Cortisol is the principle hormone (although not the only hormone) tied to our innate “flight-or-fight” response, which is how the body reacts to acute stress by either helping us run from the situation or stick around and fight our way through. When short spikes in cortisol/adrenaline happen over and over again nearly every day, they cause wear and tear on the body and speed up the aging process.
And so we (not too surprisingly) begin to experience “symptoms” or “signs” of something that we do not ordinarily experience. Immediately, we associate these with the entrainment or the meditation. We wonder if this is something real or imagined so we often start asking others if they have experienced the same or similar things. We seek validation that our practices are producing tangible effects on us.
Unlike many traditional therapies for dealing with stress, anxiety, depression or cognitive impairment, entrainment does not require a focused effort from the person having the therapy, as the brain instinctively follows the frequency. This makes it a much more effective therapy for managing some of these challenging conditions, by automatically inducing a sense of relaxation and a reduction in negative physical and emotional patterns.
Escape from a stressful situation by remembering a favorite vacation spot or a place where you feel cozy and at home. “Make sure to take note of every detail of your favorite spot—the more detailed your visualization, the more stress gets kicked to the curb,” Dr. Serani says. “For me, it’s a beautiful spot on the beach in my native Long Island. But it’s not just the white velvet sand of the beach or the teal blue ocean water; it’s the sounds of the surf, the tang of the salt water, the feel of the sun, the waves in the distance, and the imagined walk I take along the water.” You can combine this with a three-word mantra like “blue-ocean-water,” Serani suggests. Miller calls the visualization of a memory that evokes a positive association an “anchor.” She remembers watching beautiful sunsets in Costa Rica. “Now that I am back in the hustle and bustle of life, I will often pause and take mini-retreats, bringing up the anchored experience of inner calm that I felt watching the sunsets,” she says.
Synchronized brain waves have long been associated with meditative and hypnogogic states, and audio with embedded binaural beats has the ability to induce and improve such states of consciousness. The reason for this is physiological. Each ear is "hardwired" (so to speak) to both hemispheres of the brain (Rosenzweig, 1961). Each hemisphere has its own olivary nucleus (sound-processing center) which receives signals from each ear. In keeping with this physiological structure, when a binaural beat is perceived there are actually two standing waves of equal amplitude and frequency present, one in each hemisphere. So, there are two separate standing waves entraining portions of each hemisphere to the same frequency. The binaural beats appear to contribute to the hemispheric synchronization evidenced in meditative and hypnogogic states of consciousness. Brain function is also enhanced through the increase of cross-collosal communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
Deep breathing is an easy stress reliever that has numerous benefits for the body, including relaxing muscles and quieting the mind. Breathing exercises are especially helpful because you can practice them anywhere. Perhaps more importantly, they work quickly so you can de-stress in a flash. The karate breathing meditation is a great exercise to start with, and this basic breathing exercise can be done anywhere to help you reverse your stress response, get back to being more proactive (rather than reactive), and face stress with greater resilience.
All of this is entirely understandable, even somewhat predictable. Unfortunately, it quickly becomes counter-productive. Such experiences, while having a certain feeling of solidity to them, are largely the product of our desires and expectations. Did your face get flushed? One look in the mirror confirms it did. Was this caused by the entrainment? No, it was not. It was the result of what was sought after and what was expected or even hoped for.
If you search the Internet for "binaural beats" you'll quickly find there's a whole industry built on the idea that listening to binaural beats can produce all kinds of desired effects in your brain. It can alter your mood, help you follow a diet or stop smoking, get you pumped up for a competition, calm you down, put you to sleep, enhance your memory, act as an aphrodisiac, cure headaches, and even balance your chakra. Binaural-Beats.com offers a $30 CD that they call the world's first "digital drug". They claim it can get you drunk without the side effects. I-Doser.com offers a range of music tracks that they say simulates a variety of actual pharmaceuticals, such as Demerol, Oxycontin, and Vicodin. Suffice it to say that no matter what superpower you're looking for, someone on the Internet sells a binaural beat audio file claimed to provide it.
Entrainment is a phenomenon by which some external sensory stimulation synchronizes brainwaves differently than the native rhythm. The most obvious example of this is photic driving – during an EEG the subject will have a strobe light flashed before them at various frequencies. The purpose of this is to see if it will trigger seizure activity. In many normal subjects the brain wave rhythm in the occipital lobes, which is the visual part of the cortex, will match its frequency to the frequency of the strobe light. This specifically is called photic driving, but the phenomenon in general is called entrainment.
Theta brain waves occur most often in sleep but are also dominant in deep meditation. Theta is known to be a dreamlike state with vivid imagery, intuition and information beyond your normal conscious awareness. This state of mind is excellent for psychic experiences to occur, as well as astral projection and extended remote viewing. To reach this state without falling asleep while meditating takes practice.
This can help develop the ability to see energy fields around people and in nature, and it will also make it much easier to stay awake during your meditations. When your eyes begin to close, you simply have to open them back up again. Doing the meditations with your eyes open is a serious step up in exercising your brain, so go slow with that technique at first.
One faulty expectation as it pertains to brainwave entrainment is that listening to an entrainment track is the same as meditating. If you’ve understood the principles so far as they’ve been laid out you understand why this idea is completely untrue. If the answer is not yet obvious to you, read the material covering these principles again and try to grasp their meaning.
John Dupuy is the CEO of iAwake Technologies and travels internationally to teach and inspire on the subjects of Integral Recovery, Integral Transformative Practice, and the use of brainwave entrainment technology to deepen one’s meditation practice and in the treatment of addiction, depression, and PTSD. John is the founder of Integral Recovery® and his book Integral Recovery: A Revolutionary Approach to the Treatment of Alcoholism and Addiction won the 2013 USA Best Book Award. John also hosts interviews with leading innovators in the spiritual technologies field on Spiritual Technologies 2.0 Live and co-hosts the popular Journey of Integral Recovery podcast.
Now you are ready to experience Delta with the Theta & Delta Deep Meditation tracks. These two tracks work together the same way the Alpha/Theta recordings do. If you have a full hour, definitely use both of these tracks together, starting with Theta Deep Meditation first. The combination of these two tracks is extremely powerful and will give you maximum benefit to your mind, body and emotions.
Joe: The Journey soundscape took a lot of work. I wanted to bring in the very best of what I knew about brainwave entrainment and to make the best brainwave entrainment product—with the best entrainment technology—that I possibly could. So, there are all sorts of things going on in Journey to provide a sound bed to support the experience of expansiveness and also communicate elements of the heart-based work I talked about earlier. (See part I of this interview, A Guide to Transpersonal Meditation.)
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Uses of audio with embedded binaural beats that are mixed with music or various pink or background sound are diverse. They range from relaxation, meditation, stress reduction, pain management, improved sleep quality, decrease in sleep requirements, super learning, enhanced creativity and intuition, remote viewing, telepathy, and out-of-body experience and lucid dreaming. Audio embedded with binaural beats is often combined with various meditation techniques, as well as positive affirmations and visualization.
A large dose of caffeine causes a short-term spike in blood pressure. It may also cause your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis to go into overdrive. Instead of coffee or energy drinks, try green tea. It has less than half the caffeine of coffee and contains healthy antioxidants, as well as theanine, an amino acid that has a calming effect on the nervous system.
Beware simple answers to complex problems, or easy methods for accomplishing difficult goals. If you combine this maxim with the advice to be skeptical of any claims that are being made in order to sell you something – then ironically you have a simple method (perhaps I should call it an “elegant” method) for protecting yourself from most scams and cons. Actually the application of this combination of maxims can be complex, but what it does do is trigger doubt and skeptical analysis. (And to be clear I am not saying that all simple solutions must be wrong – you should just beware them, meaning your skeptical senses should be tingling.)
Some studies have found that binaural beats can affect cognitive function positively or negatively, depending on the specific frequency that’s generated. For example, a study of long-term memory found that beta-frequency binaural beats improved memory, while theta-frequency binaural beats interfered with memory. This is something for scientists to continue to examine closely. For people who use binaural beats, it’s important to understand that different frequencies will produce different effects.
These are just a few examples. This silly list literally goes on for pages and pages, and it is pure hogwash almost without exception. Unfortunately there are many people dealing with personal problems that read nonsense like this and want very badly for it to be true. Perhaps they don’t believe every word, but they believe or hope that at least some of it is accurate information. These hopes and beliefs contribute to the generation of false expectations, so that when listening to an entrainment frequency of 10.3Hz doesn’t clear up their stuffy sinuses they conclude entrainment doesn’t work. The digestion of such foolishness is an impediment to realizing the true value of entrainment.
There’s also some new stuff I’ve certainly never included in tracks before including some gentle pink noise and brown noise blended together in the background with what’s called phase modulation. This is almost outside of awareness as you’re listening to it. This is how your ear tells what direction a sound is coming from. Does it arrive at your left ear slightly before your right ear? You can modulate that. So, again, it has a very gentle, imperceptible rhythmic quality to it.
There are general recommendations for stress management that can be applied in most situations. However, keep in mind that there are individual differences and preferences, so a “cookie cutter” approach should be avoided when making recommendations. A comprehensive stress management program will include specific techniques prescribed on an individual basis, but general stress management recommendations are presented in Table 2.
There's no doubt that brainwave entrainment audio is a great technology for anyone who is interested in encouraging altered states of consciousness and it certainly can help people to reach deeper states of relaxation than they might normally have access to. I myself will often listen to brainwave entrainment music in order to enhance my practice of meditation. But let’s keep a balanced perspective, put all the marketing hype to one side for a moment and acknowledge that there is no brainwave entrainment technology in this world that can make you meditate like a Zen monk “at the touch of a button”, despite what some might like you to believe. The mind is NOT a machine. It moves through various states of consciousness in an organic way and at a natural pace. We certainly can guide and accelerate that process with the use of brainwave entrainment audio, but we cannot control it with the same sort of specificity and immediacy as you might control the speed of the car you drive.
However, very experienced practitioners of meditation are able to enter a Delta state and maintain consciousness at the same time. Yoga nidra or “yogi sleep” is a sleep-like state which yogis report during their meditations. This lucid sleeping state is among the deepest possible states of relaxation while still maintaining full consciousness (“super-conscious mind”). In this state, experienced yogis are able to regulate their body temperature and heart rate.
Isochronic tones work just the same in delta as they do in alpha, theta and beta and they are widely used in the brainwave entrainment community to help people sleep. Like you, I’ve also seen some websites saying they don’t work in delta, but it’s a bit like the game of Chinese Whispers, where someone makes a comment and then after it gets passed around and shared a lot the message gets distorted and appears to be a fact. I don’t know of any scientific reason why they wouldn’t work in delta. I remember some people talking about this on a brainwave entrainment forum many years ago. They were saying they found isochronic tones a bit too abrupt for using to help them sleep and they preferred binaural beats, as they thought they were a more soothing sound. That was just a personal preference shared by a couple of prominent forum members at the time and some people then took that as a fact for everyone. That’s where I think that belief originated from.
Everyone knows stress can cause you to lose sleep. Unfortunately, lack of sleep is also a key cause of stress. This vicious cycle causes the brain and body to get out of whack and only gets worse with time. Make sure to get the doctor-recommended seven to eight hours of sleep. Turn the TV off earlier, dim the lights, and give yourself time to relax before going to bed. It may be the most effective stress buster on our list.
However, by listening to binaural music you can dramatically accelerate your progress with meditation, and achieve a far deeper, more relaxing state of mind than you would by practicing traditional meditation techniques. In fact, almost everyone discovers that uses binaural meditation music finds that they go deeper into meditation, faster, and with less concerted effort.
You are already far beyond the need for using an entrainment product as a meditation aid. Those who sincerely believe this to be the case would not have come searching for a meditation site such as Project Meditation to help them learn and practice meditation and brainwave entrainment. They would probably not even bother with using an entrainment aid; hence this entire discussion would be irrelevant to them. The fact that you are here, reading this, seeking to benefit from incorporating meditation and brainwave entrainment to aid in your existing meditation practice suggests you are not one of these folks whose development is so advanced that entrainment is of no use to you.
Another consideration of stress is whether it is acute or chronic. “Acute stress” is what an individual experiences at the time the stressor is encountered (4). The stress response is activated, and the body returns to homeostasis once the challenge of the stressor is removed or the person successfully manages the situation. For example, an individual on the way to an important meeting gets into a traffic jam and realizes she is going to be late; the stress response starts. When she calls her boss and learns that she can conference into the meeting while on the road, the stress response subsides with the resolution of the situation. When an individual experiences acute stress on a consistent basis, such as with overcommitting at work or constant worrying, it is referred to as “acute episodic stress” (4). Individuals who experience acute episodic stress often show signs and symptoms of stress (Table 1) that can negatively impact physical and psychological health. These individuals can learn how to change behaviors and manage their stress to prevent these consequences.
Some research suggests that the benefits from brainwave entrainment can last a lot longer, and still be seen for some time after you've stopped using it. Study participants have still maintained improved test scores a few weeks after the stimulation had ceased. Research on the long-term benefits has so far been minimal though, so how long the effects last is still up for debate.
When blended with musical sounds, brainwave entrainment frequencies induce specific states of mind, which are the result of those brainwaves, delivering them in pleasing and relaxing audio tracts for use with and without stereo headphones. For example, alpha and theta waves, because they exist at the borders between conscious and unconscious thought, are especially rich and useful for tapping into and stimulating subconscious processes.
How does brainwave entrainment work? Consistent, precisely engineered audio frequencies in the form of binaural beats cause the brain’s frequencies to match the stimulus. Your brain perceives two beats with slightly different frequencies (which are inaudible to the ear) through your headphones. It takes the difference between the two, and matches its own frequency to it. This is called the “frequency following” response.