Aaron Rodgers Finished a Darkness Retreat. What, Exactly, Is a Darkness Retreat?

It's a practice growing in popularity

Aaron Rodgers
If Aaron Rodgers sees his shadow after leaving a darkness retreat, does it mean six more weeks of winter?
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

On Thursday, ESPN reported that Aaron Rodgers had left the darkness retreat where he’d spent the last few days. And while there are countless types of retreats that people go on for various reasons — from mental health to religious devotion — darkness retreats might not be at the top of the list of widely known retreat varieties.

What’s a darkness retreat?
It’s a retreat where someone spends a significant amount of time in the dark. An article at The Atlantic on the practice noted that the practice has become widely popular in the Czech Republic — and that the practice has its roots in a type of Tibetan retreat called yang-ti, which lasts for 49 days.

What can someone expect from a darkness retreat?
“Depending on the facility, clients sleep, exercise, and meditate. They eat and bathe in the dark. They sometimes write, draw, sculpt, or play an instrument, all in total darkness,” wrote The Atlantic‘s Morgan Childs in 2018.

At least one space that offers darkness retreats also offers something called “Tantra In the Dark” — though the aforementioned retreat space, The Darkness Experience, warns against attendees “wanting to have a ‘quick grope’ in the dark.”

What other kinds of retreats are there?
Silent retreats are probably the best know variety. Caren Osten Gerszberg described the experience of being on one for the New York Times. “The week had given me a sort of spalike experience for my mind, protected from the distractions and stressors of daily life,” Gerszberg wrote. Writer Eileen Myles has also described the experience of living on the streets for several days as part of an organized retreat.

Why did Rodgers opt for a darkness retreat?
According to ESPN, he wanted to think about his future. Rodgers is reportedly considering retirement, thought it’s possible that he might stay in Green Bay for the 2023 season — or head elsewhere in the NFL, with the New York Jets being a frequently-discussed destination.

How many days did Rodgers spend there?
That’s an excellent question. Initially, Rodgers was reported to be spending four days in the dark. ESPN’s reporting only notes that he “spent the past several days and nights” at the retreat, without offering a specific number.

Is there anything like a darkness retreat that isn’t quite as long?
Well, sensory deprivation tanks have been growing in popularity in recent years. That would involve less time in the dark — though it would also involve being wet, so it might be a tricky call.

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