This blog was created from an interview with Joseph Kao, creator of iAwake’s Journey to the Center of the Self, and iAwake’s CEO John Dupuy, by Heidi Mitchell, who has been working with John for 11 years as assistant and editor. John introduced her to Integral theory and practice and brainwave entrainment enhanced meditation in 2007. Heidi is also a freelance editor of nonfiction books, blogs, and web sites. She can be reached at www.heidimitchelleditor.com.
Controversies concerning the brain, mind, and consciousness have existed since the early Greek philosophers argued about the nature of the mind-body relationship, and none of these disputes has been resolved. Modern neurologists have located the mind in the brain and have said that consciousness is the result of electrochemical neurological activity. There are, however, growing observations to the contrary. There is no neuro-physiological research which conclusively shows that the higher levels of mind (intuition, insight, creativity, imagination, understanding, thought, reasoning, intent, decision, knowing, will, spirit, or soul) are located in brain tissue (Hunt, 1995). A resolution to the controversies surrounding the higher mind and consciousness and the mind-body problem in general may need to involve an epistemological shift to include extra-rational ways of knowing (de Quincey, 1994) and cannot be comprehended by neuro-chemical brain studies alone. We are in the midst of a revolution focusing on the study of consciousness (Owens, 1995). Penfield, an eminent contemporary neurophysiologist, found that the human mind continued to work in spite of the brain's reduced activity under anesthesia. Brain waves were nearly absent while the mind was just as active as in the waking state. The only difference was in the content of the conscious experience. Following Penfield's work, other researchers have reported awareness in comatose patients (Hunt, 1995) and there is a growing body of evidence which suggests that reduced cortical arousal while maintaining conscious awareness is possible (Fischer, 1971;West 1980; Delmonte, 1984; Goleman 1988; Jevning, Wallace, & Beidenbach, 1992; Wallace, 1986; Mavromatis, 1991). These states are variously referred to as meditative, trance, altered, hypnogogic, hypnotic, and twilight-learning states (Budzynski, 1986). Broadly defined, the various forms of altered states rest on the maintenance of conscious awareness in a physiologically reduced state of arousal marked by parasympathetic dominance (Mavromatis, 1991). Recent physiological studies of highly hypnotizable subjects and adept meditators indicate that maintaining awareness with reduced cortical arousal is indeed possible in selected individuals as a natural ability or as an acquired skill (Sabourin, Cutcomb, Crawford, & Pribram, 1993). More and more scientists are expressing doubts about the neurologists' brain-mind model because it fails to answer so many questions about our ordinary experiences, as well as evading our mystical and spiritual ones. The scientific evidence supporting the phenomenon of remote viewing alone is sufficient to show that mind-consciousness is not a local phenomenon (McMoneagle, 1993).
Hey, even before we spoke about creating Journey, I was thinking about how people across the world do their spiritual practices and the commonalities between them all. I was thinking, there is the path of stillness—which links right back to what we were talking about getting to a state of deep, profound relaxation and bringing clarity into stillness. Then there’s the path of rhythm, of rocking, of dancing. But there’s always a rhythm to it—even in the movements of Tai Chi, there’s a smoothness, a smooth rhythm. What it never is, is arrhythmic—those are the movements of a more anxious, frightened animal kind of thing.
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.
You may have experienced Theta right before drifting off to sleep, during a lucid dream, or during a deep meditation. In Theta, you no longer sense the outside world, but you are aware and conscious of your internal world. All of your subconscious fears, hopes and judgments are hidden in the Theta state. Theta is a difficult state to achieve because you often drift out of it very quickly either becoming conscious in Alpha or moving on to the next deeper state. By staying in Theta, you can learn endless information about yourself and your consciousness.
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The various mental states of the individual are thought to take place across a varied range of frequencies, or brainwaves. By encouraging the frequency following process, entrainment is able to create positive change in the brain, through matching carefully-selected frequencies of light and/or sound. The stimulus enables the individual to access a different state of consciousness, which can be useful for a number of benefits including relaxation, anxiety management, stress reduction and more.
A more extensive study of over 100 participants who were undergoing general anesthesia for a day procedure, reported a decrease in pre-operative anxiety. The participants in this study listened to 30 minutes of binaural beats before surgery, but the researchers noted that people experiencing high levels of pre-operative anxiety could listen to binaural beats for up to 1 hour before anesthesia to reduce levels of anxiety.
For a few minutes a day, practice being mindful—focusing only on what's going on in the present —whether it's during your workout or taking a break from your work. Try taking a short walk and instead of thinking about what's worrying you, pay attention to your senses—what you see, feel, hear, smell. This can make a huge difference in your emotional and physical well-being when done daily.
In 1973, biophysicist Dr. Gerald Oster published a famous article in Scientific American titled “Auditory Beats in the Brain”, which found that when two pure tones of varying frequencies were combined, a third rhythmic beat was created which he called binaural or monaural beats. According to Oster, monaural beats occur when two tones are combined and sent through a loudspeaker, while binaural beats occur when stereo headphones are used to deliver each tone separately to each ear. Oster concluded that monaural beats were a more effective form of brainwave entrainment.
Passively listening to binaural beats may not spontaneously propel you into an altered state of consciousness. One's subjective experience in response to binaural-beat stimulation may also be influenced by a number of mediating factors. For example, the willingness and ability of the listener to relax and focus attention may contribute to binaural-beat effectiveness in inducing state changes. "Ultradian rhythms in the nervous system are characterized by periodic changes in arousal and states of consciousness (Rossi, 1986).
Theta waves have another interesting characteristic. The Earth has a measurable resonance of 7.83 hertz known as the Schumann resonance. Because the Schumann resonance is a constant background frequency surrounding all life, it may play a special role in biological activity. The Schumann resonance frequency falls within the range of theta brainwaves and may have something to do with why these brainwave frequencies are so powerful.
Alpha is the next level down, between 8Hz - 12Hz, corresponding to being awake but deeply relaxed. It can be a little confusing that Alpha is lower than Beta, but it is named that way because Alpha was the first brainwave "discovered" (identified) by Hans Berger in 1929. Meditating in this state is very relaxing and most people find it very easy to become entrained in this frequency.
While a practical understanding of brainwaves has been around for as long as people have been singing, chanting, and drumming, a scientific view of the electrical activity inside the human brain was not published until 1924 when German psychiatrist Hans Berger developed a machine for sensing and recording activity in the brain by attaching small electrical sensors to the scalp of his patients and recording the resulting electrical activity. Berger’s inventions and discoveries were built upon the earlier work of Richard Caton who published animal studies on brainwave oscillations in 1875.
Deeper Meditation • Near The Stage Of Sleep • Vivid, Dreamlike Imagery • Creative Visualization • Feel More Open & Connected • Advanced Problem Solving • Super Creativity • Insight • Intuition • Inspiration • Deeper Subconscious To Super-Conscious Mind • Trance-like • GABA • Immune System • Serotonin • Endorphins • Acetylcholine • Lower Cortisol • Deeply Relaxed • Sleep Better • Emotional Intelligence
It should be stated that if we are listening to LifeFlow and we are intentionally seeking to enter into meditation, the chances are good that we will do exactly that rather than just being in a daydream or some other pleasant state. It’s no guarantee, but the combination of meditation and brainwave entrainment raises the odds that we will accomplish our meditative goal.
Alpha (12hz – 8hz) – Awake, but deeply relaxed. Simply closing your eyes will produce alpha brainwaves. This category is associated with daydreaming, visualization, imagination, light meditation. Brainwave expert Anna Wise called the alpha range the bridge between beta and theta. (More information can be found in Wise’ book The High-Performance Mind)
The pitch frequency measures and describes what a beat sounds like, i.e. does the isochronic beat have a deeper bass sound, or is it high pitched and sharper sounding? The beat waveform frequency describes how many times the beat is repeating per second, i.e. how fast it is beating. You don’t really need to concern yourself about the pitch frequency, as that doesn’t have a direct influence on brainwave entrainment and doesn’t play a part on the measurement on an EEG. I only mentioned it because you were referring to humans not being able to hear below 20Hz. I change the pitch frequency just to suit the mood of the track. For tracks that are to be relaxing, for meditation or sleep, I tend to use a lower pitch frequency so it sounds deeper and more relaxing and I never have that lower than 100Hz. For an energizing, high focus track I might use a more higher pitched 200Hz isochronic tone, because that is sharper sounding and less likely to make you feel sleepy. That’s all you really need to know about the pitch frequency.
Pure tones played together interfere with each other when they are close in pitch but not identical. When each tone is sent to a different ear, there will not be any physical interaction between the waves, yet your brain still creates an interference inside your head: the so-called binaural beat. In order to create a binaural beat, each ear must receive its dedicated signal. Therefore, binaural beats only work through headphones.
With the binaural beats, this may be difficult to do since you need to listen to the twin frequencies and allow your brain to create a third one to bridge the gap. Ideally, you will be listening to these beats through headphones so carrying out other work may be challenge. However, with isochronic frequencies, the tone can be heard without headphones which means you can run the mp3 with a speaker and allow it to play in the background as you carry out your work. Of course, activities such as driving or operating heavy machinery should NOT be undertaken when you are listening to these tones because your attention is shared between the two tasks. Tasks like gardening or sewing or cooking can be done while your brainwave entrainment music is playing.
You may recognize the "binaural recording" from ASMR, where the technique is often used. This explains why, if you search for "binaural" on YouTube, you get a mixture of two entirely different kinds of results: binaural beats and binaural ASMR recordings. It gets especially confusing in that there's some questionable and/or unexplored science surrounding each one.
Gamma was dismissed as 'spare brain noise' until researchers discovered it was highly active when in states of universal love, altruism, and the ‘higher virtues’. Gamma is also above the frequency of neuronal firing, so how it is generated remains a mystery. It is speculated that gamma rhythms modulate perception and consciousness, and that a greater presence of gamma relates to expanded consciousness and spiritual emergence.
To get a full answer you should really get in touch with the owner of the app, because it does really depend on how their track is constructed and how they intend it to work. I have one 50-minute sleep track which takes you down into delta (http://www.mindamend.com/shop/sleeping-and-dreaming/sleep-induction-isochronic-tones/) and that is designed to just get you to sleep, so you just let play until the end. If you played that track on repeat it might make you jump and wake you up, as the track begins at a higher frequency. I have another 8-hour sleep track which is meant to be played all throughout the night (http://www.mindamend.com/shop/sleeping-and-dreaming/deep-sleep-8-hour-sleep-cycle/). So it does depend on the individual track you are using.
Insomnia and PTSD for most of my life are real bears that I wrestle with every night. A brain neural-therapist (for lack of a better description) said that this kind of sound recording may help. It is not music. When I remember to play the disc, I fall asleep within the first 5-8 minutes. One day I played the disc while cleaning and I was very surprised to hear how much of the recording I never recall hearing before. That's why I know how long it takes to fall asleep.
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.
Resonant entrainment of oscillating systems is a well-understood principle within the physical sciences. If a tuning fork designed to produce a frequency of 440 Hz is struck (causing it to oscillate) and then brought into the vicinity of another 440 Hz tuning fork, the second tuning fork will begin to oscillate. The first tuning fork is said to have entrained the second or caused it to resonate. The physics of entrainment apply to bio-systems as well. Of interest here are the electromagnetic brain waves. The electrochemical activity of the brain results in the production of electromagnetic wave forms which can be objectively measured with sensitive equipment. Brain waves change frequencies based on neural activity within the brain. Because neural activity is electrochemical, brain function can be modified through the introduction of specific chemicals (drugs), by altering the brain's electromagnetic environment through induction, or through resonant entrainment techniques.
Binaural meditation music is VERY popular these days, and you might have noticed that some of the companies that sell binaural music products make rather spectacular claims about the benefits of brainwave entrainment technology. Some declare that they can make you “meditate like a zen monk at the touch of a button”, or that you will “instantly meditate like the greatest gurus”. While it is true that binaural meditation music is extremely powerful, and that it can genuinely improve the quality of your life, it is not a miracle solution or a spiritual “get rich quick” scheme. Like all things in life, positive and lasting results will still take just a little time and effort on your part. Binaural meditation music just accelerates and deepens to process.
Alpha: Alpha brainwave patterns are associated with a state of wakeful relaxation. Slower and lower in frequency (between 9-14 hertz), alpha waves are dominant when we’re calm and relaxed, but still alert. Alpha waves are associated with states of meditation (your yoga class probably puts you in an alpha state), and also with our ability to be creative.
Theta frequencies have long been viewed as the doorway to the subconscious mind. Heightened intuition, deep relaxation, extrasensory perception, and vivid dreaming are all connected to this frequency. There is a distinctly dreamy and otherworldly feel that accompanies the Theta brainwave. Many therapists and hypnotherapists make use of the Theta frequency to tap into the subconscious mind and heal core issues. As such, this frequency is a powerful way to change limiting beliefs and do deep inner work.
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Set aside time in your daily schedule. If possible, schedule a set time once or twice a day for your practice. If your schedule is already packed, remember that many relaxation techniques can be practiced while performing other tasks. Try meditating while commuting on the bus or train, taking a yoga or tai chi break at lunchtime, or practicing mindful walking while exercising your dog.
For example, exercise and perusing a goal very ambitiously are both types of stress, except they ultimately benefit the body. Areas of the brain, including the hippocampus, amygdala and prefrontal cortex can pick up on positive stressful experiences and cause “stress-induced structural remodeling” of the brain, which means you experience alterations in behavioral and physiological responses to these positive events. The result is that in the future you’re better able to handle similar situations because you learn from them, associate them with a reward and stop perceiving them as threatening.
Second, brainwave entrainment is a workout for your brain. This means you have to gently ease your way into the process. I recommend that you begin with the 30 minute Alpha Light Meditation for a few days as your meditative component. Also listen to IQ Increase and Beta Relaxed Focus one time each during your day as you work, commute, run errands, etc.
The phenomena of brainwave entrainment was first described in the scientific literature in 1973 by Gerald Oster in results published in an article in Scientific American entitled, “Auditory Beats in the Brain”. He showed that a specific brainwave could be induced when a person heard two separate, but closely related, sound frequencies, one in each ear. He discovered that when the frequencies heard by each ear differed by about 10 hertz, the brainwave pattern of the person hearing the sound would synchronize to the difference between the two frequencies. For example, if the person heard a 410 hertz sound in one ear and a 400 hertz sound in the other ear, their brainwaves would stabilize at the difference between the two, or 10 hertz. This technique is called binaural beats, and it is a fundamental principle of brainwave entrainment methods.
So, what we’re doing is combining these two parts, the awakening of complete stillness and deep relaxation with the rhythmic sounds, and embedding all frequencies within the music from right at the upper limits of human hearing to the lower limits. There is multi-level entrainment within Journey—I’ve layered in everything I know about audio brainwave entrainment into this track.
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.
Your brain operates at certain levels of activity – the normal waking, active Beta, the meditative Alpha, the asleep-and-dreaming or deep meditative Theta, and the deep sleep/unconscious Delta. Beta is characterized by one thing we all want to get away from – stress.But that brainwave state has its place. It’s the action mode, and that’s the way it should be! If we’re not alert when we’re awake, bad things can happen, right?