Interview with Dante Wilhelm Sandberg

by Frida-Hedvig Roth Sandberg

Two years ago Dante Sandberg, my brother who works as an actor, and now lives in the south of Sweden, went on a journey by himself in Asia. He was away for months. After a couple of months of traveling, he decided to go to Bali and meditate for eleven days straight, and finally I got the time to ask him about this.

Frida: You visited a meditation camp in Indonesia a few years back, isn’t that right?

Dante: Yes, I did. Although I would call it more of a course. Silent retreat, they called it.

Frida: Alright, then. Were did this retreat take place?

Dante: It was based in Bali, Indonesia. Indonesia is a Muslim country, except for the city of Bali which is hindu.

Frida: How long were you there for?

Dante: The retreat lasted for eleven days and I stayed the whole time. But only nine of those days were completely silent, without permission to talk to anyone. A lot of people left after three days because it was too tiresome. By the end of the camp I don’t think there could have been more than 25% of the people from the beginning of the week left.

Frida: Tell us a little about the concept of meditation.

Dante: Well. As the leaders of the camp told us, when you try to ignore the things you’re feeling they don’t go away; instead they add up inside you. And when you meditate, you try to tear those layers down one by one by turning to yourself and restraining your access to material things and affections. Some things are as easy as sand castles to tear down, while others take forever to get rid of. But to put it simply, the purpose of meditation is to work with these old, tucked-away feelings to become as spiritually “clean” as possible.

Frida: How did you get to hear about this course and why did you decide to go?

Dante: I was familiar with the concept of silent retreats, but I never really thought seriously about going. Then i decided to go to Asia by myself for six months. I didn’t have any plans on what to do in Asia as I left Sweden, and I definately didn’t have any plans on visiting a silent retreat. But then I met this guy in India, who participated at the Bali-based retreat just a month earlier, and as he told me about it I decided to go. It felt like I had to, and so I did.

Frida: Describe your first day at the retreat.

Dante: All of the participants arrived to the destination together by bus. After we arrived we had half a day when we were allowed to talk to eachother. Then men and women were seperated, and we moved into the baracks which was going to be our homes for the following nine days. They also frisked all of our bagage to make sure no one had brought anything that was not allowed.

Frida: What was it that wasn’t allowed, for example?

Dante: Well, the ordinary things such as weapons, drugs, etc. But also everything that could disturb your focus such as technical devices, books, pen and paper. At first I thought it was weird that they didn’t want us to write by hand, but I had it explained to me that the retreat was designed to help you focus on being yourself, inside yourself, in the moment. Basically, the only things allowed were clothes and a toothbrush. It was supposed to be very primitive.

Frida: Living under absolute silence for nine days seems very surrealistic. Especially since there were so many people around.

Dante: It was. We meditated a majority of the time, but in between we had small breaks when we could eat or drink or go for a walk within the borders of the retreat. But we were’t allowed to talk to anyone, not even to look at anyone. As you probably understand, though, not looking at anyone of the other participants was close to impossible. As I was watching the others I started to make up stories about their lives in my head, so at the end of the retreat I felt like I knew everyone even though I didn’t have a clue. So you are right; it was very surrealistic.

Frida: How do you feel about the experience today, two years later?

Dante: I still think it’s too early to say how it affected me as a person, but I do know it did. While there, I had nothing at all; no one to talk to, nothing to entertain myself with, no one to touch. I literally only had me and nothing else. And I hated it. And that made me think, if it feels that terrible to have nothing but myself, then that must mean I’m not very fun, and I must have a lot of things inside me that I never dealt with, that come up when I let them. And so I realized that I have to feel sad sometimes, or else I will bury everything within me. So ever since then, I feel glad to feel bad, because I know it is needed. I appreciate all sorts of feelings in a way I did not before this experience.

Frida: Do you have anything you would like to add?

Dante: Enjoy every feeling that comes to you. Feel it to the fullest. It is all part of the whole, part of you, and ignoring it won’t make it go away. I’m not saying you have to go to Bali and live under absolute silence for nine days, but take a moment every now and then to just sit down by yourself. Embrace whatever feeling that is there and learn to not run away from yourself. After two years I am still working on it, and I will continue to do so for the rest of my life.

Dante Roth Sandberg