Why I'm Spending 10 Days in Total Darkness

PLUS: Reflecting Forwards, Free-flow Movement Meditations, The Four Causes of Procrastination & Designing a GPS for Navigating Challenging Emotions

Hello Curious Human 👋

🧘 Into the Dark // as of a few hours time, I’ll be unplugging for the next 30 days. Beginning with a 10-day silent meditation retreat—followed by a further 10 days sitting in a Dark Room—followed by a final 10 days of silent integration for journaling and breathwork. More on this introspective adventure below.

📆 Reflecting Forwards // For the last seven years I’ve written an annual review and it has become one of the more rewarding rituals of my life. I use this process as an opportunity to notice broader themes, re-align values, surface insights and find clarity on future intentions. This year, I’ve decided to share my annual review template (in Notion) and will host a virtual Curious Humans gathering for mutual guided reflection towards the end of December. If you’d like to join us—either comment on this tweet or reply to this email with a suitable emoji in the subject line.

🎙️ New Podcast Episodes // The podcast has continued to act as a lightning rod for my curiosity and I thoroughly enjoyed these two latest episodes with my good friends Cris Beasley & Arthur Worsley. More details on these below as well. Tune in to both episodes on Spotify here.

💃 Movement Meditation // My talented partner has recorded a series of guided free-flow movement meditations for connecting with the wisdom of the heart. I may be biased but I think they’re really quite wonderful. Listen to them here.


And with that, I wish you a joyous, insight-laden & curiosity-saturated final 43 days of 2020! And as always, if you have any thoughts or reflections from this newsie please don’t hesitate to hit reply and reach out.

See you on the other side!

Stay Curious,

–JM

p.s. welcome to the 100+ new readers! If you happen to know of any fellow humans who are also curious—please forward this email or consider becoming a monthly subscriber to support the ongoing creative adventures.


👀 Going Into the Dark

Traditionally, Darkness Retreats were carried out by old school ‘Dzogchen’ Tibetan Buddhistsfrom a few casual hours in a cave to several decades spent in the dark.

Earlier this year, I discovered that one of the world’s few dark rooms not far from my nomad-home in Mezunte, Oaxaca. I had heard stories of people spending extended times in these rooms—which are not entirely different from high-security solitary confinement prisons only the door is unlocked—and the more I read + researched the process, the more intrigued I became.

The first nugget that I stumbled on was a PDF written by Mantak Chia called ‘Darkness Technology’—his research showed that our pineal gland sends out a veritable cocktail of state-altering neurotransmitters when deprived of light for long periods.

During days 1-3, melatonin (a regulatory hormone) quiets down the body and mind. Gradually this is converted into ‘pinoline’ which permits ‘visions & dream-states’ to emerge. Then eventually from roughly 6 days onwards of light deprivation, our brains will synthesise ‘5-methoxy-dimethyltryptamine(5-MeO-DMT) and ‘dimethyltryptamine’ (DMT) which is commonly taken exogenously (for example by smoking Amazonian toad venom) to facilitate transcendental experiences.

The ancient mystics and modern physicists agree on one thing—the world we think we live in is an illusion. Along with that, our selves and especially our identities are also an illusion. What exists on the other side of that veil… well isn’t that the great mystery! ✨


🎻 Tuning Up My Human Instrument

Besides the possibility of DMT-induced mystical experiences. The seed for this retreat was in some ways planted when I interviewed Joel Levey who spent a full year in silence with his wife Michelle. I was struck by his perspective on this being a relatively short commitment to ‘tune-up your human instrument’.

Just as thoughtful chefs will take time to sharpen our kitchen knives before cooking. This time seems to me to be very well spent.

"All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone."—Blaise Pascal.

I’ve noticed myself increasingly pulled into the vortex of social media in recent months (I’m sure plenty of you can relate) seeking subtle dopamine-inducing hits in all manner of ways that don’t feel entirely conducive to long term mental wellbeing, let alone creative output.

Left: Dark Room entrance // Right: the double-sided window for morning and evening meals

🤷‍♂️ In Search of My Edge

This year is asking us to shed much of who we thought we were. Exposing cracks in narratives of certainty that we cling to. I'm at the point where I'm saying: I don't know, I don't know, I don't know. I've spent plenty of time looking outside for answers so I'm going inwards for an extended period to see what emerges.

Can I survive a full 10 days without light, sound or human connection? Will I be able to find internal peace without any external stimulus? Can I sit with the emotions and memories that will likely surface from my subconscious? Honestly, I don’t know, but I sure as hell am curious to find out where that edge lies.


🎙️Two New Podcast Episodes

🎴 Designing a GPS for Navigating Challenging Emotions with Cris Beasley (listen here)

This seeds for this conversation were planted at the end of last year when I was listening to a podcast called ‘Hack Reality’ and Cris shared her phone number at the end of the episode—I sent her a voice memo about the Poet David Whyte—we since became good friends and when lockdown begun in the US she followed an intuitive hit to reach out and ended up living with us here in Oaxaca Mexico for a month.

Cris went from founding a venture-backed AI fashion company, to hosting a podcast about the future of technology, and more recently has taken a left turn into the world of trauma healing—and spent the better part of the last three years designing a card deck for exploring shadow emotions.

Our conversation explores: Insights from exploring the money stories, the rock bottom moment of having to shut down her company on short notice, learning how to connect with her intuition following an assignment to follow her curiosity walking barefoot around San Francisco, her experiences working with MDMA and LSD-assisted therapy, and then things frankly go off the deep end and she talks about a kundalini awakening experience she had in an ancient Mayan Ruin, and about 52 minutes in Cris shares her roadmap and toolkit for people to begin with shadow work, navigate existential crises and exploring the roots of their repressed emotions and the vision she has for her card deck being used as an ‘Emotional Guidance System’.

🐉 I thoroughly encourage you to check-out the card deck for alchemising challenging emotions that Cris spent the last three years designing—it’s about to go live on Kickstarter.


👨‍🎓 Mindfulness, Language Learning & The Four Causes of Procrastination with Arthur Worsley (listen here)

Arthur Worsley is a close friend of mine that I met in Bali where over many dinners together he educated me in the tactics for learning Bhasa, memorising my TEDx talk and really opened my eyes to the world of meta-learning that he has specialised in. 

Back in the day, he studied neurophysiology at Oxford in the UK and since became conversationally fluent in 8 languages and also applies his learning superpowers to things like ultra-marathon running & distilling wisdom from a wide range of topics.

In this free-flow conversation, we dive into the simultaneous devastating personal loss and financial gain he received nearly a decade ago and how that was a catalyst for reinventing himself. Arthur also walks me through how he thinks about procrastination and the four main causes of it, his approach for cultivating and tracking mindful metta moments and some thoughts on how his life may be altered by the child that he and his fiancé are expecting.

📚 Read Arthur's book reviews, ongoing meta-learning insights, his habit tracker and recent book about working less hard here: theartofliving.com


🔗 Et Cetera

🍃 24-hour plant-lapse

❤️ We love because we care

🌱 Move quietly + plant things

💚 There must be a higher love

🎙️ Brene Brown unpacks burnout

🤷‍♂️ Forget mindfulness, try uselessness

🤯 Tim Urban on parsing complex ideas

🌬️ The life-changing magic of breathwork

🇫🇷 14 rejected designs for the Eiffel Tower

🎵 Inside the Jon Hopkins psilocybin playlist

🏙️ Why we’re moving mostly away from big cities

💌 Another delightful newsie for curious humans


📝 Parting Poem

Sweet Darkness

by David Whyte

Listen to my conversation with David here

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
No part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
Where the night has eyes
To recognize its own.

There you can be sure
You are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb
Tonight.

The night will give you a horizon
Further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
Except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
Confinement of your aloneness

To learn
Anything or anyone
That does not bring you alive

Is too small for you.