Behind the closing of your eyes, the controlled breathing and the relaxation, there are various levels of meditation that you can enter into, and there has also been a fair bit of research done into it.
When I wrote about technology and meditation, I explained how binaural beats and isochronic tones worked. These pieces of technology came about after researching brainwaves, and how the brain produces different frequencies at different levels of activity. Of particular interest are alpha, delta and theta waves, which I have mentioned in passing, and I’ll provide some explanations of them now so that we can see how the brain works in meditation, and what’s possible at the different levels of the meditative state.
It’s not Brain Surgery
Seriously there is no brain surgery… a little bit of neuroscience maybe… but nothing that will be too hard. So let’s get into it.
Alpha waves are what causes the brain to enter into a light, meditative state. It’s that twilight state between being asleep and being awake where you’re relaxed but aware of what’s going on. It’s the state accessed for creativity and also for learning.
Ever notice how your best ideas come when you’re in the shower? It’s fairly common, because you’re relaxed but aware at the same time, and this allows the creative elements of your mind to come out to play. It’s also effective for learning because in the alpha state, what you learn gets embedded directly into your unconscious mind, and so the learning becomes holistic, and not just the rote learning that comes with conventional education, like memorising quotes or learning your multiplication tables.
I think Drew gives a good rundown on alpha brainwaves in her article Alpha Brain Waves – A Guide To Understanding. I was actually surprised that she highlights that there are negatives to having too many alpha waves – I hadn’t initially realised that you could have too many brain waves! However I guess the adage of “too much of something isn’t good” applies.
The alpha wave is a relatively fast wave compared to the delta and theta waves, but it is slower than the waves dealing with conscious activities. Here’s what an alpha wave looks like over the course of 1 second:
So this wave has a number of peaks and dips (troughs) with a wide range in the height (amplitude) of the wave at different intervals.
Theta waves take over when you enter meditation and sleep, and is also where most meditations take place, and also where hypnosis has it’s best effects. Physical, mental and emotional trauma can be addressed best at the theta phase, and we find that people who meditate regularly have a greater sense of wellbeing – they don’t get sick or stressed as often as people who don’t meditate.
We also find that this phase is where the brain starts searching for answers, and often people who enter this state through meditation or hypnosis will get to the source of their problems rapidly, and will also be more effective in obtaining solutions.
As I mentioned, the delta wave is slower than the alpha wave, and over the course of 1 second, here’s what it looks like:
This is a much flatter wave, with less fluctuation and less intensity – I guess when you’re meditating, you want your mind to be moving at a slower, smoother pace and the wave reflects this.
Delta waves are the deepest waves that from what I can see, occur naturally.
This is a restorative and healing phase for the brain, where the immune system peaks and various hormones are released to help your body repair itself and regenerate for the next day.
People who are sick tend to sleep a fair bit (or should sleep a fair bit), and by limiting activity, it allows the brain to get into the delta phase, so that they can heal faster.
Again, a much slower wave form than the theta wave, here’s what it looks like over the course of 1 second:
This is an obviously slower phase as we can tell by looking at it. Much smoother and a more “rolling” wave. This phase is best accessed through sleep, although I know that I’ve experienced it with deep trance hypnosis.
Now the Meditation Stuff
With the basic understanding of brain waves, what they do and how they work, it’s easy to now understand that every meditation track that you listen to and every guided meditation that you follow, will have one of three purposes:
- Light meditation
- Contemplative meditation
- Deep meditation
I’ve illustrated this in the diagram below:
These correspond with the different brainwaves that are stimulated by the binaural beats and isochronic tones however you can reach these different levels of meditation without them.
At the light meditation level, your ability to learn expands, and your creativity increases. You may experience heightened sensory acuity as well as psychic acuity, as well as a calmer mind and clarity of thoughts.
At the contemplative meditation level, you will find solutions to your problems, find access to wisdom, have greater emotional and mental control. A greater spiritual connection and an increase in energy may be experienced at this level.
At the deep meditation level, your body will experience healing and your mind will experience resolution of internal conflicts and repressed emotions. A sense of wellbeing and increased vitality are what you may expect at this level.
These levels can be accessed through meditation and even hypnosis, and regularly, hypnotherapists will take you into light, medium and deep levels of trance to stimulate the experiences and results I mentioned above.
One of my mentors once suggested that the greatest gift you can ever give yourself, is the gift of self-hypnosis. I strongly believe that self-hypnosis and meditation are the same, as they give you access to your unconscious mind.
With access to the different levels of the unconscious mind, I believe that we’re now taking control of our minds and conversely our lives – and as new-agey as it sounds – I believe we’re also taking control of our destiny and our personal evolution.