S V Krishnan
Life starts in darkness, in the womb of a mother. This life birthing experience that is bathed in complete darkness is yet a very creative, nourishing and trustworthy process of bringing life onto earth.
On our arrival into this world and over a period of time, thanks to our “lifetime preoccupation” of knowing and understanding the world mostly through our eyes, the possibility of experiencing the world through the other four sensory perceptions is compromised and only minimally realised. This article offers a brief glimpse of how we might use darkness to bring about an increased appreciation of space and sharpen our other senses.
Why do people fear “darkness”? Parents or elders, sometimes out of sheer helplessness use darkness to scare children when nothing else works. Darkness is not opposed to brightness/light. Darkness is just an inability to see.
Darkness changes one’s perception about oneself and one’s environment. Darkness is a means of learning that Milton Erickson, one of the most influential systemic thinkers of our times, was possibly referring to when he said, “Until you are willing to be confused about what you already know, what you know will never become wider, bigger, and deeper.”
Learning in an unfamiliar environment, out of one’s comfort zone, and without being able to rely on the most important sense is what distinguishes learning in the “dark”.
As innovation thinkers put it, a change of context is necessary and unavoidable when striving for innovation and progress. This takes one to an emotional level – promoting the learning process and stimulating inner resources. Thus, darkness acts as the perfect catalyst for sustainable learning.
What makes learning/training in the dark unique
“BMI” – The integration of the body, mind and intellect
The “BMI” factor: First, one stumbles, then focuses and communicates the problem. People around/colleagues provide support by holding one’s hand and making one feel safe.
The deceleration process – Free yourself from the “UAS” – urgency addiction syndrome
One has to be careful in the dark. Senses must be perfectly tuned. The atmosphere is dense and pregnant with concentration. Deliberate moves can bring success and rushing is not an option.
In the dark, one becomes more focused and recognizes the importance of asking questions and addressing crucial issues. Thinking in the dark is more flexible; it becomes more about finding solutions than articulating the problems.
Enhances experimental thinking
Darkness can be serious fun. Darkness helps one overcome personal inhibitions and brings out the experimentative child and thinker untapped in each individual.
Establishes instant trust and bonding
Trust in the dark is often based on physical contact and active listening. Being in the dark for a while brings a huge emotional connect and bonding amongst all as everyone is on an equal footing, which helps people bury apparent differences.
Darkness can be a great leveler, allowing us to learn without the shackles of the seen, opening our minds to what is not seen, and making better use of what we can feel, hear, smell and touch.
Notes & Acknowledgements: We acknowledge inputs for this article from various manuscripts of the Dialogue Social Enterprise and their partners worldwide.
The author is the founding director of ACE Experiences Asia Pvt. Ltd. ACE is bringing Dialogue in the Dark, a learning experience that takes place in complete darkness, to Hyderabad in December 2010. For more details on DiD you could write to