What are Brainwaves?
Before we discuss any further subject on spirituality or how our emotions and feelings are related, we need the basic understanding of how our brain works. Our neurons communicate with each other through a series of synchronized electrical impulses. This is the key to understanding what happens within our conscious and subconscious minds. Understanding a bit of how our brain modulates frequencies and our state of mind is fundamental in our quest for self-fulfillment.
Brainwaves are divided into bandwidths and can be imagined as musical notes; lower waves are like a drum beat or a bass, while the higher ones can be compared to higher notes on a guitar. Like in a band, the instruments need tuned and there needs to be harmony in the music being played otherwise there is just noise.
Our state of mind influences the style of the music that is being played. What we are thinking, doing and feeling can be perceived by the instruments in the laboratory. For example, when we are tired or daydreaming, slower brainwaves can be measured. When we are excited and alert, the pattern displayed is from higher frequencies.
We all display five patterns of brainwaves which can be divided in slow, moderate, and fast waves. They (like any other wave pattern) can be measured in Herz (cycles per second). Each level represents at some degree a state of consciousness, but things in practice are more complex since these states may change depending on the location our brainwaves manifest in the brain. Although they are divided into these five categories, they should best thought of as a continuous spectrum of consciousness.
Let’s break down the five categories of brain waves:
Delta waves (.5 to 3 Hz)
Delta waves are very slow and loud, like a drum beat. Most of us only reach this state at the deep, dreamless sleep. This state of consciousness is associated with healing and regeneration. Now you see why a deep sleep is so important for your health.
Some advanced mindfulness practitioners have trained years to reach this state, where awareness is fully detached and one has withdrawn for the five senses.
Delta lies at the bottom of our subconscious and it is the gateway for the unconscious mind. In this state, we experience empathy and universal love.
Theta waves (3 to 8 Hz)
In this very contradictory state of mind, we look deep down the rabbit hole: As we sleep, we experience lucid dreams and nightmares, as we are awake, we are deeply connected to our intuition, we can access information beyond our normal conscious awareness, experience vivid visualization, great inspiration, profound creativity and exceptional insight but also at Theta our fears and troubled history show up. This is the stage where our mind shifts from thinking/language to feeling/symbolic mode. Many mystics, artists, and other people that normally “think out of the box” are found using theta in awaking state. Here is where our feeling of connection and unity with the universe can be experienced. Theta mode is associated also with the 6th chakra. At this frequency, you are conscious of your surroundings however your body is in deep relaxation. This state can be also achieved during deep meditation and it is said to be in the realm of our subconscious mind.
Alpha waves (8 to 12 Hz)
Alpha brainwaves are the so called “flow” frequencies. We find ourselves in this state when our body and mind are relaxed. When we are doing yoga or walking in nature or performing a pleasurable task with a balance between challenge vs skill. In alpha, we are present and the brain is at resting state. We are alert and aware of our body and mind. Alpha aids consolidation of memory, learning and concentration and can be easily achieved by light meditation and awareness of breathing. It lies at the base of our conscious mind and acts as a gateway to our subconscious.
Beta waves (12 to 38 Hz)
This is the predominant state of our waking mind. Beta is “do” instead of “be”. It is associated with tasks of the pre-frontal cortex: analyzing, planning, categorize, judging, making decisions. Beta is directed towards the outside world.
Beta brainwaves are subdivided into three categories: Lo-Beta (12-15Hz), Beta (15-22Hz) and Hi-Beta (22-38Hz). Beta and Hi-Beta are normally triggered when we are very busy figuring something out or facing a challenge for which our skill is no match. It is very inefficient since it demands a significant amount of energy from the brain and can unfortunately lead to anxiety, stress and restlessness.
Although Beta brainwaves are important in order to be effective in this world, we should not spend most of our waking hours in this frequency range or we might experience mental diseases and stress related diseases, such as burn outs.
Gamma waves (38 to 42 Hz)
In this range, our brains are hyper-alert and hyperactive, simultaneously processing information from different areas. These brainwaves were recently discovered and there is little known about them. Some researches pointed out that Gamma is found above the frequency of neuronal triggering, so it is unknown how it is generated. Some researchers also observed Gamma states when higher virtues like altruism and universal love are manifested. Thus Gamma might be the gateway to our expanded or superconsciousness.
Altering your brainwave
Many methods have been developed by mankind since the beginning of time. People all over the world in many different cultures worked on modulating the frequency of our brainwaves using many different methods: such as drums and music, chanting, dancing, yoga/meditation, and psychedelic drugs. Nowadays, there are also the so-called bi-neural beats that help regulate brainwave patterns and therefore also assist in neuroplasticity (changing patterns).
But a very efficient, low-cost do-it-yourself method is still not out of use:
Sit in a comfortable pose on the ground with legs crossed or sit in a chair and pay attention to your breath. Remember to choose a calm place to avoid distractions. Your hands can rest on your tights or wherever it feels good for you. Just remember to have a straight back and make use of your whole lung capacity. Through your breath you can calm your brainwaves.
- Inhale and exhale deeply and regularly.
- Repeat in your mind as you inhale (Let/Calm), and as you exhale (Go/Down).
- When your mind distracts you, notice your breath, maybe you are not inhaling/exhaling deeply anymore. Maybe you are breathing irregularly ?
- Don’t hold your breath, but try to let it flow, as the seawater reaches the sand at the beach and goes back to the ocean. Let your breath lengthen and feel it flowing through your whole body.
- As time passes, you begin to notice that only sitting, breathing and being with yourself can bring so much joy
Over the long term, you will train your brainwaves into balance. Keep on practicing a little bit everyday, a few times a day. Anytime you feel your mind is very active, remember to ask yourself “Which state of mind am I in?”, the answer will probably be Beta. Take your time and bring your breath back to normal.