While in Maui, I decided to see what kinds of experiences were being offered by enterprising local people on Airbnb. I scrolled past your typical seaside activities—surf lessons, sunset yoga, and a beach photoshoot for that "best life" Instagram shot—until my eyes landed on "DMT light experience." I was vaguely familiar with DMT (or N, N-dimethyltryptamine) as the ingredient responsible for the psychedelic trips common with the medicinal plant Ayahuasca. But having mostly sworn off chemical routes to enlightenment, I had shelved the idea of an Ayahuasca ceremony despite ongoing curiosity about what it might be like. So when I saw that there was a way to stimulate a similar experience using just pulsating light, I signed up immediately.
The light experience was marketed as a form of meditation where one would feel deep states of relaxation and wellbeing, as well as potentially expanded states of consciousness. The lights, especially when paired with healing sound frequencies, are designed to make it easier to calm and clear the mind and tap into inner guidance. Other benefits reported from the light meditations include:
- stress and anxiety reduction,
- greater mental acuity and short-term memory improvement,
- increased sensations of happiness,
- improved creativity and imagination,
- sleep improvement, and
- profound spiritual experiences.
There are even some initial studies suggesting light therapy can prevent and potentially stop alzheimers and dementia. The light frequencies can help correct for the misalignments in neuron firing characteristic of alzheimers, improve oxygenation in the cells, and trigger cellular healing. While initial research is directed at these cognitive diseases, light therapy, also referred to as photobiomodulation, could have far more applications as a healing modality for physical and psychological maladies.
These benefits come with and through an incredible visual experience that is perhaps best described as like being inside a high speed kaleidoscope or a fractal program on your computer. It's like what I think a lot of people who haven't done LSD imagine an acid trip is like, except it isn't really. At least not at the doses that would keep you sane. The video below is not far off from what I experienced.
Flight attendant for the mind
Alysia Tengan is the owner of Light Alchemy HI in Makawao on Maui and a distributor for two lamp manufacturers, PandoraStar and Roxiva. Like many people, she paid a lot of money to learn how to meditate (cough*transcendental meditation*cough) only to find herself disappointed and unmotivated to maintain a disciplined practice. After a powerful experience with Ayahuasca in Peru, she began working with shamans and coordinating Ayahuasca ceremonies in Oahu. The Ayahuasca path led her to a couple in Australia who recommended working with the light. When she watched a YouTube video they sent, she felt the excitement in her body and intuitively knew this was something she wanted to explore. Unlike Ayahuasca, which is only accessible and appealing to a minority of people, she saw the lamp as a way to bring the benefits of deep trance meditations to many more people.
The star of the show is a 12 stroboscopic LED lamp that emits white light from the lamp head. These lights flicker at different frequencies and intensities, stimulating a response in the pineal gland (commonly referred to as your "third eye") and altering the brainwave state. The pea-sized pineal gland in the center of our brains was referred to by Rene Descartes as the “Seat of the Soul," serving as the bridge between our human bodies and the world of spirit or the divine. The pineal gland also regulates the body’s production of melatonin and serotonin, as well as its release of naturally-produced DMT.
According to the PandoraStar website, the electromagnetic activity in your brain naturally begins to follow the frequencies of the light, known as brain entrainment. This synchronization process brings the brain into lower brainwave states, like we transition through on the way to deep sleep. These lower brainwave states, particularly theta and delta are home to imagination, creative thinking, spiritual insights, and healing. This is why we feel good when we meditate. We move away from the more neurotic thoughts common in the beta state toward a dreamy and restorative contentment. It is also why the lamps are a welcome assistive tool for those who find it difficult to shut off their busy minds. The frequencies provide a map for the brain to follow. The PandoraStar, as well as the Roxiva, comes loaded with several different programs targeting specific benefits like cognitive enhancement, improved creativity, and deep relaxation.
Alysia's clients have called her a "flight attendant for the mind." She also likens it to assistive stretching for the brain. She starts each session by acclimating the meditator to the light and checking for sensitivities. To help set the mood and clear the energetic space, she spritzs the air with a series of Hawaii-made, crystal-infused intention sprays. After a final check-in to make sure the person is comfortable, she lets the program run, always nearby in case the person wants any adjustments.
Better (and safer) than drugs!
I immediately felt comfortable in Alysia's studio. She has a welcoming and nurturing air about her that really put me at ease. Not that I was worried about it, per se, but I really didn't know what to expect.
She guided me to lie down on a cushion under the lamp, fastened on a tripod. I put on the headphones, closed my eyes, and we got started. Admittedly, it was a bit startling at first, though I should note that my eyes have been mildly sensitive to light ever since laser eye surgery. But even with my eyes closed, the lights were bright, like lying on the beach with your eyes closed without sunglasses. My eyelids fluttered like crazy and I had a moment of anxiety. But Alysia played with the settings and I took some deep breaths and surrendered myself to the experience.
I'm really glad I didn't let those first intense moments scare me off. My eyes and brain quickly adjusted and I was filled with wonder at what I was seeing. As I breathed and did my own energetic tuning and balancing, I felt my brain slow down and open up to the experience. There were a few times toward the middle and end of the session when I seemed to dissolve into an awareness of myself as pure energy. It was like my body ceased to exist or be separate from the energetic field around me. It sounds cliche, but it was a sense of oneness with the universe. I didn't want it to end!
After the session, I felt light. Granted, going to get a plate of Mexican food after mitigated that a bit, but I was in a happy, harmonious, and optimistic place. I had a nice chat with people at the bar, had some new and useful thoughts during the drive home, and felt at peace with the world, not to mention having some wacky dreams. I largely received the benefits of taking a hallucinogenic, mind-altering drug without being so gacked out of my mind that I couldn't perform motor functions or tell the difference between what was real and not real. In this sense, the light meditation is more of an energetic experience than mental one, which is a good thing. No bad trips!
In the five years that Alysia has been offering light meditations, she has witnessed some incredible transformations. She told me of a young woman who was abducted and sex trafficked when she was 15. Thankfully, the woman was rescued from that experience but she was obviously deeply troubled by it, which rippled through her life. Her mother brought her to see Alysia and while under the light, she connected to buried traumatic memories extending back to two years old. This may sound terrible, but it was the key to healing for this young woman. While in that extended deep meditation, receiving healing light frequencies, she was able to start releasing the trauma, integrating the experience, and connecting with the divine support available to her. In short, she got her life back.
Alysia thinks of the light as a guaranteed reset button. Using it at least twice a week has helped her be more grounded and present and less reactive and agitated, especially when it comes to her kids. Recently, she has found that the light is helping her body acclimate to the intensity of her new Crossfit workout routine. Under the light, her muscles spasm, mimicking the restorative process that would normally happen when she is asleep. It makes sense. By leading the brain into lower brainwave states for longer periods than what is typical for most meditations, the body enters restoration and rejuvenation mode, disconnecting from the frenzy of the beta brainwave state. This is also what gave me a kind of out-of-body experience where I felt myself as so much more than my human vessel.
Everyone responds to the light differently. For some, it could simply be a safe and fun way to experiment with psychedelia. For others, like me, it is a tool that deepens and intensifies their meditation practice, bringing greater relaxation and clarity. Yet for others, it could be a catalyst for healing and personal growth. Or maybe it just gives you a headache. But you won't know unless you try! Based on my experience, you will be glad you did. Set a good intention and see what can happen when you welcome in the light!
Full disclosure: I went back three times and loved it so much I bought my own lamp, which I look forward to sharing with others. More to come on that!
The Free Bird Newsletter
Join the newsletter to receive the latest updates in your inbox.Subscribe