CREDOS : Enlightenment — II

What do you do when you’re on a dark retreat? Are you meditating most of the whole time? Are you moving around?

Generally, people start out by sleeping a lot because it’s dark, and that’s an important part of the process — just relaxing. When you’re not sleeping you can be meditating — depending upon how much experience you have, between four to six times a day. The rest of the time you spend time relaxing and reflecting. Initially, doing any intense physical exercise is discouraged.

What kind of meditation do you do?

The initial practices are often mindfulness meditations, where people focus on their own breathing or whatever is arising in their thought patterns or feelings. When they become fairly stable and are able to just be present, there are other practices they can do for cultivating qualities like compassion and wisdom. In Buddhism, there is an assumption that we all have a Buddha nature that underlies everything and it’s our confusion that takes us out of that understanding. Similarly, Christians might talk about everybody having a Christ. These practices are designed to get in touch with that essence.

And that’s what makes this a spiritual practice?

Yes, I see it as a way of getting in touch with a dimension of our being that is sacred. Also, you begin to see certain qualities of light and actual visions in the dark. In that way, I think the sacred is more readily available to us in the dark. —