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Sweet Darkness
November 13-17th 2024 (Motueka Region NZ)
Bill Plotkin and Laura Gunion

The application deadline for this immersion is Friday, August 9th, 2024. Please submit your application prior to that date.

Sweet Darkness: The Initiatory Gifts of the Shadow, Projections, Subpersonalities, and the Sacred Wound, is Animas Valley Institute’s most intensive short program. Because of this, we require that people have participated in other Animas programs before applying to Sweet Darkness. Additionally, we have extended Sweet Darkness into a 6-day immersion.

Before diving into Core Wound work, we will begin by gathering our facets of wholeness, our internal resources that allow us to travel into uncharted territory.  Unlike in many modalities, we will strive to get close to the ways we are vulnerable and the ways our sensitivity has been challenging. Through experiential practices, we will explore how a Core Wound may be re-mythologized into a Sacred Wound. If you are in a place where your wound story is particularly painful to visit and you are seeking greater comfort, then Sweet Darkness is not recommended at this time. 

The Shadow, of course, is the hidden side of our psyches, with both its  “positive” and “negative” aspects. The Shadow is NOT what we know about ourselves and don’t like (and perhaps keep hidden) but, rather, what is true about us but know absolutely nothing about. During this intensive, we also explore those sticky, difficult, and immensely rewarding dynamics that come up so often in life, like those overpowering emotional charges triggered by other people and by our encounters in the more-than-human world.

We will ask, for example: What do you do when you catch yourself projecting on others – maybe while you’re guiding, teaching, counseling … or trying to love? We’re going to work with these things, in part, by jumping into the cauldron with our own projections on each other (don’t worry – no one will be required to jump into the hot seat!).

Furthermore, we’re going to do some SHADOW WORK. How can you live a conscious existence these days without knowing we’re all regularly conjuring up all kinds of monsters from the deep? We go off in search of soul with the desire to contribute to the Great Turning as visionary agents of change, and before we know it, we have inadvertently opened the long black bag we drag behind us, and all these demons (and greatest powers that we don’t know how to wield) are climbing out. We know, however, that so much of our wholeness is hidden in that bag. In fact some of our greatest powers may lie within, hidden and mis-labeled as dangerous. We’ll work with strategies for spotting, unmasking, and assimilating these dark mysterious shapes.

We each have a whole host of protectors (“sub-personaltities”) doing their best to keep us safe and to maintain the persona we’ve worked so hard to create. This work can put them on alert. We will explore ways to assess if these protectors are truly needed or if we have the inner resources to explore both wound and shadow. This work will likely demand that we have to break some old promises and change the nature of our alliance with our subpersonalities. This can feel challenging and risky.

In short, we’re going to have to enter the initiatory realm of Sweet Darkness. This work can be both enlivening and challenging. If you are in a place in your life where you cannot welcome challenge, we recommend that you wait to participate in Sweet Darkness.  A great deal of liberation and deepening can occur during this intensive as we re-story some of our wounds and liabilities into capacities and powers.

REMINDER: Sweet Darkness is offered as a 6-day program, rather than our typical 5-day offering.

With Animas valley guides Bill Plotkin and Laura Gunion

Costs sliding scale (It is an costly process to fly these highly experienced guides from the US to New Zealand, this will probably be Bills one and only visit to this land)

$1,425.00 to $1,725.00 – Sliding Scale Price: you are free to select any price within this range

$1,725.00 – High End Program Price: choosing the high end amount contributes to the full cost of the program and allows us to offer a sliding scale option

This is will be a fully catered camping intensive, participants will be camping in an wilderness area near Kahuranghi National Park. This is not taking place at a retreat centre.

About Bill Plotkin


Bill Plotkin, Ph.D., is a depth psychologist, wilderness guide, and agent of cultural evolution. As founder of western Colorado’s Animas Valley Institute in 1981, he has guided thousands of women and men through nature-based initiatory passages, including a contemporary, Western adaptation of the pan-cultural vision fast. Previously, he has been a research psychologist (studying non-ordinary states of consciousness), professor of psychology, psychotherapist, rock musician, and whitewater river guide. In 1979, on a solo winter ascent of an Adirondack peak, Bill experienced a call to adventure, leading him to abandon academia in search of his true calling.


Bill is the author of Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche (an experiential guidebook), Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World (a nature-based stage model of human development through the entire lifespan), Wild Mind: A Field Guide to the Human Psyche (an ecocentric map of the psyche — for healing, growing whole, and cultural transformation), and The Journey of Soul Initiation: A Field Guide for Visionaries, Evolutionaries, and Revolutionaries (an experiential guidebook for the descent to soul). He has a doctorate in psychology from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Apply to join Sweet Darkness with Bill Plotkin in November

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