Aaron Rodgers is going on a dark retreat. What is it?

Aaron Rodgers is going on a dark retreat.  What is it?
Aaron Rodgers is going on a dark retreat.  What is it?

“I have a pretty cool opportunity to do some self-reflection in some isolation, and after that I feel like I’ll be a lot closer to a final, final decision” about his career, he said last week on the Pat McAfee Show, a sports talk show. He will decide whether to play again next season, either with the Packers or another team, or whether to retire.

Finding the way

His plan for finding the way: “It’s a dark haven,” said Mr. Rodgers, 39, spotlighting a little-known wellness therapy.

Mr. Rodgers said on the talk show that he plans to go to one after the Super Bowl and spend three or four days in “isolation, meditation, dealing with your thoughts.” He spoke more about his feelings about the upcoming retreat on Mr. McAfee’s show on Tuesday, saying he was open to the experience.

The four-time NFL MVP has previously said he has used psychedelics such as ayahuasca in an effort to learn more about himself. Mr. Rodgers or his representatives could not be reached for comment.

A dark retreat is exactly what it sounds like: People spend time in a room completely devoid of light. It originates from ancient practices of many cultures, such as when monks sought spiritual guidance by meditating in a cave.

These days, a dark retreat can cost $1,000 and comes with food service, toilet paper and a yoga mat.

A patron is usually ushered into a room by candlelight and given a tour to familiarize them with their surroundings. Then the light goes out.

An illuminated view of a room at the Sky Cave Retreat near Ashland, Ore.


Sky Cave Retreat

Some find their way around in pitch darkness with their hands in front of them. Others crawl.

Robbie Bent sought out a dark retreat at Sky Cave Retreat near Ashland, Oregon, in the summer of 2020 because he was burned out and overwhelmed by work. He was so busy scrolling on Twitter that he missed the plane.

“The idea was to kind of learn a little bit about myself, relax and reset,” said Mr. Bent, the founder of the Toronto-based company Othership, which builds bathhouses with saunas and ice baths.

He spent eight days inside a 300 square meter, soundproof, light-proof room, built into the hillside. The second day, when he decided to take a bath, Bent got down on his hands and knees to find the legs of the tub.

“It’s not like you’re in a hurry. You’re there for hours, he said. “The other option is to just sit there.”

Sometimes Mr. Bent got lost with a wrong turn. He then had to grope around in the dark to find a familiar wall.

“Your first instinct is fear, especially when you walk around and kind of realize how much we depend on sight for our safety,” he said.

He was finally able to let go of his childhood fear of the dark. “It was really good training for life when you feel overwhelmed and scared,” Mr Bent said.

The rooms are built into a hillside, in a rural area.


Sky Cave Retreat

A week at Sky Cave can cost up to $1,350. A wood stove outside the rooms heats the place, and Scott Berman, the owner, delivers meals every night and checks on guests.

Some guests venture out at night before settling down completely – where only the stars or the moon provide some light in a rural setting. It helps them become comfortable spending time in the dark, Berman said.

In the first few days, many people sleep for long stretches. “Getting to rest or sleep for 20 hours is a bit of a treat, because you wake up and if you’re still tired and it’s dark and you have nothing to do, you finally give your body permission to actually rest and restore itself , ” he said.

Former monk Severin Geser added the dark retreat concept at his Hermitage Retreats near Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, from his own experience of the practice in Thailand. There are cushions for meditation in the room, organic food, fresh towels for the shower and a bed with extra blankets.

A dark retreat is not for the uninitiated in meditation or other intensive experiences, he said, calling it an “advanced practice.” Mr. Geser decides how much time a patron will spend in the dark.

“The length depends on where the person is in their life – have you done anything like that before? Have you been with yourself before?” he said. “Usually it’s between one and five days. That’s enough.”

Anna Jelen, an artist in Arosa, Switzerland, said she found clarity in the darkness of her refuge.


Anna Jelen

Anna Jelen, an artist in Arosa, Switzerland, became curious about spending time in the dark when she listened to a podcast. For the first time in 2021, she entered a bunker that a friend had for 24 hours. It had a table, chair, bed and toilet.

“I wanted to see what happens to my mind and the darkness,” she said. “The question that triggered it for me was, ‘is there anything I can find in the dark?’ “

She asked her partner to feed her. When they reached the door, Jelen put on a blindfold to accept the plate.

“I didn’t know what I was eating,” she said. “I might remember tasting a green olive and it was the most incredible feeling I’ve ever had.”

She put toothpaste right in her mouth to avoid missing her toothbrush.

Her biggest challenge was falling asleep. “You lie down and close your eyes and nothing changes,” she said. “You wake up and open your eyes and it’s supposed to be bright and it’s not.”

Jelen, who said she has never done drugs or psychedelics, said that after a while in the dark she had visions of animals, including an elephant, an eagle and a monkey, walking across the room.

“It was so strange to see something when you have your eyes open and you know it’s not there. It was very strange to me, but very beautiful, she said.

She also meditated, and her to-do list began to stress her out less. “The darkness gave me clarity,” said Jelen, who now hosts dark retreats in the home’s basement.

Eduard Shlepetskyy used this space during a dark retreat in Slovakia.


Eduard Shlepetskyi

Eduard Shlepetskyy, the founder of Ective Automation, a digital robotics company in Bratislava, Slovakia, embarked on a seven-day dark retreat in the village of Zaježová in 2021. The space was modest, and he brought with him necessities such as a resistance band for exercise, a pen and a notebook.

Mr. Shlepetskyy used a chocolate bar as a ruler to move down the page as he wrote in the dark. He said he wrote notes about his daily life, observations about how his mind works and some thoughts about his business.

On the fourth day, Mr. Shlepetskyy said he found what he was looking for after a six-hour meditation and decided to cut back on the time.

“That was the breaking point,” he said. “I realized that we don’t get enough time in the day to think about the things that bother us.”

In addition, he remembered that he had to get the car inspected in time to cross the border to attend the wedding he was going to after the retreat.

Write to Suryatapa Bhattacharya at [email protected]

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