My unsuccessful 7-day retreat experience in a darkroom

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Ever since I became interested in Ayahuasca I have found articles and organized retreats regarding darkrooms. These are not places where photographs are developed but pitch-black rooms in which to experience meditation. An ancient practice, attested in many spiritual traditions, including the Christian one: to lock oneself in a cave in the dark for several days in prayer or meditation. This is because darkness forces you to forget about space, time, body, the rest of the world and pushes you to dedicate yourself only to yourself, to the movements of your mind and your unconscious. The retreats I found organized in various parts of the world were all extremely expensive, so I never ventured to do them. Then by chance, while I was looking for a detox retreat (an experience that I have described here) one popped up with an affordable price in the same place where I did the detox: Koh Phangan, Thailand.

Darkness

Why the darkness? Why not simply retire to the mountains for a while, dedicating yourself to meditation, contact with nature and simple life? The reasons are many but they can be summarized in a few words: pineal gland and DMT. The pineal gland (or epiphysis) is located in the centre of the brain, more or less at the height of the eyebrows, and is a gland of which little is known. It produces melatonin and is therefore photosensitive: with the light of day it wakes up the body and the mind while in the dark it makes them sleep. Recently it has been discovered that it is not limited to this but is also capable of producing DMT, or Dimethyltryptamine. It is a highly hallucinogenic substance that is found in various plants and that is used by Amazonian shamans who prepare it in the drink called Ayahuasca. The pineal is said to produce it during birth, during death and in particular states of meditation, trance, lucid dreams. Recent studies have found that the long exposure of the body to total darkness (and must be absolutely total) leads the pineal to produce DMT. Which the ascetics understood intuitively.

Jyotishmati: the night

“Real things in the darkness seem no realer than dreams.”

Murasaki Shikibu

Blackness

In Sanskrit, the word jyotis means light: sun, fire, divine, etc. The most used word for darkness is tamas (which is also found in reference to the three gunas of Ayurveda). To indicate a starry night sky, jyotishmati is used instead: this term also refers to the quiet achieved in yoga through meditation and the suppression of the modifications of the mind (see here for an in-depth article about it). The night is the “means” thanks to which you can see the stars. This also on the mystical-spiritual level. In all religious traditions, there is a mystical part that “venerates” the darkness and that involves prayer/meditation in the dark.

Mysticism

It is enough to see saints like Saint Francis and visit the caves where he used to retreat (and like him hundreds of other Christian mystics, starting from the desert fathers); darkness is also found in Islamic Sufism with the concept of Dhat, “unchangeable essence that creates” and that makes the existence of light possible. But Dhat is also the solitude of mental peace. In Taoism it is said that the bright Dao is like darkness; in Hinduism, tantric rituals were practised at night in cemeteries and the holy men retired to live and pray in dark caves; in Japanese Shingon Buddhism, initiations take place in the dark. I stop here because the quotes would be infinite.

Fear of the dark

Why does darkness attract and frighten human nature so much? Probably the reason is to be found on the psycho-physical effects that darkness has on the body and mind. First of all, the sense of balance loses its optical references. Try to do a balanced yoga position like vrikshasana (the tree pose) in the dark (but just do it with your eyes closed to experience the difficulty). On the other hand, other senses such as touch and hearing are sharpened, so we are more perceptive. The mind loses awareness of reality, of the passing of time and the body misses the spatial reference, which is given only by the floor. This status causes the brain to go haywire and the mind, in order not to get lost, begins to generate increasingly vivid and real images. But this is not about hallucinations, but about the movements of the unconscious that begin to surface in the conscious. Such visions can be terrifying but it depends exclusively on what we put in the subconscious tank…

Chemistry of the darkness

The pineal gland is often referred to as the “third eye“. This is because it is photosensitive like the eye, but not only, because thanks to it, dreams are “seen“. According to various studies, but especially those of Mantak Chia, the pineal produces large quantities of melatonin mainly in total darkness. In addition to this, serotonin is also produced. After about 3 days in the absence of light, the gland begins to produce another substance called pinolina, which allows experiences of lucid dreams and visions, this up to the fifth day. From the sixth onwards, the pineal begins to secrete the notorious DMT (dimethyltryptamine), the so-called “spirit molecule” that allows the famous “hallucinations” that are experienced with Ayahuasca. This is what happens chemically during prolonged exposure to darkness.

Pineal gland and the Eye of Horus
Pineal gland and the Eye of Horus

My past experience with the darkness

I must say that I consider myself very lucky in this regard. In the house I grew up in (from when I was 5 to 23, I don’t remember what my room in the previous house was like in the dark) we had roller shutters that created total darkness. Since I was 5 years old (and maybe even earlier) I have always slept in absolute darkness. Even in the morning when I woke up it was always dark, you couldn’t see a thread of light. Because of this, for years I have had difficulty sleeping in places where there were lights, however dim, whether natural or artificial (even the led on the television or other electronic devices prevented me from sleeping). Furthermore, I discovered years ago, thanks to an ex-girlfriend of mine, that when I sleep my eyes do not close completely, it remains like a small opening: this means that as soon as there is a light I perceive it immediately. Over the years, then, I got used to sleeping in any condition (more or less) but I tend to prefer total darkness.

I too, like all children, was afraid of the dark and sleeping in a completely dark room certainly does not help. Sharing the room with my brother, however much as we hated each other, helped me reassure myself. There was no lack of moments when I was alone and there were many times that I felt presences in the dark. Then I turned on the light and I didn’t see anyone… Why do I consider this anecdote important? Because DMT experts say it is essential to sleep in total darkness to facilitate the work of the pineal gland. If you get used to bedtime in total darkness, our dreams will be more vivid, it will be easier to remember them when you wake up and the experience of lucid dreams will be facilitated. Finally, remember that we will be forced to spend the rest of our existence after death in a completely dark wooden coffin…

Dark Retreat Earth Domes

“What man art thou that, thus bescreened in night, So stumblest on my counsel?”

Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare

The centre

Dark Retreat Earth Domes in Koh Phangan it is a place built by the French Hubert Huot that calls itself Santosh (because you know, if you are a hippy and you do not change your name you are not cool) about ten years ago. Santosh started meditating at age 21 in India thanks to vipassana meditation. He then experimented with various forms of spirituality such as Hatha Yoga, tantra, Vedanta, Buddhism and western esotericism (?). When he discovered the existence of darkrooms in the Tibetan tradition, he fell in love with them and after some experience, he decided to build his darkrooms in Koh Phangan. The centre is located not far from Srithanu, inside the jungle but too close to the road for my taste (when you are in the darkroom you hear cars and mopeds go by, even if they are not frequent).

The darkrooms are two, one larger and one smaller (the larger one costs more) and are built according to the principle of the earthdome, that is, using bags filled with earth, generating a circular building and which, while rising, shrinks and create a dome. The structure is thus self-supporting. Booking a darkroom from Santosh isn’t easy because it’s often busy. In addition to this, the Frenchman has other “normal” buildings that he rents out to hippies like him.

Small dome
Small dome
Big dome
Big dome

First “issues”

The relationship between me and Santosh started immediately badly. When I contacted him for information on the darkroom retreat he replied after a long time and when I finally booked the room and when I paid the deposit (half the total price, which for a week is just over € 300, meals included) Santosh was not clear. He basically told me that the payment options were PayPal, bank transfer or Transfer Wise, which I didn’t know about. Having a Revolut account, which allows me to pay in foreign currencies without commissions, I proposed that type of payment but he did not explain to me that even though my bank does not charge me for any commissions, once the money arrives at his account his bank takes a percentage. In short, I pay and he gets 6% less.

Then he explains to me that Transfer Wise is cheaper and that I would have saved money using it: why didn’t you tell me immediately? So once I got there I had to give him even 6% that his bank had taken (hippy but still attached to money!). When the days of the darkroom retreat approach, I ask what my last day inside the dome would have been, because I had to organize myself with a friend of mine and let him know when I would reach him in Koh Samui. Being seven nights, and starting on the 20th evening, I thought I was going out on the 26th evening. I send a message to Santosh but he can only confuse my ideas. In the end, I tell my friend that we would meet on the 26th evening or the 27th morning. Then when I go there Santosh tells me that I could also stay on the 26th night and leave on the 27th: but couldn’t you tell me immediately via message?

Meeting and environment

Santosh is kind enough to pick me up at the Ananda Yoga & Detox center, where I had just finished my 7 days of fasting and cleansing from toxins, which I described in this article. When he sees me he refuses to give me his hand because of COVID-19. Yeah, better to avoid physical contact with strangers. He takes one of my backpacks and makes me get on the bike, which is a kind of motard with a small saddle and once on it we are, by force of circumstances, in close physical contact (no handshake but we can touch each other on the bike…). “Good start,” I say to myself. We arrive after a dozen minutes at its centre. It is a somewhat dilapidated and very hippy structure, in which other people live, obviously hippies, together with him. It makes me leave the stuff I won’t need to use in those seven days and then takes me to the dome. I must say that as soon as I arrived I immediately felt an energy that I didn’t like at all, both from the environment and from people. Not to bad as I will have to stay isolated for seven days in the dark…

Santosh's dilapidated house
Santosh’s dilapidated house
Santosh's dilapidated house
Santosh’s dilapidated house

Darkroom Dome

Having booked the smaller dome, because it was cheaper and I’m a poor fellow, I certainly wasn’t expecting a palace. But as soon as I look inside, I immediately feel repulsion: do I have to be locked in here for a week? It is a cramped, hot place, not at all welcoming. The bathroom is a squat toilet (how can even a human being think of putting a squat toilet in a darkroom, knowing that everything will be done in the dark? Only a French hippy could think of such a thing…) and the shower is so small that you have to crouch. Inside there is a plastic-ish mattress resting on the wall, to lie on the floor when I need to sleep. The room has the bare minimum, including several bottles of drinking water. There are two ventilation pipes with two fans to be activated via two switches, to exchange the air in the room. The fans are extremely noisy and powered by solar panels, therefore with limited autonomy.

Interno del dome
Interno del dome
Interno del dome
Interno del dome

After talking a bit, he explains how meals work (a coconut water shake with blended pulp around 8 am and a meal about six hours later. The meal is a choice between raw vegetables or brown rice with cooked vegetables). He knocks three times and gives me time to cover my eyes, opens the first door and leaves the food, then leaves. Then I have to bandage my head so that I can’t see anything and open the internal door, take the food and close it again. Honestly, I expected a slightly more functional system that would maintain total darkness. But on the other hand, you know, you get what you paid for. The fact that the place was extremely rustic and warm for Santosh was a plus; the more difficulties, the more asceticism, the cooler we are. Stuff heard many times when I was a monk…

Psychological support and diet

Having just come out of a week’s fast, I tried to explain to Santosh what I needed from a dietary point of view to slowly replenish the various foods. He doesn’t care enough and cut off everything saying: I make you raw vegetables until you write me to change (yes, there is a notebook in the room with a pen, on which to write messages for him about any need). I also explain to him that I would be pleased if he stopped to speak to me from time to time, which is feasible via the ventilation tube at the bottom. He is also available if he tells me that he prefers to leave people alone with themselves. In fact, when I tried to talk to him on the first day he considered me zero… He also gives me various tips on how to deal with thoughts and difficulties, telling me to remain an observer of everything, to let go of any type of thought, sensation, emotion without identifying with it (fairly trite stuff). He says he does these retreats often and has recently done his longest: 4 weeks. If it were up to him, he would stay a whole year.

My dark night

“In darkness, the imagination works more actively in broad daylight.”

Immanuel Kant

The first day

Santosh leaves me a flashlight, telling me to use it for the first half-hour, just to get familiar with the room and its objects, then to put it in one of the boxes and not use it anymore. In fact, I use it for about ten minutes, then put it aside. I must say that getting acquainted with the objects of the house in the dark was much easier than expected, the same as using the bathroom (damn squat toilet!) and the shower. The body quickly got used to it. Inside the dome, the sounds are amplified: one feels one’s breath as if it were recorded and put on headphones. The same applies to all types of noise emitted inside, including fans. As soon as I turn off the light of the torch, a sense of anguish assails me, which soon turns into anxiety: oh my God, do I have to be locked in here for a week? It’s hellish heat and you can’t breathe! I immediately turn on the fans and lie down. At floor height, the air is slightly less hot. I breathe deeply and try to calm down, but I feel the diaphragm literally nailed. Practically after the first two meals to break the fast, which didn’t bother me at all, I had lunch and that remained on my stomach, blocking the diaphragm.

As long as I didn’t have to do anything I almost didn’t realize it, but now that I have to dedicate myself to this experience, which is mainly based on yoga, breathing and meditation, I realize that it is a big problem. Then, thanks to an ex who suffered from anxiety and panic attacks, I had discovered that digestion, when it blocks the diaphragm, creates a sense of physical discomfort that also affects mood in a way similar to anxiety. A bit as if anxiety and indigestion were two problems of the same family. So my stomach blocked my diaphragm and also made me feel anxious; in turn, the anxiety generated by being indoors in the dark for seven days blocked my diaphragm. In short, a dog chasing its own tail.

Anxiety management

After about ten minutes I can relax and a sense of tranquillity pervades me. After a while, the anxiety and anguish return to visit me. This push and pull lasted a bit, as if the anxiety came in waves, like the tide. Anxiety and anguish of what? Fear of the dark? Not at all. Fear of boredom. Terror of not being able to pass the time. Phobia of having nothing to do. I decide to write, I had prepared my personal notebook on one side, with a pen. I try to hold the mark by touching with the other hand, looking for the edges of the notebook. It is not easy but I can write something down. This helps me to externalize the emotions, let them out and observe them.

Revelations

Properly this anxiety, this anguish, project me into a kind of dimension of death. A little as if they had told me: in a week you will die. Suddenly the ego got disintegrated almost immediately, pride melted like snow in the sun, shattered like the mirror destroyed by the stone. All the rancours I carried towards people who in my life have disappointed me, hurt me, mistreated me have vanished as if they never existed. The suffering I attributed to them was actually generated by me. I was not hurt by their behaviour, I was not angry because of what they had done to me, I did not refuse them because I did not like them: simply, the desire to be loved and considered by them as I want generates my suffering. They are different from how I would like and can only give me what they have given me so far, and nothing more; I, like a capricious child, do not accept it and I get angry with them by blaming them. In the end, if you really don’t care about a person, just leave it alone and don’t have to deal with it anymore. If one continues to think about it, to look for it, to expect something in return, the fault is only his/her.

So I immediately made peace with my ex-Japanese, my brother and even my first ex. All in one go. If certain people behave with me in a certain way it is only because I allow them to. All depends on me. I am the engine of everything. If I change my attitude, the carousel around me changes, it’s mathematic. This does not only apply to relationships with people, but also to everything related to your life: work, family, desires, health. This “death of the ego” revelation, however trivial, was extremely liberating. It is nothing rational or mental, but it hits you from inside like an earthquake, touching you to the inside of your nervous system. The truth is not rational, it is like a pinch that awakens you, said the Eastern fathers of the Church.

Asceticism and extreme experiences

Since I was a boy I have always been attracted by adventure, heroism, extreme experiences and, when I was a monk, by asceticism. Fasting, long meditations, sleeping on the hard, cold shower every day for ten years, begging for food, struggling to work as construction workers with few means and tools, living in poverty, being in total chastity for 7 long years, blindly obeying one’s spiritual guide and so on (although people believe that chastity is one of the hardest asceticism to be sustained, obedience is far worse). When I left the monastic community, I wanted to experience the so-called “entheogenic” drugs, that they help you “see” the God within you. I started with marijuana (and yes, I had several visions or hallucinations), then LSD and finally Ayahuasca. Above all, the latter is a very vigorous drug, 90 out of 100 vomits, it generates powerful and mystical, sometimes terrifying, sometimes beautiful and beatific experiences. They are all extreme means, which forcefully push the ego out of its normal location. You can go crazy if you’re not careful.

Mysticism

The darkroom experience stems from the same thirst to go beyond human limits, looking for those mystical experiences exasperated by external conditions. Imagine yourself, stimulating the pineal gland to produce DMT by being in a mystical trance state for days! The dream of every psychonaut! Here, the moment I entered that room and closed myself in, all this disintegrated together with my ego. I asked myself several times: “What the fuck am I doing?”. All this desire for the extreme, for the pushed asceticism, which is nothing but self-destructive unresolved energy, vanished as if it had never belonged to me. Spirituality, mysticism, has nothing to do with asceticism, deprivation, suffering, the extreme. All that matters is love: to love and be loved. In this, Jesus and early Christianity were right (then the Church twisted this love and ruined everything), as well as Buddha when he spoke of compassion.

Love

The beauty of life lies in simplicity, in living this fantastic earthly experience with joy, in the here and now, loving and receiving love. And when it comes to love, it has nothing to do with romantic love or even with Christian charity: it refers to that inexplicable feeling/desire that pushes us to realize ourselves for what we are, beyond the superstructures that over the years we have built. This revelation was extremely liberating, it took a heavy burden off my shoulders and heart. I have always been obsessed with spiritual realization when this is nothing more than a mere illusion. We don’t need any stupid ritual: happiness is here and now, in small things. This is the maximum realization.

The night in the night

Having entered the darkroom around 4.30 pm-5 pm, I faced the night early. Not that there was a big difference for me… Anyway, after I managed to tame the anxiety and calm down, I started doing some yoga and breathing exercises, to prepare for meditation. Unfortunately, due to the lack of energy due to fasting (and the infernal heat), I was able to make a few positions that immediately made me feel dizzy. When I started to breathe, I could not unlock the diaphragm in any way: the stomach looked like a boulder. I could not take deep breaths and when I tried to meditate it was impossible to go down to “alpha“, that is, in the state of alert sleep. However, I alternated this cycle of yoga-breathing-meditation for a few times, lying down at the end when I could no longer sit. During the moments when I was supine, I had some kind of lucid dreams, that is, vivid dreams in which I was relatively present, but not too much. Finally, I went to sleep.

Lucid dreams

During the night I had a crazy dream. It was so vivid that it seemed real, I still remember it very clearly, as if it were a fact that really happened. I am outside the darkroom and wonder what the hell am I doing there. I remember going paranoid saying, “What the hell did I do, why did I go out?” and I try to remember how it happened, without success. I start looking for the darkroom and meet Santosh. I explain to him that I had gone out by mistake and ask him to go back to the room. He says nothing and starts walking. I follow him and he takes me to a place, making me understand that this was the room. I enter and find a whole series of objects that were not mine, like USB cables. Then I realize that the window was open and I say to myself: “But there was no window in my room!”. Among other things, there were more rooms so I understand that it wasn’t mine and I decide to go out and look for it on my own. I find myself in a village and I am amazed because the two domes were in the middle of the jungle and the village was far away.

As I walk between the houses it is evening and at a certain point I hear a familiar voice, I look up and on a terrace, I see an Italian friend of mine who lives in Kuala Lumpur. And I say to myself: “What is she doing here?”. I sneak away and then I stop and tell myself that it is not nice not to say hello, so I go back and call her. Happy to see me, she invites me to go up and I obey. She was with several other friends and she introduces me to a girl telling me that she too lived in Galluzzo (my neighbourhood). This girl tells me the name (which I don’t remember) and that she knows me, but I don’t remember who she was but I pretend to know. Then I talk to my friend who was very elegant, wrapped in a long black jacket. At some point, she takes it off and shows off a black, elegant and very sexy dress that enhances his curves. I congratulate her on the body and then go over to kiss her. She seems to reciprocate there and then she dodges at the last minute saying that she couldn’t (she is married). Then he takes my head and puts it on his breast and I am amazed because I remembered it bigger. The dream ends.

More lucid dreams

At some point, I wake up. I go to the bathroom, take a shower and do some breathing and meditation exercises. My diaphragm is always blocked and I can’t go deep. I feel dizzy when I stand. Then I lie down and after a while, I fall asleep again. Here comes another lucid dream: I see the screen of a videogame, an arcade one. There was only the screen, nothing else. It was those old video games, in which you drive a spaceship and you have to shoot enemy spaceships that descend from the top of the screen, while the background flows below you. I moved the spaceship with the mind and always with the mind I shot. At a certain point, the perspective changes and the final boss arrives, not from above, from the right (my spaceship goes to the far left). The boss was a huge spaceship (like the Star Wars cruisers) that occupied the whole screen but had empty spaces where I could stay without risking death. Meanwhile, the turrets were shooting at me and I had to destroy them all. After a while, the dream comes to an end.

I have another one in which I meet the sister of one of my ex, whom I also knew. She tells me she recently had twins, just like her sister. First, she tells me they are Thai, then I ask her if she adopted them. She does not respond and continues to speak freely, saying that in reality they were born attacked (Siamese twins; Siam is the old name of Thailand). I ask her: “Attacked by what?” and she replies: “By a finger“. Then she tells me no, by the skin of the back. Finally, she reveals that on one’s back there was the spine and other bones, like a wing, of a bird. While she tells me I have the exact image of what she is describing to me. I am reminded of the theory of the vanishing twin, in which in some cases one embryo is absorbed by another but parts of the body remain when the fetus is born. In short, she says to me: “Do you want to see the x-ray plates?” and I say that there is no need and in fact the plates were identical to the image that had formed in my mind. Then I wake up.

…and the last one

I try again to do some exercises but I can’t then wait for breakfast (coconut water with blended pulp) to arrive. Time never seems to pass. After an infinity, Santosh finally arrives. When he is outside I call him from the ventilation tube, because I needed to hear a friendly voice. He approaches and asks me what’s up. I ask him what time it is, just to start a conversation, he answers coldly and leaves. Thanks for the promised psychological support… I drink the shake, which is full-bodied, with taste, but the stomach does not want to digest it. I drink little by little, in small sips, taking long breaks between one sip and another. I spend the day trying to do yoga and meditation, but always without success. I get anxiety again and I constantly think about going out. The heat is suffocating and I often turn on the fans: when they are active, you can feel good inside the room, but as they turn off it becomes unbearable heat.

Exiting the room

After an infinite time, lunch also arrives: raw fruit and vegetable salad, with fried tofu. Fried tofu! What the hell, Santosh, I told you that I was fasting for seven days and that I had to reintroduce the food slowly (and the soybean is among the last, the fried food last of the last) and you put me fried tofu! Since it’s dark, I don’t see it, I have to eat it by force. Obviously it’s all stuff that stays on the stomach. I eat slowly and leave a good portion for later. I fight with all my strength against boredom, but I can’t do it, also because I have very little strength. In the end, I decide to open the door. I do it with my eyes closed, so as not to be blinded. I wait for the eyes to get used (and in reality, it takes very little) then I start to look at the room again. I clean the bathroom (yes, shitting in the dark in a squat toilet is highly discouraged: thanks Santosh) then I start writing. I stay inside the room, I still don’t want to go out, but the light and the air that enter relieve the sense of anxiety.

Reconnection with reality

After a while, Santosh passes, sees the door (or rather the doors) open and comes to ask me what happens. I explain to him that I don’t feel well, that I can’t breathe and he first gets scared thinking it is because of the virus (but the hippies were not immune to viruses?) And then when he realizes that it depends on my fasting he tries to calm me and he tells me to do another night there anyway and that eventually, he would talk about it the next morning. But I have no intention of locking myself in that fucking room! He leaves and after a while, I go out.

Back view of one of the Santosh's apartment
Back view of one of the Santosh’s apartment

I eat again and then I walk around slowly. It is very hot (it was more or less 16) and being a hilly area there are many ups and downs. I tire easily and after a while, I go back to the dome. I go around Santosh’s property and see the various apartments he rents out: there are some guys I talk to who are anything but friendly. One even tells me: I spent three days locked in the darkroom and everything went well, why didn’t you make it? Has anybody ever said fuck you? I would have liked to say it myself, instead, I try to explain to him that I don’t feel well, but I don’t know if his IQ is enough to understand it.

The hippies and the attachment to money

I decide to talk again with Santosh, now I am resolute to abandon completely and he tries to convince me to stay and try again. But I feel that it is not the right time. The initial idea was to sleep in the darkroom and during the day go out and maybe help Santosh and do some community life with these hippies, but since they were pretty unpleasant and I didn’t like the place at all I decided it was better to leave at the cost of losing all the money and having to pay me another place to sleep. Santosh gives me the usual good ascetic speeches in which he tells me that even if I’m sick and suffering, who cares, I stay there and enjoy the suffering without identifying yourself with it (again!).

He preaches telling me that recently he had smashed his leg and despite the excruciating pain he had not taken any painkiller because he had detached the mind from the pain (oh really?). To cut it off I say to him: Okay, let’s see, we’ll talk about it in the morning. I try to ask him if it was possible to get back at least part of the money since I only spent one out of seven nights and he tells me that it doesn’t exist, you can’t, now the room is booked for a week, which was clearly written, that he lives on that (not true, he also rents apartments), etc. I think: of course, you are really good at detaching your mind from pain, but at detaching it from money, you really can’t. Ah, these hippies! I leave and the anger generated by this surreal dialogue gives me new energy and motivation to live (and to take my ass off that infamous place).

Back to life

So I go for a walk to the nearby village, on foot, I find some girls who make me use WiFi and I start to contact a few people, especially a friend who was in Koh Samui and with whom we agreed that ‘I would have joined him after the retreat. After a while, I go back to the dome but it is still too early: it has to pass the night, as they say in the south of Italy! Then I take a torch and go back to the village. I find a restaurant, I order a soup and I eat tastefully, calmly. When it is finally dark, like around 10 pm, I return to the dome and go to sleep. Stop it, of course, I can’t! Too hot, too much excitement. I open the doors to let air in and after a while a mosquito enters. Now, not for the mosquito itself but inside the dome, the sounds are all extremely amplified and it seems to have a helicopter. After a while, another one enters. Damn! I try to peck them and take them out but in vain. After a long time, they decide to stop and in the end, I manage to fall asleep.

Last difficulties, just to not miss anything

In the morning I wake up early and go back to Santosh and tell him that I want to leave. He offers to take me to the village where I could take a taxi to the port and join my friend in Koh Samui. He prepares me a shake of coconut water, blended pulp, banana and then without asking me he puts cocoa in it. Fuck, then you really want to kill me! I drink it a little and since it was a lot and it didn’t all fit into my bottle, I fill my stomach compromising my digestion again. Santosh takes me to the village with his motorbike and as soon as I get on I am invaded by his strong smell (like a true Frenchman and a true hippie he doesn’t wash much), we arrive in Srithanu and we wait together for a taxi, which obviously never passes (because of COVID-19 the island had emptied). After a while, he tells me: “Okay, I’ll take you to the port (why didn’t you do it directly, huh?) but I have to go back to the dome because I left the generator on and I don’t have the phone with me to warn others and tell them to turn it off”. Then we go back, wait for a while and eventually, he takes me to the port. Hi Santosh, not to see us again!

One more reason to be out

Another influential fact for my giving up, and I mention it only now but it has its relevant importance, is that I only have my mom left. She lives in Florence, with her partner, and is 76 years old. Fortunately, she is healthy, but because of this COVID-19 one is always a bit worried. Just before entering the dome, I had read the news that coronavirus cases had also exploded in Tuscany, especially in Florence. Actually staying a whole week without the possibility of being contacted by her and having news of her made me a little apprehensive. So, also for her sake, I decided that it was better to go out and be available for her, even if from a distance, for any eventuality.

Conclusions

Although this experience was apparently unsuccessful, I must say that it worked out great. In just one day of the retreat, I had fabulous revelations and had interesting lucid dreams (and spent more than € 300…). I also understood that I am extremely allergic to hippies (in fact I had understood it for some time) and that these types of extreme approaches to spirituality, accompanied by explanations full of ego and competition for those who have it longer, are no longer for me. The challenge now is to find my spiritual and life dimension, which is not easy, because I am also an alternative for the alternatives (and in fact, I found much more spirituality among the “normal” people than among the pseudo-mystics, hippies, yogis and meditators).

I have no regrets that I stopped after only one day (apart from the € 300…) also because my diaphragm and my digestion, as well as the lack of energy, bothered me for another two days (for a total of 3) and if I had forced myself to stay inside I would have continued to feel unnecessarily bad. Speaking to the detox manager, she later told me that it takes at least three days to recover from the gallbladder and liver cleansing. Many of you will ask: would you have an experience like this, perhaps in optimal health conditions and in a dome where you don’t die from the heat (and who has a normal toilet instead of a squat one)? Who knows maybe yes. Would I recommend it? Definitely an interesting experience, maybe I would start with three days (which is the minimum) but I would choose a better place and above all someone who can give you real psychological support and not fill your head with bullshit trying to make you feel guilty or as if you were stupid.

I remind you that it is possible to finance my travels and therefore my articles! Thank you!

History and spread of Buddhism

in Spirituality
  ·   25 min read