“Do you want to do something out of this world?” Gordana asks. The four of you- Gordana, her fiance Luke and Taylor- are searching for a geocache in one of Chiang Mai’s well-tended parks. “It’s not drugs. It’s similar, but you don’t take anything and you still feel the effects.”
You’re interested, but suspicious, and respond with a wary, “How does that work?”
“This guy- who is actually called Guy- has a lightbox and he’s letting people try it out for free. You lie there with your eyes closed and he shines this white light onto your face and you get to see all these crazy patterns and colours. Luke and I did it, and it was like, insane.” She looks at you earnestly. “Do you want to try it?”
The next day you take the motorbikes to a yoga centre a few miles outside of the city. You arrive to find the owner in the back doing exercises in a pair of dark green briefs.
“Hey Guy, we can come back in a bit if you want,” Luke offers.
“Oh no, come on in, I’ll get you set up on the light and then finish up out here.”
You’re led into an airy, open plan room furnished with brass gongs and large Buddha statues. There’s a wide bed with a pair of headphones and what looks like an overhead projector at one end. After half a second’s hesitation you lie down as instructed, pull the headphones over your ears and close your eyes.
“Don’t let your mind wander. Try and stay in the moment.” Gordana says.
You focus on your breathing and the reddish glow of the capillaries in your eyelids. However, you have to pull yourself back into the moment several times as it would appear that you cannot go longer than fifty seconds without thinking about food or whether you remembered to email home or not.
The light begins to oscillate and you forget all about that chocolate pudding. Mandalas appear and disappear behind flashes of blue and yellow, and strings of footprints form neat lines across your vision. The light spreads and the patterns dissolve in a pool of orange light. For fifteen minutes you feel as though you are wrapped in the neon displays of Piccadilly Circus, only with fewer Coke adverts and more of the patterns like the ones painted onto the tiles at the harem of Topkapi Palace.
When you finish, Guy is holding stretches on a vibrating platform. You watch the sinews in his back ripple as he contorts into odd positions.
“How was it?” He asks at the end of his routine.
“Incredible,” you reply. The enormous effort required to not look at those green briefs is severely affecting your ability to articulate your thoughts. “I’m a bit lost for words actually.”
It is safe and is currently the subject of several academic studies including one at a university in Chiang Mai and another at an institute over in the states.. Guy can tell you more as I have forgotten the specifics.
The pulsing light stimulates a chemical in the eyes which causes your brain to ‘see’ these colours and patterns (and the colours and patterns are unique to each person). Guy can explain this phenomenon at much greater length, and he has a lot to say about the light and meditation in general.
Directions to this place can be found here. Turn up whenever you want, but going in the morning means you will (probably) get a longer session on the light.
Check it out, and say Lana from London says hello!