Dark Retreat, Psychedelics, and Virtual Reality: Peril or Promise?

September 16 - September 22, 2024

Andrew Holecek

Robert A.F. Thurman

Anthony Bossis, Ph.D.

Dark retreat is one of the most transformative meditations ever devised. This ancient practice is making a comeback as celebrities proclaim its benefits. Darkness can unleash the power of the luminous mind, bring light to the world, and ironically provide an antidote to this Dark Age. Psychedelics are taking the globe by storm. Entheogens can remove your fear of death, jumpstart your meditation, and change the course of your life. Virtual reality offers a revolution in pedagogy. VR can spark psycho-spiritual evolution and modernize meditations like dream yoga, deity yoga, and bardo yoga. What do these three tools have in common? What is the science that supports their outrageous claims? How can you safely and effectively use them in your life?When used properly, dark retreat, psychedelics, and virtual reality have the potential to light you up. When used improperly, they can readily burn you up. This highly experiential retreat explores the opportunities and obstacles in these ancient and modern methods, revealing their potential to accelerate personal and societal transformation.Noted psychedelic researcher Dr. Anthony Bossis will join Andrew and Robert for an entire day of teaching. We're thrilled to be able to welcome him to the program. He will address the history, science, and reemergence of psychedelic research and the study of mystical experience with implications for end-of-life psychospiritual and existential distress, grief, meaning-making, and the relevance for thanatology and religious studies. The importance of safety, context of set and setting, and session preparation, psychedelic session support, and integration will be discussed.Topics include:
  • Sutra vs tantra dark retreat
  • Multicultural support for dark practice
  • Why is dark retreat so transformative?
  • Inner and outer light pollution as the sinister core of the Dark Age
  • The risks of dark retreat
  • How to work with fear and resistance
  • The place of psychedelics on the spiritual path
  • Which entheogens are right for you?
  • Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy
  • Can super-samsara be a good thing?
  • Psychedelics as modern tantra – are we kidding ourselves?
  • Virtual reality for increasing empathy and compassion
  • The issue of addiction and alternative world syndrome
  • Virtual reality in mental health therapy and meditation
  • Virtual reality, neurogenesis, and neuroplasticity
  • How to use dark retreat, psychedelics, and virtual reality to remove the fear of death
  • Indications and contraindications for dark retreat, psychedelics, and virtual reality
  • The importance of preparation, integration, and incorporation
  • The history and science behind it all
  • The future
Details: Specially prepared dark sessions will be facilitated for people to practice individually, and everybody is asked to bring a Manta Sleep Mask for group dark practice. Please bring either silicon or foam ear plugs, to facilitate complete sensory deprivation. VR supported group meditation ceremonies will be offered as an experiential add-on, for a minor fee. VR is only available for in-person attendees, with a maximum capacity limit.This is a hybrid retreat, and this page is for registration for the in-person attendance option. To register instead for the online participation option via Teachable in our Menla Online portal, please click here.Please note that while we will discuss psychedelics thoroughly, no psychedelic medicines will actually be used during this retreat.
"So be wise, because the world needs more wisdom, and if you cannot be wise, pretend to be someone who is wise, and then just behave like they would. And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art."- Neil Gaiman
ScheduleMonday, September 16
  • 3 - 7 pm Arrival & Check-in
  • 6 - 7 pm Dinner
  • 7:30 pm Welcome and Intro Class
Tuesday, September 17 - Saturday, September 21
  • 7 - 8 am Optional Yoga
  • 8 - 9 am Breakfast
  • 9:15 am - 12:15 pm Morning Class
  • 12:30 - 1:30 pm Lunch
  • 1:30 - 4 pm Free Time for Spa, Hiking, R&R
  • 4 - 6 pm Afternoon Class
  • 6 - 7 pm Dinner
  • 7:30 pm Evening Class
Sunday, September 22
  • 7 - 11 am Check-out of Rooms
  • 7 - 8 am Optional Yoga
  • 8 - 9 am Breakfast
  • 9:15 am - 12:15 pm Morning Class
  • 12:30 - 1:30 pm Lunch & Departure
*Please note that the schedule is subject to change at any time. 


Andrew Holecek

Andrew Holecek is an author, speaker, and humanitarian who offers seminars internationally on meditation, lucid dreaming, and the art of dying. He is the author of many books, including The Power and the Pain: Transforming Spiritual Hardship into Joy, and Preparing to Die: Pr...

Robert A.F. Thurman

Robert Thurman is Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University as well as co-founder and President of Tibet House US and it's Menla Retreat & Spa. A world-wide lecturer on Tibetan Buddhism, activist for the plight of the Tibetan people, translator of Buddhis...

Anthony Bossis, Ph.D.

Anthony is a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine, adjunct professor of religious studies at the University of Ottawa, and a researcher at Lundquist Institute-Harbor-UCLA.  For nearly twenty years, he has been conducting FDA-approved clinical rese...



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