In the average person, the activity of one brain hemisphere is dominant over the other, called brain lateralization. This hemispheric imbalance leads us to experience the world in a black and white way, perceiving separation over connectedness. When brainwave entrainment is used to synchronize brainwave activity in both hemispheres simultaneously, a person can more easily integrate information from all parts of the brain and solve problems with greater intelligence and sensitivity.
^ Bittman, B. B., Snyder, C., Bruhn, K. T., Liebfreid, F., Stevens, C. K., Westengard, J., and Umbach, P. O., Recreational music-making: An integrative group intervention for reducing burnout and improving mood states in first year associate degree nursing students: Insights and economic impact" International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship, Vol. 1, Article 12, 2004.
When signals of two different frequencies are presented, one to each ear, the brain detects phase differences between these signals. "Under natural circumstances a detected phase difference would provide directional information. The brain processes this anomalous information differently when these phase differences are heard with stereo headphones or speakers. A perceptual integration of the two signals takes place, producing the sensation of a third "beat" frequency. The difference between the signals waxes and wanes as the two different input frequencies mesh in and out of phase. As a result of these constantly increasing and decreasing differences, an amplitude-modulated standing wave -the binaural beat- is heard. The binaural beat is perceived as a fluctuating rhythm at the frequency of the difference between the two auditory inputs. Evidence suggests that the binaural beats are generated in the brainstem's superior olivary nucleus, the first site of contra-lateral integration in the auditory system (Oster, 1973). Studies also suggest that the frequency-following response originates from the inferior colliculus (Smith, Marsh, & Brown, 1975)" (Owens & Atwater, 1995). This activity is conducted to the cortex where it can be recorded by scalp electrodes.
All techniques, whether mantra, focus on the breath, contemplation of a koan, or any other, are simply the vehicles we use to take us into (hopefully) a meditative state. Put another way, the purpose of repeating a mantra is not to get proficient at repeating a mantra. The purpose is to take us to a meditative state where the mantra slips away and is no longer necessary.
There’s an aesthetic element to the music and there are a lot of drone-based sounds and time-stretched sounds, deep, rich bass sounds—there’s a spectrum of sounds within there—and what’s more, there’s a load of 3D processing that goes on to ensure that the mind doesn’t become habituated to them. There’s also a constant, subtle sense, a slow and gradual sense, of the sounds shifting around. And, there are layers of binaural beats.
Well … to understand the role entrainment plays in meditation, think of a water pump. Most of you have lived in areas where you have access to city water. You turn the knob on the tap, water comes out, end of story. If you grew up like I did, on a farm with a local well, then you probably know that in order to get the water flowing from a well you must first “prime the pump”. (Those of you who remember the days when cars all had carburetors rather than fuel injectors might also remember running out of gas and needing to prime the carburetor with a little gasoline. It’s the same principle.)
In fact just having a particular range of brainwaves running through our grey matter is also not “meditation”. Brainwaves are not the cause of the meditative state. They are only an indicator that we might be in a meditative state. And then again we might be in some other state as well. Those exact same brainwave frequencies are present during many different activities and states of consciousness, not just during meditation.
Slumping can be an outward sign of stress—not to mention that bad posture actually puts more physical stress on your body. “People who are overly stressed often display their worries in their body carriage,” Whitaker says. “Those who are weighed down with stress commonly have a poor posture or struggle with aches and pains in their body. They often slouch when sitting or concave their body inwards with rounded shoulders as they go about their business under the weight of the burdens they carry.” Taking a few seconds when you feel stressed to check your posture and sit up straight (like your mother told you) can help you feel better. “Studies show that poor posture is related to anxiety, depression, helplessness, and irritability, so keeping your chin up and shoulders back will help,” Dr. Serani says. Happy and confident people naturally tend to stand a bit taller. Here are the other stressors you didn’t know you had.
In order to understand brainwave entrainment you first have to understand something about brain waves and electroencephalograms (EEG). Neurons are cells that communicate with each other through electrical conduction. When a neuron fires it creates a small electrical and magnetic field. These fields are far too small to measure by placing electrodes on the scalp, or even on the surface of the brain. The only reason we can detect the electrical fields of the brain is because many neurons are firing together – in synchrony. All brain waves that are measured by an EEG, therefore, represent a large group of neurons firing together.
Another common misconception is that entrainment is going to force your brain into doing something beyond its native capabilities, or at least beyond what it is accustomed to doing. This mistaken belief is often the root that leads to comments like, “When I meditate with LifeFlow my face gets flushed (or my hair vibrates or I develop x-ray vision, or any of the other things we come across). If I meditate without LifeFlow the face flushing doesn’t happen. LifeFlow must be causing it.”
However, with this integration will come upheavals as the mind is forced to integrate areas of the brain that were previously sequestered. Repressed memories and unpleasant emotions from the past will often rise to the surface of the mind to be processed and healed. This is sometimes referred to as "processing the shadow" within one's mind and emotions.
Ever wish a stress superhero could save you from the tension of traffic jams, chaotic meetings, arguments with your spouse, or a toddler’s tantrums? Well, you can be your own stress-busting superhero. Using your senses, you can tap into the power to reduce the impact of stress as it’s happening and stay in control when the pressure builds. Like any skill, learning how to ease stress in the moment takes time, experimentation, and practice- but the payoff is huge. When you know how to quickly relieve stress, you can stay calm, productive, and focused, no matter what life throws at you.
Entrainment is a term originally derived from complex systems theory, and denotes the way that two or more independent, autonomous oscillators with differing rhythms or frequencies, when situated in a context and at a proximity where they can interact for long enough, influence each other mutually, to a degree dependent on coupling force, such that they adjust until both oscillate with the same frequency. Examples include the mechanical entrainment or cyclic synchronization of two electric clothes dryers placed in close proximity, and the biological entrainment evident in the synchronized illumination of fireflies.