Today I’d like to introduce you to one of my all-time favourite meditations: the „Darkness Meditation“. This form of meditation consists of sitting and meditating in the darkness with our eyes open.
For this, go find a room you can darken as much as possible. If you don’t have curtains, cover your windows with cardboard or a blanket or sit in a room with no windows.
I have found the right spot in my corridor, as it is the only room in my apartment without windows. This half square meter between shoe rack, wall and door looks pretty bleak by daylight and would not be my favourite spot for any other meditation. But for the darkness meditation it is perfect.
The darkness meditation was „prescribed“ to me when I was struggling with pretty heavy homemade stress I like to call a „carousel of thoughts“ or „head cinema“ – both terms sound better in German („Gedankenkarussel“ and „Kopfkino“). It was so bad that I had strong headaches, and this although I am not your typical headache patient. I also started having problems with my sleep. For two weeks straight I woke up several times per night, and always at the same times: at 1, at 3, at 5 and sometimes at 6:30 a.m. In a „good night“ I would sleep through from 1 to 5.
But not enough with that: I was also plagued with a tremendous inner unrest, that was becoming physically noticeable as a weird sensation of air bubbles under my skin, which I felt especially in arms, neck and under my scalp. As you can imagine, this was very unpleasant and unfortunately very persistent.
The darkness meditation would calm my mind, my spiritual teacher promised.
Like an obedient student I sat down in my darkened corridor, 30 minutes every evening as advised and stared into the darkness with open eyes. What can I say? It felt so good! My mind calmed down, cooled down, the inner voices became quieter and quieter, the darkness was enveloping me like the warm embrace of a giant good-natured, furry fabulous creature. Think Toni Erdmann!
What is the magic secret of darkness? Does it only have to do with the fact that we cannot take in any more visual impressions (except for the darkness)?
In fact, the explanation is scientifically based and very interesting: It all comes down to a wondrous little organ with the beautiful name pineal gland.
Quick lesson on chemistry
Serotonin and melatonin are already well researched and it is scientifically proven that both hormones have a major influence on the mental balance and are also regulating the rhythm of sleep and wakefulness. Which explains my sleeping problems.
Scientific research has also shown that the pineal gland is responsible for the physical and psychological ageing process. When it is dysfunctional, the ageing process can deploy earlier.
DMT is less researched and has a somewhat shady reputation, caused by its mind-expanding effect. In fact, DMT is a „consciousness-expanding tryptamine compound, which can be found in the human body as well as in at least 60 plant species worldwide.“ (Source: Vice.com) and is used for spiritual rituals as well as as a drug.
When the production of DMT is stimulated in the pineal gland, the brain is able to design new structures of thought, which are situated beyond space and time. The pineal gland thus is the organ, with which we can step over the threshold of the physical and the metaphysical world. Once it is stimulated, we feel euphoria and a connection with the spiritual-mental world which lies beyond the „normal“ horizon of experience. DMT is not only produced in the darkness, but is also said to be poured out when we are born and when we die (Source: Dunkelretreat.com).
But to bring you back to the ground: Even when you sit down in darkness every day now, you will probably not immediately enter these dimensions. To go this far, you can do a darkness retreat, something which is also on my bucket list. But still: I did already experience some minor visions and hallucinations.
But this is not the primal goal. First and foremost it’s about doing yourself and your health a favour with these short moments of quietude, in which you can refuel on your energy. I experience the soothing and calming effect mostly immediately after sitting down in the dark. And who knows, maybe I would already look and feel much older by now if I didn’t do it?
What happens in the darkness?
In the beginning it might feel a little strange and also a little oppressing. For a moment you might feel like there is a wall of darkness right in front of you, because you don’t see anything. But then a space opens up, somewhere in front of the forehead and the third eye, a space that is infinite. This space is not in the least threatening, but feels completely peaceful. For me it resembles the space I see behind my closed eyes when I meditate with closed eyes. It is wide and open and out of this world and can fill up with colours and visions, or remain empty.
I then often experienced thoughts that I could visualise. They always came from the left side and then dissolved approximately in the middle of my field of vision, like fireworks on a night sky. In the darkness there was no space for whole sentences anymore, no space for the carousel of thoughts. The circle of thoughts would just not close anymore, the thoughts were no longer powerful enough to prevail against the silent dark vastness. Nothing was important or urgent anymore. And that felt so good.
And then, as I said, I also experienced some hallucinations, some kind of colour visions of an incredibly beauty. They too came from the left, which seems to be source of the flow of my brain activity. I saw pink and white light that was pouring through the darkness like waves of water or light.
Another time it was as though there was a very bright white light emanating from right underneath my eyes, which was downright blinding. I turned my head in all directions to see if there was not maybe an external source of light shining into my darkness and creating these visions. But there was nothing, it was all „homemade“. Wow, this crazy pineal gland!
Since my headaches and inner unrest have been alleviated – an improvement I would not solely credit to the darkness meditation, though in important parts – I am not sitting down in darkness every evening anymore, but only when I feel like I need it. When I feel an inner unrest cooking up or when I spent too much time in front of the computer, when I feel stressed or could just use a little more grounding and recentering, I do it. 20 minutes will already do the job, 30 minutes are better, 40 a delicious treat. A whole hour is like the cherry on top.
Here you can find the title-giving song „I see a darkness“ in the Acid Pauli vs. Johnny Cash version, which I personally like even better than the original.