may 26th, 2021

Episode #25


From the Darkness Into the Light
Robbie Bent's 8 Days in Total Darkness

In this episode Laura Dawn drops in with CEO of Inward Breathwork Robbie Bent about his recent transformational experience spending 8 days in total darkness.

The more restrictions you have, the more you can enjoy regular moments. The simple things become amazing.
Robbie Bent


About This Episode:

Have you ever heard of a darkness retreat? There’s been a recent surge of interest in exploring the transformational benefits one might receive by spending multiple days and nights in complete darkness. 

Robbie Bent joins Laura Dawn on the podcast to discuss what he recently discovered by spending 8 days in total darkness. Robbie Bent is the CEO of Inward, a healthy experience company that builds beautiful community spaces around ice baths and saunas, and also has the largest library of breathwork content in the world. Inward is a cutting-edge community for improving mental health in a fun and accessible way. 

In this episode, we dive deep into Robbie’s experience in total darkness and what happened when he emerged into the light. 

Core Themes

Explored in this episode:
  • Darkness Retreats
  • Darkness into Light
  • transformational experiences
  • mental health
  • Community Spaces

Links &

useful resources

Episode Transcript

Episode #25: Robbie Bent Psychedelic Leadership Podcast.

Duration: 01:20:02

Laura Dawn: Oh my goodness, Mr. Robbie Bent.

Robbie Bent: What’s up?

Laura Dawn: It’s really good to see you. Brother, how you doing?

Robbie Bent: Good, it’s cool to see you like actually your face you know I feel like I kind of know you now because we’ve talked a bunch of times but never by video.

Laura Dawn: yeah, for people listening. We do these Monday night clubhouses, Robbie leads the Monday night clubhouse in the psychedelic clubhouse. And there, they’ve just been amazing conversations Robbie, and it’s been really cooled to get to know you, in these ways we’ve had all sorts of really cool guests, so it’s been fun getting to know you in that way.

Robbie Bent: Totally, And I now just started cohost about all the stuff you’re doing, I love this. I actually just started micro-dosing for the first time in a few years I used to be pretty into it and then I stopped for quite a while and then I just started, and so it just made me think a lot more value, over the last couple of weeks because I’ve actually been finding. I always kind of had this idea that like micro-dosing I don’t know, is it really doing something, and it’s really having a huge impact on me the last little bit, so it’s been fantastic.

Laura Dawn: Oh my gosh are you wearing an aura ring.

Robbie Bent: Yeah,

Laura Dawn: look at us, bam, bam, on the aura rings. So, I love how we’re just diving right into the conversation here let’s definitely talk about micro-dosing in a moment, but from my understanding, Robbie you have officially emerged from the darkness and stepped into the light. So I’d love for you to tell us what is the darkness retreat, how do you feel what the hell happened in there. How long were you in there? Are you born again? How does it feel to be in the light?

Robbie Bent: Yeah, I think I found a lot of power, resetting my nervous system like kind of taking breaks from stimulation. The first was with the passionate retreats, I’ve done those a few times. Next was with psychedelics both on like long-form of retreat which probably many listeners are familiar with and then, you know, short-form the therapist. And then now this was sort of a new modality I heard about. And I at first thought was kind of crazy it was like, you know, somebody can community we get a lot of people who are very into this stuff. Oh man, it’s like a thing that turns melatonin in your brain, D of t and like that kind of vibe and I was like what is this guy talking about, there’s no way that happens.

I actually did some research and there’s, there’s not much there but there are some papers from Montek Chia explaining this idea that you know, your brain when not exposed to light the melatonin builds up and builds up and builds up until it actually converts terpinolene and DMT and leads to hallucinatory states. I’m not personally sure that’s exactly what’s happening. However, this has been a sacred practice for 1000s of years, it’s a practice for advanced meditators and it’s taken very seriously and so when I see stuff like that it really piqued my interest. I’d heard about it on, Aubrey Marcus podcast. Also, and through another friend and so I heard about it that first time, thought like, this guy’s crazy heard about a second time as it sounds pretty cool, and I was very intrigued by the challenge of it. And then I reached out to the owners of places called Sky cave retreats is the only one in the US, and I spoke with the owner and he really impressed me just as somebody who was very grounded and present, and, you know, he’d done probably 20 passionate retreats he’d lived in isolation for years.

And when I spoke with him, to me it wasn’t the idea of all the psychedelic experience, it was like, you know, he explained it, it’s all ultimate stillness and relaxation. Whereas if Upasana retreat is very disciplined right like this meditation often retreats 10 hours a day or up at 4:30, no talking, you know, the food you eat is very strict. It’s a very rigorous practice and it’s also extremely physically demanding. And, you know, well we can get into that too, but this practice was like very much about relaxation and letting go and moving completely away from your identity and when he explained that to me, it’s something that like wow, I have trouble relaxing and surrendering and letting go and overstimulated and so I heard that was like Well that sounds really cool like I wonder what that’s like for just hours on end like being completely alone. So alone and you can’t even see yourself or an image of yourself, there’s no, I think coming into what happens to your frame of reference.

So that really really intrigued me, so I booked it and then leading up to the retreat I think because I knew it was coming. I was pushing myself pretty much harder than ever. And so I wrote an article which we can link in the show notes, but a lot of bad habits started to build up during COVID that were, uncommon to my life before. And, you know, all of a sudden, I was booking, way more meetings via zoom, and weigh the less in-person time and so when you’re booking meetings, they’re just like, back-to-back to back and all of a sudden, I’m not eating properly. I started an online business because our physical business was closed and then I had two businesses I had to worry about I just had way more to do.

I stopped going to the gym because gyms were closed, and then I spent way more time on Twitter and I was always looking for news about like, vaccinations, I get there was a lot of fear that what’s going on you know I want to be on the pulse of what’s happening here and for my businesses also wondering, Am I going to have to close like trying to like can I figure this out and so way more time. I haven’t used social media in years, and so I had Twitter on my phone and I’m like looking at it and then crazy changes in prices for like stocks and crypto I started looking at that, and now I’m in a space where all day long, I’m in front of my computer. I’ve got like my phone open all the time I’m like even watching movies and like looking at my phone and I’m just so stimulated and there’s no release like there was no exercise there was no social Hangout, which, if we go and hang out, we’re having this conversation. One to One, I’m on my computer I’m in like six Slack channels and like a bunch of telegram channels and looking at email and like, there’s just so much and so your brain.

I did a bunch of research so there’s this, there’s this concept called dopamine fasting, and it’s the idea that when you’re overstimulated if you see this with drug use and so you’re used to cocaine problem it’s very familiar with what it feels like. And felt the same way with my phone and the more intense the stimulation, the more you need to feel normal. And so leading up to the dark retreat, all these habits that like have never been a problem for me before, you know this excess stimulation with no release. I just was not feeling good and then like I would you know work all day then eat Uber Eats at night, and like a giant pizza and then would just feel like shit. And so the idea like I could enjoy my normal time became harder and harder like my meditation practice slowed going outside for walks wasn’t as enjoyable because that would be like just thinking all the time. And it happens slowly, it really wasn’t, you know just each one stacked on each other and like I have a Wellness Center in my backyard and like I have all these practices and even with that, it was just like really hard.

And I think people probably listening can resonate with just like this feeling of overwhelming not enough connection. It’s like common you know I saw through our community 1000s of people that would come for hot and cold sessions, like one on one and just be like, yeah, I’m struggling right and like so many people after I wrote that article reached out to me were like wow, I really feel what you’re talking about like I’m struggling. Also, and so I think in that case the answer. When you’re, you know, is less stimulation and like slowing down. It doesn’t have to be a dark retreat, it can be a day in nature, you know, going to a cottage-like just turning your phone off, sitting in your house, you know, going for a walk, and so that was a lot of the reasons why Like now is the time for me to go.

Laura Dawn: Okay, so you went into how many days of darkness, and are we talking like pitch-black darkness.

Robbie Bent: Yeah, so went in the space itself is, like, it’s kind of a dream world, like a utopia, like you drive outside of Ashland, Oregon, you drive like into the woods, you know long dirt road in nature like raw nature in the mountains, and there was a commune of, you know, maybe 25 people growing food 90 vegetables on the land, living in like treehouses and yurts and houses kind of whatever you can build on the land. It really respected the land, also which I hadn’t had. I’ve always lived in big cities and urban centers and I don’t have a ton of experience building stuff with my hands or like living in nature and so to see people so excited about the lands and like treating it fairly was really inspiring so that was really cool people, everyone who lives there obviously if you go and like life in this kind of community here like probably an awesome person, or like an interesting person so very interesting crew.

And when I got there, I didn’t know anybody and you know they took me right into the sights and so the retreat itself was dug out of the ground and then replaster so it’s kind of like underground of it, and then replastered with this clay material. So legitimately feels like a cave-like it’s damp it’s got this gritty feel, and I remember being inside. And, you know, he turns off the lights and just like to give me a taste when I first got there, put my stuff down and go and kind of look and it’s like a 10 foot by 10-foot room maybe, you know, so there’s a bed, a toilet, a bath. And that’s it, and they’re quite a small bit comfortable but and then a cubby, they pass your food through at night and so, you know, you go, and you open the cubby and they’ll be six containers you’ll take them out. Also in the complete darkness, and it’s so dark.

Like I was actually shocked at how dark it was when they shoot the light off, because you’re not really ever in normal use, in complete darkness, there’s always like a streetlight or you know something through the window or like a little your foot like just a little bit. Moon little bits of light to in when you’re in complete darkness, it’s like a wild sensation, and when that happened, I was like wow this is really like you put your hand in front of your face, and it never adjusts. You know the whole time and you’re used to like being okay it’s a dark room and you know you sit for a few minutes and then you can kind of see the outlines of things and you cannot see anything, to the point of if you’re walking, and you maybe think you’re turning like 15 degrees, but you turn 20. You kind of get lost and where you are in the room, and so you don’t even like spinning around you don’t know, so it’s very easy to like to lose your bearings, based on how dark it is. Wow, so that in itself was a, was quite wild Yeah.

Laura Dawn: Okay, before we get into like revelations, like, how is the food, how comfortable was the bed.

Robbie Bent: I would say the bed would be my biggest complaint would be like I could be more comfortable like I was not comfortable. And so, in a pasta retreat, they have an actual like precept that like returning students will not sleep on like, forget like luxurious beds, and so I kind of thought that was the vibe it’s like meant to be challenging in some ways. And so, yeah, I felt it was uncomfortable with the sort of like a rock. Kind of like this rock clay material and then a slight mattress on it so very like, you know aesthetic practice like monk style and then the food was fantastic and the family that made it, you know the owners Scott and his wife were just amazing people. You really help to come once per night. And so there’s a couple of option you can choose to take all your food in and have absolutely no human contact.

And that’s pretty intense, because you don’t know even what day it is like has it been four days or five days and you lose your sense of time and that you fall asleep, but you actually don’t know how long you slept for. So it was a 20-minute nap or was it an eight hour.

Laura Dawn: Oh my god, were you totally losing track of days?

Robbie Bent: No, so I went the other way where he would deliver my food once per day and say I have a meditation practice, you know, as I said, I’ve done a bunch of retreats and have a daily practice but I’m by no means like advanced meditation legend, and I actually found that quite difficult in the space to be in a deep meditative state, for most of the time, I’m just not used to that amount of time like you know after day five you’ve stopped sleeping. For the most part and so you’d maybe catch like 20 minute naps here and there, it’s your up, you know, 72 hours in a row, ish, and so I can meditate, five, six hours a day, but like, 18 24 is a lot, and so I want that combined with not knowing the days, I thought for the first time it might be too intense and so he would come once per day, we usually share, you know, a sentence or two, he dropped off the food if I had questions. We would talk, and that would kind of, you know, you would at least know the day is that how many days you’ve been in, but then sometimes a day felt quick, and sometimes it felt like whereas he must have forgotten, and you know, in those days, maybe you didn’t sleep and you’re like, I’ve been here for some time, your sense of time has definitely changed.

Laura Dawn: So when you went in, did you think, Okay, I’m going to do this for x amount of days or where you like, I’m going to just try to go as long as I can.

Robbie Bent: So this is a funny story, it’s kind of silly but my friends really only one friend and I have a resilience challenge, and so we both kind of competes, he’s an amazing guy. You should meet also, and he has a wellness center as well and very into breathwork and psychedelic medicines and so we had this idea of the 5 10 challenge. And so it was a 10-day vipassana retreat, a 10-day fast water fast, a 10-minute ice bath. A 10-gram psilocybin experience, and a 10-day dark retreat, and really silly like no real point to it other than we’ve to push ourselves and I’ve seen a lot of value from like holding discomfort, and so really like being in these challenging situations changed my life and when I was at rock bottom. That was something I grabbed onto was like okay if I could sit with fear and discomfort, then I’ll be less afraid, and that was something that I’m not as it’s not as big of a driving force in my life now, but six years ago I’d like saved my life when I was, you know, kind of an addict and struggling.

And so we came up with this challenge, and again I’m going to do 10 days, and then I kind of got her there was a guy who had also been on retreat for a very long time who had done five and saying you know five was a very intense experience so say okay maybe like if I could make it five, that’s a great goal. And then once I got to five, I tried to just push it a little more, and after around the eight-day mark, there wasn’t much more happening it wasn’t, I wasn’t gaining insights I just felt okay I’ve got what I came here for. I’m ready.

Laura Dawn: Okay, key takeaways, did you have hallucinations, was there an experience of like DMT release was there Yes, dopamine reset experience like, let’s get into that.

Robbie Bent:  Yeah, and so like that we can talk, there’s a ton to go into here so just stop me and like we can dive into some parts more than others but they, you know the first two days it’s pretty interesting you just kind of sleep. And I think when your body’s not getting any light it’s used to like hey it’s time to shut down, and like the deepest sleep, so much so that I actually custom ordered complete blackout blinds, when I got home, because I just was like, I really like that space and the quality of rest. And so I think even if you found this interesting, but we’re scared if you enter this for two days for a weekend and just sleep and reset. I think it’d be a fantastic reset of just like this like high-quality sleep. And in that sleep, the dreams are so vivid. And I don’t know if that’s because there’s no light, and like we are better able to enter RAM or like delta waves, whatever it is I’m not sure about this, I’d like to learn more about the science but yeah wild dreams. So like you’re there, you know, you can see them you can visualize them you feel so first-ever the first couple of days I kept having dreams I was outside of the retreat and then I’d be like oh man like day one I laugh day two, like, and then I would come back.

It’s kind of funny, when every time after the dream you wake up, and you don’t know where you are and so something I realize you, you use your eyesight to indicate safety. So when you wake up, you don’t know this because you do it subconsciously when you look around like Hey, I see my bearings and I’m safe. And so, in the Dark One of the things, you know, I felt like you kind of have this bravery meter and so you would wake up and almost a little bit of panic like I don’t know where I am. I can’t catch my bearings and I would have to breathe like use and breathwork techniques of just like long slow exhales to engage the person pathetic like the rest and digest system and just like, Okay, there’s fear here, it’s clear I can feel like it’s visceral, let it go, you know, relax, and then that fear would come up often, and not like terror but just like hey someone’s going to jump out and grab me but subconscious fear of I don’t know what is around me and I’ve used my eyesight to indicate safety my entire life. And now, I’m not. And so, you know, it’d be under the covers, it’s one thing and then like I remember the first day like okay what am I going to get to go and get this food like, oh, got to go and go to the bathroom and you’re kind of like little, tiny steps, just like your brain thinks hey maybe something’s going to grab me.

I guess it’s just that kind of there on the subconscious level. And so it’s really a test of fear, almost the entire time and learning that when your nervous system is stressed, how do you regulate it. And so that was like a very interesting practice that I’m like now taking home and so what they taught me or what Scott taught me one of the nights was like look, you noticed you’re feeling something in your body. Relax, relax, relax, relax just keep focusing on that so you’re just breathing in through the nose nice slow breath relaxing everything, and then in those moments in between thoughts, inserting a positive feeling so maybe it’s a time you were brave or a time you were loving or time you had integrity or time you stood up for yourself. And like inserting that feeling in the body at the moment while you’re relaxed, and you could practice just like immediately erasing your fear in a situation that’s actually pretty safe. So it was really interesting for like, oh, I’m afraid, but now I’m not. And so that was like an awesome revelation early.

Another one was just in the dreams themselves I felt like, and this could be related to, it felt like a release. And so, I’ve used five Moe DMT, the idea of, I don’t know if that was happening, but it felt like I was D armoring in my dreams and what I mean by that, you know, I had one of my family that was pretty intense and it was Christmas, and I was there with them and wasn’t quite them, but I knew it was them if that makes any sense. Like it didn’t look like events, but I knew it was my family and they were yelling at me because I didn’t want to leave the dark retreat and like they were like, You’re so selfish. How could you do this, and something inside me, you know, my, my dad started crying, and then gave me a hug and was like, I love you and then suddenly inside me like snaps, and I woke up and I felt just like pure peace, and like massive release like slowly armor I’d had around my heart, protecting myself being too analytical started coming off.

And so there’ll be these like really emotional times or thought about my fiancé or just others in general. I had a dream that I was a black woman schoolteacher in like the 1960s and, like, teaching people about equality and like I just felt connected to others and I think it’s like medicine experiences you also have these times when your ego dissolves and you realize like that’s not you, and humans are the same and you experientially feel that and so there were some of that feeling of just being connected to others. And so I found that really powerful when I would wake up from these like intense dreams this like the feeling of release.

Laura Dawn: Hmm, that’s amazing. You know, it sounds like there’s such a strong overlap with all of these experiences with going into the darkness, or with sitting with plant medicines, and also you know I love that you’re also a student of the patina and I’ve been studying Tibetan Buddhism for about 15 years and so even hearing some of that language of like armoring and, and the techniques I mean that’s why I love Buddhist philosophy is like Pema Trojan, I just love her teaching so much and they’ve been such an ally for me in the plant medicine space like a very valuable roadmap and guide. And so much of what these teachings speak to is like peeling back the layers and making peace and direct contact with this like primordial discomfort that is inherent in all living beings just from the sheer fact of being alive and that we spend all of our lives like covering over and armoring up and armoring our hearts and protecting ourselves based on like deeply ingrained, the way that we’re geared to survive.

And so when you’re working with this and this is what I love about the teachings is that they’re so simple. They like codify getting off of the hamster wheel of habituation. The way that we’re afraid and it’s like that knee jerk reaction to do the thing that brings us the comfort, like, Oh, it’s okay, so you’re in a space where you don’t have those knee jerk reactions, and it’s like, with the teachings they talk about like Pema talks about like recognizing what’s happening, like when the trigger of fear happens and then refraining from like the knee jerk reaction, and then relaxing and there’s such an overlap between even like Tibetan Buddhism and somatic and somatic awareness and breath, and like learning how to just slow down and make direct contact with it, and then reframing it reframing the situation and resolving to do it again and again and again. And so like I want to just kind of get to the heart of like touching those places in thereof like the primordial discomfort, touching fear here. Does this resonate with what I’m speaking through here?

Robbie Bent: Yeah, totally. And so these feelings, which I would say we’re different from psychedelic medicines in the Vipassana was just there are just more feelings of darkness and challenge and grief and death, and it could have just been my experience, but they mentioned a lot of people feel these ways also. Okay, so there’s this one I’m just going to cut off that thought explain just popped into my mind but there was also like a very sexual vibe, and it was very interesting to feel that, without any sight or stimulation and kind of know that like deep down were actually sexual beings, and so I think in our lives. There’s a lot of like, you know especially based on religion like oh sex is bad and like these desires are, you know, not moral, and to feel these like really crazy like I think what’s happening is, I have no stress, I have no stimulation in this space, Like, I mean there was a bit of a fear I mentioned but there’s no, like daily to-do lists and all these things you’re and you just kind of shut down and in that shutdown, like yeah, of course, your sex drive is increasing and you realize it’s like powerful energy that’s actually part of being human and this whole like demonizing of it.

I’m pretty liberal anyways but just, you know, you think you are sexual because of what you see and the stimulation you get externally, it’s not the case like and to feel it just as like part of you that sexual energy was really cool. So that was something I wasn’t expecting. But then going back to the day we can chat about it and then going back to the darkness. These dark thoughts there was a lot around death, and I think, six, seven days and just kind of feeling, you know I’m halfway through. I’m turning 37 And so as your life as you age your life appears to move faster because you have a longer reference period so one year 37 feels a lot different than here at seven. This is a feeling hey I’m halfway through my life am I happy with my decisions with my actions with where I’m at, and like, I’m going to die, and then feeling like you know what my parents are going to die, and they’re going to be gone, and then in the darkness, you’re like, so alone. And so isolated and not even like your body there for comfort so if you can see things, you can see yourself in a mirror your hands it’s like hey, I’m a person.

In the darkness, you’re nothing you’re nobody. And there’s nothing, there’s nowhere you can look you close your eyes, it looks the same. There’s no stimulation there and so this idea of like if I died. Am I alone. And then there’s like real fear of what happens because it’s like in normal life. This was another cool thing is like, you’re always at like task layer thinking for most people, I get up I have to do these 10 things like my kids, financial worries I want to build this thing I want to go to the gym I got to do this I want to eat that, you know, and then to go down a layer like maybe you have your meditation practice or your way to get into the flow state, and then go down a layer another layer of like what am I actually doing, you know what do I want emotionally, and then even the layer below that is like why am I even here like What is life like you’re thinking like, I don’t know what like four times, and so you’re in the space with no stimulation you’re like at that level, and starting to, you know, you think about that scary It’s okay I’m going to be gone. Who am I, do I still exist and like feeling these things and it’s kind of destabilizing of it just like a lot of self-reflection and questioning.

Laura Dawn: So did you feel like you were able to really make direct contact with grief and the fear of your own death of your parent’s death and the death of your loved ones like were you able to really make contact with it?

Robbie Bent: I think that’s a really good question, I think. So there are two stories here but so one just a direct answer to that question is I think what came through for me is that these things are necessary feelings to feel gratitude, grateful loves, and they’re kind of like because you can accept them and we don’t really do this in Western society right we like, okay, the hero always wins. You know life, you’re going to have a long and lovely life and like people are naturally good and that’s it and, you know, death, that a funeral, it’s like a sad thing and it’s very it’s not even talked about, so there’s like so much there. Because, because we never even focus on it right and this is a huge practice in Eastern philosophies, and I think what happens what why it’s important is because when you process like grief and fear.

It allows you to more thoroughly experience love and gratitude and so the learning from that was like okay I’m going to die. And because of that, like, well, who the fuck cares what people think about me. Who cares about like, you know, did I make as much money or did this business wasn’t successful and like coming out was like the craziest experience that could just be on par like the five minutes of like first coming out on par with any other experience in terms of intensity. We can talk about that kind of at the end because there’s more, there are more questions so that was one piece on, you know your question of like did you touch your grief and then another one is around fear and so I developed a pretty bad cough, like, four hours of the day like starting in day three.

Laura Dawn: Do you think it was because of the damp, humidity, I was going to ask you that when you said like a cave, I was like damn was that like how hard on the lungs.

Robbie Bent: Yeah, somewhere, it hadn’t been for other people but for, you know so I’m like, I had COVID last year, and it was okay, but I got sick, and then. So it was like a little like oh you know I remember being nervous when it first happened like right at the first lockdown, and I was sick for a while and just had trouble breathing. Just shortness of breath, and it kind of felt like that, and I took a connector through Vancouver, and my sister sent me some article, you know that, like, oh, a new variant in Vancouver, and I was like oh shit, I got the fucking variant, you know, airport and now I’m here and now you’re like coughing and this fearful environment, and most likely to come to check it once a night like if you don’t say anything that you can just assume you’re sleeping, or like in deep meditation, and then I’m like okay, I obviously I don’t want to leave like I’m here for this challenge and like my identity was tied up and like finishing the challenge which is kind of like, you know, maybe that’s ego-based or whatever but yeah I’m aware, like I was I wanted to think of myself as resilient and not like soft, so I’m coughing away and I’m getting afraid like what if nobody comes. And I’m just stuck here.

And then I was like, What if I die, I’m in this fucking cave alone without my fiancée without any of my family like, Okay, what if I’m actually sick like are they going to take me to a doctor’s or hospital around the woods and then I remember my fiancé being like yeah, they’re, you know somebody who is 40 got a case of COVID their blood oxygen levels dropped in one day and he ended up on a ventilator and so obviously like you’re sitting there with no stimulation I’m just thinking about the stuff I’m causing so hard for like hours and hours and hours and hours, and so, day three, then I wake up and I’m fine. And then the day goes on day four, I’m like coughing again like the whole night. And then day five, I’m finally like, yeah, like you thought I took me that’s not the smartest tool in the shed took me longer to figure it out but there’s dust, there’s like the material from the clay-like the kind of comes off. And so I was sitting on this giant meditation cushion, and it didn’t happen the first two days because I didn’t really leave the bed, but that I was meditating a lot and that every time I’d sit on the cushion huge poof of dust sprayed on the face, and so I didn’t notice this happening, inhaling the stuff that I think I’m just allergic to.

Like a cough, like, you know like kind of spinning and like, and so that went away like by day six, I had essential oils and few other things that he brought for me and then I was fine, But yeah, let’s think okay I’m going to this is it like I’m not going to die and then there was a weird thing of like you should get out and leave but then I was like no, like, fuck that I can make it like that, you know like you have to drag me out of here. So there was a lot of that whole and maybe that’s what triggered some of the thoughts around death in the first place was just this as the feeling of when you are sick. You don’t you. Nothing matters anymore, you just want help from others. And so you think you’re so big and tough and strong and important, and then when you’re sick, it’s like I just want a hug from my mom, you know, I want someone to care for me I want to know I feel love inside it’s like just a really interesting reminder.

Laura Dawn: I love that you just said that I heard from your mom because every time I get sick too, I’m like somebody holds me because like we’re just so human and that’s it it’s just like making peace with the impermanence of reality, you know, that it’s just all in flux, all the time and that is emotionally hard for humanity to grasp, I think. And what about airflow was there, ventilation.

Robbie Bent: Yeah, so he couldn’t hear it, it was like a noiseless fan but I didn’t know and like after he told me it was there like when we left but I was like, man, there’s no airflow and it feels like three days I also came into this with like, no prep, and I mentioned I was like someone driving a car 200 miles an hour and just like right into a fucking wall, like, boom, you know, and so like, even like I was in the airport and I missed the flight, because I was like a connecting flight because I went to the wrong gate because I was like looking at my email on Twitter, and like, you know coffees on the way in like just right into like, no sugar diet no coffee, like in the darkness and I was like holy shit this is such a hardcore change. Yeah, so, yeah that was like just it’s pretty, pretty wild. The change in pace, and what that does to you?

Laura Dawn: what did you what’s like a key takeaway around mental toughness and mental resilience. Like could you notice the way that the thoughts you are thinking would like immediately to impact your biology, were you just noticing like, Oh, more paying attention to like the narratives of what was going through your mind because it’s like you’re just there with your thoughts really?

Robbie Bent: Yeah. And so, like, in the past, it’s really interesting because you notice that these thoughts come up, and you become aware of them, and then you also notice even deeper your emotions come up and so like, without any stimulation like you think like hey I got angry because, you know, I didn’t get this job or something and that’s not actually what’s happening like a lot of times these emotions come up in the body. And then we associate meaning to them, and we may not even know where they’re from and so when you’re meditating with nothing there and you have a huge burst of anger or sadness, you start to realize like I actually have no control over my mind, I can watch and be aware, but I have no control over the process as you really don’t. And so the dark retreat same very similar like I would get into these loops thinking about my career in crypto like I recently left.

I was working on Aetherium for four years in the theorem ecosystem, and I had a really awesome role there and I left to build something in the wellness space because you know the things, I’m building helped me deal with addiction and just become a get my life back and they’re just really passionate about it, but then I started you know, greed started rolling around like deep, greed, like, you shouldn’t have left you would have been like worth hundreds of millions, like what we’re doing. And I only bought this day and are sold at this date are like built this company like crazy questioning. And what’s really weird is like in the past that you can make it stop because you can open your eyes you can leave you to meditate for like usually like an hour to two hours at a time like this, there’s no, there’s no off button, and the darkness is like, especially the first couple of days felt so tight around my head felt like I was like, just being crumpled to get like squished and Advil, like, and you’re just like no matter where you look, you can’t get your bearings so just the intensity was so high and then getting asked about the fan and I was like okay I can’t breathe, either.

And I have this like if I had a window to like, breathe out. Like it felt so claustrophobic and tight at times. And so then yet your resilience is forged in those moments because it’s so hard, and like, I think. Yeah, even in psychedelic medicines you have these moments that are just really challenging that you’re not usually put through in normal life, and like these, I look at them I feel like your body, your emotional body is like tied in knots, from experiences you have when you’re young, that you don’t process and so they like come up, and by actually like going into them, like hey this fear is here and grief is here this like fear like this like claustrophobia is here like feeling into it breathing through it, the knot loosens. And so there were a lot of moments like that.

Laura Dawn: So it’s like the quintessential cocoon of metamorphosis like it really just so embodies that to me, and so is there anything that you so distinctly left behind. And so distinctly received something completely new, on the other side of that cocoon.

Robbie Bent: I think there’s an awareness, it’s not like left behind. It’s just kind of my work personally like. I’m just very hard on myself, I grew up in a pretty family that was pretty critical, and it was very apparent to me at a young age that external success and validation from others was what was required to be loved. And so just like self-love is tough, and so just being in those moments there was just more awareness that like hey, you’re just so critical, the way you’re talking to yourself like these things you’re thinking are like insane and so very clear they’re insane, but they’re not gone and I’ve never found from all this work like they’ve changed my behaviors have completely changed to like where I’m a person I’m like really proud of now, but there’s still like, am I lovable, you know, these like deep core beliefs I just think they’re like work, they’re like, it’s like a life’s work to change these things I really think in any experience you go through.

Can I like in one experience fully leave something behind me, personally, and this could be, is it just my personal experience I think the answer is no, I think it’s very difficult and like at that moment you can have a breakthrough. But then you come back to your life and I’m like, even this time I’m back to my life the changes like do these things stick, and I found from psychedelic medicine use the passion, you come back and it’s like you’re on fire for a month, and then you kind of get sucked back into life so it’s like how do you make your life. The work so I don’t actually think there was something like, very specific, there was a few other learnings too, so like, one interesting one is that I have energy in the morning, all the time, and I thought it was related to solving problems like I drink your coffee and I’m ready to go. But that energy is just there, it’s just natural. It’s just happening, and so it made me realize I don’t need to be finding all these new problems to get excited about this energy is naturally going to happen so I should use it very tightly when it’s there because it’s like a superpower.

And on day six, it was just a full flow state, and so I felt like, and all that task-based thinking I mentioned before like opened an umbrella, all the tasks have been thought about they were done in all these things because in your day like your day slightly change you have to do a bunch of stuff always feels like things are being juggled but if you actually just take a five day break the juggling stops and you can like, you know, it’s like a rainfall has ended. The ocean is calm, and you can easily see how everything fits together so it was just moments of flow, and something that I took away and why I actually started micro-dosing was like, I need one day off a week to get into a state to allow things to fall together and no matter how much work you have not allowed for that space. You’ll not be effective or be able to see below the task-based thinking. And so that’s not a change in feeling about myself, but it is an absolute realization. I’m more effective better able to be aware if I have space, and so I’ve created that space.

Laura Dawn: I really love that perspective that maybe transformation isn’t like a, you know, flick of a switch. I mean, I also have that perspective, that it’s very much layer upon layer upon layer and that we can sort of establishing like a new baseline, but it’s always peeling back layers and when I have people ask me you know well if plant medicines are these experiences are so transformational like why do you have to keep coming back like why do you have to keep engaging and it’s like because there’s this kind of always more stuff to kind of peel back those layers and go deeper and deeper. And so, yeah, I’m curious, like, it sounds like new priorities are emerging for your personal and professional life if there’s any sort of top priorities that you’re like restructuring coming out of that and then anything you do want to share about micro-dosing

Robbie Bent: yeah so, I 100% And just before we get into that I can just, you know, the experience of leaving the dark retreat was insane. So if you’re looking for peak experiences and this kind of stuff, calls to you, you know you like psychedelic medicines you’re into meditation and you’re into asceticism. One thing I also realized is why all cultures have restrictions, like, all religions, you know, fasting, prayer. These styles reduce stim, these things reduce stimulation, right, and so the more restriction you have, the more you can enjoy regular moments, and so you imagine, eight days eight nights of restriction, no stimulation, and I couldn’t breathe, these spheres and it’s like okay I’m leaving today, it’s happening, I’m getting out. As soon as I decided to go like run to the door, rapid open trying to get it open. I can’t get it open. I’m like pure throwing stuff everywhere. Open it up and you can just see it’s like maybe two hours before sunrise, still dark, and I felt like I could see every atom-like every electron-proton, neutron just sparkling like, oh my god it come out each breath of air, it felt like I was drinking like the cold ocean, no ocean because it’s all water, a cold, freshwater through oxygen just like so refreshing down to the bottom my lungs and the smells like I went down and just holding the earth, feeling the earth, looking at the stars like just in amazement, with the power of life and how interesting.

Our senses are like my absolute amazement and then watch the colors change so you know first just the browns and greens because you can only see a reflection of light, right, and you don’t really realize that everything is actually dark without the sun, that’s, that’s what it’s all dark so you’re just looking when you kind of start seeing the greens and browns. Slowly the sun starts coming up you see a peek over and into the sky starts turning blue. And the sun goes over this crest, I’ve seen like the greens of the forests like really bright greens and then, you know, the ray hits me in the eyes, and it just like transported me back to a childhood moment skiing with my dad. I’ve just like pure bliss bit sunny day like outside, and then a dog comes running up the path is giant like a husky dog and it’s the first, you know, being.

I’ve seen and kind of like looking in its eyes hugging the dog and just feeling so connected and they had a stream in the mountains like ice-cold to pick up all my clothes going into the stream, coal plants like bam, you know, and then they had a woodfired sauna right nearby so throw some blood in and in the sauna now putting essential oils over the rocks like you know like that whatever four hour period, like how much joy was packed into that and sensation versus the entire eight days, it just was so stark like wow, the simple things are amazing, and sometimes by giving yourself less, you can enjoy other things more, which is pretty counterintuitive.

Laura Dawn: Wow. Yeah. For those listening it’s starting to pour rain here in my little casita in the jungle of Hawaii so if you’re hearing that downpour, but one of the things that I really feel like I’m hearing too, and like one of the key takeaways is that there is this life force that lives within us and that it’s more about connecting to what is already there and what already is within and when I hear you talk about, you know, tapping into a flow state and day six, and the sexual energy that’s already there and like these inherent human tendencies and the life force that is in us already. And I think we get so stuck on the way that our external environment dictates our internal reality, and the story of me and this is how it is, this is who I am, but it sounds like the experience you have, and going into darkness is like such a reversal of that where we’re really going within and looking at like such a. Our humaneness at the core.

Robbie Bent: Yeah, I think you’ve captured it perfectly, and in that core getting to it you’re in this maze of, you know, all these different thoughts and like thought loops and challenges and you sort of through that, it’s like a, you’re just wandering the maze of personality and existence in a different way. And it’s different in, you know comparison to meditation or psychedelic medicines, it’s just another tool you have to change state to gain awareness about these things and so I would highly, highly recommended if you’re afraid, even more so, I was a funny story I was afraid of the dark as a kid like really scared, you know like a wooden like my feet out of the bed. I wouldn’t if I were in the basement like turning off the light, I would run up the stairs like something’s going to grab me I was scared of, like, all these so coincidental you talk about the universe, but I was the first movie I was ever afraid of was this movie witches by Roald Dahl and them like turn kids into mice and then squish them.

Laura Dawn: I remember that one. I remember that movie, what was the same age you’re 36 and so am I. Yeah, yeah.

Robbie Bent: Nice. Yeah, so the first movie, it’s not like it’s a pretty funky movie. And so if you saw it now. What is this guy talking about but yeah, I saw when I was really young and it was the first thing, I was afraid of that which is we’re going to grab me and like turn me into a mouse and smash me and, on the plane on the way there. There’s a remake. Yes, so watch the movie, and I’m in there and I’m like her face cackling with the teeth, it’s like coming up in the darkness, and it started driving like other things I’m afraid of some silly Care bears the character of the movie it. All these villains and they would come up and over time, I developed a relationship where they were actually humans I kind of think of them as an old mall-like Santa Claus, who’s just off duty kind of smoking a cigarette just like oh yeah remember when we used to scare you as a kid that was our job and no fear anymore. And so the fear of the dark actually completed by the end is gone, and I now feel a craving to be in that space, so much so I bought these blinds to improve my sleep, but to also sit in this area of no stimulation.

And that was a big fear for me that led to a lot of other fears in life, and it kind of was the closure of my path around. You know I’ve been afraid of a lot of things what are people going to think of me and like getting in fights and like being physically violent and all these things growing up. And now it’s been six, seven years on this path and facing my fears and this was kind of the closure of like the last one, and there’ll be fears in the future, obviously, but it just felt like a nice closing point where I said goodbye to all these things that terrified me as a child.

Laura Dawn: That’s so funny. Did you grow up in Toronto?

Robbie Bent: I grew up in a small city outside of Toronto called Gulf

Laura Dawn: Oh I know Gulf. Yeah, I used to play water polo against the Guelf team I grew up in Montreal and we’re the same age. So, and it’s funny because you said, the movie IT was also horrifying for me as a child I used to have nightmares about that movie. So there were of the same generation we grew up in the same pocket of the world so that’s fun. Do you feel like you’ve been able to just like feel more open to the flow of energy in your life?

Robbie Bent: So when I came back it was quite challenging. I’m pretty busy right now so we’re building a brand-new space we’re really excited about a mobile app, it’s just very intense, and I work 10 hours a day in front of my computer and I love what I’m doing like it’s actually my life mission, I’m helping so many people, we get a chance to be creative,

Laura Dawn: can we just pause and tell people about what that is the app and the space that you’re building, just tell people about inward.

Robbie Bent: Yeah well, I had found that meditation psychedelic medicines really worked for me but then I saw them not work for many of my friends and I found meditation was a really tough one to get into and psychedelic medicines are amazing tools, but I saw a lot of people go on retreat and want to make a change when they came back, struggle to actually implement change. And so I was thinking about this for many years, how do I take, you know, a mainstream person so 86% of people have no mindfulness practice and help them, and you know people who are into healthy eating and diet and all that stuff, but then it comes to mental health and there’s like nothing there and everything’s kind of like oh there’s something wrong with you, you need to see this doctor and or it’s tied into spirituality which people don’t bible.

So it’s really at this idea of how can I help more people that are in the mainstream community feel better and now having watched my friends use psychedelics and they’re not mentally, there are mental issues that psychedelics can really help with like immediately so depression and PTSD like resetting the nervous system, but for the standard person who’s like mentally healthy and stressed. I found them on their own to be lacking in terms of creating behavior change. And so we built this entire mission around a physical space, people can go and meet up and the physical space is healthy inspiring and so using saunas and cold plunges to get people in their body and share their emotions and so a standard thing, you walk in 40 people sauna crazy sound system completely blacked out there’s like a guide playing the drum guiding you through what you’re afraid of feeling it like removing your sweat. I think I’ll go into that.

Yeah, and then you go into the ice bath together and you’re like I am gazing with somebody, which would normally be awkward but because of the adrenaline from the ice bath you like completely connect you connect your breathing, maybe you’re in there until you’re shivering you come out and shiver through a trauma release exercise and so that might be one class on release. And then, you know, at night it’s a social place and so instead of going to a bar where there’s alcohol and like it’s a less conscious environment, we can still have the same as the level of divine inspiration, but it’s super fun and cool and so there’s that social space but then when you’re at home, you need a mindfulness practice too. And so we focused on breathwork and the way we use breathwork is, is a bit different, we’re using electronic music, it’s kind of like a fitness class, it’s not meant to get you to enlightenment, it’s just, I have never used mindfulness before I want to use this practice that makes me feel good and it’s fun.

And so it’s just your first step using all these techniques but making them kind of cool and fun, and light-hearted and inspiring instead of, you know I always felt like as an addict before you go to a meeting, which is an amazing organization, but it would be like in the basement of a church and someone’s like, God, you have this problem and just didn’t feel good fluorescent light. Yeah, it’s hard for people to share that like what they’re struggling with because it’s like makes you feel like there’s something wrong with you and like, in reality, there’s not everybody’s struggling and so I thought, couldn’t we have these healing spaces be beautiful and like look cool and be fun and kind of replace like the idea of going to drink like six and 10 beers at a nightclub or a bar it’s insane that that’s still a thing and so yeah we’re really using hard called other ancient modalities that have existed for a long time kind of wrapping them in a cool container and allowing people to get in touch with their body, their emotions, and share and connect and so that’s kind of my passion is to like bring this into the world.

Laura Dawn: That’s amazing. And for people listening, I am fucking love your website the N-word website I just think it’s such a great addition to people’s daily practices, so I highly, highly recommend checking it out.

Robbie Bent: Awesome, thank you yeah, I’m super, super stoked, so that’s really exciting and then, you know, so back to the question was, was anything changed I kind of came back and this is my dream and I’m working so hard on it. It’s been two years and it’s so rewarding and exciting, but you know even if something is that good and that happy and drives that much energy, and as a dark side and so I kind of came back I’m like why the hell am I doing this like 10 hours a day, I’m in front of my computer this is insane, like pushing it forward all the time like what the hell you know, I was just out in nature and I felt so good and immediately. It was very jarring. Just like should I be doing this, and then, you know, over time I got super excited about it, the problems we’re solving and like, you know, being around people and leading facilitating designing and creating, it’s amazing and I felt the energy again.

But I was very clear to put stone practices in place. So, and eventually, I’ll get overwhelmed I just That’s my personality and start working too hard and some of these habits will happen, but you know I’m back at the gym I’m intermittent fasting. I’m taking the day off which the biggest one is just taking the one day off and the micro-dosing and the micro-dosing has been so helpful because it immediately sets me into. I’m not thinking about task tasks and to-do lists, I’m just kind of enjoying walking outside and it’s made all the other habits just kind of fall into place and I was wondering why like I’d never struggled with bad food like that with like so much coffee and I was like why am I struggling so much, and the micro-dosing was like, it’s I was I felt like I was eating like literally a mush Mario Mushroom, and it was just boosting my willpower significantly probably because I was allowing my body to turn off, like heart rate variability was increasing, on days I did it.

And I honestly before it was kind of like I don’t know if it’s a real thing like it’s fun to do and go for a walk, but you know the studies are kind of mixed like is it actually having a benefit and now I’ve changed my tune completely to like this is actually like essential for where I am my life right now and some really enjoying it.

Laura Dawn: How much are you consuming and are you working with psilocybin primarily for micro-dose?

Robbie Bent: I’m actually it’s I’ve always liked micro-dosing LSD, I find it just more precise, and so I’m using 1/10 of a tab around that and like a liquid format and a drop and kind of when I wake up in the morning, I’ll take it and then go for a walk. I’ve never been about really micro-dosing and working even when I was doing before I think this idea of like, oh, it increases your focus to do like busywork that seems insane to me I think it’s like, it stops my thoughts about egoic things and tasks, and it just makes me present and if I’m present. I feel grateful because I just noticed wow this coffee tastes great, you know, man that skies really blue or like this song sounds amazing and so I find for me just gives me a three-hour to the five-hour window of. I really enjoy my life. And so, that is absolutely not meant to be spent at least for me, like coding or working is meant to be spent, connecting or outside nature and so I find it’s just like a, like a mind power up.

Laura Dawn: Yeah, that’s amazing. Okay, I’m excited to have you back on to do a whole next episode on breathwork and the power of breathwork at some point hopefully soon. Is there any question that I didn’t ask you that you wish I asked you?

Robbie Bent: Well that’s a good one. I think if you’re listening my last point is that he probably has an interest in psychedelic medicines, and they’re amazing, but if they haven’t, you know caused like real behavior change and that’s something you’re looking for it wouldn’t give up. I think combining them with professional help somebody like Laura and like really working through your core beliefs, your unmet needs these styles of things has a ton of value, and then also, you know, community, physical space doing stuff for your body. I think it’s kind of like thinking through hey I want to be happy, there’s a whole package of things I can do.

And so two people you know you mentioned oh why do you keep going back to this thing. It’s like going to the gym, you know it’s Academy, I didn’t work out for three months and now I’m done forever it’s the same, it’s the same thing like you’re making your mind stronger you’re getting better processing emotions, and so I think looking what I’ve learned from my travels and like working with 1000s of people is, it’s a holistic experience and everything is important, and so sometimes I’ve been like, oh, you know, maybe I’m not changing, but the reality is, I am over time and so I think, for people who are, you know, stuck in a rut or disappointed. There are just so many options so don’t give up.

Laura Dawn: Okay, I want to end with one more question. First three words that pop to mind when you think about this notion of psychedelic leadership,

Robbie Bent: like a role model. So, I think, and what I mean by that is that I really, I don’t even want to give example like I don’t want to give people advice, because anything can work, and so the only thing I like to do is lead with my own experiences, and then explain like hey, this worked for me, this is where I’m at, and then show like yeah, my life is better like I used to be you know, not. I don’t want to say the bad person because it wasn’t bad at the core but my actions were not of high integrity and like people noticed and now you know I’m like a leader of a team like people look up to me they respect me, they’re like, telling me all the time I’m like helping so role model is one is like are you actually, you can’t you’ve done all the psychedelic work but are you doing the work in your real life, and so it’s just like the quality of character is the one that like, kind of popped to mind first.

The next is science, backed, let’s say, and that’s just what I mean by that is, you’re not just taking the medicines, you’re kind of like combining and I like that you do this in your work, you’re combining from all these fields where there’s a ton of knowledge, whether it’s like indigenous practices or, you know modern psychotherapy, just you coaching, you’re kind of picking from the literature that works and combining them with the psychedelic medicines and that’s I think the leadership is really getting it out there to people that, hey, you don’t just take this and your, your depression is over, you know, you need to pair it with everything else so there’s like.

And then the third one is his work and not being afraid of the challenges like you know we kind of talked about the dark retreat and these resilience challenges but like psychedelic medicines then, recreation, great, super awesome. Love it would definitely, you know, take psilocybin and go to a concert with no problems at all. But, wearing a blindfold, talking about what your greatest fears are your greatest struggles and going into them to process them, It’s, it’s not fun, or easy it’s intense and pretty insane and so I think if you, you know, to me, psychedelic leadership is like being ready for work being a role model in your own life, and then taking from everything around. That’s not just medicine.

Laura Dawn: beautiful. I love that answer. I so appreciate you Robbie on every level you’re an amazing human and I’m just so grateful to know you and to get to know you more, it’s just been a joy.

Robbie Bent: Thanks so much, Laura. I’m grateful that you invited me it’s always nice, just to like chat and hang tell a story, and feel listened to and heard and so yeah just appreciate you having me on.

Laura Dawn: one more quick question, how much did that retreat cost you?

Robbie Bent: I think was around 100 bucks a day. So it wasn’t crazy pricing, you know, maybe $1,000 In total,

Laura Dawn: if anyone is listening to this and feels inspired to build a dark retreat and wants to build it with a comfortable king-size bed. I’ll pay double the price for that, and I’m there.

Robbie Bent: I think he is upgrading the bathroom and they’re building a second, they’re building two more right now so there’ll be three on the property.

Laura Dawn: Okay,

Robbie Bent: so hold on new, definitely check out sky caves retreats, it’s just really cool.

Laura Dawn: Okay, thank you so much, Robbie. Such a pleasure. So good.

Robbie Bent: Thank you

Laura Dawn: Hi friends, thank you so much for tuning in to another episode of the psychedelic leadership Podcast. I’m so grateful that you keep tuning in with me. It really means the world to me. And if you’ve been enjoying the show, I would so appreciate it. If you could share this podcast with a friend, or subscribe, wherever you listen to podcasts, or if you could please leave me a review on iTunes, and if you’d love to be in touch with me about anything at all, please feel free to reach out and send me a message, either on Instagram at live free Laura D or through my website live free Laura d.com. I’m going to be leaving you with this song called intend and surrender again that I just thought was a perfect fit for this episode with Robbie, and it’s by my dear friend Tara Divina, who is not only an amazing musician, but she is just an amazing human and she’s also an amazing Vedic Astrologer and as I mentioned in the intro, I’ll be including her email in the show notes if you want to get in touch with her. Once again, my name is Laura dawn, and you’re listening to the Psychedelic Leadership Podcast. Until next time.

Robbie Bent


Robbie Bent, is the CEO of Inward, a healthy experience company building beautiful community spaces around ice baths and saunas, and the largest library of breathwork content in the world.  Inward is a cutting-edge community for improving mental health in a fun and accessible way.  Prior to Inward, Robbie spent 4 years leading ecosystem growth at the Ethereum Foundation and he also runs a Clubhouse Show on Psychedelic Medicines and is an advisor to Vine Ventures, a social impact Venture Fund in the psychedelic medicine space.

Featured Music

Episode #25 of the Psychedelic Leadership Podcast features a song called
“Intend & Surrender” by Tara Divina.


Curated Playlists for Psychedelic Journeys & Beyond

Sign up & receive your free playlists:


About Laura Dawn

Through her signature Mastermind Programs and Plant Medicine Retreats, Laura Dawn weaves together science with ancient wisdom. She teaches business and thought-leaders, entrepreneurs, and creative professionals how to mindfully explore psychedelics and sacred plant medicines as powerful visionary tools for inner transformation, fostering emotional resiliency and unlocking new depths to our creative potential.