Darkness therapy: could seven days in pitch blackness open your eyes to the world?

“Patients report seismic psychological changes after spending a week in darkness – but science sounds a note of caution”

Writing in The Telegraph newspaper, David Hillier reports:

“Darkness gets a terrible rap, doesn’t it? Imagine yourself surrounded by interminable blackness and you’ll likely conjure feelings of isolation and dread, maybe even fear of death itself. It wasn’t always so: many ancient cultures considered darkness an ally and utilized it as a ceremonial tool for spiritual and personal evolution, with Tao Tibetan monks ritually descending alone into caves for 49 days in a process called yang-ti.

Many centuries later, with an anxiety-ridden society seeking novel ways of addressing poor mental health amongst the disparate bleeps and blue lights of modern life, centres across the world are offering multi-day ‘dark retreats’ to a contemporary audience. I spoke to some agents of darkness – my phrase, not theirs – to unpick the hellish-sounding reality of a week inside your own head.

‘The world has so many inputs and the main point of darkness therapy is that you receive seven days only for you,’ says Karel Černín, a facilitator at the Beskydy Rehabilitation Centre that stands in the shadow of the Czech Republic’s Ondřejník mountain. Their course lasts seven nights, during which the subject – who can leave at any time – stays alone in a windowless, crimson red villa specially built for the retreats …”

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