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Twenty minutes into my first Light Club experience, I didn’t want it to end. Tucked under a weighted blanket and lying on a vibrational board, I was wearing headphones and listening to ambient music. My eyes were closed, yet I was seeing colors, bright and ever-changing, sometimes in waves and occasionally in drops, forming in and out of geometric patterns. The stressors of my life—relationships, work, my back pain—were still there, but less acute, somehow more manageable. I felt like I was under the influence of psychedelic drugs, but I wasn’t. I was simply lying under a light.
The psychedelic experience is nothing new: Cultures around the world have long embraced plants—from psilocybin mushrooms and ayahuasca to mescaline and soma—in order to achieve altered states of consciousness. Entheogens, the preferred term for those types of plant-based drugs, comes from the Greek for “the divine within,” but these substances are also simply known as plant medicine.
In recent years, entheogens have gone mainstream. In November, Denver decriminalized the use and possession of psilocybin, and more scientific research has pointed to certain mental health benefits of using psychedelics. Less talked about are the studies showing that certain forms of meditation, breath work, chanting, and fasting can achieve similar ends, albeit with more work. In our nonstop culture, psychedelic experiences are appealing because they offer the possibility of a short mental break, or at the extreme, a clean break from depression or addiction.
At Light Club in Boulder, anyone can have a psychedelic experience, no drugs required. Billed as a “relaxation club,” the healing center operates out of a nondescript building off Valmont Road. In addition to two private rooms reserved for body work, Light Club houses two Lucia No°03 devices—hypnagogic light machines that use wide-spectrum lights to induce the space between wakefulness and sleep, a state often associated with lucid dreaming, visions, and deep relaxation. In fact, flickering light, such as that emitted from the Lucia, has been found to include similar states of awareness as psilocybin.
Charles Hyde, owner of Light Club, heard about the device while eavesdropping on a conversation between Allison Pelissier and Zachary Noel, the only licensed distributors of Lucia stateside, at the original Shine Restaurant & Potion Bar in Boulder. A child of the ’90s and early aughts, Hyde was into car audio systems, fascinated by the high levels of vibration that came through his car and how good it felt. In 2008, after years conducting body, fascia, and pain work as a licensed professional, he demoed a vibrational body board from So Sound Solutions in Louisville, which resulted in his first out-of-body experience. When Hyde was introduced to the Lucia, he decided to combine the two devices to create a new type of healing experience.
According to Hyde, a Light Club session allows the nervous system to relax while awakening the psychedelic mind. “We’ve forgotten how to relax, in a way, and what that does to our nervous system is it informs our ability to heal and grow as a human being,” says Hyde. “[The Light Club experience] is immersive and it circumvents the trappings of the mind, of which there are many.”
Even if you’ve hallucinated before, it’s hard to know what to expect from time spent under one of the Light Club’s Lucia No°03 devices. After signing the requisite waver, up to eight participants are directed to lie down on a comfortable, bed-like board. A body pillow goes underneath the legs, and a blanket, weighted with glass beads, goes on top. Hyde adjusts practitioners so that everyone is within optimal range of the light, before asking them to don headphones and close their eyes (he often tells people to watch the backs of their eyelids like a movie screen).
What follows is different for everyone. Hyde plays music throughout, but it’s never too melodic, nothing with a constant rhythm or motif. His diverse customer base includes many psychonauts, but also folks coping with any range of issues. “Surprisingly, I get a lot of people who have a lot of anxiety, anywhere from low to moderate levels of anxiety,” says Hyde. “We get people in here who are close to death, or approaching death, end-of-life stuff.”
Hyde estimates that about 10 percent of people cry (yours truly among them), adding that in most cases, traditional therapy is a great compliment to the light therapy. Answers, clarity, the word of God—all of these are things Lucia sessions, as well as psychedelic experiences, have been purported to deliver.
“Some people live with an emotional block—like they’ve been unable to forgive somebody or something in their life,” he says. “There’s a moment where they stop externalizing and blaming, or narrating about the process and it’s like boom, they’ll soften and they’ll drop. They’ll realize that there’s all this buildup and then it just comes out.”
Some folks may spend the following two days in a funk, lethargic, moody, and processing, while others leave invigorated and ready to take on the world. By my third time under the light, my longest yet, I wanted to go further, to disassociate and hallucinate more, to bump against the sacred—Hyde assured me that the so-called Hero’s Dose, a 90-minute session available to regulars, would likely deliver. There are also people who aren’t affected at all, and some still who might experience being shot out of a cannon, far into the outer reaches of space. A common adage with entheogens is that “the medicine gives you what you need,” and time with the Lucia No°03 is no different.
“My job is not to impress anything on anybody,” says Hyde. “It’s to facilitate people coming in and exploring what happens when they relax and hit higher energy states. A higher state of awareness.”
Try it: Private sessions with the Lucia No°03 are available by appointment only, $87 for the first session (60 minutes) and $108 for following sessions. Small private groups (up to eight per session) are also available by appointment, $44 per 60 minutes or $66 per 90 minutes.