Over the course of my many years of experience in teaching and researching meditation, many people have come to me wanting to know; what meditation is, how it can be helpful and how it is best practiced. In truth, the word meditation can mean a lot of things because of the sheer variety of practices.
Historically, meditation has been the cornerstone of many religions and there are many different styles. Transcendental meditation for instance, is designed to help one achieve a unified state of being. There are other methods, which yield different experiences such as: chanting, contemplation and shamanic journeying to name a few.
For centuries, westerners on the whole have not engaged in meditation because the practice belonged to a more eastern or aboriginal form of spirituality and was considered too foreign. I have heard a variety of fears come up regarding trance like or meditative states. Most of these fears have been carried over from the dark ages when only heretics and heathens practiced meditation. However, in recent years, people who had shied away from meditation in the past, have grown more curious.
One reason for this growing interest is the scientific research showing the many health benefits of a continued meditation practice. Spiritual origins aside, clinical research data shows that meditation is beneficial to the body and mind. It is shown to reduce cortisol levels, which is a secretion of the adrenal glands triggered by stress. It promotes physical relaxation and relieves insomnia. There is data to support meditation reduced the risks of hyper-tension.
There are psychological perks as well, like gaining control over subconscious habit patterns and coping with depression and anxiety.
Why does meditation work so well for these purposes? One possible answer is that people who meditate spend a good deal of time in an altered state of consciousness.
The term “altered states of consciousness” is an interesting one. It was a term given to categorize any human experience residing outside of the norm of being either conscious or unconscious. However, the space between these two extremes is really quite large and encompasses a wide spectrum of experiences. In an altered state such a deep meditation, your body is asleep (or deeply relaxed) and you are conscious when you would ordinarily be asleep.
Altered states are unique states of consciousness and can be transformative to the person experiencing them. Meditation falls under the heading of altered state because of the deep physical relaxation and the unusual experience of walking through your own sub-conscious world.
Research into altered states of consciousness has provided an open window to anyone wishing to experience them. It is through understanding the mechanism of consciousness, that it can be measured and effected. Because of this understanding, beneficial meditative states are easily accessible to everyone reading this article.
For over 50 years now, researchers have been able to monitor brainwave activity through Electroencephalographs. EEG brainwave measurements have been correlated to specific states of consciousness. These correlation’s have proven very useful in understanding consciousness.
Like everything electrical, brainwaves are measured in cycles per second (cps) or Hertz (hz). Depending on whose book you read, brainwaves range from .5hz to 40hz. This range of movement has been broken down into four discreet categories: Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta.
Each of these has an experience attached to it. Beta for instance is the “normal waking consciousness”, while Delta indicates unconscious deep sleep. Theta and alpha brainwave dominance are indicative of altered states. It is through this research, that I have actually been able to stimulate the brain to respond with the same patterns seen in deep meditation. This is achieved through the use of specific sound patterns called binaural beats.
Binaural beats are a phenomena created naturally in the brain, when two similar sounds are introduced at the same time. Because the sounds are similar but not exact, there is a phase cancellation effect that takes place, resulting in an oscillation or beat. Binaural beats can be specifically targeted to vibrate at the same frequencies naturally produced in the brain.
Through the years, I have been able to use binaural beats to stimulate brainwaves into the same regions that are produced when the experience is that of wakefulness, sleep, or altered states of consciousness.
Imagine putting on a set of headphones and being able to move into deep meditative states even if you have never meditated before. The use of binaural beat stimulus has provided a safe, effective means of reaching altered states to many thousands of people worldwide.
It has been used in hospitals and sleep clinics to induce a restful, recuperative state. It has been recommended by medical doctors, psychiatrist’s and psychologist’s to help bring the body and mind back into balance. Even the US military has used this technology to help soldier’s train more efficiently. Binaural beats are an effective means of altering consciousness naturally and without side effects.
This technology is basically a 21st century version of a very old concept. The truth is that the ancients have known about the effects of sound on consciousness for millennia. In essence, the premise is the same.
Sound definitely has an effect on consciousness. One proof of this is the effect music has on our mood. Unlike music however, the effect of binaural beat stimulus is predictable and repeatable. If you have always wanted to gain some of the many benefits of meditation but have had trouble meditating, the proper use of binaural beats are truly, meditation made easy!