Downtown Wellness Center Bridges Gap Between Psychedelics and Meditation

The Center Has Partnered With Local Agencies and Gave Free Sessions to Around 500 Veterans in Two Years

By Zach Armstrong

The solution isn’t OUT there. It’s IN there… Somewhere deep within yourself. 

In the field of alternative therapies, there is an emerging interest in psychedelics and deep meditation. However, those practices have their own limitations. Even the most fundamental forms of meditation require patience on top of long-term periods of practice in order to hone the skill. And while LSD, psilocybin, DMT and other psychoactive drugs offer an eye-opening journey (your third eye that is), users may be vulnerable to negative episodes and loss of control to exit the trip when they want. 

Reality Center, a Santa Monica-based startup bridges these gaps with what the founders term, “digital psychedelics.” Located at 1428 2nd Street, Reality Center has the calming feel of a therapist’s office, quietly removed from the bustle of the Promenade, just outside.

At one end of the treatment chamber, a relaxing space reminiscent of a massage area within a recording studio, enhanced with lysergic decor, clients meet the one who synchronizes all of the elements of a treatment, a ’Reality Manager’ who directs the session from behind a set up of controls. This person takes on the dual role of therapist and DJ. Based on co-founder Don Estes’ theory of ‘Sensory Resonance,’ which posits that the autonomic nervous system can be reset by harmonizing its various senses, the reality manager mixes the sound and visuals of the technology just right for the client to enter a near-meditative state. 

During 30 minute to hour-long sessions, a client lies on a wave table, which is basically a massage table-size waterbed filled with minerals which regulate the vibrating impedance of two 15-inch transducers (akin to subwoofers) embedded at the base. A pair of noise-canceling headphones are placed over the client’s ears, an additional small transducer (in the form of a stuffed animal dolphin) is placed over the heart and two LED visor lights are placed over the eyes. All of these elements are synchronized to the same frequency, manifesting a psychedelic-style journey for the client, while he or she closes their eyes, exuding no effort for the experience to come.

I underwent a one-hour session. I can’t recount every single emotion or interpretation I felt. But what I envisioned was a non-stop exhibition of ornate patterns featuring every shape with every shade of every color; rapidly morphing and spiraling before my eyes. At one point, it appeared as though I was propelled down a tunnel walled in colorful symmetries. At another, I hovered above what seemed like a planet surrounded by a billion specks of dust. For whatever reason, I interpreted these specks as the individual souls of every breathing organism of the universe. That we are all one, together, connected in complex ways.

But no two clients have the same experience. Often, their emotional reactions, and resulting shifts in mentality, correspond to their particular trauma or stress. For example, if a client has difficulty connecting with others, they may no longer feel that struggle after a session. These experiences often trigger tears of relief, said Reality Center Co-Founder Jonathan Chia.

A combat infantry veteran of the Iraq War, Chia founded Reality Center two years ago alongside partners Tarun Raj, Don Estes and Benji Tucker. After obtaining a degree in digital photography, he enjoyed a career photographing and directing multimedia content for some of the world’s biggest brands, celebrities, thought leaders and politicians. Like many veterans, he initially turned to drugs and alcohol as a path to self-medication. His business partner, Raj, introduced him to a better way of alleviating pain: Reiki; an energy healing technique using soft hand motions. Concurrently, he was documenting and working with nonprofits that provide experiences like – hiking with psychedelics, golf with meditation and various equestrian programs. He saw how those organizations integrated mindfulness practices that fast tracked his own well-being and did the same for entire communities. Eight years later, he made the entrepreneurial move to foster more of that healing with Reality Center. 

While the center is available to the general public for a fee, it has played somewhat of a charitable role within the community. Since undergoing her own session, Dr. Gina Gallivan, Lead Clinical Psychologist for over 60 local agencies, has partnered with the center to refer clients (police, first responders, firemen, etc). According to Chia, 500 veterans in the last two years have been provided free sessions through partnerships with organizations like Disabled American Veterans, the American Legion and Veteran Care Group.

One segment of clientele which Reality Center has seen results from are those suffering the loss of a loved one, hoping to connect with them on the other side, but never feeling their presence or energy. Chia says one client, the widow of a police officer, couldn’t sleep since her partner was killed in the line of duty. When her session finished, she felt rejuvenated but didn’t feel she could connect with her husband. The next morning, however, she texted Chia ebullient news: Not only had she slept through the entire night, she dreamt. Not only did she dream, she dreamt of her husband. In her dream, she explained, he looked happy and told her, “I love you.”

“All of the work we have done in the Veteran community has enabled us to reach the front door of other communities like police, firefighters, first responders, doctors and clinicians,” said Chia. 

Future plans include selling individual devices for customers to replicate the experience within the comfort of their home. An annual subscription for an App, along with purchases of goggles and transducers (controlled by the App), may be offered as soon as Winter of 2025. An expansion of Reality Centers is also anticipated soon across major U.S. cities.

in Hard, News
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