Dark Meditation: A Practice to Heal, Transform and Awaken

We were honoured to be asked by Founder of Head + Heart, Monica Krake, about the origins and deeply enriching benefits of Dark Room Meditation. Read how this ancient practice becomes a modern tool to heal the body, transform the mind and awaken the heart.


Dark meditation isn’t exactly common practice (there are only two places that offer dark retreats in North America) so we were very curious to explore what exactly this meditation practice offers in terms of healing and transformation. Especially after we learned about the opening of the Amaya Centre, a spiritual retreat center offering a variety of dark meditation journeys in the heart of the Columbia Valley.

In this Q&A, we’ve connected with the co-owner of Amaya, Tania Edwards who explains the healing and transformative benefits and history of dark meditation, below.

Tania is a Yoga and Ayurveda teacher with a background in Zen Buddhist Meditation who runs Amaya with her partner Fabrice L’Heureux. Each dark meditation retreat is led by these two, who together, bring decades of meditation experience, spiritual practice and study to their dark meditation offerings. We hope you enjoy this Q&A as much as we did!

Head + Heart: Can you explain the philosophy and history behind the dark meditation?

Tania Edwards: The process of secluding oneself in complete darkness has been practiced for thousands of years as a way of obtaining spiritual evolution or deep spiritual growth. It’s really amazing to see how many cultures all over the world hold practices of darkness meditation.

In Egypt, the darkroom was found in the pyramids; in Tibet and India dark meditation happened in mountainside caves; in Europe, it took the form of underground tunnels and catacombs and even in the Amazon jungle in conjunction with plant medicine, dark meditation is used as a way to heal, transform and awaken.

The dark meditation practice is probably most known today from the work of Quigong Master Mantak Chia and the dark room retreats he runs at Tao Garden in Thailand.

In the Taoist tradition, the benefits of spending extended periods of time in the dark is a higher level practice to advance one’s spirituality. As Mantak Chia explains in his book, Darkness Technology, when one is in the darkness, the mind and soul can wander through psychic and spiritual realms so that you can reunite with your truest, highest state of being.

Head + Heart: What are the benefits of the dark meditation?

Tania Edwards: There are so many physical, mental and emotional benefits to the practice of dark meditation that are very beneficial to living in our modern world today.

Having a background in Ayurveda I learned that in India, in Ayurvedic medicine, immersing into darkness is a form of Kaya Kalpa. The term kaya meaning “body” and kalpa meaning “ageless” or “immortal”. This Ayurvedic treatment aims to maintain excellent physical health of the body so that one can delay death long enough to achieve jivamukta, which is the release of karma. This technique is highly rejuvenating and is said to slow down the aging process.

When we were doing our extensive research into darkness meditation before opening Amaya Centre I found it fascinating to learn that 90 to 95% of our thoughts come directly from our visual stimuli. When you shut down this visual stimuli you are left with your own inner eye and inner voice. The eyes will literally keep searching for light until you settle and allow all to merge as one. The rest and peace that comes to the mind is so deep.

Understanding the biochemical reactions that occur in the brain while in complete darkness is extremely interesting. Melatonin, which is the chemical in our brains that send us to sleep, keeps building up while in the darkness. It does not stop building up so, in extended darkness, you become very relaxed and sleepy. It’s very common to do a lot of sleeping during the first 24 hours in darkness. If you spend multiple days in darkness the brain begins to realize it no longer needs the melatonin and shifts into producing another chemical called Pinolene. Pinolene can cause somewhat of a light show where you can have visions that are directly linked to the inner workings of the mind. If one were to seclude in darkness for 7-14 days there is DMT that will release from the brain naturally that brings a state of complete altered consciousness. In this state, people experience immense feelings of universal compassion and can work deeply on that which needs healing within.

Overall, I would describe darkness meditation, especially our 24hr dark room journeys, as a way to become rejuvenated and rested from the noisy culture we live in while at the same time, connecting deeply to the inner voice that can tell us a lot about what we need to hear in this very moment.

At Amaya, we have had many participants leave the dark room saying that they now know their next move in life or that they feel like they have been on a week’s vacation. We also have participants who come in a state of dealing with chronic pain wondering if they are even able to sit in meditation at all and leave totally surprised at how long they can actually sit and receive the healing energy that occurs while in complete darkness.

Whether people simply need rest and rejuvenation or are looking for deep inner work and expanded consciousness, dark meditation meets both of these needs.

Head + Heart: Please describe how the weekend retreats go. Is it literally dark all the time? Is there talking? What’s the format? Do the teachers receive specific type of training?

Tania Edwards: Our 24 hr Dark Room Journeys are our most popular offering. We begin our time together with an opening circle where we get to know one another. Given that we will be spending time together in darkness, we always allow time and space for talking and sharing to create a safe environment before entering the dark room.

We start each journey with an orientation, when we explain all of the rules and regulations for those entering into the dark room. This includes practical info like how to go to the bathroom and return in darkness. This experience offers complete darkness for a 24 hour period, and we always do a practice run with everyone beforehand where we guide them to and from the bathroom while wearing a blindfold. Everyone is usually surprised how easy the process is.

After our orientation we enter into more of a sacred space where we prepare the physical body with yoga and qigong and enter more meditative state by candlelight. We also offer a tea made of Blue Lotus. Blue Lotus is also called the flower of intuition and can help you enter a state of deep consciousness and also lucid dreaming. It is very mild and is not psychoactive.

We end our first evening together with a yoga Nidra practice to send you off to sleep as we enter into our time in darkness. Everyone stays together in our 1600 square foot hexagonal dark room. We keep the numbers very small, usually 6 participants, so that everyone has enough personal space for their beds, yoga mats and meditation space.

When awaking the following morning the day is usually divided into sections of 2-3 hours. There is usually a guided and silent meditation or sometimes a shamanic journey with weavings of sound healing. There is at least one hour every 3 hours that we give as silent time where people can choose to sit in silent meditation or sleep. Besides the facilitation of meditations, or guidance from Fabrice or I, we encourage silence during the process. It really is very intuitive and we always find that everything merges as one. Everyone begins to feel the collective energy of everyone in the room together. Although everyone is doing their own inner work the room almost seems as one mind together.

The dark room journey is also a fasting experience where only fluids are consumed during the 24hr period. This is the best way to do inner work and the body is moving so little that even for those not familiar with fasting, this is comfortable. We end the 24 hour meditation with an organic plant based meal.

Head + Heart: How did you decide to open this type of retreat centre in BC? Are there others like it in North America?

Tania Edwards: Before opening Amaya Centre as a centre specializing is dark room meditation there was a lot of research done. We learned a lot from speaking with a friend who works at Tao garden facilitating dark room retreats. Fabrice is also trained in Tao practices of meditation and qigong and spoke to many people in this community who had attended darkness retreats. The feedback was always very profound. After months of researching we began to dive into the practice ourselves. Fabrice and I would go into the dark room together, or sometimes in solitude, for multiple days and this became a regular practice for us. We really discovered for ourselves the profound effects of dark room therapy and became very passionate about sharing it with others. We first began to offer retreats for groups of friends to test the waters and we saw first hand the effects on others.

We officially opened our dark room retreats to the public in January 2018 and are amazed at the response we are getting. The dark room journeys are becoming full before I get to even advertise them.

There are very few places offering dark room retreats in North America. The most popular places to attend a darkness retreat or overseas in Thailand, India, Europe or in Guatemala. We receive inquiries from all over Canada, from people in California and from as far away as South America. We are very humbled and beyond grateful to share our space and the practice of darkness meditation with others. It truly is a gift.

Head + Heart: Why do people typically come to your meditation centre and what can they expect to take away from the experience?

Tania Edwards: We don’t find a particular type of person coming into our Dark Room Journeys at all. It can really vary from the exhausted parent who really needs some deep rest and rejuvenation on all levels to someone with many years of meditation and spiritual practice. We do get a lot of healers and spiritual practitioners that join the Dark Room journey as a way to do their own deep inner work in order to serve others but you don’t have to be at that level to receive the multitude of benefits. The model we work with really serves all levels.

During our last Dark Room journey there was a Mother of multiple children who has been to one yoga retreat in her life and had minimal meditation experience sitting next to a 28 year old who has a practice of going on silent Vipassana retreats for months at a time. Both emerged with equally wonderful experiences. The Dark room has a beautiful way of giving you what you need as long as you are willing to stay open and do your own inner work.

Darkness meditation is such a beautiful practice to incorporate during this time where we live in a very busy, noisy culture that can make us feel very bombarded in our everyday lives. Dark Room Meditation provides the right environment to look and listen deeply into your own world accessing your own inner wisdom. For those who need additional support during each journey, Fabrice and I are always there and available to support during each journey. Fabrice offers Vibrational sound therapy though the use of tuning forks and I am trained in Ayurvedic Indian head massage that can help participants connect to their upper chakras or energy fields as well as deeply relax.

Our world really needs more people coming alive and sharing their gifts; dark meditation is one great tool that can help people connect to those, and thus help the world become a place where we can thrive together.

_ _ _

Butterfly Medicine: The Way of Transformation

Butterfly represents a need for change and greater freedom, and at the same time it represents courage. One requires courage to carry out the changes necessary in the process of growth. It is the never-ending cycle of self-transformation. 

Virtually all cultures have marvelled at the magical process that transforms an ungraceful caterpillar into a magnificent fluttering butterfly. Butterfly Medicine is all about transformations, the element of Air, and mental powers. Butterfly can bring clarity to your mental process, help you organize the project you are undertaking, and assist you in finding the next step in your career or life path. The power that it brings to us is akin to the air. It is the mind, and the ability to know the mind or to change it. It is the art of transformation that butterflies teach us by example about self-transformation.

Butterfly medicine is very present at Amaya Inner Journey Centre. It is the symbol of our place of transformation. 3 years ago while our Facilitator, Fabrice, was in the Andes on a shamanic medicine journey he unexpectedly met a local female shaman just one hour after landing in La Paz. It was her 6 year old daughter who presented him with a small painting of a beautiful butterfly she had made with her name signed on the bottom, "Amaya". He felt a deep power and essence in the passing of the butterfly medicine but had no idea why. The painting was brought back to the home and placed on the altar for years. Amaya Inner Journey Centre was manifesting. The little painting still remains on the altar of our ceremonial space to help guide participants through their own inner journey of self-transformation regardless of what stage they may be in.

Just like the butterfly you are always in a stage of your own transformation and it is important to understand what stage you are in. Which stage do you believe yourself to be in?

The Egg stage where you are full of potential and possibility but still very unaware of what you can become?

The Larva stage where you are aware of who you are but what you know deep down inside has not yet become reality?

The Chrysalis stage where you are doing a lot of inner work and are in the processing of actually creating your new birth?

Or the Butterfly stage, the final stage, where there has been a transformation and you are able to bring your fullest potential and inner offerings out into the world. This is what our world needs, people who come alive; people who can realize their own uniques gifts and purpose and allow them to change our world for the better. 

Using butterfly medicine effectively means listening to your inner voice very carefully. Changes in our lives are inevitable and sometimes events or happenings that seem quite traumatic are exactly the catalyst needed to propel yourself into transformation. 

The butterfly grows wings and before using them has no idea if it can actually fly. The courage to change is not always the easiest but these new situations and challenges can create a phenomenal emergence with the courage to do so.

At Amaya Inner Journey Centre we like to think of our dark room as a form of chrysalis, cocoon or womb of the earth mother. An opportunity for deep inner work is present and upon re-entering the light there is an energetic feeling of rebirth as we re-enter the light.

What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls the butterfly.
— Lao Tzu




Consciousness is Collective

Collective consciousness refers to a set of beliefs, ideas and moral attitudes which operate as a unifying force within society. To put it rather simply, we are one. Whatever you think, feel and do is felt by everyone else. Our society as a whole is a culmination and reflection of our attitudes and how we display them internally and externally. Therefore, each one of us is playing a role in collectively creating our own reality as well as the reality of those around us.

As human beings our main collective energy used to be based on survival, we were hunters and gatherers. Our collective energy went into being interdependent with one another and with nature. In order to survive our connection to our tribe and to nature had to be strong. Our sense of belonging was nurtured.

Today most of us are trying to nurture this belonging in other ways. We still have that same desire to connect and belong but it's highly challenged as we live more individualized lives than our ancestors. We live in a world that is hyper-stimulated, a world where media is constantly fighting for our attention. It seems that no matter where we try to place our energy there are constant distractions trying to convince us of who we are and what we want. It's no wonder that most of us are striving to find our purpose and connect to who we really are. We are stressed and when we are stressed we lack that sense of belonging and connection to one another and to our environment.

The reality is that something is not quite right in our world today due to our lack of connection. The news displays catastrophe and chaos and we "feel" this. We feel the pain and overwhelm and for a short time we are in a state of disbelief and sadness. Most of us want to see change and want to do something but we have absolutely no idea what to do. We are deeply connected to what we are seeing but feel powerless and hopeless. After this we sink back into that safe, comfortable zone where we grumble and complain about what has happened and then try to forget about it. What we aren't realizing is that we have more power for change than we think. As Deepak Chopra writes in his book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, "The source of all creation is pure consciousness.... pure potentiality seeking expression from the unmanifest to the manifest. And when we realize that our true self is one of pure potentiality, we align with the power that manifests everything in the universe."

The Power of Thoughts

Many spiritual traditions and cultures have linked our inner world to our outer world. Ghandi stated that if we wanted to see something happen in the world than we must first make that change for ourselves. There were many Eastern religious teachings on the law of attraction and how we can visualize what we want to become reality. One teaching of the Buddha is that "We are our thoughts. We create the world with our thoughts."

Experiments of Dr. Jeffrey Goodman show us how we can change the world through what we think. He states that the energy of our thoughts continuously create thinking patterns that define and shape our physical environment, the world we live in. Dr. Goodman calls this phenomena "bio-relativity". One of the most astonishing studies on this topic comes from the Global Coherence Initiative and their research of the earth's magnetic fields during the September 11 attacks. The GCI has an astonishing Scientific Advisory Board with scientists from a broad range of fields. Their Global Coherence Monitoring System (GCMS) measured how the earth's fields were effected by human emotions. With the presence of fear, anger and worry the earth was greatly effected. They even saw the GCMS generators creating abnormal readings hours prior to the attack which suggested a worldwide collective intuition.

You can imagine the energy that can be generated if we were to all channel positive change. An amazing documentary exploring the power of the mind is "Heal". The film is now a bestseller featuring the brilliant minds and hearts of those such as Deepak Chopra, Bruce Lipton, Marianne Williamson, Michael Beckwith, Gregg Braden, Anita Moorjani, Anthony William the Medical Medium, and more. 

At this moment in time there is a conscious revolution happening where more people than ever are understanding that what they create within and what they put out has profound influence. It is a time of 'waking up' to the power of energy. Awakening to this collective energy puts us back in the position of understanding that we are not separate, that we belong to the larger tribe of humans and other living creatures on the earth that serves us everyday.

What can we do?

If you haven't already asked yourself what you could be doing to aid in the shift toward a more conscious, collective world than you probably should. As creative beings with the freedom to express ourselves there is great power within that creative force. Here are 6 ways you can start raising the collective consciousness.

    1. Create a healthy vessel

Putting chemicals and processed foods into your body will create internal blocks and not allow you to be the highest form of yourself. Put clean, nourishing foods from mother earth into your body so that you can be your purest self. Moving energy blocks within your body can be done with some simple yoga, Qi Gong, or Tai Chi exercises. You will increase circulation within the body and mind that will have you feeling more grounded and clear.

    2. Connect to nature

Spending time in nature is the easiest way to connect with the highest consciousness. Being in sync with our earth allows us to connect with our truest essence and purpose. When we connect on this level we can be sure that what we put out into the collective field is from a place of true connection. For those of you who are unaware, tree hugging in now completely validated. In a recently published book, Blinded by Science, the author Matthew Silverstone, proves scientifically that trees do in fact improve many health issues such as concentration levels, reaction times, depression, stress and other various forms of mental illness. He even points to research indicating a tree’s ability to alleviate headaches in humans seeking relief by communing with trees. Go hug a tree!

    3. Meditate

Meditation will enable you to increase your awareness, become more mindful and will enable you to reach the truest version of yourself. Even minutes of meditating per day can make profound differences. We become more connected to ourselves and our environment when we meditate and this assures that what we put out into the collective field is coming from an authentic, connected self. 

    4. Release your emotional baggage

Every one of us has had experiences that have caused us to hold negative emotions deep within us. They effect us so deeply on a subconscious level and really have a lot to do with what we put out in the world. These buried emotions are negative energy and releasing them will help you create more positivity within. Deep emotional wounds also draw more of that same energy towards you. There are many techniques of releasing emotions that no longer serve you, from hypnosis to daily mantras, but one simple way to start is to send love, healing and forgiveness out to those that have hurt you in the past. Doing this daily can make dramatic shifts in truly releasing what no longer serves you and jumping on a higher frequency emotional field.

    5. Find your tribe

Finding others out there who wish to connect and share a higher vibration is essential. There is a great power in numbers and sharing ideas that create more positivity and awareness makes a huge difference. This is why mass meditations or group meditations are very powerful. When many people join to send out a higher vibration the power of that vibration becomes stronger and the collective energy is altered in a stronger way. You may think that these like-minded individuals are not out there in your community but they are, keep searching. If you cannot find anyone in your own community to connect with on this level than connect to the vast amount of resources and high-vibe people on the internet to raise to a higher energy.

    6. Connect to the collective energy daily

Make it a daily ritual to send some positivity, healing and higher vibes out there. It can even just be a minute of closing your eyes and imaging waves being emitted to create a change in the direction of well-being. It can be directed at someone you know who needs help, a general cause, or just sending some love and hope out into the universe.

It's really not as overwhelming as we may sometimes think to make a big difference. Don't make the mistake of not doing anything because you are only able to do a little. We are in this together.


The Origin of Meditating in the Dark

From Tibet, to India, to the Amazon, spiritual traditions around the world have used darkroom techniques. The process of secluding oneself in complete darkness, spending a number of days with absolutely no light, has been practiced throughout time as a way of obtaining spiritual evolution or deep spiritual growth. In Egypt, the darkroom was found in the pyramids, in Tibet and India as mountainside caves, in Europe, in the form of underground tunnels and catacombs and even in the Amazon jungle in conjunction with plant medicine as a way to heal, transform and awaken.

In the Taoist tradition, benefits of spending extended periods of time in the dark is a higher level practice known to advance ones spirituality. The dark was the final journey of spiritual work. Here you could experience a new awareness. In the Tao, the cave is the 'Immortal Mountain', the perfect place of Inner Alchemy. Mantak Chia, author of Darkness Technology, writes "In the darkness, our mind and soul begin to wander freely in the vast realms of the psychic and spiritual experience. When you enter this primordial state you are reunited with the true self and divinity within".

In India, in Ayurvedic medicine, immersing into darkness is a form of Kaya Kalpa. The term kaya meaning "body" and kalpa meaning "ageless" or "immortal". The ayurvedic treatment aims to maintain excellent physical health of the body so that one can delay death long enough to achieve jivamukta, which is the release of karma. Although the techniques used are highly rejuvenating and slow down the aging process, the main purpose is not surrounding the physical body but to realize that we are not just a physical body.

In the Amazon jungle, within the Shipibo tribe of the Amazon Rainforest, healers use darkness in combination with the psycho-spiritual plant, Ayahuasca. Some shamans have spent up to a year and a half in complete darkness. Shipibo shamans are trained as plant-based healers of physical, mental and spiritual ailments. Their work of helping others move metaphysical blockages with the help of plant medicines is very deep spiritual work. Spending time in darkness with Ayahuasca can allow shamans to receive the healing wisdom of the plant in order to help heal others.

It's astonishing to see that various cultures around the world have been practicing very similar techniques of reaching higher dimensions without the ability to communicate their practice with one another. There is a deeper level of conscious awareness within us, an inner knowing, communicating with us the answers in how to connect deeper to ourselves and to the source.

The Brain Science behind Dark Room Therapy

Retreating into complete darkness for an extended period of time has a major effect on the brain. Shifts of consciousness can help us see that which is beyond illusion. If we take a look at the chemistry of the brain we can start to make sense of the biochemical process behind dark room techniques and their effects on the brain. 

"The effect of darkness is to shut down major cortical centers of the brain, depressing mental and cognitive functions in the higher brain centers. Emotional and feeling states are enhanced, especially the sense of smell and the finer senses of psychic perception. Dreams become more lucid, and the dream state manifests in our concious awareness. Eventually, we awaken within ourselves the awareness of the source, the spirit, the soul." 
- Mantak Chia

When one experiences complete darkness the area of the brain stimulated is a gland called the pineal gland. The pineal gland is the gland in the brain associated with our third eye. Spiritual leaders around the world view the "opening of the inner eye" as a time when we can clearly see shifts in our perspective, when we open up to our intuition and our own psychic abilities and when the outer world stays the same but our inner world changes. We know that the pineal gland needs darkness in order to produce and emit melatonin. What happens during extended periods in darkness can be described by participants as a waking consciousness.

Melatonin continues to build up in the brain as you stay in complete darkness. When the melatonin stores build up to about 15-20 mg the brain begins to realize it no longer needs melatonin and begins producing pinolene. Pinolene is said to be released by the pineal gland also and is responsible for what we call "the light show". In complete darkness you may be able to see light patterns forming. These visions are connected to the internal workings of the mind. At this stage there is a letting go of the ego as we lose perception of the physical world. This process often occurs within the first 3 days of darkness.


If we look deeper at the pineal gland and its response to the dark for more extended periods we are introduced to a psychedelic substance called Dimethyltriptamine, or DMT. This substance is naturally occurring within the brain, also produced by the pineal gland, and typically only released at birth and at death. It has been nicknamed "the spirit molecule" because of the states of altered consciousness it provides and how it translates into feelings of universal compassion. This is a state where we can deeply work on healing ourselves from past traumas. 

To take an even deeper view on DMT we can look at the Shipibo tribe of the Amazon and how they ingest the substance in plant form, Ayahuasca. Shipibo shamanism is deeply rooted in plant-based healing and research has now showed incredible promise for treating ailments such as mood disorders, substance abuse and PTSD with the plant medicine.

Researcher on DMT, Terrence McKenna, believed the substance was a portal to another dimension wherein we gain access to the true nature of reality, a vibratory non-material space of loving energy and unlimited potentiality. This theory is not far from what has already been taught in ancient Eastern religions or Shamanic traditions. Extended periods of darkness is a much softer, natural way to experience conscious altering DMT without ingesting anything.

Everything we need to reach these deep conscious states is naturally within us all.


A Darker Night for Deeper Rejuvenation

Street lamps and security lights pierce the darkness outside our homes, cell phones and computers glow within the same rooms we try to rejuvenate our bodies and minds in.

Constant artificial illumination allows us to work and play well into the night. For many of us, night has become day. We work, travel, shop, exercise and socialize in hours that used to be reserved for relaxation and sleep. Time is a limited resource and to make full use of it, the night has been illuminated and occupied. 

Millions of Canadians are suffering from lack of sleep due to various factors associated with the 24/7 society that we are building around us. Two of the huge factors being studied by sleep experts around the world, and common ones that apply to almost everyone living in our modern culture, include overuse of artificial light and increased electronic media use. 

Making sense of one of the largest reasons for lack of sleep can help us banish the light and come back to healthier sleep patterns and healthier minds.

Loss of darkness

There are numerous studies now being performed that show the adverse effects of those who alter their day/night cycle. According to Dr David Crawford, executive director of the International Dark-Sky Association, a group that campaigns against light pollution, the loss of darkness has created a number of health problems.  As natural beings we have evolved with a day/night cycle and it is quite essential to good health.

Your circadian rhythm , or "body clock" is a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. It's also known as your sleep/wake cycle. Circadian rhythms are not only for humans but apply to almost every living creatures. They are affected greatly by the amount of sunlight and temperature. When our body clock receives signals and clues that it isn't time to sleep by exposure to blue light from artificial sources it sends signals to not produce melatonin.

Role of Melatonin

Melatonin is released by the pineal gland and is responsible for the maintenance of the circadian rhythm and plays a huge role in hormone regulation. Melatonin is released when the light dissipates. Without the presence of darkness, melatonin cannot be released at sufficient levels.

Beyond sleep, research (over 6000 studies) shows that melatonin benefits are profound and far reaching. Known as the body’s most efficient free-radical scavenger with an impressive ability to control oxidative damage, melatonin has powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune properties. These properties function as brain, heart, neurological, cognitive and cancer protection through the reduction of trauma from brain injury; preventing heart muscle damage; neuroprotection; increasing cognitive functioning; and offering cancer support while reducing the toxic effects of chemotherapy.

Protect your health

While some people may like to believe that they can train their bodies to not require as much sleep as they once did, this is not the case. Sleep is needed to regenerate certain parts of the body, especially the brain, so that it may continue to function optimally. After periods of extended wakefulness, or reduced sleep, neurons may begin to malfunction, visibly effecting a person's behaviour and going without adequate sleep carries with it both short- and long-term consequences.

In the short term, a lack of adequate sleep can affect judgment, mood, ability to learn and retain information, and may increase the risk of serious accidents and injury. In the long term, chronic sleep deprivation may lead to a host of health problems including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even early mortality.

Get better sleep

With overconsumption of light and overproduction of information entering our brains, we must put effort into making our sleep as healing and rejuvenating as possible. I wish I could say that there was an easy fix to our sleep issues, however, some lifestyle changes are in order to really allow ourselves the deep rest that is needed.

1. Good sleep starts an hour before bedtime. One hour before hitting the pillow put away your screens and either dim your lights or light up candles. This will signal melatonin to be secreted and will put you on the pathway to a deeper rest.

2. The darker the better. Create as dark a space as possible in your sleeping quarters. It has been proven that even a soft glow from a night light, alarm clock or electronic device can disrupt your sleep. Use dark window coverings if you live in the city or in a well-lit area, kick your electronics out of your bedroom and if you use an alarm clock make sure that no light is emitted.

3. Become a minimalist. Sleep with just the basics. Creating a clutter free zone in your bedroom will create a better sleeping environment as you are free from distractions. Having other items in your sleep space that are unrelated to sleep can create more tossing and turning as they can keep the mind busy. 

4. Move your body. Move your body during the day and as soon as you hit the pillow it will be much easier to drift off into dreamland. If you tend to do vigorous exercise make sure that it is done in the morning or afternoon as it can be too energizing in the evening. Some soft restorative yoga can be a wonderful practice in the evening to help you wind down. One way to help ground your body and mind before bedtime is to place your legs up the wall for 15-20 minutes at night. Simply bring your bottom as close to the wall as possible and place your legs up the wall. It may not produce results immediately for everyone but with continued practice it really make a difference in how quickly you fall asleep and how deep you sleep.

5. Quiet your mind. As the Dalai Lama states, "Sleep is the best form of meditation." This goes the other way as well in the fact that meditation an improve your sleep. A study showed that mindfulness meditation can greatly aid in creating a relaxation response. Even of you meditate earlier in the day that relaxation response can still benefit you when it's time to sleep. Mindfulness meditation is a practice of focusing on your breath, bringing your attention into the sound or feeling of your inhale or exhale. If the mind begins to wander simply remind yourself to come back to your breath. If your mind wanders every few seconds don't become frustrated with yourself. It's common and the practice is still highly beneficial as long as you keep your focus and attention coming back to the breath. This practice has the best results when done for at least 20 minutes but 5 minutes can also work wonders.

6. Deeper darkness, deeper rejuvenation. Ancient practices of dark room therapy or dark room meditation are extremely rejuvenating and have numerous benefits for the body and mind. The practice of spending extended periods in complete darkness - anywhere from 1 to 14 days - has been a higher meditation practice in many cultures around the world. The benefits of such practices are extensive but includes the production of high amounts of melatonin. With no presence of light emissions melatonin continues to be produced and we can receive the mental, physical and emotional benefits from removing ourselves from not just the light but from the busy, noisy society that we have created.

Seeing Your Truest Self

Stop for a moment and ask yourself, "who am I?" This seems like a daunting question but dive a little deeper and think about the times when you are not moving about or engaged, when you are in a space where you can be your real "self". You can often find clues to what lies underneath your image or persona.

"Self" does not refer to your "image" - this is not your real self but a false self, a fictional character that has been molded by society, media and how we want to be seen. Late Sufi teacher Pir Vilayet Inayet Khan speaks wisely on this subject when he says that who we think we are is only a partial, incomplete portrayal of who you really are, or can be. He points out that the inner 'non-self' is "....conscious only of it's limitation, of it's possessions with which it identifies itself...." and therefore forgets it's own being becoming captive of it's limitations.

Seeing our truest selves is not an easy process, and not often a quick one. Usually, seeing our self does not happen until we age, become wiser and don't care what others think of us. Engaging in the process of self-discovery earlier in your life and with intention creating a life in line with your truest self will allow you to live more of your life in harmony, creating a deep feeling of inner peace, fulfillment and harnessing the possibility to thrive and change the world around you.

Although there are varying paths to take when engaging in the process to find the 'self'. One of the first things you can do to help guide you along is to ask yourself a series of questions. Dig deep and answer as honestly as you can, separate from the false, fictional self that may have been created. 

Questions to ask yourself

  1. What do I love to do absolutely? If you were to have a full day alone think of how you would like to spend it. Try to think of the things you like to do on a regular basis, find the consistencies in your actions where you often feel most like yourself.
  2. What would be my purpose in life if there were no one to judge me? Often it is the fear of how we are being seen by others that holds limitations on how we live our lives. Erasing the views of others can open more doors to you really being 'you'.
  3. What do I consider one of my greatest accomplishments in life? What we are most proud of can provide a clue to seeing our truest inner satisfaction, providing a window to creating more of these accomplishments and feeling more fulfilled in our lives.

On one's journey inward there is not one correct path but there are some definite steps that can guide you along your path with more ease, creating less dead ends and more results and realizations. Some of the writings of Carl Jung on individuation give proven steps in helping you delete much of the randomness within your life, release the fears of being judged so that you can find what creates sparks in a more fulfilled existence. 

  1. Acknowledge the limitations that were put on you as a child. From a very early age there was probably at least one door that was closed for you before you could even discover if it was one that you wished to remain open. Think of what that could be and how it could be reopened if you wish.
  2. Immerse yourself into a multitude of experiences and note how they make you feel. Try to distinguish between the feelings that may arise from the "false self" that was created and the "true self". Note the ones that feel honest, consistent and true to your heart.
  3. Write in a journal. This is a life-changing habit that everyone should practice. Just the process of writing things down can create more realization allowing your journey to be smoother and faster. Returning to look at past journal entries you can see how much you have evolved and changed in your thought processes.
  4. Practice mindfulness everyday. You can do this in your daily actions as well as finding a meditation practice. Meditation can be the answer in sitting and seeing yourself on the inside. Even if you begin with just observing where your thoughts ebb and flow you can unlock important answers to your being. You could also accelerate the process by signing up for a more intensive retreat such as vippasana meditation or Dark Room Meditation allowing you to dive deeper into the depths of your truest being.