An AVS (Audio Visual Stimulation) system, Light and Sound Relaxation system or a "Mind Machine" is a microprocessor controlled device designed to create relaxation or other mood changing effects through the use of sound and light stimulation. The user selects a session, puts on headphones and stimulation glasses, and sits back and enjoys the experience, which can be for relaxation, stimulation, meditation or just plain fun depending on the session.
Why do they work?
Perhaps better questions are: "Why do we enjoy music... why is a flickering flame hypnotic?" Light/Sound systems are the technological synthesis of centuries of exploration and a few years of neurological experiments. See "History". Light/Sound systems blank out the complex visual and auditory stimulation the mind is constantly receiving and replace it with very simple, rhythmic stimulation. The basic rhythms of the mental processes change in response. This is a safe and effective way to get your head in a different place. Meditators spend years learning how to gain voluntary control over these same rhythms. Think of it as the mental equivalent of stretching the muscles. The changed mental rhythms are temporary, when the session is over you will quickly get back into the mental state for everyday living (don't go out and drive a car immediately), but spending the time in the changed state can create a different outlook on the day, and the effects are cumulative as your learn what it feels like and can return more easily.
What are Light/Sound Sessions?
A modern light/sound synthesizer is a microprocessor controlled device designed to create stimulation with several controlled parameters: (frequency, volume, intensity, tone, pitch, phase, duty cycle) and various other features. A typical machine will have a number of built-in sessions that provide sequences of changing stimulation, designed by the session composer using the basic repertoire of machine features. Some machines are programmable, meaning the user can create his or her own sessions, and some can download sessions from a personal computer.
The quality of the built-in sessions is very important unless you plan to compose everything yourself. Creating sessions for a light/sound synthesizer is still an art form -- there is no known "best protocol" for a relaxation session (or any other kind of session), and session designers will argue hotly over the best approaches. Different people have different reactions to sessions, so using one of these machines is a bit of an exploratory journey. Research with light/sound systems and EEG measurements is progressing and the next few years will see exciting advances in our understanding. See the session lists for the Pro Systems and Muse# for an indication of the kinds of sessions that are available. The reason so many sessions are available is the same reason a jukebox has so many songs -- it's not that anyone needs all those sessions, but hopefully something is there for everyone.
How do I use a light and sound system?
To use a light/sound system, close your eyes, put the headphones and glasses on, listen to the pulsating sound, and watch the flickering lights through your eyelids. The sound pulsates either because it is turned on and off (like striking a note on the piano repeatedly) or because of beats or binaural beats. The flickering lights, seen through closed eyelids, create moving, colored, dynamic patterns (visuals) that will amaze you the first time you experience them. You can move your eyes and change the effect, you can concentrate on the patterns and change what they seem to be doing. Some people report seeing visions in the patterns as the imagination is inspired to work. The stimulation takes over your two main sensory inputs, and not surprisingly has an effect on your mental state. Music has been doing this for centuries, without the assist from coordinated flickering lights.
A beginning user should experience a session regularly (every day or close to that) for the first few weeks. Don't overdo it -- an hour a day is a lot. Intermittent use is not effective until you have learned how to respond to the stimulation. Light and sound systems are safe for most people, but can cause problems for a small fraction of the population -- see Cautions in Manual at the Inn.
Light/sound systems are used as tools by many professional therapists. They can be used safely by untrained persons for relaxation, learning enhancement, meditation tools, and many other purposes, but not for relief from any medical condition. If you are seeking help for a medical condition, please see a trained professional. You may want to look for a therapist who uses light sound in his/her practice, but "don't try it yourself -- those people are professionals"
Why do sessions work differently for different people?
Light and sound sessions do not mechanically grab your brain and change it's rhythms. They are subtle suggestions and different people will react in different ways. It is similar to music, a variety of people can have dramatically different reactions to the same piece of music. Manufacturers of juke boxes put in a lot of music, hoping they end up with something for everyone. For similar reasons, we provide a lot of sessions -- no one person will like or use them all, but we hope to have enough variety that there is something for everyone.
Also, there is a bit of a trick to letting yourself go. The effect is subtle -- if you are thinking "this machine is not going to take over my brain," then you will win (or lose, in the sense that you will not get the effect). At the other extreme, the approach of "I don't think I'm feeling anything, I've got to find the effect -- got to, got to" works about as well as lying in bed thinking intensely "important meeting tomorrow, I've got to get to sleep." Some people are good at letting go, for others it is more difficult and takes practice. The trick in some sense is relaxing and going with the flow, but no one can tell you how to do it, and it doesn't help to try hard.
Our recommendation is to try different sessions. Don't stick with one that doesn't seem to work -- once you get convinced that it doesn't work, then it absolutely can't work. Try some meditation sessions, not trying to get to sleep, just going for the "letting go" practice.
Fee: $30 rental/night