacher says that you don't need to visualize the deities. although it makes sense as i read that they appear different to people who have not done visualizations of them. this is all possible from the ganzfeld effect. there's a see also link to it on the dark retreat page on wiki. i would imagine that the lack of sunlight could cause these kinds of problems. did you look at that manual of abhidhamma? i wonder if the section your teacher is referencing is in there? could be interesting stuff. the ganzfeld page also talks about people in ancient greece doing similar practices.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Abra View Post
      Walk two miles in the dark, to your retreat.

      I don't know if it's an official type of "dark retreat." I think it's fun.
      lol that's about as much info as your original post. what does this entail? where do you do this? what is it part of practice for? what is the retreat you go to? where do you walk?

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      Hungry Dannon Oneironaut's Avatar
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      Sorry for going off-topic, but I felt like mentioning that the Buddha also was a vegan and if you follow the non-harming and non-stealing then one would also be a vegan. But most Buddhists don't follow that. But whatever works. I don't really identify with being a Buddhist either, it is just the only 'religion' that makes any sense to me. That and I love the Buddha. But I also am into shamanism and Celtic spirituality (some call it Wicca, but not me). I mix all these influences but Buddhism trumps them all for me.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      Sorry for going off-topic, but I felt like mentioning that the Buddha also was a vegan and if you follow the non-harming and non-stealing then one would also be a vegan. But most Buddhists don't follow that. But whatever works. I don't really identify with being a Buddhist either, it is just the only 'religion' that makes any sense to me. That and I love the Buddha. But I also am into shamanism and Celtic spirituality (some call it Wicca, but not me). I mix all these influences but Buddhism trumps them all for me.
      the buddha and his followers ate meat whenever it was offered to them as long as the conditions were right. he said meat is okay to eat as long as it meets the three requirements: 1. the animal was not killed directly for you. 2. you have not seen it being killed. 3. you have not heard it being killed. essentially if you go into the grocery store and see hot dogs on a shelf they are there whether you eat meat or not and so it's okay to eat them. no bad karma since the death of those animals is in no way related to you. now i think this would be inapplicable if you were one of like ten meat eaters left in the world because then clearly you are in the minds of the makers of the hot dogs. however as it is there are billions of people and trillions of hot dogs so my decision to eat meat or not has nothing to do with how many animals are killed in any way.

      your whole practice sounds really cool man! i dig it! that's really cool that you mix some other things into it i do a little of that. buddhism works so well because so much of it is grounded in psychology and logic instead of magic and faith, it's my favorite not that magic and faith is bad but you have to filter through some stuff to find the logic and pure practice in a lot of things and in buddhism it's usually pretty straight forward. i like some hindu teachings, a few christian ones, and some that come from modern teachers of spiritual stuff. i looooooove reading most religious lore. like the story of krishna, greek mythology, some stories in the bible are good, norse stories and others.
      Last edited by somniumrex; 01-13-2011 at 04:36 AM.

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      i really want to learn about shaman teachings from tribal cultures but it's hard to find a good book since, like i said earlier, there are no written records so you just have to take some modern authors word for it that they know what shamans from a long time ago did. as opposed to ancient religions that were written down so you can cross check many references to make sure it's legit and not just coming from a modern interpreter.

      this is waaaaaaaaayyyyyy off topic and a total ramble. just my thoughts if you're interested. you probably already know/agree with most of this anyway

      as far as buddhism goes it's a breath of fresh air because like for example lets say someone has faith in the ancient norse god odin. then they find out for a fact that odin is made up. they have wasted their time sacrificing goats to him, praying to him, etc. they will almost undoubtedly even lose what confidence it gave them from the placebo effect caused by their belief that he is protecting them. and whatever positive practices they had been doing out of fear of displeasing him would probably be dropped for the most part. however if we find out the buddha never existed and his teachings actually came from multiple people over a couple hundred years it's almost irrelevant! the whole thing is a psychological system that requires no faith. and like we talked about you're only supposed to do it if it has good results, not because you have faith. meditation has proven positive effects on the brain and psyche in general and most of his teachings when followed make one fit very well into modern society.

      if you're meditating your mind is clear and you can focus on things easier, and if you're being nice to people and helping others and working a job that doesn't hurt people so you feel good about yourself and are inside the rules of buddhism then you are in good shape no matter where these ideas came from. and karma is real in a literal sense. the rebirth effects of it take faith but as far as our current life it's quite real. if a person steals something they will worry they will be caught. this worry is a negative feeling and could be called negative karma. doing bad things like this create people that do not like you and even if they don't know who you are it has created negative feelings in them which will effect the world through their actions. the more negative actions someone does the more worry and guilt they accrue. they also build up more and more people that don't like them and may cause them problems. this is concrete, the next i will say is plausible but it's a theory more than anything: then the thief may forget but later in life they may worry again when reminded of what they stole or subconsciously set themselves up to be stolen from out of repressed guilt by leaving their wallet on a car seat with the doors unlocked or something.

      and good karma is obvious. help your neighbor rake his leaves and he will probably help you out in the future and you feel good about yourself.

      of course for someone from one of the later formed sects of buddhism that have the non canon scriptures that make it okay to pray to the buddha and say that he protects us, answers prayers by helping us and what-not this is not true. they would probably be pretty shattered to find this out. but for those of us that don't think about him like that anyway, since the buddha specifically taught that he is not a god and should not be prayed to and that after death he is gone forever, it doesn't matter if he never existed since he was just a man who had good teachings. the teachings matter not him.
      Last edited by somniumrex; 01-13-2011 at 05:30 AM.
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      DEATH TO FANATICS! StonedApe's Avatar
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      This sounds similar to isolation tanks. I've wanted to try one ever since I watched the movie altered states, but there aren't any in town.
      157 is a prime number. The next prime is 163 and the previous prime is 151, which with 157 form a sexy prime triplet. Taking the arithmetic mean of those primes yields 157, thus it is a balanced prime.

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      Quote Originally Posted by stonedape View Post
      This sounds similar to isolation tanks. I've wanted to try one ever since I watched the movie altered states, but there aren't any in town.
      altered states! what a cool freaking movie!!! yeah that's kind of the same thing really. they all are methods to induce the ganzfeld effect which is hallucinations caused by lack of visual input. basically you dream while awake. very very dangerous though. that's probably why you can't find one anywhere.

      oh gosh i just remembered it's all about dreams and hallucinations and the mind and then... out of freaking no where... de evolution??? i was like wtf? and then he turns into some horrible monster and then the love of his wife turned him human again? still a fantastic movie but seriously whacked out!
      Last edited by somniumrex; 01-13-2011 at 05:29 AM.

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      Hungry Dannon Oneironaut's Avatar
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      Altered States! Lol!

      I agree regarding Buddhism. The Buddha was a genius! And his life is such a teaching in itself. How he was a prince, how he witnessed fundamental suffering, left home, searched for conquering suffering, left the traditions and found his own way, came back, taught for many many years, and died from food poisoning or poisonous mushrooms. So amazing. Such an ordinary yet extra-ordinary guy. Not the only son of God, not crucified, just an ordinary Death, but even his death is a teaching. How to die with grace and unattachment. Anyway....

      If you are on facebook I can introduce you to a shaman sorcerer. Her page is a stream of teachings about toltec shamanism. And it is real, not like all those silly books about Don Juan Matus, etc. She is quite remarkable. However, I warn you to just observe what she says rather than ask her too many questions or bug her or anything. You can ask her questions occasionally and she will answer them in the dream story she uses to teach on her page. She thinks that Buddhism is too mystical and that sorcerery is not mystical. I disagree with her on that point. But she is a real sorcerer. I believe that Toltec sorcerery and Buddhism have a lot in common, and if you apply the eightfold path to sorcerery then you have a potent system. The teachings on impeccableness is similar to right speech, right livelihood, right concentration, etc...

      The goals are different though, but similar. Sorcery the goal is to become a Nagual, an inorganic being, like a dream body. The Tibetan Dream Yoga and the Socerer's dreaming are very interesting to compare.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Dannon Oneironaut View Post
      Altered States! Lol!

      I agree regarding Buddhism. The Buddha was a genius! And his life is such a teaching in itself. How he was a prince, how he witnessed fundamental suffering, left home, searched for conquering suffering, left the traditions and found his own way, came back, taught for many many years, and died from food poisoning or poisonous mushrooms. So amazing. Such an ordinary yet extra-ordinary guy. Not the only son of God, not crucified, just an ordinary Death, but even his death is a teaching. How to die with grace and unattachment. Anyway....

      If you are on facebook I can introduce you to a shaman sorcerer. Her page is a stream of teachings about toltec shamanism. And it is real, not like all those silly books about Don Juan Matus, etc. She is quite remarkable. However, I warn you to just observe what she says rather than ask her too many questions or bug her or anything. You can ask her questions occasionally and she will answer them in the dream story she uses to teach on her page. She thinks that Buddhism is too mystical and that sorcerery is not mystical. I disagree with her on that point. But she is a real sorcerer. I believe that Toltec sorcerery and Buddhism have a lot in common, and if you apply the eightfold path to sorcerery then you have a potent system. The teachings on impeccableness is similar to right speech, right livelihood, right concentration, etc...

      The goals are different though, but similar. Sorcery the goal is to become a Nagual, an inorganic being, like a dream body. The Tibetan Dream Yoga and the Socerer's dreaming are very interesting to compare.
      yeah his death specifically is an amazing example! i love the fact that he was so compassionate that even as he's lying wracked with pain he said to tell they guy who fed him the "hogs mincemeat" * that he should not feel guilty! he was worried that the guy would be really upset for having accidentally killed him so he said to tell the guy that it was one of two great meals, one led to enlightenement for him and this one led to parinibbana!

      thank you, i do not have face bok but if you give me a link could i see hers? does she have writings on there i could read?

      also what about this book? Amazon.com: Shamanic Voices: A Survey of Visionary Narratives (Arkana) (9780140193480): Joan Halifax: Books

      *which could have been poisoned mushrooms, some kind of drink to prolong life prepared wrong, or rotten hogs meat, there's some debate in what the word used translates as and no one really knows for sure lol! he even knew it was bad but accepted it was his time to die and knew this was when and how it was supposed to happen. he told to host to give all the hogs mincemeat to him and none to the other bhikkhus.
      Last edited by somniumrex; 01-13-2011 at 06:56 PM.

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