When we meditate, what exactly is happening? How does it differ from any other time in your day?
Lately, I’ve been getting really into Dr. Joe Dispenza’s new show, Rewired, in which he teaches us about how to actually go about changing our brains, consciously, through learning how to control our brainwaves.
Episode five really got me the other day.
It talked about what exactly is occurring in your inner and outer worlds as your brain emits certain vibrational frequencies. As you settle into your meditation, how do those brain waves change, and what does that change mean?
Your brain operates at multiple different frequencies, depending upon what's going on in your conscious state. Brain waves are measured by electroencephalography rhythms or your EEG readings. Some theories suggest these rhythms come from microtubule vibrations deep within the neurons of your brain, and according to this study, these quantum vibrations could potentially be the root of consciousness.
(The source of consciousness is a whole different post, or hundred).
Back to brain waves...
Your brain emits frequencies that, based on EEG readings, move at different speeds. Your brain waves are either beta, alpha, theta, gamma, or delta.
Here's roughly what each one looks like on an EEG reading...
by revivified co
Let’s look at each one individually, and what they feel like.
Beta brain waves.
Beta brain waves are measured at 12 - 32 Hz on the EEG reading. This is how your brain is operating when you are awake, conscious, and aware. You are focusing on your outer environment, taking in information about the world around you.
Alpha brain waves.
Alpha brain waves are a bit slower, at 8-12 Hz. This is when your inner world becomes more real than your outer world.
Picture yourself watching an educational documentary. When your eyes are on the screen and you’re listening to the information being presented, your brain waves are in a beta state.
You take a pause from watching to ponder something that was just said. You’re no longer engaged with the screen, but in your head thinking about this newfound bit of information. Now you are in an alpha state.
Theta brain waves.
Theta is even slower, coming in at 4-8 Hz. It is a meditative, resting, hypnotic state. It’s where you settle into when you are meditating. Here, you are semi-asleep but awake, and in a state of heightened suggestibility. As Dr. Joe says, “you are conscious in your subconscious.”
Delta brain waves.
Very slowly, rolling in at 0.5 - 4 Hz, these brain waves are indicative of restorative sleep. Your body is in a catatonic state and there is very little conscious activity. Zzzzz.
Gamma brain waves.
Up the other end of the spectrum, these brain waves are very fast, over 32 Hz. Here, you are super aroused, superconscious, super aware, and operating in a state of high performance.
Within each frequency, there are high-level states and low-level states that can differ from one another.
Take beta brain waves for example.
Low-level beta is a healthy brainwave state. You are focused on your outer environment, you are relaxed, you can take in information. This is an optimal time for learning.
High-level beta, however, is a stressful state our brains go to when your autonomic nervous system tells you there is a threat. You are still more focused on your outside world than your inside world, but now you are operating from emergency mode.
While this may be good in the short term (say there’s an angry bear in the woods that you just ran into, and you need to either fight, flight, or play dead), people very often get stuck in this mode.
If you encounter a stressful situation in real life, say your boss sends you an angry text when you’re not even at work, then this fight-or-flight system kicks on. Your body literally reacts the same way it would if your life were being threatened by a predator staring you down after you accidentally intruded on their territory. (Silly nervous system doesn’t know the difference).
When we get stuck in this high-level beta brain wave state for too long, it translates into anxiety and depression. Your brain is constantly aroused, and therefore you may consistently feel like you need something to sedate the body in order to relax the brain.
So how do we control our brainwaves?
Many people are stuck in that high-level beta or want to dive deeper into the subconscious through accessing those slower theta states. Whatever the reason, there is a way you can control your brainwaves to get yourself out of stress and into meditative conscious awareness.
Why would we want to do this?
Your brain waves, as shown on EEG readings done by Dr. Dispenza and his team become more coherent once you are able to transcend your analytical mind.
Your analytical mind sits between low-level beta and alpha waves, so getting out of the analytical mind is really the first step into these deeper levels of awareness.
Brain wave readings show more synchronized lines when people dive into deeper meditative states.
When the brain is working coherently, energy in the brain and the heart grow, which leads to greater levels of awareness. As your heart and brain sync, your heart produces an ambient, magnetic field that broadens from the body, carrying energy out into the world.
This, Dr. Joe says, is called our natural state of being.
Slow down. Breathe. Meditate.
If we are stuck in that high-level beta brain wave state and want to slow things down to eventually reach a space where our brain is functioning coherently, in sync with our hearts, emitting energy into that quantum field around us, we must learn to meditate.
This means taking your attention off the material world around you and going into your awareness and the space inside of you.
Close your eyes. Let your focus be broad. Instead of focusing on material things around you, close your senses off and let your awareness just be.
Here, you can bring your awareness to your breath if it helps, but just be in that space of awareness inside of you.
As you meditate, don’t try to control your thoughts, just let them be. The brain is a reflexive organ that has around 60,000 thoughts per day, so trying to control those thoughts is obsolete. Just observe, instead. If you find your awareness getting carried away with any single train of thought, gently bring that awareness back to center, back to breath and space.
As you do this regularly, it will become easier.
You may find yourself not having to pull your attention back so often, and you may find that disconnection between awareness and thoughts coming easier. Falling into these meditative states means your brain waves are slowing down, from those high-level fast-frequency states of being into slower, resting states of being.
Go ahead, give it a try. Can you feel as those waves drop in speed, from beta to alpha to theta? What does it feel like? How does it feel in your body? In your mind? Do any insights come up?
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