hygienic darkroom retreat

profound rest for the self‑healing psyche

by andrew durham

6 - prepare

The following registration form, menu, and list of things to bring help one prepare for a retreat. Whether retreating at home or at a center, I suggest you read it and fill out the questionnaire to help you prepare mentally for the retreat. Likewise, give it to those whose retreats you support.

Marion Abbott amassed a long list of centers at her new blog about darkroom retreating. She also mapped them. Most are spiritual or therapeutic centers, but some will support a hygienic retreat if you know what to ask for and what you are doing. More centers appear each year. The world capital is Czech Republic, with 20 centers and 50 darkrooms for 10 million people (600 times more than America, for example).


Follow instructions carefully.

  1. Finish reading this book. Quiz later.
  2. Select dates for your retreat from the calendar below. Retreats begin at 18:00 and end at 12:00 four or eight mornings later. For example, a 4-day retreat that begins on Monday evening would end on Friday morning.
  3. Respond by email to the questionnaire below. Responses of one or two sentences per question are sufficient.
  4. Send deposit by cryptocurrency, PayPal, credit card, or inquire for other methods
  5. Bring things listed below

This set of terms is one example.

  • Price: (European example)€40 + €80/day (eg, 4-day retreat=€360)
    • charge 20% more than you might
    • the people who can pay, will
    • negotiate with the rest. Subsidize worthy people with little money. Find out what they are good at and have them do something for you.
  • Discounts:
    • Local, student, or friend: 20%
    • Local and student or friend: 40%
    • Offers of 40% + remainder in trade gladly considered
    • No one serious turned away for lack of funds
  • Reserve dates with a 50% deposit. Balance due on arrival.
  • Cancellation fees (% of total price):
    • 5% 30+ days before retreat
    • 25% (half the deposit)7+ days before retreat
    • 5-10% if someone else can take your spot

Other terms are possible. The Vipassana model is interesting, too. Post a detailed ledger showing your costs. Let people donate what they will.


[placeholder for google calendar]



  1. Name:
  2. Email address:
  3. Phone:
  4. Address:
  5. Age:
  6. Emergency contact name, email, and phone:
  7. Retreat length:___ days
  8. Retreat starting date____________ +/-___ days (for absolute date, put 0)
    alternate:____________ +/-___ days
  9. How did you first hear about darkroom retreating?
  10. How did you first hear about this darkroom?
  11. Why would you like to retreat?
  12. What will you be doing the week after the retreat? (It should not be especially exhausting or intense for you)
  13. How does the menu sound to you?
  14. Would you like to maintain silence during your retreat?
  15. Quiz: a. What is the hygienic purpose of retreating? b. What heals you in darkness? c. What does this imply about what to do with your will and attention? d. Where is a good place to put your attention most of the time? e. How much does the air you breathe weigh compared to the food you eat, and what does that imply about the importance of continuous fresh air? f. How much does a silent location matter for a successful retreat? g. If a retreat becomes overwhelming, what are 4 things you can do to lower its intensity?
  16. What fears or concerns do you have that might interfere with your retreat? (fear of the dark, claustrophobia, superstition, etc)? How will you handle them? What support might you need?
  17. Assuming I am correct that practically everyone is psychotic, how do you feel darkness might significantly affect you, for better or worse?
  18. Is there anything else you would like to add?
  • 3L pure water 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
    • green salad: sweet or savory, large, properly combined, served at midday or evening
    • treats: 1 smoothie per 4 days, 1/2 avocado or 15 olives per 2 days in salads
    • no: ferments (eg, vinegar, saurkraut, kim chee, cheese), onions, garlic, ginger, spices, salt, juice, oil, dried food, 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 most watery (melons) foods, end with the least (bananas, dates)
  • eat greens anytime

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 zuchinni, chopped

Come up with your own based on above patterns. No more than 6 ingredients per recipe. The trick with savory salads (and all combined food, really) 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, mild culinary herbs like parsley, cilantro, and celery
  • 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, arugala, 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 2-4 days: 1/2 avocado, 15 olives
      • stick mostly to fatty fruits like avocado and olives (rinse off oil). Eat nuts or seeds only 1-2 times/month
      • eat 5-6% of your daily calories from fat, no more than 10%. Track your calories for a week at fitday.com. It’s very surprising.

Just say no to:

  • ferments, like vinegar (the second stage of fermentation beyond alcohol and even more toxic. It’s a digestive disaster.)
  • onions, garlic, ginger
  • spices or salt
  • fractured foods like juice, oil, dried food
  • nuts, seeds

These imbalance, overload, or destroy digestive chemistry, bacteria, and enzymes. The good things you hear about vinegar, garlic, and ginger are hype.

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

If you somehow cannot eat this way, eat as simply and naturally as you know how. For suggestions, write me with your limitations.


  • Yes:
    • bedsheets and pillow (if retreating at a center and need these provided, let supporter know ahead of time)
    • pajamas and loose clothes
    • sweater
    • slippers
    • water bottles, 3-4L worth
    • clock (unlit analog or red LCD)
    • cellphone
    • red LED light
    • materials and tools for plugging any light leaks you discover during your retreat
      • black electrical tape, 1 roll
      • black polar fleece, 50cm x 20cm
      • scissors
      • table knife
      • bamboo skewer
    • toiletries and personal items
    • prescription medication
  • Optional
    • special food (please tell supporter about it)
    • simple exercise equipment for body-weight exercise, eg, yoga mat or push-up handle bars. No free weights or elastic or bowed equipment.
  • No:
    • cigarettes
    • electronic devices that make sound, light, vibration, or smell: computers, audio players, watches, clocks, vaporizers, oils, massage devices, etc
    • if you must bring any of these things, turn them off and store them during the retreat, maybe with your supporter. If critical for your health, then keep them with you.
    • contraband, psychedelics, alcohol: disallowed on the premises
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