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Brain Health

Brain Wave Fun

How I accidentally discovered a skill only deep meditators usually accomplish…

Brain Wave Fun

In 1973, I had the chance to play with brain waves.

A friend invited me to come with him to try out a brain wave measurement device.

I jumped at the chance. I’d been meditating and practicing qigong for a couple of years. I was curious what I might learn.

That evening we went to a home in a nearby neighborhood. Once introductions were complete, we were shown to a room in the house that seemed like a study.

One entire wall was book cases filled with interesting books. Near it was a table with a rectangular box on it. The box had wires snaking out of it.

My friend went first. He had a kind of knit cap placed on his head. It held sensors that were then hooked up to the rectangular box.

The box had a display showing the actual brain waves being measured. It also emitted a sound that changed as the brain waves changed. It went higher in the normal awake state and lower in the deeper realms of awareness.

I should pause here for those not familiar with brain waves. These are frequencies generated by the brain. The number of cycles per second the brain emits is a function of the mental state a person is in. There are 5 levels of these waves. The are, from highest frequency to lowest:

  • Gamma Waves – the waves generated by someone at a very high level of performance. These happen when a person is “in the zone.”
  • Beta Waves – normal, waking awareness. There are sub-categories of Beta waves, ranging from high (mostly in stress and anxiety) to low (more common in normal daily activities.)
  • Alpha Waves – a relaxed state of mind. Often described as a light meditative state.
  • Theta Waves – deeper and more relaxed. Commonly experienced as the state between waking and sleeping.
  • Delta Waves – deep, relaxed. Most commonly experienced in deep sleep.

My friend spent time learning how to increase and decrease the tone from the machine by modifying his brain waves. He was very good at getting into an Alpha state after about 15 minutes. I was impressed.

When it was my turn I was a little apprehensive. I wanted to be able to do as well as my friend. Of course, being in this kind of competitive state doesn’t help you relax. As a result, I could only make the sound go up and down in the mid- to low-Beta range. It was frustrating!

Our host watched my struggles. After about 10 minutes, he suggested I shift my awareness. He had me breathe deeply. I closed my eyes. He suggested I focus on the area below my navel. As I did, my breath got slower. I started feeling more relaxed. And at the same time, the tone coming from the machine went into the range of Alpha waves.

Whenever I got excited about succeeding, the sound got higher as I went back to a Beta brain wave state. It was instant feedback telling me when I lost focus on relaxing.

About 20 minutes in, something shifted. I felt like I’d stepped into a giant, open space. In that space I felt happy and relaxed, but also very clear-headed. It was definitely not like the Alpha state.

Then I noticed the tone from the machine. It was very low. I knew enough by then not to get excited about it, but just keep being in the spacious awareness.

My friend looked at the machine and seemed puzzled. It was reading in the Delta brain wave area. When he told me, I thought, “Oh, that’s interesting,” with not particular attachment to the information.

For the next 5 minutes, the sound was in the same range. I continued to feel that open space around me. Finally, our host decided it was time to turn off the machine and unhook me.

I assumed that I would quickly go back to my usual state of awarenss. But nothing changed. We said our goodbyes to our host and left. For the rest of the night I felt the same as I had in the Delta state.

But more curious was the next day. The state was still there when I woke up! Rationally it didn’t make sense to me since Delta is supposed to happen in deep sleep. But I was wide awake and feeling it.

Understand that I wasn’t complaining. It was one of the happiest, most relaxed experiences I’d ever had up to that point.

As it turned out, that state lasted for an entire week. Then gradually I returned to my usual state of mind. But during that week there were several interesting things I noticed:

Nothing that happened in my world threw me off center. It wasn’t that I didn’t notice things going on, it was more like they just passed right through me without engaging my reactivity.

I felt light and happy all of the time. My interactions with people were easy and clear.

I was able to do everything I normally did. Work and home life went on as usual. The only difference was my state of mind.

Only years later did I learn that some very accomplished meditators were able to enter a Delta brain pattern while fully awake. Somehow I had stumbled upon it by accident.

It was many years before I was able to repeat this at will…

All the best for your health and happiness.

Dr. Bruce Eichelberger

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