Transformative Retreats

Transformative Retreats May 24, 2023

I once had a dream, where I went from the mundane event of riding in a car with two of my sisters, to instantaneously finding myself alone in a void of nothingness. I had no body, no voice, I couldn’t feel, see or touch anything at all. I decided I must have died and left my body or been trapped inside my own mind by a crippling car accident. I had no pain, no physical sense of anything at all. I did not feel afraid or threatened. I became aware that with great effort I could create the tiniest ripple of vibration by soundlessly screaming at the top of my lungs. I then became aware, that to think I still had lungs with which to scream, was probably laughable. I was utterly alone and utterly without any physical capabilities. Instantaneously, I realized I would go mad in a very short period of time should I have to exist in this state with no way to calculate time, entertain myself or have an idea of how to remove myself from this predicament. That’s when I woke up.

Tripping through the Shrooms

Spiritual retreats can give you time to make deep changes
Spiritual retreats can give you time to make deep changes and process difficult experiences. Adobe Stock

Recently friends took a deep dive into the oneness of the universe when he and his partner began using psilocybin therapeutically. While my friends live states away, we were texting regularly about their experiences. They were patient with my unending questions as they knew I would be interested. We had become friends during the last years of his mother’s life. Accompanying her and her family along the end-of-life continuum was an honor, as she was a very special person. But like many adult children, we sometimes find ourselves alone, grown, and wondering how to find peace with all that has come to pass. 

My friends were profoundly changed. Luckily, they had positive outcomes, although the experience was quite emotional and traumatic. They followed their therapist’s recommendations and were not taking any risks with irresponsible use. (This article is not about how to use psychedelics; you will have to look for that elsewhere.) Since I am interested in transformative experiences of all sorts, they knew I would be keen to know what they experienced. 

They struggled with fitting the vast amount of emotional and mental downloads into consumable bite-sized explanations that I would be able to understand. So many of our daily activities, which we thought were of importance and value, are clearly not, whereas the bliss of their dog’s emotional states was instantly contagious when viewed with such open hearts. Play, have fun, love, and live life without fear, were the themes of their texts. The experience carried through to every part of their lives and now freedom and joy were present in activities that had previously lost meaning or had begun to elicit anxiety.

Need to Pivot?

Carins are a marker along your path
Carins are a marker along your path. AdobeStock

For seekers who are looking to deepen their life experiences and open new levels of consciousness, psychedelics, like psilocybin and ayahuasca are alternative therapies used to help alleviate the fear of death, as well as heal trauma, deepen self-acceptance, open one’s personal perspectives and create new avenues. Other intense (no drug) alternative therapies can include sound baths, a float tank, yoga, fasting, meditation, a silent retreat, vision quests, holotropic breathwork, or even a darkness retreat. 

And All Was Black

Earlier this year, CNN reported that Greenbay Packer’s quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, attended “a darkness retreat” in Oregon. That phrase grabbed my attention as I plodded my way up the stair mill at the local gym one morning. I immediately started Googling! While I’ve not used psychedelics, I have done everything else on the list above except the deep, shamanic experience of going into a dark cave for days on end without even the slightest visual stimuli. That sounded like an experience I needed to have that would allow me to explore the dream that haunted me.

To some, a silent retreat is crazy enough, but imagine coupling it with darkness, to remove sight and sound. But in my mind…. OMG, I’m so excited to push my limits. Often its painful, I might end up in tears or vomiting and my poor partner has been called on occasion to save me, hold my hair back or come to get me when I’m so wrecked I cannot drive. And yet… I’m ready to do it again! I learn so much about humanity and my own capacity. I truly believe these experiences have made me a better person, a more spiritual person.

Spiritual retreats are catalysts for growth, bringing peace and acceptance into your life. It might allow you to face fears or issues that you’ve swept into the corners of your mind so long ago that you are no longer aware they exist. A retreat is one way to move the furniture (programming) around in your head and sweep the spiderweb, dust, and rubbish that is building up in the places you don’t want to look. 

At the beginning of a retreat, you spend the first couple of days running all the usual shitty narrative through your head until it eventually is seen as the trash it actually is and you can set it aside. Then the experience of being present begins to take over. Your entire being slows down into a peaceful acceptance, to the point that you are no longer attached to the illusion of what most of us experience as life. This is when the realizations about what you think is important and what is not begin to solidify. Once you remove all the chains, your mind will start to fly. You may find yourself crying as you revisit past trauma, current fears, bliss, and self-love, or the simple experience of finally being well-rested by prolonged stillness. 

As published in the CNN Article, “When someone goes into the darkness, all these things that were important to them like money, fame, power, status, being worthy – they all become insignificant and meaningless in the dark,” Berman said. “In the dark, all you have is the present moment which reveals what is truly meaningful – whether it’s love, forgiveness, peace – and it begins to transform you as you truly authentically touch what is most important to you,” said Scott Berman, who owns Sky Cave Retreats along with his wife Jill, adding the darkness helps illuminate what really matters by stripping away the constant bombardment of sensory input and stimulation many people experience in their hectic modern lives. 

What does it take to sit in a dark sound proof room?

Another interesting aspect of this retreat is the total lack of a suggested preparation. I once showed interest in a sweat lodge experience only to be told by my friend I wasn’t prepared. This was just a conversation about the experience it wasn’t like I had the opportunity to attend one in the immediate future. That’s how the conversation started and basically ended. I have no idea why I was turned away from exploring that experience because even though I wanted more information, she shut down the conversation.

Many spiritual practices are closed but have been appropriated by the West. However, when a seeker is sincere, preparation is an important part of the transformative experience and can be greatly rewarding with its own value.

Come As You Are

When participating in an ayahuasca journey, one must cleanse the system and there is a specific diet to be followed for weeks in advance. Fasting, mental and spiritual preparation is usually part of the recommendations. But this retreat has none of that. They don’t promote this experience as being attached to any specific tradition because it has literally be used around the globe by many cultures and religions for many different purposes. This is a retreat that welcomes you to “come as you are.”

I have reached out to Sky Cave Retreats and added my name to their waiting list. Unfortunately, at this point, they are booking out to 2025. They are expanding the number of cabins and hoping to support more people in the future. Who knew Americans were so interested in sitting in the dark silence with themselves?

About Ryvyn
Ryvyn has worked in Elder Law for 15 years. She is a certified yoga teacher specializing in senior yoga, and death doula for guardianship wards and life care planning clients of the law firm. Ryvyn became involved in the paranormal when investigators researched the activity in her 90-year-old home. Ryvyn has always had an interest in world religions and spirituality. Being raised LDS, she is now a Gardnerian Initiate. She and her attorney husband, live in Southside Virginia with their dogs Ghost and Luna. She loves researching the paranormal, spiritual beliefs, psychopomp work, and traditions surrounding death, dying, and burial practices. As well as studying nutrition, aging intelligently, traveling, and amateur bodybuilding. You can read more about the author here.

Browse Our Archives