What is a darkness retreat that Aaron Rodgers is about to experience? And why is the Packers quarterback going on one?

Christopher Kuhagen
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Ever since Aaron Rodgers announced he was going into a darkness retreat during his weekly appearance on "The Pat McAfee Show" Feb. 7, questions have swirled about what that actually means and what it means for his NFL future.

The 39-year-old Packers quarterback again spent a significant portion of his 40-minute chat with McAfee on Feb. 14 discussing the upcoming retreat and what he hopes to gain from the experience.

Here's what we know about Rodgers' upcoming darkness retreat based on his two interviews.

What is a darkness isolation retreat?

A darkness retreat is a total isolation experience, often in secluded locations, where you are in complete darkness for a select number of days. Rodgers will spend four days in a one-room house at an unannounced location.

Darkness retreats date back centuries to the monks and lamas in Tibet to the ancient Egyptians. Retreating to darkness is common for the ancient and contemporary spiritual traditions with participants spending time in deep meditation in the pitch dark in silence. No phones, music, books, TV. It's about "sensory deprivation," Rodgers said. "It's wrapping your head around the silence and dealing with your thoughts," he added.

There is a toilet in the middle of the room and a bathtub. Rodgers said food will be delivered to him through a slot in the door once a day. He also has implied his experience could be filmed.

Aaron Rodgers will take part in a darkness retreat to undergo self-reflection and potentially be closer to a decision about his NFL future.

What happens in a darkness retreat? Here are two examples.

A darkness retreat in Guatemala called The Hermitage can cost between $840 and $2,000 (depending on the number of days) and is described as "a very intense practice." No one speaks to the users unless necessary and support is given if needed, its website says. "Dark Retreat is a practice open to those who are called to dive deeply within themselves and rest in undisturbed meditation for many hours a day, for multiple days," its website says. The door is locked from the inside, and participants can leave if they desire. "Retreating in complete darkness is a practice common to many of the ancient and contemporary spiritual traditions across the world," The Hermitage's website said.

Sky Cave Resorts, located in a secluded spot in the wilderness of Oregon, offers cabins and cottages built into the hillside and buried in the Earth. The site has a self-contained off-grid system to power the ventilation fans, propane hot water heater and lights occasionally used during the integration process, but its land is off-grid and out of cell service range. The cabins are sound-proof and there is a bell inside the dark rooms for anyone who wants to leave. Rodgers said at his retreat the door isn't locked so if he would want to leave he could at any point. But he doesn't anticipate that happening for him.

When will Aaron Rodgers enter his darkness retreat?

Rodgers hasn't given a specific day but said on Tuesday he will be going in at the end of the week. People typically enter dark retreats at night or sunset. They come out at sunrise to reintegrate their vision − something that can take around eight to 10 hours, Rodgers said.

Why is Aaron Rodgers going on a darkness retreat?

Rodgers said he's been eyeing a darkness retreat for several years and has received positive recommendations from friends. He knows someone who has done a 30-day darkness retreat.

He described their experiences as "profound" and "magical" with meaningful breakthroughs.

"I am looking forward to this as much as anything I've done in a long time," said Rodgers, who added he has done a lot of "research" heading into the retreat.

He wants to take in the silence, self-reflect, slow his mind down and "surrender to whatever thoughts come through."

When he does that he said he's trusting that "the right messages and intuition will come through."

How does Aaron Rodgers' NFL future relate to the darkness retreat?

Rodgers hasn't tied the conclusion of his retreat to his decision on whether he'll want to continue his NFL career, but he did say the experience could provide him with some clarity.

"I'm still in the art of contemplation about my future," Rodgers said, but after this "self-reflection I feel like I'll be closer to a final, final decision."

Rodgers has not committed to a 19th NFL season, despite being signed by the Packers and as trade rumors accelerate.

"It's a real thing, 100%," Rodgers said about playing again during his Feb. 7 interview. "That's why it's going to be important to get through this week and then to take my isolation retreat and just to be able to contemplate all things my future and then make a decision that is best for me moving forward in the highest interest of my happiness and move forward."

Has Aaron Rodgers taken part in a darkness retreat before?

Rodgers has never done a darkness retreat before but on Tuesday he referenced his meditation and yoga retreats that have also helped stimulate his mind to get in "a better head space and have a greater peace" in his life.

Rodgers said he's not scared (heights and sharks are his primary fears in life) of what could come from the experience.

"There's naturally some fear that comes up for any of this, fear of the unknown, but not really fear of the process," Rodgers said. "There's a lot of trust in the medicine space. I don't go into the medicine space blind at all ... so that the experience can have the greatest chance to be a positive. There's fears we always have to get through the unknown. The surrender allows you whatever needs to come through, can come through."

Rodgers acknowledged being in the dark for four days could bring about hallucinations, which the Sky Cave Resorts recognized on its website. "Altered states of consciousness can naturally begin to arise as early as the third day of the retreat and continue to intensify as the retreat progresses," its website said.

Is Aaron Rodgers going to do another ayahuasca ritual again this offseason?

Rodgers has used ayahuasca, a plant-based hallucinogenic beverage, in recent offseasons, which generated many headlines last year as he talked about it on one podcast after another. He said he will likely be called to use the drug again but doesn't know when. Rodgers takes part in ayahuasca rituals in Peru, a location known for the ceremonies, since the psychedelic is banned in the United States.

Rodgers, who calls ayahuasca "applied and planned medicine," explained he has used ayahuasca to improve his mental health and overcome his fear of death, and he credited it with his improved play on the football field in 2020 and 2021.

Why was Aaron Rodgers upset on Tuesday about a report over his darkness retreat?

Rodgers took aim at NFL Network's Ian Rapoport on Tuesday after the reporter said the Packers quarterback was entering a darkness retreat on Monday. Rodgers called out Rapoport, using one expletive after another on Tuesday, telling him to stop with the "fake news" and that the only people who know the facts about his life are people in his inner circle.

When it comes to his life, Rapoport and ESPN's Adam Schefter, another NFL football reporter who has covered the Packers quarterback over the years, "don't know (s---)," Rodgers said.

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