With an increasing number of people practicing meditation, particularly in western countries, there has been a corresponding interest in learning more about the various meditation techniques. Some of these have developed over centuries. Many have now adapted to modern times and needs. One of the meditation practices that appeals to our busy, modern way of life is Brainwave Entrainment.
What is Brainwave Entrainment?
To put it very simply Brainwave Entrainment, or brain entrainment as it is sometimes called, is any practice that produces a state of synchronicity between our brainwave frequency and an external regular and periodic stimulus, often sound or light but also vibration and repetitive movement. The introduced stimulus may have a frequency that corresponds to the intended brain waves frequency; this may be a frequency found in a dream or meditation state, sleep or relaxation. Think about how you feel watching the flames at your fireside, sitting or going to sleep listening to the regular sound and vibration of waves breaking on a beach. You can feel yourself relaxing, perhaps even being absorbed into the patterns of light, vibration or sound.
Brainwave entrainment is not a new technology. While it has actually been investigated scientifically since the late 1800’s, it is a practice employed within ancient traditions, bridging centuries, through to the present day. Think of Gregorian chants, resonating Tibetan prayer bowls, patterns of words said in prayer or as mantras, those whirling Sufi dancers.
How does Brainwave Entrainment work?
Just as the rhythmic sounds and movements of these long held human practices slowed down the brain waves of participants so too does the use of today’s Brainwave Entrainment technology affect our busy, modern-life brains.
The rhythm within those old traditional practices actually slowed people’s brain waves from the normal, busy brainwave frequency we call Beta (13-30 cycles per second or Hz), through to the meditative Alpha (8-13Hz) brainwave frequency to Theta (4-8Hz) the state of deep relaxation and dreaming, and then the dreamless deep sleep of Delta (.5-4Hz). And this is just what happens today, easily and effortlessly using Brainwave Entrainment technology during your meditation practice.
Brainwave Entrainment programs technologies that use regular sound stimulus may employ binaural beats (two tones which combine within the brain) or monaural beats (two tones combining before the sound reaches the ears) and isochronic tones (a single tone emitted in a pattern). All three sounds may be used in combination. The Lifeflow Meditation program scientifically developed by Project Meditation combines all three in a structure of 12 simultaneous layers to bring about a powerful meditative experience easily and quickly.
Interestingly, binaural beats can only be accessed using headphones while monaural beats and isochronic tones are available to us naturally in the open air via speakers. This means their vibrations (and therefore those used in the Lifeflow meditation program) can also be picked up and absorbed by our entire body.
But there is more to Brainwave Entrainment than slowing the brain down from its busy state. Brainwave Entrainment also enables hemispheric synchronization or ‘hemi sync’, that is, the process by which the brainwave patterns of the right and left hemispheres of the brain come into alignment.
All three types of brainwave frequency mentioned above and used within a sound meditation practice can enable whole brain synchronization.
How will Brainwave Entrainment actually affect me?
On one level these Brain Entrainment beats and tones combine to take you from a beta – busy state – to a meditative alpha or theta state. The purpose of meditation is to go within, to still the mind. When this occurs the brain can naturally release serotonin, inducing a calming and healthful effect on the body. Meditation is also believed to reduce the release of the stress hormone, cortisol – and we all want to reduce the quite damaging levels of stress and its effects in our lives.
At another level, as you become more practiced at meditation, the whole brain becomes more balanced. This means that, while we know there is always some inter-relationship between the brain hemispheres, the left and right hemispheres increasingly synchronise their brainwave activity. Benefits include increased learning ability, creativity, intuition, mental clarity, and enhanced ability to concentrate and focus. A meta-study of twenty research programs found that Brainwave Entrainment can increase our cognitive abilities, reduces stress and anxiety, pain, and behavioural problems.
It is my belief that the benefits of ‘being’ in the meditative state – increased serotonin and reduced cortisol – actually enables the balancing of the brain hemispheres. When we are unstressed and happier we are more creative in our thinking, maybe take time to intuit or experiment with various solutions to a problem thus encouraging the development of brainwave pattern synchronicity.
Recent studies are also showing that regular meditation can actually increase grey matter in a part of the brain responsible for learning and memory while grey matter in the area responsible for stress actually decreased.
This is an important finding because as we age our brain tends to lose grey matter. Other studies are showing that meditation can actually lead provide some protection for our brain power as we become older.
The links are simple. Brainwave entrainment enhances our ability to meditate. It makes it easier to reach that sometimes elusive meditative state. Together, meditation and Brainwave Entrainment reduce stress and increase our ability to learn, to be creative and happy.