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Connect with yourself

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Sensory deprivation float therapy and Lucia lights promise a unique way to cope with physical and mental stress. A sceptical Menka Shivdasani tries them out

Tucked away in a quiet lane called Alfred Creado Road in Juhu, is an unexpected oasis of calm. Is it a spa? A meditation centre? A healthcare facility? What does its name, 1000 Petals, even mean? ‘Evolve, Ascend, Elevate’ is their tagline, and as you rush around your busy life, constantly checking your phone, hurtling into trains at peak hours and spinning from one meeting to the next, you might think—what a lot of mumbo-jumbo!

There are times, however, when you need to get away from it all; switch the world off and get in touch with your inner self. For many of us, that’s the hardest thing to do, because who knows what is lying within our deepest sub-conscious, ready to burst into flame in the form of stress, and a host of physical and emotional illnesses?

Amitabh Swetta, an ‘international meditation facilitator’ and the founder of 1000 Petals, has some answers. Along with co-founder Vartika Gupta, he promises to take you on a journey of ‘meditation and relaxation’, but with a difference, through science and spirituality—sensory deprivation floatation therapy and Lucia Light. Isn’t sensory deprivation used as an instrument of torture? “That’s only if we lock you up!” Amitabh responds.

THE FLOAT TANK

In Bengaluru, where they’ve been running a centre for more than two years, floatation therapy involves getting into an enclosed pod and disappearing in the dark beneath the lid for a minimum of one hour. Amitabh says that he has clients who find it so relaxing, they even stay in the tank the whole night.

In Mumbai, at the centre that opened on Dusshera, you are in a private room, equipped with a shower. The tank is like a large bathtub, with water heated to the exact temperature of the body. It contains about 800 kilos of Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate), which is a known stress and pain reliever.

I shower, put on the earplugs provided, and get into the tank gingerly; though it’s only 10 inches of water, I find myself floundering around in a panic. “Just let go,” Vartika has told me. “Let the thoughts come and go, don’t feed into them. And if you feel pain, don’t think about that either, because it is leaving your body.”

Of course, I don’t let go; as someone who must always be in control, it is physically impossible. I’m also, irrationally, terrified of drowning, so I desperately struggle to get my arms and feet to touch the sides. Then I switch off the light on the side of the tank, and suddenly, it’s pitch dark. There is also no sound at all. “When the lights come on, it means your session has ended,” Vartika has said. I’m wondering how I’m going to do this for a whole hour, just lying flat in water, forgetting that there are meetings to go to and deadlines to manage.

Then, in what seems like ten minutes though an hour has passed, the lights assault my eyes. I’m astonished to find that I’m no longer length-wise in the tank; I’m across—and that’s why my legs are touching the side. “That means at some point you managed to let go,” says Vartika.

THE LUCIA LIGHT

Next, it’s time for the Lucia N3 Light. This is the exact opposite of the sensory deprivation of the float tank; it offers direct stimulation to your pineal gland (sometimes known as the third eye), taking you to a state of hypnagogia—that dreamy sensation you experience just before you fall asleep or wake up—and then stimulating you beyond belief.

As always, I am sceptical when Amitabh and Vartika explain the dynamics, though I settle into the recliner and wait to see what will happen. Vartika, who is sitting by a laptop, gives me headphones to listen to music, and says I must keep my eyes closed as she directs a white light at my forehead.

Suddenly, the space within my head goes crazy. There’s an explosion of red, then blue, then green, purple, yellow and pink and black, the colours merging and separating, dancing and singing, kaleidoscopic patterns rushing through; a rainbow; a discotheque; a galaxy in my brain; then suddenly, for one second, an eye gazing calmly at me. It’s a revelation that there are so many colours, so many patterns and so many ways in which they can all come together!

“I’ve done this 600 times,” Amitabh smiles later, “and each time the experience is different”. Then he tells me that once, the researchers

Dr. Engelbert Winkler and Dr. Dirk Proeckl took the Lucia light to Tibet and some 200 monks tried it; they emerged laughing and said, ‘We spend years trying to get into deep meditation, and you have taken us there in half an hour!’. He also says the experience can unleash creativity and help with writers’ block. When he tells me that it is through this deep meditative state that mandalas are made, I’m not surprised; these are exactly the sort of patterns I had seen. Some say it’s like being on a drug ‘trip’, and that sounds true as well, though, of course, no drugs are involved. Vartika explains that there are 250+ programmes—states include hypnosis, healing, dimensions, Kabbalah, planets, numbers, and near death experiences.

The centre has one more attraction, the Bio-Well, which analyses the state of a person’s energy field through Gas Discharge Visualisation. Amitabh tells me that after doing this on someone, they advised her to immediately see a gynaecologist. The doctor initially found nothing wrong—but later discovered a cyst.

So how much does all this cost? There are various packages; a 60-minute Lucia Light session costs `2,500; the Sensory Deprivation Tank is `2950 for an hour; a combined session of half an hour light therapy plus 60 minutes in the floatation tank is  `4,000 (all inclusive of taxes). There are other options, plus group packages.

Amitabh says there are plans to introduce more centres—maybe Chembur if they find the right space. I’m surprised to find myself thinking that if they do this, I might end up being a regular customer. So much for the scepticism with which I had walked into the centre. I’m hooked!     

Science and spirituality

Floatation Therapy

In the 1950s, Dr. John C. Lilly, studied the effects of no gravity, and as a result of this, the effects of sensory deprivation tanks were discovered. Experts say that nearly 3000 research papers have found that float therapy or R.E.S.T. (Restrictive Environmental Stimulation Technique) can help treat stress and anxiety-related conditions. Creating an environment similar to the Dead Sea, but without the sensation of temperature or movement, it takes you to a ‘weightless’ state in the water.

Lucia NO.03 Hypnagogic Light Machine

The Lucia N°03 is described as a machine that provides a deep limbic system relaxation while simultaneously encouraging a unique transcendental journeying experience.

Dr. Engelbert Winkler, a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, had a transformative near-death experience (NDE) at the age of seven; this led him to research NDE phenomena. He has worked with Dr Dirk Proeckl, a neurologist and psychologist, to create this technology and decalcify the pineal gland, which in most adults is affected by caffeine, alcohol, sugar, pesticides, and tobacco.

Biowell: bio energy analysis

With Gas Discharge Visualisation, Bio-Well illustrates the state of a person’s energy field. When a scan is taken, a high intensity electrical field stimulates emission of photons and electrons from human skin; imaging technology captures photon emissions. The images are then mapped to different organs and systems of the body, tapping into Chinese energy meridians. This concept was first proposed by Dr. Reinhold Voll in Germany, later developed by Dr. Peter Mandel, and then clinically verified and corrected through 18 years of clinical research by a team led by

Dr. Konstantin Korotkov in St. Petersburg Russia.

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