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Three weeks in the dark: Qigong instructor Aimon Kopera sheds light on her unique experience of deep meditation.

Twenty-one days without seeing a speck of light. No sunlight. No starlight. No refrigerator light. No light of any kind. Not even the glow of an alarm clock, cell phone, or PDA will interrupt the darkness. The darkness retreat is a complete and utter surrender into darkness.

This was just the sort of adventure that Aimon Kopera was looking for. A qigong instructor at Qi Mountain in Greenville, South Carolina, Aimon recently traveled to Thailand to complete the three-week darkness retreat offered by popular qigong master Mantak Chia. New Life Journal contributor Philip Yanov recently caught up with Aimon to ask her about her experience.

PY: Not many people would willingly put themselves in the dark for three weeks. Why did you do this?

AK: I was curious. I am certified in the Universal Tao System of which Mantak Chia is the master and he was offering the retreat after some additional instructor training which I had already planned to take. I had enjoyed his book Darkness Technology and decided I would like to have this experience for myself. It was a great opportunity so I took it.

PY: What was it like? Didn't you stub your toe?

AK: I found the whole experience wonderfully calming. Since it is dark, many of the normal activities which might distract you away from practice and meditation simply are not there. You will not be reading a book, watching television, or puttering in the garden. You can devote all the time you would like to meditation and practice. Your eyes are constantly bombarded with information and distraction. In part, the darkness retreat was like giving your eyes a vacation. As for my toes, every hard corner was covered with soft padding. I did not stub my toes.

PY: Did you keep a schedule in the dark? How?

AK: You wake up on the first day and of course you have no idea what time it is. Master Chia and the instructors keep you on a schedule with bells. There are bells for the morning fruit break, morning meditation, lunch, afternoon meditation, dinner, etc.

PY: How did you eat in the dark?

AK: The workers brought our food separated in various plastic bags and containers. We opened each container, ate what we wanted, and then resealed the container. If something dripped, you wiped it up as best you could. At least no one would be able to see it. Well, maybe the people who brought our food could. They used night vision goggles to keep from tripping over us.

PY: How did the darkness affect your practice?

AK: Every morning we performed Kan and Li, the water and fire meditation. In this practice you bring together your fire and water energies into a cleansing steam which you wash over your organs, glands and so forth. It is very healing. In the dark there was no distraction. I concentrated on my meditation.

PY: Mantak Chia's book indicates that your brain changes in response to the darkness. What did you experience?

AK: There may not be any light, but still you see. I had vivid dreams of fun and adventure. I saw birds and animals, and Buddhas. During waking hours you may see lights. I saw my illuminated body glowing with a bright beautiful light. It came and went. Sometimes I was there. Sometimes I was not. Sometimes I would see each of us as a dot of light floating around the room. Our physical eyes had nothing to work with, but our mental eyes had plenty. It was fun to watch.

PY: I have read the journal you kept while in the dark. How did you do that?

AK: I bought a ream of paper and kept it close at hand. Each day I wrote on the top sheet and numbered it with the date. I wrote on the pages carefully keeping track of where I was on the page. When I reached the bottom, I picked up the sheet and put it in a drawer of completed sheets. As you can imagine, the writing was a bit messy, but it was fun to read, and I typed it into my computer when I got home.

PY: What did you experience when you left the retreat?

AK: I was exhilarated. Everything was so bright, brilliant, and full of color! All around me were the lush verdant greens of bamboo, palm, and banana trees. The flowers were crimson, carmine, vermillion. To say they were "red" did not do them justice. It was a wonderful feeling to see all of these again with a now much rested set of eyes. What I found most surprising was that I went from black to light, from no color to brilliant, stabbing colors and was completely at ease with it. The daily Taoist meditations along with the yoga and Tai Chi exercises had completely prepared me for reentry into the world of light. I was rested, relaxed, and ready. I was rejuvenated.

Aimon Kopera is certified as an Integral Tai Chi Qigong Instructor from the Santa Barbara College of Oriental Medicine, a Full Instructor of the Universal Tao System, and has been instructor certified by the World Institute of Self-Healing. She shares the health and wellness benefits of Qigong with her students at QiMountain, a Tai Chi Qigong studio located in Greenville, SC, or on the web at
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Author:Yanov, Philip
Publication:New Life Journal
Date:Aug 1, 2003
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