hygienic dark retreat

profound rest for the self‑healing psyche

a book by andrew durham

formerly darkroomretreat.com

6   prepare

The main thing you need to prepare for a successful retreat is knowledge. Thus, this book. The instructions below outline the process. The quiz in the questionnaire helps you solidify your grasp of the text. The personal section orients you toward your own retreat. Menu and gear sections guide your material preparations.

If you have clients one day, use the questionnaire with them. Please share your modifications of it with me.

As of 2024, I support retreats again. Someday, there will be many centers that support hygienic dark retreats. Your retreat cannot wait till then. Do it yourself at home. Use a friend’s place or a vacation rental. Or enroll with me in America or my collaborators in Australia or Norway.

Once you do it yourself, others will want to know about it. You will naturally have opportunities to share it: with a friend, or in an announcement, public talk, book club, class, workplace, or online. Climb the ladder.


  1. Finish reading this book.
  2. Complete the questionnaire below.
  3. Consider when you would like to retreat. See example schedules.
  4. Consider where you would like to retreat.
    • if at home, build a darkroom (see remaining chapters)
    • if not, retreat with me, Marion or inquire about Simen.
  5. Gather gear and retreat!


Copy and paste this into a text file and complete it for yourself. Send it to a supporter.

If I’m to be the supporter, see enroll for further instructions.

I also [confer][/store/confer] about questionnaires as a service to improve your experience and results when retreating at home.

1   contact

  1. Name
  2. Email
  3. Phone number
  4. Good times to call

2   quiz

  • these have correct answers
  • search/refer to the book if needed
  • use my words and phrases
  1. What is the purpose of a hygienic retreat?
  2. What heals the organism in darkness?
  3. What does this mean you should do with your will and attention?
  4. Where is a good place to put your attention most of the time?
  5. What is the maximum total time per day you should put your attention on your visual field?
  6. If a retreat becomes too uncomfortable, what are 4 things you can do to slow it down and keep retreating?
  7. What must you always do when standing up or sitting down in darkness?
  8. How much does a silent location matter for a successful retreat?
  9. How much does the air you breathe mass compared to the food you eat?
  10. What does this imply about the importance of continuous fresh air?

3   personal

  • Respond simply, in your own words.
  • 1-3 sentences are usually enough.
  • There are no trick questions.
  1. What meaningful or memorable experiences of darkness have you had?
  2. What dark retreats have you done or attempted?
  3. What percentage of my book have you read? (Please read everything. The lists of instructions in the last 4 chapters are optional.)
  4. How much would you like to retreat, on a scale of 1-10?
  5. What attracted you to the hygienic approach versus others? Or, why would you like to do a hygienic dark retreat rather than another kind?
  6. How does the frugivorous menu sound to you? (see section below)
  7. Would you like to maintain silence during your retreat? (You communicate with notes and taps, I talk minimally. See support)
  8. What fears or beliefs do you have that might interfere with your retreat, eg, nyctophobia (fear of the dark), claustrophobia? How will you handle them? What special support might you need?
  9. What do you think of my idea that the people of our lifeway—and virtually all those touched by us—are psychotic? Assuming it is true, what significant effects of retreating in darkness might you experience in your psyche, for better or worse, and why would you say so?
  10. What is your philosophy or religion?
  11. What is its significance to you?
  12. What substances, prescription or otherwise, do you use? Which ones in the past had much effect?
  13. What will you be doing the week after the retreat?
  14. Please add anything else you would like to.


  • pure water, min 3L per day
  • frugivorous menu
    • fruit: whole, raw, ripe, in season, well-washed, ample for eating anytime
    • tender leafy greens: romaine, escarole, young spinach; also celery
    • treats:
      • green salad: sweet or savory, large, properly combined, served at midday or evening
      • 1/2 avocado or 15 olives max once per 2 days
      • smoothie, max 1 per 5 days
    • no:
      • ferments: vinegar, sauerkraut, kim chee, cheese
      • stimulants: onions, garlic, ginger, spices, salt
      • extracts: juice, oil, dried food
      • complex fatty foods: nuts or seeds


Most of the time, just eat plain fruit.

  • eat one fruit until you lose your taste for it
  • if still hungry, switch to another
  • start with the wettest foods (melons), end with the driest (bananas, dates)
  • eat greens anytime

On some days, have a yummy recipe:

  • sweet green salads (midday or evenings)
    • melon
      • 1 head romaine, chopped
      • 2 L watermelon, chopped (only combine one kind of melon with one green, otherwise stomach ache)
    • banana
      • 1/2 head romaine, chopped
      • 3 ribs celery, finely chopped
      • 4 bananas, ripe
      • 1 L strawberries or blueberries or chopped nectarines
    • citrus
      • 1 head romaine, chopped
      • 5 sprigs parsley
      • 3 oranges, peeled, sectioned, cut in half
      • 2 apples, chopped
      • 2 slices pineapple, chopped
  • savory salads (evenings)
    • tomato
      • 1 head romaine, chopped
      • 3 ribs celery, finely chopped
      • 1dL rocket lettuce
      • 1 orange, chopped very finely (into pulp)
      • 5dL tomato, chopped
      • 1/2 avocado or 1dL olives
    • dry
      • 1 head romaine, chopped
      • 10 sprigs parsley or cilantro
      • 1 orange, chopped very finely
      • 2 red bell pepper, chopped finely
      • 2dL mushrooms OR zucchini, chopped

Come up with your own based on above patterns. No more than 6 ingredients per recipe. The trick to making yummy savory salads is to include these 8 flavors and textures in varying proportions in each dish:

bitter, sweet, sour, salty, savory, spicy, crunchy, fatty

  • bitter: tender greens like romaine and young spinach, celery, and mild culinary herbs like parsley and cilantro
  • sweet: fruit!
  • sour: orange, grapefruit, pineapple, berries
  • salty: celery, tomatoes
  • savory: tomatoes, olives (rinse off oil)
  • spicy: just a hint, barely enough to notice. Spicy greens are best, like rocket, arugula, mustard, cilantro
  • crunchy: celery, apple
  • fatty
    • with sufficient chewing, oiliness of lettuce is usually enough
    • tricky because it is surprisingly easy to overeat fat
      • eat only one kind of fatty food per day
      • eat a small quantity once per 2-5 days: 1 small avocado, 15 olives
      • stick to fatty fruits like avocado and olives (rinse off any oil from packaging)
      • eat 5-6% of your daily calories from fat, no more than 10%. Track your calories for two weeks. It’s surprising. Use nutrition tables, websites, or apps.

Just say no to:

  • nuts, seeds
  • fractured foods: oil, juice, dried food
  • ferments. Vinegar, for example, is the second stage of fermentation, beyond alcohol formation, and even more toxic. It’s a digestive disaster.)
  • onions, garlic, ginger
  • spices, salt

These substances imbalance, overload, or destroy digestive chemistry, bacteria, and enzymes. The good things you hear about vinegar, garlic, and ginger are old wives’ tales, wishful thinking, or industry-sponsored hype.

If you would like to know more about this menu before trying it, see:

If, for whatever reason, you cannot yet eat this way in a retreat, eat as simply and naturally as you know how. For suggestions, write me with your limitations. Give more attention to it later when your motivation and capacity increase.


  • Yes:
    • bedsheets and pillow
    • loose clothes: pajamas, sweater,
    • slippers / loafers
    • water bottles totaling 3-4L
    • clock (unlit analog or red LCD)
    • cellphone
    • red LED light
    • materials and tools for plugging light leaks
      • masking tape
      • black electrical tape, 1 roll
      • black plastic sheeting
      • black polar fleece, 50cm x 20cm
      • scissors
      • table knife
      • bamboo skewer
    • toiletries and personal items
    • prescription medication
  • No:
    • contraband
    • cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, plant medicines
    • anything that make sound, light, vibration, or smell: phones, computers, audio players, watches, clocks, vaporizers, oils, massage devices, etc. If you must bring them, turn them off and store them during the retreat, maybe with your supporter. If something is so critical for your survival you will be sick or injured without it, keep it with you and tell your supporter. He needs to know what might happen.


This ends the retreat part of the book. You’ve learned how to arrange and do a retreat. The hygienic theory you learned before is sinking in. Now, you just need a darkroom.

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