3 Unique Ways to Unplug in Jersey City
Last night, after a 10-hour drive home from North Carolina, all I wanted to do was sit on the couch and watch something mindless on Netflix, an easy enough resolution until you actually turn on the TV, and you’re faced with an endless matrix of CHOICES. After 15 minutes of running through the maze, I just turned the whole thing off and closed my eyes; nowadays, it’s one of the few ways I can actually unplug – a simple meditation on my breath. It’s a concept that gets thrown around often in our time – unplugging – mainly in relation to our phones & technology; however, technology is just one of the channels, albeit the foundation, for all the information that our brains aren’t evolutionarily apt to process. We as a society – especially our generation(s) that was raised to believe we can be/do anything – try to know everything, from the niches of our professions to the latest tv-shows/movies/sports/music/beers/gadgets/politics/news/on-and-on, because the alternative is to be uninformed… yikes. So we wade through the overload to consume what pertains and forms our interests, but there’s always something more, nagging for attention, and we need a counterbalance in this fight for brainspace in order to focus and be productive in our strive. This need to create space & time away from our overload culture is where the idea of unplugging comes in, and it comes in many shapes and forms. I consider my yoga & meditation practices to be my main forms of unplugging; however, I would definitely throw Ladies’ Night at Lucky 7 with my “ladies” (all of whom are cis hetero men) into the category, while others find it in exercise, nature, books, travel, etc. There is an overabundance of options, as with literally everything in our culture, but the important thing is to find something that works for you and stick to it. Luckily, there are plenty of options here in Jersey City to fit your type of unplugging, and we at EverythingJerseyCity.com test drove a couple to share our experience of being unplugged.
But first, let’s hear from an expert!
All of these are personal experiences, of course, and the ways we manage ourselves through this outer world, too, are very much individual experiences. So before we dive in, to take the focus off of my own perception on the matter, I had a chat with Bridget Reilly, a licensed mental health therapist and certified medical support clinical hypnotherapist, here in Jersey City. She squeezed me in for a quick conversation over the phone, and in our discussion, she provides an approachable insight for our readers: “there’s definitely a connection between the information we take in, what we’re thinking about, the images we’re seeing, and how we’re feeling. So if you can have some practice of disconnecting everyday, to notice the connection, I encourage it for my patients. It takes a conscious effort at first because it’s really become habitual for most people, and that’s not our natural state; it’s a habit that we’ve built up as a society – this need to be constantly connected. So awareness is the first step, just to say, ‘how do I feel when I’m absorbing a particular media.’ Having that awareness of ‘what is my emotional, mental, physical, spiritual state before and after?’ – to bring that into our conscience, to observe what sort of impact it really has. It’s like saying, ‘wow! I had five cups of coffee, and now I feel jittery.’ It’s just noticing what we’re consuming in all forms. There’s a focus now on health and what we eat and taking care of our physical bodies, but what are we consuming mentally? What kind of information are we taking into our mind and how is that impacting us? It’s almost like an experiment.”
We decided to kick off our little experiment by throwing our boss-man, Sam, into a dark box and locking him up for a while – in luxury, of course! Om.life is a modern wellness recovery spa in Paulus Hook that brings “ancient knowledge, holistic health, biohacking, modern technology, green living, and spiritual wellness – together in one place.” They offer a wide-ranging menu to address personal health on many levels, but their floatation therapy seemed to be the perfect choice for Sam – to bring together two complete opposite ends of the spectrum: Sam, a consummate busybee, self-described as “leaning on the hyperactive brain side of the spectrum,” in a space completely devoid of interaction and stimulation. For those of you unfamiliar with floatation therapy, om.life describes it as “entering into a sensory deprivation tank where the body experiences zero gravity by becoming buoyant in salt water that is the same temperature as your body. As you lay in the water, your body floats effortlessly. By focusing on your breath, the brain will naturally drift into a dream-like theta state. With 60 or 90 minutes of zero gravity, your body can relax, decompress, and realign.”
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So how’d our fearless leader fare, deprived of all his sensory stimuli? “It did take me about 20 minutes to get there,” Sam tells me after, “but when you start to slow yourself down, you begin to realize how much stress your body is containing. You don’t really pick up on it when you’re running, but in the pod, you’re really focused on you in that time and in that space. I could actually begin to feel my body loosening up, almost from the inside out… There were a few opportunities where I felt almost 100% disconnected.” Anand, the founder of om.life, tells us people regularly practice floatation therapy for a wide range of reasons from bad sleeping patterns to athletic recovery, but stress relief is the principal reason for the visits. “We’re living in a society where we’re overrun by sensory input so stress relief is huge… you’ll have the deepest mediation of your life in here because you have no inputs – no lights, no sounds, no cellphones!”
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In my experience, there seems to be two operative ideas when it comes to unplugging, which can work independently or in conjunction. One is to engage and focus on something (either internal or external) to drive out all the noise vying for our attention; this we commonly find in physical activities such as yoga and exercise, but it can be obtained in stillness as well (e.g. meditation). The other comes in the form of relaxation, which for most (including myself), is an idea well known but rarely achieved. So in order to bring this latter idea into fruition, without a plane ticket to the Caribbean, we sent Leslie, our managing editor, to our friends at Salvation Wellness to experience their CBD massage.
Salvation is a modern CBD apothecary and wellness studio here in Downtown Jersey City, founded by Ceallaigh, “a massage therapist, movement specialist, yogini, herbalist and aromatherapist who is trained in over 25 techniques and has worked in the field of massage and wellness for over 20 years.” With her extensive experience in the field, she brings a large array of massage options to fit your body’s needs, but what intrigued us most was the incorporation of CBD in her practice. CBD (Cannabidiol), the non-psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant, has really gained traction in the last few years and can be seen in many forms from oils and topical creams to food products such as tea and chocolate. Known for its calming effects (I was first exposed to it when a friend was prescribed a form of it for his anxiety) and its anti-inflammatory/pain-relief agents, it seems like a perfect match for massage therapy, and a perfect match is actually how Ceallaigh got here. When she met her husband, Andres, in 2015, he was working in the medical cannabis industry: “he taught me about the powerful effects that cannabis has on our body’s rest and repair response. I was intrigued to say the least. Together we created synergy with all sorts of therapeutic oils, herbs, crystals and cannabis; using formulas I had developed over the past decade… we developed our line, (and) fused these CBD healing products into our wellness services.”
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For Leslie’s experience, Ceallaigh paired her CBD massage with 30-minutes in the infrared sauna, and told us, “everything is formulated specifically to help induce more relaxation, more recovery, and paired with the sauna is where you really get to that point.” In this meticulous curation of relaxation, CBD is introduced in multiple stages throughout the experience – applied orally, with lotions, oils, salves, and roll-ons, and Leslie definitely found her relaxation: “I feel like I’m on a cloud, it was probably the most relaxed I have ever been in my life. I’m not the type of person who falls asleep during a massage or brings herself to a level of low-anxiety very often, and it was incredible the amount of calmness I felt that I don’t normally feel.”
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For our final experience, we wanted to strip the whole thing down, take the modernity away from this exercise, and bring it down to the root of human experience – the self – because that’s what we’re really talking about right? To unplug from all the external stimuli, and connect to our inner-selves. In my own strive to quiet all that the outer world wants me to do/be and construct what I want out of this life, meditation has been one of the most useful tools; however (or accordingly), it has always been a very personal practice, something I rarely talk about, even with friends. So when we decided to visit Jivamukti Yoga in Downtown Jersey City for their Tuesday night (donation-based) meditation, it would be my very first teacher-led session.
The studio was opened in 2013 by partners, Austin and Bob, bringing the Jivamukti Yoga method to Jersey City – “as a path to enlightenment through compassion for all beings, Jivamukti Yoga is grounded in the original meaning of the Sanskrit word asana as ‘seat, connection’ – relationship to the Earth. Earth implies all of life.” With meditation as a part of this yoga, Austin begins the session by sharing the tradition, history and teachings that ground this practice. Then, he moves on to teach us a few mantras, and we sing them together while he plays simple accompanying chords on a small hand-pumped harmonium. At first, it feels a bit like I’m singing in church, and there’s certainly spirituality in this practice as its apparent in the description above, but as we dive into Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, it all seems pertinent and in-line with my predominantly secular practice: Yama (restraint) – Niyama (observance) – Āsana (seated) – Prānāyāma (breath) – Pratyāhāra (withdrawal of senses) – Dhāraṇā (concentration) – Dhyāna (contemplation/meditation) – Samādhi (harmony). The vibration of the organ and our voices resonate in the room and through my body, and just as I feel the atmosphere ripening, Austin brings us into our meditation. There’s minimal direction – to be seated with intention and good posture, close the eyes, focus, and breathe; then, he gives us a mantra, “silently say the words “LET GO” with the passing of each breath: breathe in “LET,” breathe out “GO.” Aside from the mantra, this is not very different from my regular practice, in which I feel centered and focused on certain days, while on others, my brain just won’t shut up. After some time, we are instructed to open our eyes at the ring of a singing bowl, and as I come out of it, I note it’s about as deep as I had ever been. My left leg had completely fallen asleep but I hadn’t noticed a tinge of bodily discomfort, and what had felt like 10 minutes had apparently been 25. We round out the hour-long session by sharing what we received from the meditation and singing some “om”s together.
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Austin was gracious enough to sit with us after the session: “meditation makes time for the self, and it allows you to stop, turn all that off, and understand who you really are… it allows us to pull back away from our mind. Our mind is our emotion and it (meditation) allows us to connect to something higher than the ups and downs that we have everyday: the fear, the anxiety, the depression, the happiness. In that sense, we unplug from all these things and become a witness to those emotions, a witness to those ideas.”