Aaron Rodgers news: What is an isolation retreat? | Opinion

Aaron Rodgers news: What is an isolation retreat? | Opinion

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers warms up before the start of a game, Jan. 8, 2023.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers warms up before the start of a game against the Detroit Lions Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, in Green Bay, Wis.

Morry Gash, Associated Press

Perhaps I would have taken the news better if I had gotten more sleep.

But, alas, my 2-year-old son is struggling to adjust to his new big boy bed, which means I’m struggling to sleep past 4 in the morning and struggling to read about the antics of the NFL’s most famous spiritual-but-not-religious quarterback without rolling my eyes.

I’m writing, of course, about Aaron Rodgers, star quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, the franchise I pledged my allegiance to as part of my wedding vows.

Rodgers, like Tom Brady before him, has a big decision to make. Sometime in the near future, the 39-year-old must decide whether to commit to the Packers for another season, request a trade or hang up his cleats and call it a career.


I haven’t yet figured out what I want him to do. But I learned Tuesday that one choice I’d deeply resent is a choice to avoid the decision by spending multiple days in a completely dark room.

Yes, you read that correctly. Rodgers will soon be embarking on a “darkness retreat.”

It’s “four nights (and four days) of complete darkness. ... I felt like it’d be awesome to do,” he said about his plan during Tuesday’s episode of “The Pat McAfee Show.”

Rodgers went on to explain that the darkness retreat, which he also referred to as an isolation retreat, has been on his calendar for “months and months and months,” noting that he’s had many friends tell him about the “profound experiences” they had during their own time in the dark.

The long period of sensory deprivation can lead to hallucinations, which is one reason why “you’re not locked in” and can leave if it gets to be too much, he said.

Rodgers’ excitement about his upcoming retreat called to mind his past comments about using ayahuasca, a psychoactive drink that’s long been part of some spiritual practices and that’s increasingly studied by mental health researchers. The plant is not yet approved for medical use in the United States.

Last summer, the quarterback credited ayahuasca for helping him prepare for his two recent MVP-winning seasons, as I previously reported.

“To me, one of the core tenets of your mental health is that self-love. That’s what ayahuasca did for me, was help me see how to unconditionally love myself,” he said at the time.

Then, as now, I was impressed by Rodgers’ willingness to so openly march to the beat of his own drum. But I don’t at all buy that the dark room he’s likely paying tens of thousands of dollars to access actually holds the answers to the questions we’ve been asking since the Packers concluded their 2022 season with an underwhelming performance against the Detroit Lions.

Instead, Rodgers’ retreat feels like a carefully planned piece of performance art, an act undertaken by a man who knows he has the power to keep the Packers’ offseason plans on hold for as long as he wants. A man happy to wield that power against the coaches and executives who’ve dared to go against his wishes sometimes.

What I’ve learned in my own darkness retreats, which are also known as the minutes and hours I spend in a dark room with an angry, sleepy toddler, is that you don’t figure out what to do by pulling away from the people who know and love you best. You figure out what to do by noticing how you feel in the midst of the chaos, when your kid is crying and your husband is asking whether you undercooked the rice.

Rodgers doesn’t need an isolation retreat to make a decision about the future. He needs to remember how it felt to walk off the field after that loss to the Lions and to remember whether his mind and body were saying, “Enough.”

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