A new device is taking the mind places that were previously only accessed with traditional practices. Will you follow?
Meditation has been practised for thousands of years and using a variety of techniques. For many, this is a way to shut out the world around us, look into ourselves and find new energies for everyday life. When I think about meditation, I typically imagine a slender Buddhist monk, sitting atop a mist-surrounded hillside, somewhere in the Himalayas, far away from the hectic, technology-based civilisations of the western world.
Enter PandoraStar, and at first it turns my image upside down. We are in a new and highly digital era that influences every bit of society and where new techniques are used for anything f¬¬¬rom babysitting to gardening. So why should there be an exception when it comes to meditation?
PandoraStar is a powerful, deep-trance device that uses flickering light to guide your brain to experience a range of beneficial states of brainwave activity for a number of empowering purposes. It is a highly programmable stroboscopic device that allows its users to reach altered states of consciousness through a process called brainwave entrainment. This is a process whereby our brains are attracted to a repetitive signal that it will latch onto and follow.
During a PandoraStar session, users sit in front of or lie under the device, with their eyes closed. It’s preprogrammed with about 15 sessions that are designed to offer a variety of experiences to the user, although there are more than 60 other sessions available. Some of these have been produced by PandoraStar but others have been created by practitioners and shared in the private community forum on the company’s website. The device is also programmed with a bespoke software, allowing experienced users to create their own sessions.
PandoraStar was launched in April 2015 at the Mind Body Spirit Wellbeing Festival in London. According to creator and cofounder Jimi Simpson, it has been received extraordinarily well into many practices. Simpson was inspired to develop PandoraStar after a trial session with a similar device, Lucia No3. He had already been thinking about creating a machine that would allow him to reach altered states of consciousness, associated with two of his personal interests: out-of-body exploration (OBE) and lucid dreaming.
Simpson explains that, for him, meditation is an opportunity to look deep inside for guidance on thoughts and inspiration on future developments. Sometimes he also practices it just to obtain stillness of mind and to recoup energies. “I would say that it is one of the most powerful opportunities we have as humans,” he says.
PandoraStar often becomes quite an attraction at shows and events, where it is typically used to offer individuals the opportunity to explore their own innate ability to create beautiful, internally generated artwork that remains a lasting experience in the mind. This is achieved by a four-minute preprogrammed session that takes the user into a relaxing brainwave state and then adjusts various parameters to generate highly visual internal artworks: dramatic, kaleidoscopic, hallucinogenic, spiral-swirling mandala-like patterns of vibrant colour and form.
Brainwave entrainment as such is not a new concept. It has been approached in various ways throughout the centuries, including via audio technologies, such as binaural beats and isochronic tones, as well as other light technologies, such as illuminated glasses and eye masks, and electromagnetic means. In fact, PandoraStar could more or less be considered a 21st-century stroboscope, which utilises an illumination method that has been around for more than 200 years – a method that could be generated by little more than waving your hands in front of your closed eyes in bright sunlight. With the PandoraStar device, however, the experience is taken to another level, allowing users of various levels of experience to journey into endless variations of deep and transformed states of consciousness.
“Today, with increased knowledge and use of light therapy, the aspiration for technologies like PandoraStar is to gain ground in many professional areas,” says Simpson. Although PandoraStar does not officially claim to treat any conditions or illnesses, the device is suggested for activities and issues such as stress and depression management, sleep improvement, cognitive enhancement, remote viewing and self-hypnosis. At present, it is used privately and commercially by brainwave-entrainment enthusiasts, biofeedback technicians, consciousness researchers, personal-development trainers, holistic and metaphysical practitioners, spiritual retreats, floatation-tank centres and health spas. And, of course, by curious explorers like you and me.
As meditation takes its first steps into the digital age, Simpson points out that PandoraStar is not to be considered a champion over conventional meditation practices. Instead, it can complement and fit alongside traditional techniques. For instance it can assist the user to get into a suitable state of consciousness and awareness for the activity they are about to practice. “The ancient, non-digital methods undoubtedly pervade,” says Simpson. “But considering that meditative practice is about altered states of consciousness and awareness, I think that technology that can directly elicit this effect rightfully has a place.”
There will probably always be mixed views on the use of electronic devices for meditation purposes. While there is no need to question the lifelong practice and conventional ability of traditional practitioners, perhaps, as the majority of us are increasingly accepting new, progressive technologies in our lives, there is room for both.
In order to be able to introduce PandoraStar to a broader audience, the company recently launched PandoraSpa in London – a futuristic “mind spa” dedicated to the exploration of consciousness and human potential. The spa has a resident hypnotherapist and a spiritual healer, among other therapists, and will routinely host individual and group sessions using PandoraStar.
The more I talk to Simpson about PandoraStar and its possibilities, the more inquiring I get. As I was never good with meditation anyway, perhaps a session in the spa would be my way of testing the water of what seems to be an infinite world of unexplored energies.
Words by Johanna Bergström
Photography by Darren Ellis