Life. Change. Delta waves??

Sceenshot TED talk change-curve

Change slows down as we age. But not for all of us equally. It seems delta sleep keeps us younger for longer, and we can induce delta waves artificially.

A while ago I watched a TED video with Dan Gilbert which centered on the fact that people poorly estimate their future change. (Not pocket change, but change in values, behavior etc.) A study asked a wide range of people either a) how much they had changed over the last 10 years or b) how much they expected to change over the next ten years. Then they matched the answers by age: The 18 year olds thought they would not change much by the age of 28, but the 28 year olds thought they had changed a lot since they were 18, and so on. This is the focus of the story.

But I noticed the shape of the curve they drew. Three curves actually, but they were very similar for a number of ways in which people change over the course of their life. The change is rapid at first, and declines gradually but with some noticeable steps, then declining greatly in old age. The curve is familiar, but it took me some hours to recognize it, because I had not seen it before, just seen it described in text form. Oh, and I had described it myself too. I often answer basic questions about sleep on Quora, and one of the things I explained was the function of “delta sleep”.

Called NREM stage 3 these days, this deepest sleep is less formally called “slow-wave sleep”, because the brainwaves that dominate the whole brain in this sleep stage are large and slow. The slow, regular brainwaves are called “delta waves” and technically waves below 4 Hz fall in this category. The dominant waves during slow-wave sleep however are usually 1 Hz or less, in other words less than one complete wave per second! They can go as far as 1/3 Hz, where one wave takes 3 seconds.

Despite the slowness of the delta brain waves, the brain is actually doing various useful things. One of them is related to learning. A study shows that people who have been training to learn a 3D maze during the day have increased blood flow in the same brain area during slow-wave sleep, compared to a control group that did not undergo intensive training. Another important thing that happens during this deep sleep phase is the release of Human Growth Hormone. In children this hormone triggers growth, as the name implies, but in adults it triggers regeneration. Basically it keeps us young and healthy.

We know that delta sleep is important, because bad things happen to test animals who are kept away from it. Their learning is impaired, but worse, their immune system is also weakened, and they lose the ability to deal with stress. Eventually they die early. Luckily the body goes very far to recover this type of sleep. If you stay awake for days, the body first recovers delta sleep and also REM sleep, the vivid dream sleep that seems important for memory and sanity. If you become chronically sleep deprived, the body will start running short periods of slow-wave sleep, so-called “microsleep”, while you are awake. Thoughtfully this is done when there seems to be downtime, when nothing particularly challenging is going on. Like at school, at office … or on a long stretch of road. Suddenly 10 seconds are missing from your life. If those seconds should have included some adjustment to the car’s trajectory, they may be the last 10 seconds of your life. So don’t go around missing delta sleep.


In babies, delta waves take up much of their sleeping time and some of their waking time. The waking delta fades later in childhood. Delta sleep remains fairly high in teenagers, and may appear in all the sleep cycles. (The first sleep cycle is from falling asleep to the end of the first REM sleep. The later cycles are from the end of one REM period to the end of the next. Each sleep cycle features first a slowing of the brain waves, and later the waves become faster again, until REM – vivid dream sleep – where brainwaves are as fast and irregular as during excited waking activities.) In children and teenagers, the deep delta sleep can occur in all sleep cycles, but is longer in the first cycles. In adults, delta sleep only occurs during the first sleep cycles, and is markedly longer during the first of them. Delta sleep continues to shrink during life, and in the elderly it can cease entirely, especially in men, or occur only some nights and not others.

There is a remarkable parallel between the decline of delta sleep and the complex process we call aging. But is one the cause of the other? Or is there some underlying process that causes them both? This is a very good question. If delta waves keep us young, we could stay young longer by increasing the amount of time our brain spends in delta sleep, or perhaps even in delta waves during waking time, which is rare but possible.

As it happens, there is a drug that can induce delta sleep. It seems to have no serious side effects when used clinically. Apart from the usual conservatism of the medical establishment, there is one big reason why it is not more widespread: It is the best date rape drug on the market. You are not going to get this drug on prescription or walk out of the lab with it in your pocket. All legal sources of the drug are strictly controlled. And as long as humans are the way they are, this is not likely to change, unfortunately. So we won’t know whether people who take this drug regularly live longer and healthier lives, as they would if delta sleep was the “fountain of youth” that some suspect.

And here our story could have ended. But there is another, more cumbersome way to induce delta waves – or any frequency of brain waves that can occur naturally – and I have mentioned it repeatedly over the last few years. It is called brainwave entrainment.


Brainwave entrainment means that we use an outside impulse to synchronize brainwaves to a particular frequency. Sound, light and even touch can be used for this, but sound is by far the most common, cheap and convenient. There are several different sound effects that can be used as well. In the beginning, binaural beats were most popular. This is the coolest of the bunch, as you send sound to each ear with a slightly different frequency. The brain starts to resonate to the difference between the frequencies. So you could play back a speech or a piece of music but having altered the frequency slight on one ear, and simply listening to this would gradually induce the specific frequency of brain waves.

Other systems such as monaural beats and isochronic tones exist, and isochronic tones are actually considered the most effective, but they tend to be clearly audible unless masked with other more complex sounds. If you buy pre-packaged sound tracks you will normally find that they have some kind of soundscape like rainfall or other nature sounds that take the edge off the repetitive sounds that trigger the actual entrainment.

At first it takes up to 8 minutes to entrain the brain so that most of the brainwaves resonate to the same frequency across almost the whole brain. With practice this time can be lowered significantly, so that one slips into a familiar frequency more easily.

Brainwave entrainment can happen during sleep or while awake. Because delta waves only occur naturally during sleep, there is a tendency at first to fall asleep when these are induced while you are awake. With practice you become better at staying awake, but that may not necessarily be what you want. Certainly if you use brainwave entrainment as an aid in meditation, then you should practice while you are rested and train yourself to remain awake. But if you want the deep sleep effect, you would want to put on the delta soundtrack when you are going to sleep or taking a nap. If you suffer from insomnia, brainwave entrainment is awesome: If you fall asleep, good. If you stay awake, you still get the deep restful brainwaves.

I should caution here that from my own experience and that of my friends, some trippy and unpleasant side effects can appear if you start doing deep brainwave entrainment suddenly without gradually building up to it with shorter periods and less deep frequencies. Migraines, double vision, nightmares and temporary loss of short-term memory can appear during or after use, although this does not happen to all and is always temporary. For this reason I recommend starting with alpha wave entrainment, which induces waves you normally have during relaxation and when falling asleep. The brain is used to having these experiences, so side effects are likely to be harmless and often pleasant: A feeling of weightlessness, seeing lights while your eyes are closed, sudden bursts of memories or emotions, or sometimes a feeling of “energy” running along your body. But most of the time nothing, or just a sense of peace and relaxation.

With some months of practice, you should be able to use delta wave entrainment with no side effects, like I do. I did not actually get into this for reasons of longevity, and certainly not to change. It was pretty much scientific curiosity that made me try out Holosync, and later Lifeflow, and eventually making my own tracks using Gnaural, a public domain software that is not very intuitive to use but totally free and fairly flexible. After satisfying my curiosity, I continued because it helped with a completely different problem for me: Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, a situation where the patient does not become sleepy until the morning, and has a hard time staying awake early in the workday. By using delta brainwave entrainment I could go to bed earlier, and if I did not fall asleep I would still get a decent degree of rest from meditating with the entrainment. Ironically, knowing that you don’t  need to fall asleep is the best cure for insomnia.

I remember mentioning around New Years (after I started with delta wave entrainment in spring), that I had changed so much that year. But I was not sure whether it was because of the brainwave entrainment, or the “Happy Science” books by Ryuho Okawa, or the mostly Christian spiritual literature recommended on the One Cosmos blog. All of these things kind of heaped up in that year. But would the books have made the same impression on me if I had less delta waves in my life? I don’t know. I am just a single person (literally so) and there is just too much outside influences for my personal experience to prove or disprove anything. (As skeptics say: The plural of anecdote is not data.) In order to know more, we need many more people to try this course of action.

The way I see it, there is very little to lose. If you have the patience to start easy, there should be no unpleasant side effects, and it is in any case totally harmless. On the other hand there are the benefits of better learning, better health, and a subjective experience of having more time (because time does not just fly by without you learning from it). It may not be a magic pill, but it is close enough that I recommend it. Unless you think change could only be for the worse – after all, perhaps you are already close enough to perfect. ^_^

Brainwave entrainment and sleep, again

Open your mind and let the New Age of Technology in! Messing around with your brain waves may sound scary, but that’s what they thought about flying too. And before that, running faster than horses. If God wanted us to go beyond our limitations, He would have given us the ability to create!

An online friend complained about insomnia again, so I hurried to recommend delta brainwave entrainment. This little masterpiece of modern science can replace up to 2 hours of sleep with half an hour of entrainment. Beyond that, you run into rapidly diminishing returns – it is not possible to replace sleep entirely, not even if you use several different frequencies of brainwave entrainment. Still, it is pretty impressive.

Unfortunately, it turns out my friend had experimented with brainwave entrainment in the past, on my recommendation, but experienced side effects that were worse than her lack of sleep. Even 10 minutes of delta entrainment caused blurred vision, sometimes migraine, and once she even experienced a seizure afterwards (although it is unclear whether this actually came from the entrainment). Unsurprisingly, she then gave up on the project, despite observing the almost magical effects of the technology.

It is more the rule than the exception that you will experience something when you first start using brainwave entrainment, especially if you start with delta, which is the slowest brainwave frequencies and only dominates naturally during our deepest sleep. So yeah, expect the unexpected. But for most people, the side effects are pleasant or just plain weird. Pain or neurological distortions like blurred vision or temporary loss of short-term memory are rare and typically symptoms of excessive use. The only permanent damage I have heard of is one user who got tinnitus, ringing in the ears. Given the thousands of users of brainwave entrainment, it is as likely as not that the fellow would have developed the problem during the same time period regardless. But who knows. Still, the odds are pretty good that you will benefit, and it is very unlikely that you will malefit, as it were.

Still, I recommend the LifeFlow approach of starting with a more accessible frequency. The LifeFlow program starts at 10 Hz, which is similar to a beginner’s meditation, or the relaxed feeling of lounging in a Stressless chair. It is recommended to use this for 40 minutes a day for two months before moving on to 9 Hz, a slightly deeper form of alpha wave, similar to what you experience the last few minutes before falling asleep. It continues this way down to 1 Hz, which is solid delta and comparable to deep sleep. During a night of sleep, you are unlikely to have delta after the first two sleep cycles unless you are a child. A sleep cycle is 90 minutes, and consists of several phases, so few adults and virtually no elderly get as much as 30 minutes of it naturally. Children do, however, and I don’t think delta entrainment is useful for them. They should get the opportunity to sleep naturally.

As I mentioned, the value of delta entrainment in connection with sleep is that it provides a type of brainwave that we need but which we don’t get much of as we grow older. Sleep consists of four phases, but two of them are particularly important. Deep sleep with delta waves is one of them. The other is REM sleep, or intense lifelike dreaming. Delta occurs naturally only at the beginning of the night, while REM increases gradually with each cycle through the night. Again, children have more of both, elderly less. In fact, elderly often go nights without delta at all, but also have less REM. Their dreams are often so prosaic that they wake up thinking they have not slept at all, despite snoring loudly!  When humans – and even animals – are kept awake for a long time, they catch up by having more delta and REM sleep the first night they are allowed to sleep again. This is a pretty good hint that these sleep phases are particularly important.

We don’t know any way to induce REM electronically. Sex will do it in rabbits, or so I have read. But delta waves we can create with precise sound patterns. All you need to do is close your eyes. You don’t even have to think about England. As long as you refrain from intense, primal emotions – fear, anger, lust or disgust – the entrainment will work its magic. You can even worry a little, if you feel the urge, just don’t panic.

But to reduce the risk of creepy side effects, I recommend starting with lighter frequencies (alpha or at least theta) and perhaps even shorter time spans in the beginning. Notice that most side effects are actually either pleasant or just psychedelic, but they are still distracting. The less you think about the experience, the better really. Just close your eyes, relax and let the sound wash over you.

I have an MP3 player with delta tracks beside me on my bed. That way, if I go to bed early enough to not fall asleep instantly, I can spend the time relaxing with delta waves. It is pretty nifty. I am a lot more awake at work than I used to be – I used to need to nap twice or thrice during most workdays, although my naps were brief – and I can now work full days instead of 90%. I still have Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome and perhaps I will for the rest of my life, but at least now I can do something to reduce the impact on my life.

I should admit that I am not sure it all comes from the brainwave entrainment, I made other changes in my life too. I learned laws of the mind from Happy Science and started to read esoteric books of timeless wisdom by Christian and near-Christian philosophers during the same time frame. It may even be a combination of several of these. Perhaps the passing of a couple years count as well, midlife changes and all that. But from a scientific point of view, when it comes to the effect on daytime sleepiness, brainwave entrainment is the main suspect.

A bit more enthusiastic than me, this fellow LifeFlow user escaped psychiatric hell by the power of brainwave entrainment. There are a number of such stories among the LifeFlow regulars.  His review is here at MeditationStars.


Reflections on quiet

“The only person who truly knows your innermost thoughts is yourself.” And even that is a very optimistic view.

Back when I first started to experiment with the Holosync Solution, I briefly mentioned something important: If this could make people sit down and shut up for an hour each day, it would lead to rapid personal growth regardless of whether the brainwave entertainment actually worked.

This is not to say that I don’t believe the brainwave entrainment works. It probably does, at least part of it. And it probably does have health benefits beyond what you could get by just staring at the wall for an hour each day. But the fact remains that staring at the wall for an hour would indeed be an improvement for most people. Or at least half an hour, but if you really want far-reaching changes in your life, why not go the whole hog and just sit there for an hour.

This may seem like an absurd thing to do. And for all I know, it may be better to play Bach for an hour each day. I keep hearing good thing about Bach, although he is a mite too subtle and refined for a barbarian like me. ^_^ But the thing is, each of us has a profound need to sit down and shut up, if at all possible. And it is a need we usually repress at all costs until our health and even life itself is in danger.

There are different levels of quiet. What we today call meditation (and which the monks of old called contemplation) is a much deeper quiet than just sitting there and shutting up. There are also different levels of meditation. But we have to start somewhere, right? And the first thing we need to do is shut up.

Even if we shut our mouth, even if we go sit down in a room by ourselves and don’t turn on the TV, or the radio, or the stereo, or the computer… even if we just sit there and say nothing, that does not mean we really shut up. Our mouth shuts down, but the brain keeps making talk as if we were not alone.

Actually not all people have that particular brain that talks incessantly. Some think in images or even in music by default. But it is extremely common that our thoughts take the form of a flow of words.  This inner monologue (or in some cases dialogue or more!) tends to go on and on when we are alone.

In meditation we make a distraction of sorts, by binding our mind to a mantra or some other symbol. This serves as an anchor for the mind, so that we can quickly jump back to that point of stillness when we realize we have been carried away on the stream of consciousness. It is like a teleport spell that takes you back to the anchor in a moment. No need to flail and get upset or disappointed or even surprised that an important person like me got carried away by random thoughts. Just jump back to the point of quiet and start again.

But – at least at the outset – the truth is that this inner silence is not really what we are aiming for. I mean, each of us is aiming for it consciously, I suppose. But not having it is an important lesson in itself. By seeking the stillness inside, we become aware of the mind-chatter, the inner talk show, the often inane babble that it all comes down to when there is nothing more to say and the mind just can’t shut up.

If you never sit down and try to shut down your thoughts, if you just distract yourself until you cannot stay awake any longer, you can delude yourself. You can think that you are this particular person, “I”, who has some clearly defined personality traits and is pretty much the same person at all times, and simply creates thoughts by the amazing power of your brain. You don’t need to wonder what to think, say or do: By virtue of simply being you, it all pops into your head when you need it.

Once you become quiet enough to listen to your own thoughts, you will realize that no, you are not that unified thing, like a pearl that is whole and looking the same from all angles. Rather, your mind is like a flock of sheep, or a kindergarten with overly excited children squabbling and laughing and crying and doing random things, talking incessantly and mostly about useless stuff. But you have to be still enough to observe yourself to find out these things.

Is that really useful to know? Yes, it really is. If you don’t know at least roughly what you are, you are deluding yourself. You will make a history, a narrative, that is actually, factually wrong. And you will be surprised over and over by things inside yourself:  Feelings, irrational impulses, sudden urges, subtle tendencies. Among all these, you are blown off course again and again and cannot understand why.

But even if not, you really need that quiet. For your body to relax, for your mind to defragment itself and settle down. For your thoughts to stop flapping their wings quite so vigorously. And to become able to fall asleep without chemicals and without being so exhausted that you cannot wake up in the morning without (more) chemicals.

So if you haven’t already, please take some time to sit down and just shut up for some minutes. Your future self will thank you.

Feeling sadness

Something strange happened yesterday. I woke up half past five in the morning from the buzzing of a bee in the window near me. These critters have some modest amount of poison and it sounded pretty desperate, so I found it prudent to get away. I got up and went down in the living room, where I put on my headphones and played LifeFlow 1 for 40 minutes.

LifeFlow is a series of brainwave entrainment tracks, and the names of the main tracks are their frequency in Hertz. The 1 Hz track is the deepest in the series, corresponding to deep dreamless sleep. What I usually use is the 2 Hz track, which has a much less disturbing soundscape, vaguely water-themed, whereas number 1 has the sound of whales and possibly some other marine mammals and a few other underwater sounds. It sounds spooky, to put it bluntly, and several people have complained about this on the Project Meditation forums. I however see the point in making this track more disturbing: It is quite hard to stay awake when your brain starts to synchronize at a frequency usually used in deep, dreamless sleep.

Be that as it may, I am not built to get up at this time. While I at least mostly stayed awake through the 40 minutes, I watched random hallucinations behind my closed eyes much of the time, shapes that arose and stayed for a while before disappearing again. This may be normal for humans for all I know, but it is very rare for me. Especially these days, and especially when the images are just meaningless shapes and not women. But actually very rare anyway. So seeing this long parade of random images was weird enough in itself. It was only the beginning though.

When the track ended and I opened my eyes again, I felt a profound feeling of sadness. It was not associated with any person or event or memory. It was just a pure feeling of sadness or perhaps regret or loss.

I suppose the ghost whale sound could have some part in it, but probably not. For one thing, the unpleasant sound these creatures add to the otherwise decent soundscape can actually be said to have lessened my regret over having eaten whale beef in my late teens. The whales are considered more or less saints and sages by the New Age community, but I dare say that their utterances on this recording make them sound edible indeed and not particularly worthy of preservation either. Your ears may vary.

Another clue is that I still feel some degree of that sadness two days and one night later. It is not as strong as it was when it started, but it keeps running in the background much of the time, so that I can be aware of it when I so decide. This fits better with the theory I immediately thought of when I noticed it.

You see, I have written repeatedly in these pages about my immunity to sadness. That I can feel joy, and sometimes fear, but rarely ever sadness. That is not something one would normally miss and want back (I did have it earlier in my adult life), but it is kind of weird for it to be so completely absent. What I think is that perhaps the new connections created in my brain during the entrainment may have unlocked the feeling that was somehow locked away at an earlier point in my life.

It could be a coincidence, of course. Or some spiritual attack, or help, depending on the outcome. If someone keeps going on and on about their happiness, especially someone who has several friends who experience deep sadness, it is only natural if they occasionally quietly wish for me to feel it too. And it is not like I have been praying to God to never experience sadness or anything. It is just something I have noticed, not something I have desired strongly or – I think – taken pride in. Though I suppose it could seem that way, that I have preened exceedingly about it.

Be that as it may, it is not of an intensity that makes me weep or anything. In a sense I actually find it fascinating, even enriching in the short term. If it lasts for the duration of my life I may change my opinion, I suppose. But in any case it is not like I am unable to feel joy.

I certainly felt like whining with joy for a little while this afternoon when I realized that had taken in a new Okawa book: The Moment of Truth, a brand new book from only weeks ago, based on his lectures in Brazil recently. I should not be so excited about books by a man who thinks he is God from Venus, but the thing is that he writes like a god. More exactly like Hermes, the god of speed, given that Master Okawa has published some 700 books by now (!), about one per week last year alone, earning him a place in Guinness Book of Records. And what is more disturbing is that they are generally quite well written. I would not lie if I said, if I could write even one book in my lifetime and it was half as good as the average Okawa book, I would be able to die with a smile, knowing that I had made a significant contribution to the world. But I haven’t, so I can’t. At least not yet.

Of course, some suspicion is in order when someone claims to be God from Venus. Even if he can go entire books without bringing it up. But that does not change that he writes an awesome prose that I hope to get closer to. He practices what he preaches, that you have not truly understood something until you can explain it in common words that even a child can understand. I have a long way to go in the childish writing department, as I am sure you have noticed!

So I pray that what I read may not harm me but rather help me. That is pretty much what I pray about food too. And I habitually add a prayer that I may also be of help and not harm to others. After all, that is what matters. What we feel does not matter so much as what we do. But of course what we feel tends to influence what we do. I certainly expect that for myself. I am still that much human, and I know it. Hopefully with my newfound ability to feel sadness, I will now be able to understand others a little more than I did before.


Oh, and happy birthday if you happen to read this. I wish you could be as happy as I have been, since you deserve it so much more. It is strange how fate has sent us down so different paths, from where we once started together.

Brainwaves, entrainment & meditation

Last year I wrote several entries about brainwave entrainment and the two products I have bought and used for this purpose, first Holosync and later LifeFlow. I have tagged this entry with the same tags, so you should be able to use the tag feature of WordPress to quickly get a list of the other entries where I have used those tags.

This is a more basic overview, for those who are absolutely new to this field.

Our brain uses a combination of electricity and chemistry to do its work. Signals traverse the neurons – the nerve cells – as a change in the electric potential. Then in the gap between cells, it is converted to a chemical signal carried by a neurotransmitter. If the receiving cell reacts, it more or less recreates the signal and passes it on. Whether it does this, and whether the signal is stronger or weaker than it first was, depends on other signals the cell may also receive, and its experience with signals from that particular cell.

As you may guess by now, measuring the electromagnetic output of the brain will not allow your doctor to read your thoughts. It can only give a rough outline of what is going on in there. In fact, it is different from an EEG (electro-encephalogram) to say whether a person is dreaming or just thinking hard. But certain conditions show up very clearly, such as an epileptic attack or, on the other hand, sleep.

In sleep, the brainwaves slow down. For historical reasons, the usual thinking waves are called beta. They are quick, jagged and don’t go very far up or down usually, though there may be an occasional spike.

The next type is alpha. This appears when we are about to go to sleep, but also during daydreams and other relaxing situations. You can usually create this type of brainwave by simply sitting comfortably alone, closing your eyes, relaxing and then looking slightly upward inside your closed eyes. Don’t roll them back so hard it hurts. In this state of mind it is almost impossible to solve mathematical or logical problems, or anything else that normally requires concentration. These brainwaves are slower, rounder and more regular.

The alpha state is the one where we start doing meditation. However, the alpha brainwaves are not the meditation. This is extremely important to understand. Why then do we use this state of mind? Because 1) this is something every person experiences every day when they go to sleep and often throughout the day as well, and 2) it is a state of mind where consciousness is somewhat reduced. As I said, you cannot do mental work in this state. Most people will automatically start daydreaming (autists don’t) and their thoughts begin to drift aimlessly. Meditation consists of setting up an anchor (a mantra, a simple sequence of counting, observing your breath or something similar) and binding your awareness to it so it does not drift. Over a period of months or years, you gradually learn to remain fully conscious in a state of mind where you normally are not conscious. This is what meditation really is about: The expansion of consciousness.

Below alpha waves (frequency 12-8 Hz) are theta waves (7-4 Hz). These fill most of the night. Just after you fall asleep, or when you nap on the sofa, you remain vaguely aware of the world around you, even though your brain has already begun to produce mostly theta waves. In this situation you can still be easily roused, but you rather prefer not to unless there is some crisis. However, when you return to the same brainwaves after going into deeper sleep, this awareness has been erased, and you remain more or less unconscious throughout the night. In the elderly, some nights there is no deeper sleep, and they may therefore imagine that they have not slept at all, even though they did so for several hours.

The final level is delta (2-0.5 Hz). The brainwaves here are very slow (0.5 Hz means each wave takes two seconds!) and with a much greater amplitude (that is to say, the electric potentials on both sides are much higher). This is the deep sleep that wipes out the awareness of the mind. It is also associated with restoration of the body and brain, maintenance of the immune system and release of Human Growth Hormone.

All of these states can be induced through brainwave entrainment. You can use light or sound, sound being most used because it has no risk of triggering epilepsy. The human ear cannot hear sounds with a frequency this low, so it is made indirectly. The most popular approach is binaural beats. You need headphones for this, as it sends a different signal to each ear. The difference in frequency becomes the frequency of the resulting brain waves. For instance, a tone of 210 Hz and one of 200 Hz will give rise to a 10 Hz wave in the brain. This was discovered rather by accident. Later other methods have been devised that don’t need headphones, the most effective is probably isochronic tones. Here an audible signal is turned on and off (or from one frequency to another) at a rapid interval that corresponds to the target frequency.

With these techniques it is possible to invite the brain into brainwaves normally only found in sleep. You cannot overwhelm the brain and force it into these states though. On the way from the top of the brain stem where these frequencies are generated from the sound input, the waves have to pass through the limbic system. If this system is aroused (through intense emotions such as fear, anger or lust) the signal will be blocked. Conversely, if you willingly relax and don’t concentrate on anything else, the signal will spread more quickly.

If you play a track designed to cause theta or delta brainwaves, it is normal to fall asleep the first times you listen to it. In fact, if you don’t mind, you may continue that way. But if you strive to be alert, you will normally be able to stay awake longer and longer, and eventually throughout the session.

LifeFlow by Project Meditation takes a slightly different approach, as you get 10 tracks, one for each Hz of frequency from 10 to 1. You are supposed to spend at least a month with each, until you are thoroughly familiar with them, starting with those you recognize from waking life, and getting steadily deeper. This way you should be able to remain conscious even at the lower levels, though it may usually take a couple years for a newbie to get there.

Again, the essence of meditation is the expansion of consciousness. A host of problems in life stem from the fact that our “normal” consciousness is a fragile thing. A simple insult may be enough for it to be swapped out temporarily for an altered state in which you behave like a total stranger. The same goes for hunger, fear, lust or revulsion. Because of this, people find themselves unable to reach their life goals or even to maintain the life they already have. Seen from the perspective of someone more stable, they are like foam on waves on a storm sea, thrown helplessly about, broken apart and formed again, but doomed to once again be ripped to shreds. Anyone who has a deep and stable consciousness is certain to feel compassion when seeing this sorry state of being, but most people are sure this is as good as it gets, this is all there is.

I believe this is how some of the world’s great religions came into being, through the compassion of great souls who had a deep, stable consciousness. But because people tried to understand it without doing the practice (in other words, because of “theology”) the religions degraded into cheat codes for getting health, prosperity and generally tricking the gods into ignoring your destructive behavior and treating you as if you were someone else. As opposed to, you know, becoming that other person, from the inside out.

There is a distinct risk that the same may happen with brainwave entrainment. Already the claims made by various suppliers go a ways beyond what you should reasonably expect. But you should definitely expect some benefits if you use it regularly.

Holosync out, LifeFlow still in

I even have a pair of good headphones I bring with me on the commute and wherever I want to listen to brainwave entrainment tracks on the move. It is a pretty good use of such time, don’t you think?

Looking at my tags, it seems I have not written about my brainwave entrainment since last summer. I know I have meant to write about it later, but I may have done so only in my head, or only a draft that I did not upload. Time to fix that. I think some people may benefit from knowing. There is still a good deal of searches for Holosync on my statistics. And reasonably so, for it is a pretty expensive program by the standards of most of the world, especially with the current economy. It is not like everyone lives in Norway where there is no recession and even an underpaid office worker in a part-time job can afford to try out stuff like this and shrug off the bill almost without noticing.

(You know envy will land you in Hell, right? And that’s even before you’re dead. Envy is bad for your spirit, soul and body. Repent, repent!)

Anyway, Holosync. I guess a part of that steep price goes into their enormous marketing budget. Or you may call it “outreach”. If not for them, hundreds of thousands of people would never have heard of brainwave entrainment. That would have been a loss, for it is quite an interesting technology.

Basically, you use sound (or in some other products light pulses) to set up a standing wave in your brain. Unless you put some effort into making other brain waves, this wave will spread from the deeper parts of the brain where it is created, and engulf both hemispheres. This is thought to improve communication between the various parts of the brain, although I am not sure this follows logically. After all, your brain has whole-brain waves each night during dreamless sleep. This happens several times a night, especially early in the night. (Dream sleep makes up an increasing portion of sleep as morning approaches. Brain waves during dream sleep is similar to waking life, only more excited.)

Of course, during sleep you are not conscious, so that may make a difference. In any case, it is definitely a different experience. And as I have said repeatedly, sitting down and shutting up for half an hour or a whole hour each day with a noble intention will surely cause personal growth. This is proven by thousands of years of monks, nuns, sages, gurus etc, whose quiet life actually used to be a backbone of civilization. Whether civilization today has a backbone I will leave as an exercise for the reader.

I’ve stopped using Holosync, though, because I am more impressed with LifeFlow from Project Meditation (warning: sound!). While still a little heavy on the hype, they are more realistic, encouraging a combination of entrainment and meditation, and also not flooding their customers with constant mail (both electronic and paper) promoting largely unrelated new-age and general quackery products like Bill Harris / Centerpointe does. More importantly, I think their product is better (eventually) and I agree with their approach.

LifeFlow starts with entrainment at 10 Hz, a fairly everyday alpha level which most of us experience when we relax. For each month you subscribe, you get a new track that is 1 Hz lower: 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and finally two bonus tracks with gamma (very high frequencey) for those who dare experiment with that. These frequencies are associated with religious ecstasy but may also trigger a panic attack, so it is probably a good idea to go through a year of familiarizing yourself with brainwave entrainment first. Me, I prefer to get my religious ecstasy from religion, if at all. Anyway, LifeFlow combines the use of binaural beats (which Holosync also uses) with monaural and isochronic tones. It does not use ramping (sliding frequencies) as the brain anyway uses several minutes to entrain to a frequency unless you are deeply familiar with it.

The different frequencies have somewhat different effect on the brain, although not in great detail: They mostly fall into three groups. But all of them induce synchronization of large parts of the brain. Of special interest is the deepest frequencies, which correspond to the waves of delta sleep, or slow wave sleep. Natural delta waves have a frequency ranging from about 0.5 to 2 Hz, or oscillations per second. So this is quite slow indeed.

During deep, dreamless sleep the brain seems to rest more deeply than otherwise, and this is also where growth hormone is released in adult men (the only group of humans where this has been studied in detail as far as I know). In young adults, delta sleep make up a significant part of the first sleep cycle (about 90 minutes), a smaller part of the next, and very little from then on. In the elderly it is quite common to not have slow waves sleep at all most nights. Being able to induce this state in the brain artificially may have substantial health potential. What I can say is that it certainly seems to let me do with less sleep each night and still be less tired than I used to be during the day.

After I got the deepest levels of LifeFlow, I have had no need for Holosync. I have not sent it back for a refund though (they do have a 1 year money back promise if you don’t buy any higher levels). After all, I used it for several months, so I feel I got my money’s worth. I just think LifeFlow is more effective, once you get to the deeper levels. You also have more levels to choose from, for different purposes. That it also happens to be more affordable is just an added bonus. Recommended. (They also have a great forum where meditators with decades of experience will share their wisdom with newcomers. It’s not quite like having your own guru, but probably better than nothing. Plus, you have me! ^_^)

So that’s how it ended, at least so far. I may write more if I find I have left out anything important.

Brainwave entrainment update


You probably wonder if I have forgotten all about the brainwave entrainment projects I wrote about this spring? After all, I am a self-confessed fadboy, only my fads are out of sync with the rest of society, as am I generally. Or perhaps YOU have forgotten about them, although Holosync in particular has shot past anime in my site’s referrals. Anyway, no, I have not forgotten.

I still use the Holosync Dive track pretty much every workday morning, although I have skipped it a few times. It is a nice enough way to wake up – not beautiful, but a reasonable compromise between sleep and wakefulness. Holosync does not require actual meditation, and frankly I don’t find it conductive to traditional meditation either. The crystal (?) bowls, while somewhat more melodic than actual pots and pans such as your toddler may bang on, are still more in that direction than actual musical instruments in the European sense.

Still, it is half an hour to sit down and shut up, always a good thing in a hectic world. You might think I do nothing else, being unimaginably single for life and having the whole house to myself. But with The Sims 3 out now, it is so very easy to jump into a simpler pocket universe where there is always something going on. Stealing half an hour from sleep (thanks to the 10 minutes of delta at the end, which is as much as you get from 90 minutes of sleep in the morning) is a pretty good deal.

While I don’t find Holosync particularly pleasant, LifeFlow 8 has a certain appeal. It is the third and lowest of the alpha levels, the next being the 7 Hz theta level. Actually LF7 is a bit higher, to resonate with the Schumann Resonance, the natural base resonance of Earth’s ionosphere. I am not sure how useful that is, but some like to have that option. But enough about that. I have only heard a shorter sample of it and it did not resonate with me, at least yet.

LifeFlow 8, on the other hand, did. Even though the musical instruments on it are not particularly pleasant (some kind of trombone perhaps, or some weird form of bagpipe?), I immediately felt at home with it. I had not felt that way with the first two levels. I found them honestly to be a distraction rather than a help for meditation. I felt that I would normally meditate deeper than that when I meditated naturally and spontaneously. But with LF 8, it seemed strangely familiar. It did indeed feel like it resonated with me. Putting on the headphones, I would move into non-thinking mode in a matter of heartbeats, much as when meditating spontaneously.

For the non-meditating reader, thinking may sound like a good thing and non-thinking may sound like something your spouse does too much of. That is not quite what I mean. I believe that humans normally daydream when they don’t think. That is, while they are staring blankly, they are actually reliving memories or seeing images of things they want (or fear, for those of a less lucky mental constitution). I don’t do that, but that’s another chapter. What I talk about here is a state of brain where I don’t talk to myself, don’t visit imaginary worlds, but just am. I exist, I observe my own mind casually, but I don’t interact with it. Thoughts still come up, but I don’t think them. I don’t agree or disagree with them, I don’t extend them or compare them, and I don’t subvocalize them.

Usually when verbally oriented people think (and I believe that is most of us), we subvocalize like crazy. That is to say, we partially form the words we think, with our vocal tract, even if we don’t say them or even whisper them, even with our mouth closed, there are still small movements of the muscles we use when we talk. Sensors made with modern sensitive electronics can pick up these movements and actually play your thoughts out loud, although this can still only be done in a laboratory setting and with equipment placed directly on your body. So the CIA cannot actually monitor your thoughts from a distance, and never will with this technology. It just serves as proof that people are indeed directing their thought with the muscles of their vocal tracts. Once you are aware of this, you can start looking for it in yourself, and learn to shut down the whisper of the muscles. Or it could happen spontaneously, when you enter a state of mind where you have nothing you want to say.

For me, this happened first when I prayed to God. At first, I had prayed the American way, rattling off a wish list to God and hanging up. But I considered that this was pretty rude if God was real, and you would not do it in the first place if not. So after talking to God, I started to wait in case he had something to say to me. Some people report that God does actually speak to them. Perhaps they have a different mental constitution than I. God did not speak to me the way people do. But while waiting for him, I had nothing more to say, not even in my thoughts, since God supposedly reads those too. And so, perhaps for the first time in my life, I fell silent inside.

What happened after that, regarding my prayers, is of no concern to this article. But once I knew that it was possible to be silent inside, I could also practice this even when not in prayer. I don’t do that much, because life is full of fun things to do, one after another, and you could live for a million years and not stop having fun. But sometimes I really want that quiet, even though I am not sleepy. Because it is… not fun, exactly, but good. When you don’t have much food, food is good, and when you don’t have much quiet, quiet is good. I guess it is part of the recipe for being human.

It is this silence inside, ironically, that the soundscape of LifeFLow 8 reminds me of. The actual sound is outside the skull and after a few seconds I barely notice it. The quiet is inside, where I retreat to.

For those who have not meditated even casually for a long time, it may be another frequency (probably a higher one) that resonates best with you. Or you may have to get used to the process from scratch first. In the past I would have tried to tell you how, but there is an excellent introduction on Project Meditation, for free. You can even download free spoken instructions and timers of various lengths. I personally did not use a mantra when I first started scientific meditation, I simply counted very slowly to four. Some count to ten. Some just observe their breath. But mantra is probably the most common. Anyway, you probably know all this if you read this entry, unless you are a concerned relative or friend.

So to reiterate: Holosync is an alternative to meditation, while LifeFlow is a way to trigger and maintain meditation. I recommend Holosync when one is sleepy and LifeFlow when not, personally. I am not going to buy the second and later levels of Holosync though. I can afford the rather steep price, but I don’t for a moment believe in the “carrier frequency” theory, and I certainly don’t want affirmations in my meditation. They are an abomination, as far as I am concerned. Perhaps I will write about why, one day, or perhaps not. This is plenty for today.

Creepy when sleepy


Not being able to tell real life and dreams apart is a bad thing no matter how you look at it. Although like most things it gets better with cute girls and worse with lethal weapons.

OK, I suppose we COULD blame this one on Holosync, but I am not sure that is fair. I had an even worse episode in the previous century, after all. But it certainly was creepy, to say the least.

I had been sleeping for a bit under half an hour when I woke from sounds in the house, or so I thought. I heard the sound of running water from the bathroom across the hallway, and adult footsteps in the hallway. I was like “the burglars have come, I have to defend myself” and I fumbled for my weapon. Unfortunately, my brain was full of this loud buzzing sound except it was not just sound, it filled the whole brain, and every two seconds or so there was this discontinuity – spindles, it is called in sleep research, and I was aware of what it was even then. Those K-complexes have some serious amplitude so it is next to impossible to complete a thought before they reset your brain. I squeezed my eyes hard shut and created my own buzz, flushing my brain and clawing my way back to a waking state.

As my brain resumed normal operations, it realized that burglars don’t behave like that. They don’t use running water, they don’t walk around. They either sneak or break. Also, there was not a sound anymore. I had routinely checked the door before I went to bed, and I had been in all rooms since last it was open. Nobody could have gotten in without breaking a window. In short, the sounds were some kind of dream experience, which I had mistaken for real life because my location in the dream (lying in my bedroom) coincided with my location in real life.

Still, I really hope this doesn’t become a habit. Or if it does, I may have to reconsider my habit of sleeping with a handgun, a long knife and a hammer under my pillow!


In happier news (as in quivering with pleasure and endless happy endorphins, according to their website) I’ve taken a look at LifeFlow, a newer competitor to Holosync and the original Hemi-Sync. It is a simpler approach, but it goes all-out for what it tries to do. Each CD aims to generate one single brainwave frequency, using a mix of binaural beats, isochronic tones (sound bursts) and monaural beats, a less subtle audible wave form. They offer a free sample, and it is not as bad as I feared when they heap on with effects like that. Actually it is pretty melodic.

While Holosync starts close to normal relaxed brainwaves and slowly moves downward (well, for the main program at least), LifeFlow scoffs at this approach. They go straight for the intended level, but warns the user that it will take roughly 8 minutes to entrain. They don’t believe in the story of carrier frequency either. Instead they recommend you start with a high alpha (close to the daily beta level) and use that for a lengthy period, then a lower alpha, an even lower alpha, a high theta etc. As you see, this is a completely different approach. Holosync gets to the slow waves from the first day, but gradually each time.

While I’m reading up a bit on this, I am aware that it may be a bad idea to mix meditations without asking a guru (kind of like mixing medication without asking a doctor, right?). If anything, I should keep a wary eye on my brain function for a while, just in case there is more creepiness.

We don’t want my blog to suddenly disappear, after all, like that other guy!