Darkroom I

In order to stay in complete darkness, forty-five people in all gathered from all over the world at Tao Garden Health Resort near Chiang Mai, Thailand, in February 2002. Well-known Taoist teacher, Master Mantak Chia, organized the retreat into darkness. The Darkroom I Retreat was promoted as a venue for the Kan and Li meditations—a higher level in the hierarchy of Master Chia’s teaching. Interestingly enough, there were several participants who had very little previous exposure to Taoist practices. During the first two weeks, some participants completed the one or two weeks that they had reserved for the Darkroom Retreat. Most participants stayed in the Darkroom for three weeks.

There was an orientation meeting in the evening of the first day of settling into the Darkroom’s physical environment. Master Chia reviewed information about diet, the significance of tryptophan and the Darkroom transformations in the biochemistry of the brain. This information had been provided in the Darkroom Handbook. He discussed his recommendations for approaching day-to-day life in the dark and also gave a summary of the practices he would be teaching in each of the three weeks of the retreat. He accomplished this by using PowerPoint Presentation graphics. After participants retired to their rooms in the dimmed light and finally turned off their room lights that evening, there were no more external visuals or external light for the next three weeks.
Participant Mike Moore, who came from New Zealand, expressed the general feeling of satisfaction with the physical aspects of the Darkroom experience. After finishing his stay in the dark, he commented:

“I’d recommend it to anybody that’s searching for the spiritual path, even people who are just mildly interested, or I’d recommend it to practically anybody because it’s a real five-star experience to start with. It’s a beautiful place to stay, the accommodation is superb, and the food is amazing—even in the dark. In fact, the food even tasted better in the dark. I didn’t think it would be possible. So, the staff and everything is five-star plus!”

Daily Routines in the Dark

My inner visions and the lucid dreaming state began during the evening of the first full day in the dark and continued for the entire three weeks. Before discussing these experiences, though, I will relate some other experiences and impressions about the daily routine of just being in the dark for three weeks.

Really Dark: Like most of the participants, this was my first experience in a prolonged ‘darkroom’ environment. First, let’s be clear about the dark. Yes, it was absolutely dark. Our work crew was very thorough about sealing out the light. Then, on the first day they came inside to check every space and every room to search out the tiniest speck of light. While it was bright and sunny outside, they searched with a vengeance until there was not a renegade crack or pinhole that a speck of light could sneak through. Everything that glowed in the dark, such as some dimmer-switch soft-glow lights, was thoroughly covered with opaque electrician’s tape so that no glow could escape. There was no question of adjusting and getting used to the dim light—there was no dim light! There was only absolute pitch-black darkness everywhere in the Darkroom environment.

Buddy System: Although a few people had a room to themselves, everybody was paired with another person, either as a roommate or as a contact person, to provide support and safety in the event of any problem or confusion that might arise. This worked very well. Many people were strangers to each other—being from different countries, cultures and language backgrounds. It was beautiful. Being in the dark on equal terms—equally blind, searching our way, sometimes bumping into each other, sometimes getting lost just trying to get back to our rooms—we helped each other. In cases where personal differences didn’t mesh well, solutions were found and changes were made. Everything worked out fine. We forgave each other for the outer minor inconveniences as we journeyed within ourselves. As we sometimes confronted our own pettiness within over minor annoyances, we built friendships and feelings of respectful love for those around us. Nobody was imposed upon.

Eating In The Dark: We had morning and afternoon fruit breaks for those who wished to partake. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were served on a regular schedule. This is similar to the routines in other weeks of course training. Since we all remained in the Darkroom area in the condominium, the food was brought to us freshly prepared by the kitchen staff. We each got a plastic bag containing fresh and warm food in separate plastic containers. Fresh juices and hot teas were served in tall, sealed drink containers. Soups, vegetable or fruit salads were served in another type of round, sealed container. The main solid cooked-food entrée was served in a larger, rectangular-shaped container. Vegetarian or other diets were accommodated. Napkins and disposable plastic utensils came in each bag. All we had to do was to remove the lid from each container, eat as much or as little as we felt like, then replace the lid on the containers, put everything back in the plastic bag, and finally return the used bag to the pickup area. Some people chose to eat by sitting on the mats in the central community area of the tiled inner courtyard near the food pickup tables. Other people chose to eat by sitting on chairs placed on the walkway around the periphery of the courtyard. I didn’t like either of those choices. I didn’t appreciate it after meals when I occasionally came to this all-purpose courtyard area for class and sat in some spilled drink—or squashed a wet grape or other lost food as I sat on a mat. [In the Darkroom II Retreat in 2003 we requested that people to take their food to the rooms and eat at the tables there.]
My food partner and I simply carried our food bags to our room, sat very comfortably at the dining table and enjoyed the food in peace and quiet. All rooms have a table and chairs. We could easily keep track of our containers with minimal concern about losing or spilling anything. We enjoyed discussion or silence in private, whichever suited our needs at mealtime, by closing the door. We could also socialize with others, if we wished, without disturbing the overall atmosphere by simply closing the door.

Shaving and Toiletry: In regards to shaving without being able to see yourself in a mirror, many of the men chose not to shave since nobody could see them in the dark, and they didn’t feel like bothering with it. However, I like the smooth, fresh feeling of my skin when it is shaved (I have had a beard before). So, I shaved every day. No big deal—I have the same hands, same feeling in my face, etc. that I have used in shaving throughout my adult life. I just washed my face and applied the shaving cream like I always do. I know all the details of my face—I didn’t cut myself once, and I felt great.

Another sensitive men’s issue in the art of toiletry: how to avoid spraying the room while disoriented in the darkness and in a panic for immediate release. Men were instructed to use the toilet in the same manner as women do—by sitting on the toilet seat in order to guarantee a bull’s-eye when aiming for the toilet bowl in the dark.

Every room has a clean washbasin, shower, and toilet. The rooms and bathrooms were cleaned regularly, as needed. Fresh towels and sheets were provided, and the beds were made up. How? The cleaning staff wore infrared goggles so they could see in the dark.

Response to Three Posed Questions:

1) What did you think on the first day?

Answer: I was really ready to go. I had been looking forward to this Darkroom experience for the past year. I was busy with distractions right up to the last minute and beyond. I finally flipped the switch off for three weeks of total darkness—two hours past the lights-out deadline on the first night of settling into our rooms for the duration. I had finally got my own room organized (with patient forbearance and permission from my new Darkroom roommate). It is in the condominium that was used for the Darkroom. This is where I live year-round as a resident instructor and condo owner. I had done all that I could with my external affairs and concerns.

Go with the flow, relaxed and peaceful with passionate engagement: I just wanted to put everything out of my mind and just go with the flow 100% in the dark. I had no specific expectations, nor did I have any idea of what would come. I was very eager and ready to let it happen, whatever it would be. I waited in eager anticipation, expecting something to emerge out of the darkness due to my past experience and years of preparation. At the same time, I was glad to just relax and wait and just accept the darkness, if that was all there was to be. I was happy just to let go of everything else and just feel relaxed and peaceful. At the same time, I remained engaged in the experience of just being there with passionate interest. I didn’t have any extraneous thoughts outside the Darkroom. I was where I wanted to be, and I didn’t have any second thoughts about it.

During that first night after turning off the lights for the last time and in the first morning after, I thought being in the dark was ‘a piece of cake.’ I had no problem getting around in my room to the bathroom, etc. Nor, did I have any problem in getting around outside the room, down the stairs and around the inner courtyard. I had a clear sense of orientation within those spaces and I was accurate with my sense of direction. However, later in the day after the meditation practices, I lost my steadiness in spatial orientation and found myself relying on my new food partner to find my way back to the stairs and up to my room. I felt like a happy but tipsy inebriate. In my room it became very challenging to find my way to the bathroom. Later on in the retreat, I regained my spatial stability and was able to return the favor and guide my partner when it was needed.

Meditation—disoriented outside, getting connected inside: While I was becoming disoriented outside, I was getting connected inside. During the meditation training with Master Chia, I tried to keep my mind focused in the practices. I saw the colors inside that were associated with the stars of the Big Dipper, and I kept busy establishing the inner dynamics as instructed. These activities occupied my thoughts. My main distraction came from my body being uncomfortable in prolonged sitting positions on the mats on the floor. I was not in condition to be comfortable in those sitting positions, since we usually sit on chairs for our meditations. I could have used a chair on the peripheral area outside the mats, but I didn’t. I alternated between sitting and lying on the mat. Perhaps the discomfort helped to keep my mind focused in my body, rather than wandering into extraneous thoughts. The strain on the body in the sitting positions made me tired so that when I shifted into lying on the mat, it was sometimes difficult to maintain the balance between conscious focus and physical relaxation. Sleep often decided the issue. No problem: Master Chia encouraged us to sleep as much as we needed, but preferably outside of class time.

Point of light, the ‘key’ to the Door To All Wonders: At the end of this first day of guided meditation training, I was lying on a mat in a relaxed state. I had withdrawn my attention down into the darkness of my universe within, in my abdomen. I was looking for the point of light within that would connect me to the inner or outer universes through what Master Chia referred to as the ‘door to all wonders.’ I had slipped into a state from being clearly awake into kind of an in-between state, like in a dream state. I suddenly found myself—like in a dream—looking very admiringly at a beautiful tapestry. It was like drapes for covering windows or a large doorway. There were flower patterns on a beige fabric, like satin, silk, cotton or maybe even wallpaper. Then, someone started talking, and that brought me to the awareness that I was actually awake. So, then I opened my eyes just to see whether I was awake or not awake. Whether I opened my eyes or closed my eyes, I was still seeing that same image.

Another state of awareness and consciousness: This was an interesting part of the process of entering into the darkness and slipping into another state of awareness and consciousness. That is the exciting part of what we were in the Darkroom for—or at least, an entertaining part of what goes along with the experience of being in the dark all day long and trying to find our way to the stairway and then back to our rooms. I lost that connection to the inner display of tapestry when I got up to get the food for the evening meal. After dinner, I was preoccupied with providing clear instructions as I led a gentle Tao Yin exercise session, knowing that several participants had not done Tao Yin before and others needed guidance. Later that evening when I relaxed on my bed and retraced the ‘steps’ within, hoping to find that ‘door to all wonders’ again—it was there. This was the beginning of what proved to be an ongoing daily flow of inner experience, practically nonstop, for the rest of the three weeks of outer darkness.

Imagery continued from the first day: For the next few days in the afternoons and evenings when I rested and relaxed, the inner ‘door’ would open from the tapestry that surrounded me in the room. Then, like a large-screen movie in front of me, there began an unending flow from one side of the screen to the other of animals, birds, creatures of all kinds. Seemingly everything in creation flew across the sky of my vision, hundreds at once in rapid flowing movement. The sky was full of flowing creatures, and there wasn’t time to really focus on just one thing—sometimes I tried, but it just changed into something else. For example, a hippopotamus would become a zebra, and then they would both be gone as the scene changed in the constant flow.

At other times, I would usually be surrounded by still-tapestries with lovely patterns with backgrounds that regularly appeared in different colored hues: beige, brown, soft green, white, pink, yellow, blue, etc. Often there were just plain uniformly colored walls, mostly of white, gray or brown, around me in a spacious room. It was never confining or claustrophobic.

The Eye Mask: However, I soon made it a policy when I was not resting on the bed, to wear my padded sleeping mask to cover my eyes and protect my face, for two reasons. Sometimes I thought I was actually seeing the outlines of the physical space I was moving in; so I would move toward or away from what I thought I was seeing in the dark—and bump into something solid that was really physically there. The mask served as a reminder that what I saw was not physical, so that I would check myself before I relied on it. It was also good for cushioning the impact on the few occasions that I did bump into something or somebody. We all had the masks.

2) Did you ever want to get out?

Answer: No, I loved every minute of it, even though there were a few brief periods of dips in mood. But those challenges didn’t prevail, and they were also provocative and perhaps meaningful, too.

3) How did the other people react to the darkness?

Answer: At one extreme, there was a man who arrived from San Francisco on the second Sunday night. He had got off work, packed, jumped on a plane and was traveling for about twenty-four hours. He arrived exhausted, jet-lagged and disoriented because he had never been to this part of the world before. He knew little, if anything, about Tao Garden. Possibly he had attended one workshop at home; so, he had been exposed to some basic training.

Straight from the airport into the Darkroom: Unlike other participants, he had not had a day or two for a restful transition and reorientation in these new surroundings. He didn’t have time to relax, settle-in and get a sense of his surroundings. He had no idea what the condo environment was like—or the people in it. Basically, he came straight from the airport into the Darkroom that night. He was brought into the Darkroom with another man who had come from Germany for the second week of training. We welcomed them both as they were introduced upon their arrival. Thereafter, he was heard to exclaim many times, “Man, it’s really dark in here!” Evidently he was overwhelmed and was not in a condition to deal with it. He left the Darkroom the next day.

Border between dreaming and not dreaming diminished—insight and benefit inside: The other man, Oliver Mueller, was more experienced and better prepared. He adapted successfully and was happy about his experience. He was interviewed on videotape when he went out at the end of that second week. Here is an excerpt from his interview:

“In the Darkroom it’s different because when I was not sleeping, it also turned into a dream. So, the border between dreaming and not dreaming diminished. This is the Taoist way, lucid dreaming. This is what they are teaching. This was very interesting. Would I recommend it? If one is curious, then it’s very good. Being curious is a very good way to go inside. If you were not curious, maybe it would be difficult or boring. But if you are curious, you can get insight and benefit inside. Yes, I would recommend it.”

Generally people adjusted well to the simple adventures of journeying from their room to the central courtyard for class, to pick up a bag of food, etc. and back to their rooms. Some people came with partners in life. Those that I heard from felt an enhanced sense of love and respect for one another.

Fear of the dark conquered: One couple helped each other in working out some deep-seated issues. One issue was the darkness itself: the woman had been abused with physical violence as a child by her father and had cowered in the darkness in breathless fear every night, hiding in her room in hopes that he would not come and beat her. That fear still haunted her in later years, even after raising her own child and being a successful professional woman. With the strength and loving sensitivity of her husband supporting her, she came to terms with this fear in the dark.
With another couple, it was the man who was the victim of this fear of the dark. As a boy he had lived in London during World War II during the blackouts of the ‘Blitz’ when the German planes would come in waves bombing the city. The bombs didn’t hit him, but he was scarred by the terror of the experience. He had to face this fear and his memories in the Darkroom, and with the loving tenderness and support of his partner he faced it down. Both he and she spoke of this afterwards and the fact that they had deepened the bonds of love that bound them together.

The Darkroom Works for Everybody

From the experience of a senior instructor of the Universal Tao practices to that of relative novices, it is easy to see that the Darkroom was a successful experience for everybody who approached it with sincere interest. It works for everybody because of the changes in the biochemistry of the brain, because of each person’s sincere motivation, and by observing the general guidelines suggested by Master Chia. Each individual’s background and mental/emotional condition would naturally be a factor in one’s experience.

Changes in the biochemistry of the brain: In addition to all the other factors, the overriding factor, which arises only in the Darkroom, is the change in the biochemistry of the brain that occurs only in this extended environment of absolute darkness. In simple terms, the seratonin neurotransmitter is normally synthesized in the brain from the amino acid protein tryptophan in waking consciousness with the stimulation of light. However, it is inhibited in the dark. Instead, more melatonin (a neurohormone implicated with sleep) is produced in the dark. Then, with further biochemical inhibition processes over time, more transformations occur. The melatonin is converted into pinoline, and the pineal gland becomes the ‘master’ gland (rather than the pituitary gland). Then, the ‘5-MEO-DMT state’ occurs, and finally one arrives in the ‘DMT state.’ [Further details of this biochemistry of the brain may be found in here: Dark Room Enlightenment.] Due to this unique biochemistry, many participants are enabled with inner light, inner vision and lucid dreaming experiences.

William Wei, Senior Instructor:

“The Darkroom is amazing for simple reasons. It gives you the best rest of your life because there is no light to hit your skin and there are no visual images (eliminating mental projections). Food is brought in, and a clean shower and toilet are 10 feet from your bed. Since you have no responsibilities or concerns, the total darkness totally relaxes the body and mind. You are sitting in the middle of the void and comforted as in the womb of your mother (climate control in the enclosed areas)—for the first time in your life since you originally left them both. I slept a lot, meditated, ate and defecated; that’s all. I was in heaven on earth. I also did some meditation, and I was the official bell-ringer for maintaining the stable daily schedule. The strangest thing was that it was so natural and easy to do, and after a while it felt normal. You did not want to leave.”

On His Own Terms: One man, in his fifties, from Mexico didn’t even speak English, but he was fortunate in sharing a room with one of our Spanish-speaking instructors, Enrique Topete. He had heard about the darkroom from friends and was very curious about the experience. Seemingly on a whim, he had decided to come. And, on his own terms, he had a very meaningful and satisfying experience for that one week in the dark that he had booked for, according to Enrique.

More Clarity in Her Life: One woman had only a superficial awareness of the Universal Tao teachings of Master Chia, but she has been involved for fifteen years with the spiritual teachings of another system. Her motivation for participating was that she wanted to retreat within herself in the Darkroom environment in hopes of gaining more clarity in her life, to sort out various issues. For this, her experience was worthwhile. At the end she left with others to do sightseeing and go to the beaches in southern Thailand, but she didn’t get past Chiang Mai. Her inner sense, heightened in the Darkroom, halted her departure in Chiang Mai and urged her to return. She felt that she needed to get some solid fundamentals to take home and work with. She returned the following week to get instruction in some of the basics such as grounding, which is developed in the Iron Shirt Chi Kung practice. Now, she plans to return in the future to take more training and to become a Universal Tao instructor.

Fasting Regimen, Different Chemistry—Different Results, But Still Beneficial: Among the guidelines that Master Chia recommended for the best results in the Darkroom practices, he specifically advised against fasting during the retreat. However, two people that I am aware of chose to use the Darkroom as an opportunity to do a disciplined fast. Their intentions were commendable for the personal priorities of internal cleansing, weight reduction and healing issues. However, the effects of fasting may have interfered with some of the unique biochemical transformations in the brain referred to above. As a result, their capacity to experience inner light and inner visions seems to have been diminished.
One man broke his fast after ten days—as he was feeling quite weak—and began partaking the same diet as the other participants. Then at some point, he reported that he experienced inner flashes of light, but not full-blown inner displays. Still, he was grateful for the inner peace, profound relaxation and inner connectedness that he gained. The other fasting participant repeatedly stated to me that he never saw any light or visions such as other people were reporting—“it is visually boring!” However, in connection with some family issues at home (afterwards, I heard secondhand), he eventually experienced lucid dreaming wherein he actively communicated with family members.

Dennis’ Experience

Entities (First Visit)—They Came Single File: On Thursday evening (Feb. 14) of the first week of total darkness, I clearly ‘saw’ a group of ‘beings,’ all young men, while I was engaged in conversation with a Darkroom neighbor. I was talking with ‘Gerd,’ a participant from Austria, outside his room that was next to mine on the upstairs floor of the condominium. We were above the inner courtyard on the upstairs walkway that provides access to all the rooms there. Gerd was telling me about a book written about fifty years ago by a yogi named Sakarow (Sakarov?) who lived in Germany in the 1950’s. His book describes his experiences in the process that resulted in his third eye opening. Gerd was telling me about the book, which was written in German, because the descriptions of the experiences were very similar to what I had shared with the class. Master Chia had encouraged participants to talk about their experiences for the benefit of others. I had been having light and image experiences practically nonstop from the first day onwards. I was grateful to Gerd for telling me about the book and was interested in it (I hope I can find a copy in English).

While we were talking, the ‘beings’ appeared. I interrupted the flow of our discussion and said to Gerd, “As a matter of fact, as we speak, right now I see several young men who just came around the corner in single file and walked to where we are standing. They came in a very orderly fashion and are now sitting in a row in front of the railing. They are all smiling and watching us talk.”
They were all dressed in black and wore brimless black hats that bore a small, gold-colored band around the lower part. The hats looked something like hotel bellboy caps. The features of these visiting observers suggested Thai origins, and their clothing looked like some kind of school uniforms. I directed Gerd’s attention to where they were sitting and asked him if he also saw them. He said he couldn’t see anything but the darkness. I described them further in a matter of fact manner to affirm that I was actually seeing them. I continued to be visually aware of them as they watched us talk with their faces rapt in expressions of innocent enthusiasm and fascination.

When I mentioned to Gerd that I was seeing what appeared to be a group of young men, I had said that they came around the corner because that is where they first appeared. Actually the corner is only a meter-square column that provides support—along with three other columns at the corners—for the square walkway that provides access to the upstairs rooms. They also provide support for the overhead structures. Otherwise, it is all open space in this inner courtyard area. We both knew where we were standing in the darkness of the physical space of the enclosed condominium area. When I moved my head back and forth from the position of the group to the direction of Gerd’s position, they remained in place. That is, it wasn’t like an image inside my head that moved with my head. They had their own existence, independent of what I was thinking or doing.

Seeing, but not with the outer physical seeing: They had all taken seated positions along the waist-high brick-walled railing that enclosed the walkway area. In the physical space of the walkway, there were no benches or seats in that area. I am only describing what I saw, but not with the outer physical eyes. I could not see Gerd in the pitch-black darkness only two feet away; nor, could I see ‘Rosie,’ a lady from Mexico who had earlier passed between us, saying, “Con su permiso.” So, perhaps that corner area of our physical space served as an entry point, like a doorway from another dimension. They entered our space one by one and walked politely in single file along the railing, and just as orderly they silently they took their seats. I didn’t see any seats, but I distinctly saw them and their neat black trousers, shirts, and hats, like silk or cotton.

This was a new experience for me; so I don’t know if they understood anything we were saying or not. There were about eight to twelve of them; I didn’t actually count. They didn’t make any gestures to indicate any intention to interact with us. I simply maintained awareness of their presence and returned to the conversational focus with Gerd.

I don’t know if Gerd had any particular reaction to my reference to their presence. We were open, respectful and supportive towards each other; there was no reason to be distrustful or uneasy. For most of us, everything in the Darkroom had the quality of being a new experience. We were prepared to just relax and go with the flow. Or, as Master Chia put it, “Just … ‘ra sera.’” He borrowed the expression from part of the phrase from the popular song, “Que Sera, Sera” from a Doris Day movie: “Whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see. Que seRA, SERA. …

Afterthought: Reflecting back on my Darkroom experience, it struck me how appropriate Lao Tzu’s words in his Tao Te Ching were as a prescription for the Darkroom experience. Lao Tzu’s words from Verses 3 and 4 of Chapter 1:

Being at peace, one can see into the subtle.
Engaging with passion, one can see into the manifest.

They both arise from a common source but have different names.
Both are called the mystery within the mystery.
They are the door to all wonders.

I had the task and the good fortune of editing Master Chia’s recent book, DOOR TO ALL WONDERS: Application of the Tao Te Ching, which he co-authored with Master Tao Huang. The book’s title was taken from the last phrase in Chapter 1 of Tao Huang’s complete translation of the Tao Te Ching (based on the Mawangdui Texts). We printed the complete translation of all eighty-one chapters in the Appendix.

Coming Out

For me, I didn’t want to go out at the end of the third week. I wanted to have another week. But, it was over, and I went out with everybody else.

Immediate Personal Effects: Like everybody else, emerging in the soft morning light, surrounded by gentle blossoms of spring on the trees, shrubs and flowered plants in a panorama of subtle shades of green—amazing, beautiful, intensely alive, aware of it all as well as the individual parts, vibrating within and sensing the chi of nature’s dynamism! It was overwhelming in the sense of the intense awareness of nature’s beauty. After awhile I went off by myself to do a round of Tai Chi, and it was like a totally new experience. The movements just flowed smoothly and effortlessly from my center. I was so soft and aware within my center! Yet at the same time—I felt humbled—I was fully aware of all the beauty surrounding me. It was like I had seen it before, but hadn’t really noticed it.

Life After The Darkroom

As I reached this point in nearly finishing the writing of this article—about three months after the Darkroom experience—I received an email from a dear lady who had participated for the full three weeks. She is a mature woman who has raised a family and is widely appreciated for her talents in the healing arts and other Taoist practices. She had come alone for the retreat and was considering retirement. She sent the email to several other participants to encourage communication and feedback about the effects of the Darkroom. She was not interviewed on the Darkroom videotape (not to be confused with another woman who was). I have edited her sentences because English is not her native language. Some aspects of her post-Darkroom life follow:

Process of Awakening and Change—Love Flowers at Home: My life became much, much different; so I was very busy adjusting to my new situation. After I returned, my home was full of love, and that makes me very, very happy. But it is also very, very unfamiliar to me—even sometimes difficult to bear. However, now I am settled, and everything has become all right. That means I have gotten used to it.

“During the Darkroom I had lots of pain in my heart, and it seemed that my heart became bigger and bigger. Perhaps this energy transferred to my husband, and it opened his heart too, I guess. So, that was what happened to me, and this is the most wonderful and biggest gift in the world for me.”

Self-Assuredness, Blockades in the Mind:

“I also feel that my eyes have opened in one particular way, and it has changed my mind and my way of thinking. Right after the retreat I looked at, so to say, ‘progressed people,’ and I got the feeling of dark shadows around them. It embarrassed me very much, but after a while I figured out the reason. Those people were very sure of themselves; so much so, that they were unable to progress further. This indicated a mental blockage. The truth is that my situation was the same as theirs! That means I saw myself.”

“This phenomenon continues still, and it’s very interesting to see and to understand. Self-assuredness makes limitation, and this is nothing else than a blockade in the mind. I have had many discussions about this matter since I came home, and now it’s clear for me. As a result, I have changed myself into just a beginner. And, I would say that the beginner’s life is much more interesting than the life of that ‘progressed person.”

Have other participants had new beginnings in their life as a result of their Darkroom experience? Time will tell, but my sense is that the seeds of many new beginnings were germinated in the darkness within in the Darkroom.

Feb. ’03 Darkroom II Experience

Tao Garden’s Darkroom Retreat environment is unique in the world. Darkroom II in February ’03 has come and gone, and Darkroom III will soon commence in February of 2004. In last February’s Darkroom II (2003), all the rooms in Condominium II were filled to capacity for the first week.

A more silent retreat: My roommate this time was a returnee from Darkroom I in 2002. We took our meals together and often talked when we felt like it during meals in the room, closing the door so as to not distract others. This year was a more silent retreat with a minimum of soft tones and whispered exchanges in the community area. It was better organized this year in that respect. Also, we added another railing to the stairway for the upper level rooms so that people could steady themselves on both sides of the stairs.

Full range of meaningful and amazing new experiences: Again. The spirit of Master Chia’s teaching is ‘Good Chi, Good Heart, and Good Intentions.’ In the convenience and comfort of the Condominium II total darkness atmosphere, many participants experienced a full range of meaningful and amazing new experiences again. Darkroom experiences range from lucid dreaming, third (inner) eye ‘seeing,’ inner light vision, DNA memories, other-dimension awareness, spontaneous healings, enhanced sensory awareness, out of body travel, astral travel to profound personal insights, and more. These experiences unfold in the framework of positive, compassionate, loving qualities of being as the individual accesses the ‘Door To All Wonders’ within oneself. The process is aided by the transformation in the biochemistry of the brain that occurs in the relaxed, comfortable darkness without the stimulation and distraction of light.

Through the hole of clear light in the green energy: Flying. It was good. My experience continued from where I left off in Darkroom I, with some variations and extensions. For example, one interesting experience happened as I emerged from the bathroom to return to my “Ra Sera” on my bed in my room.* When I opened the bathroom door and stepped into my room, it appeared that the room was filled with a luminous green cloudy texture of light. It wasn’t like just seeing a green color, but rather like entering a dynamic cloudy atmosphere of green energy. That surprised me, so I paused as I re-entered my room. Then the clouds parted, or opened, around a central round hole of clear space in front of me, it seemed. Relatively speaking, the hole, or sphere, of clear light seemed to be about two feet or so in diameter in the midst of the room of dynamic green clouds of energy. The next thing I knew, I had somehow entered and passed through that porthole of clear space and found myself flying high over some ranges of mountains. My speed of flight was much faster than a jet plane, perhaps closer to the speed of light. Soon after, I completed the journey from the doorway of my bathroom to my bed for more “Ra Sera.”
On another occasion during this second Darkroom, my journey within and beyond provided me with another perspective. I had extended out of my physical body little by little in the first Darkroom and also earlier in my life. Those experiences were generally associated with localities within the somewhat familiar terrain of Earth’s atmosphere. Such experiences no doubt have provided me with a sense of comfort, security and trust within myself in order to be open to more new discoveries—to relax and “Ra Sera” in meditation.

A View Of Earth From Outer Space & Silver Cords: It was interesting in this instance to view Earth from way up in space, seeing it as a dark ball smaller than how we usually see the moon. There was a perceptible rim of light outlining Earth’s circumference. Earth appeared as the centerpiece framed in a star-dotted background of darkness. It was also interesting because I could see the lines of the silver cords that I had connected from my physical body to the stars of the Big Dipper and the North Star during the meditation session in the Darkroom. The silver lines all converged at a point on the darkened surface of Earth as I perceived it from some position far away in space. Now I recognize the value, during meditation, of consciously connecting the silver cords from points within the body to those stars before going out of the body. It creates a reassuring navigational orientation for simply returning back to the body—no fear of being lost, bewildered or disconnected in the vastness of space.
I am looking forward to Darkroom III. … Submitted Monday, December 22, 2003
* See my Darkroom I, 2002, report for “Ra Sera” info. About the author:

Dennis Huntington, Senior Instructor, has been practicing the Tao of Master Chia’s teaching since 1986. He became a certified instructor in the Universal Tao in 1992, and then began teaching the Tao while living in Japan. A former high school teacher in the USA, he is now a resident instructor at the Universal Tao Training Center at Tao Garden Health Resort in Thailand. He moved to Tao Garden in 1998 to enhance his practice and teaching of the Tao. He also assists in the publishing area as a contributing writer and editor.

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