Light surrounds you. Sound caresses you. And knowing that it’s all coming from your mind makes you stare even deeper at the blissful abyss.
The artists who find residency at P3 Studio find ways to challenge, enlighten and examine the human condition. And the fact that they bring that depth to a major casino on the Las Vegas Strip makes their accomplishments even more endearing. In a city often known for excess and careless spending, P3 is a welcome haven of soul and spirit. And no residency exemplifies that dedication to expression more than “The Octave of Visible Light: A Meditation Nightclub” by Lia Chavez.
Before I attempt to explain the science behind the adventure, which Chavez accomplishes far better before each session, I’ll express a bit about my experience. Going in, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I knew from the press release that I would be fitted with an EEG headset that would read my brainwaves and then display light and sound to correspond with my readings. But that’s the dry description. And since I’m not a desert native, I’m not always satisfied with dry.
You may have noticed already that I’m breaking the usual mold for Vegas.com blogs. I’ve abandoned the first person plural (that’s using “we” instead of “I”) in favor of a more personal touch. The typical distance would not do justice to the experience of standing in a dark room and learning to dwell in your own thoughts through feedback.
One of the first things Chavez did was ask me to remove my left earring. A small sensor is attached to the earlobe to help facilitate the EEG readings. She used a wet wipe to put a little moisture between the headset and my forehead, and gently brushed my bangs out of the way. That was the moment I realized this would not be the sterile, clinical experience I had expected. The meditation was more important than the medical.
I suppose I should mention the sound. It’s noticeable at first, like a dull throbbing of a woofer that wants attention. But it fades quickly. Perhaps I’m more of a visual person than acoustic, but the light seemed to make the sound fade into the walls and become just another part of the space, easily accepted. But soon the two would combine to show me something spectacular.
As Chavez led me through a guided meditation, I followed her instructions and stared into the light emanating from the ceiling on the far wall. I’ve been through guided meditations before, so I knew to listen to her voice and let my own thoughts settle. But even if you’ve never attempted self meditation or guided, Chavez is so comforting and energetic that you’ll feel instantly at ease.
Staring at the light became a battle between my desire and my own instinct to blink. I wanted to be pulled upward into the shine but always had to stay at least somewhat grounded. Chavez had explained to me beforehand that the colors would rise from red to orange to yellow and through the visible spectrum as I achieved an increasingly centered and meditative mind. Eventually I would see all the colors like a rainbow spinning around me. Each color has a different sound associated with it, so the rapid changes from one color to the next, back again, jumping about the spectrum, red, orange, blue, light blue, purple, purple, purple, back to red, can seem a bit cacophonous. But once you remember that your mind is creating the patterns, the melody becomes more memorable.
Here’s where I’ll get a little more personal. These are details of my session, and as I saw when observing someone else’s from the adjacent room set up to act as a club space for friends and onlookers, they’re very unique to me. My colors tended to volley between amber and light blue. I remarked afterward that those are my two favorite colors of the ones presented, which seemed to delight everyone in the room – all three of us. I only achieved the rainbow a couple of times, and honestly, those moments seemed less significant for me than the blue. But once I stopped trying to control the colors, and even stopped trying to observe my surroundings intellectually and just be, I found the enveloping nature of the experience much more serene.
That’s the meditative aspect to the art. Though it uses technology, and though Chavez herself understands the neuroscience behind the technique, the interpersonal and deeply personal endeavor is the true canvas on which the painting is displayed.
It’s also possible for the connection to break. It happened earlier in my session, more so than later when I fell deeper into the blue. The sound and light default back to the dull hum and circling image that are running constantly when no one is attached. It’s mildly startling the instant it happens, though it doesn’t last long. And the fact that both times it happened for me I was thinking about my girlfriend was as surprising to me as it was to Chavez. But it shows how unique and expressive the art really is.
Don’t expect it to reveal secrets about your brain. That was probably my biggest mistake going in. If you’re looking for concrete answers about who you are, then a therapist is probably a better way to go – at least that’s what my therapist says. But to experience meditation and mindfulness with a level of feedback that’s tough to get from a yoga mat or new age music, “The Octave of Visible Light: A Meditation Nightclub” is where you need to be. The science is fascinating. The light and sound are beautiful. And the insight, however subconscious, is worth the trip.
“The Octave of Visible Light: A Meditation Nightclub” by Lia Chavez
Where: P3 Studio in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
When: Wednesdays – Sundays from 6 p.m. to midnight until Feb. 8.