by Gilbert Ross
The scientific idea of brainwaves has made its way into popular media as can be witnessed in art, movies and science fiction. The image of a person with electrodes on his scalp while his brainwaves are being recorded is almost as iconic as the symbol of the atom or the depictions showing the ascent of man according to evolution. Yet very few people are aware of the simple fact that our brainwaves can be altered and, more importantly, by altering them, we can swiftly change our state of consciousness and wellbeing – say from one of anxiety to one of deep calm and openness. This is an idea which deeply fascinates me and intrigues me.
Another way of saying it is that we can train (or entrain) our brain to shift into different states of brainwave activity and by doing so we would also be shifting our emotional and physical state that corresponds to that brainwave level. For those of you who are not particularly familiar with the idea of brainwaves let me try to summarize the concept as concisely as I practically can.
Essentially the brain produces electric impulses. These impulses can be recorded by devices such as EEGs, fMRIs and others and are shown as waves of varying speeds or frequencies. The speed of the brainwaves are measured in Hertz (cycles per second). There are four general categories of brainwave levels: The Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta.
Short Waves and Long Waves:
The Busy Beta: This is the state you’re in when in your normal state of consciousness. If your mind is occupied with something such as being engaged in a conversation or thinking about solving a problem, it is predominantly emitting brainwaves in the Beta level. Beta waves are relatively faster than the other three categories but have a small amplitude. They range between the 12Hz to 38 Hz.
The Chilled-out Alpha: When you are in a calm and relaxed state, say you are strolling leisurely in a park or you are chilling out in a Cafe watching the world roll by, your mind would be emitting Alpha brainwaves. Practices aiming to relax your state of mind such as meditation or certain breathing exercises, entrain your mind to enter into the Alpha state which ranges between 8Hz to 12 Hz. Hence Alpha brainwaves are slower but have a bigger amplitude
The Magical Theta: This is where the magic happens. The theta state is the most interesting brainwave range because it is a state in which certain transformations can take place. Theta brainwaves are slower ranging from 3Hz to 8Hz. They corresponds to states of mind when you are in a trance, deep meditation, day dreaming, creative insight and visions. The depth of the Theta range varies from let’s say a light trance while showering to a very deep trance state while meditating or in those short moments before sliding into sleep. The Theta brainwave range is associated with deep learning and memory. When you are in the Theta brainwave range, you are more open and receptive to integrate information into your long term memory. Most of the a-ha moments also happen during Theta brainwave activity
The Deep Delta: Delta brainwaves are associated with dreamless sleep. Hence they happen when you are in that phase of your sleep cycle when you are not dreaming but just getting restorative rest. They are also associated with healing and regeneration.
Put simply, brainwave entrainment is allowing your brainwaves to align and sync with an external sound frequency. So for instance by hearing a special music track which has frequencies in the alpha range, will start chilling you out after a while because your brainwaves will start attuning to those frequencies and hence slow down from beta frequencies to alpha. There are various music tracks called binaural beats that are sound engineered in a way that the left and right channels are off beat by a certain amount and the difference is the target frequency you would like to reach – say for example, the Theta brainwave frequency.
The effect is that when you put on earphones or headphones and hear it, your mind starts attuning to the Theta frequency after a short while which means that you start entering a different state of consciousness, such as one similar to when you are in deep meditation or in a trance. A good example of a brainwave entrainment product and one which I have been recommending for some time is OmHarmonics. The product includes a number of tracks which are tailored for different levels of conscious states and each has a shorter version – ideal for those quick sessions. The sound quality is impressively good and you can download the tracks on your favourite Mp3 player and the program is optimised to work beautifully on iPhone, iPad and iPod.
Riding the Waves of Change:
The primary goal of brainwave entrainment is to alter the state of your brainwaves and enter a different level of consciousness. The secondary goal, and the one I believe to be the most important, is to make use of those states. For instance with some practice one can program the mind for deep transformative change while in the Theta level state of mind. Why? because when the brain is in that state it is very open to deep learning. There is much less obstruction from the critical and analytical part of the brain and it is also directly talking to the subconscious part, hence making it more likely to work on the intentions and commands you are giving it. In this state, I have quite often relieved pain completely or got very deep insights into a problem or situations. Using affirmation or visualisation techniques while entraining your brain in the Theta waves, is a powerful way of reaching a desired goal, say that of breaking an unproductive habit or reinforcing a positive one.
The possibilities are truly endless. We have only started to scratch the surface of the potential with brainwave entrainment. I believe that it is one of the most powerful tools that makes use of insights into how the mind works together with technology.