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.

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.

Holosync vs. LifeFlow

Or, more exactly, not. Something I have noticed on the Project Meditation forum is that there are people who go for LifeFlow because it is cheaper than Holosync, which they have considered before or even started with. (I am guilty of picking up LifeFlow after Holosync as well, although for other reasons. Holosync has a lot more PR, so people tend to discover it first.)

The thing is, the two competitors have quite different approaches. You cannot just substitute one for the other and use them in the same way, then expect the same results. Oh, there are similarities: They both use binaural beat technology to create a standing wave in the brain of a desired frequency, and they both warn their users that this may cause weird experiences as formerly unconscious material comes to the surface. Even unpleasant or scary stuff to some degree. But they both maintain that for most people, the pleasant experiences dominate. And reports from several users seem to bear all of this out.

However, Holosync uses more of a “brute force” approach. They start with delta waves from day one, which may be nice if you want to substitute meditation for sleep, but is very hard to assimilate. They actually claim that the intention is to overload certain parts of the brain in the hope that it will reorganize on a higher level of efficiency. I have mocked this in the part, I hope, saying that if so they should play the sound of screaming babies. No other sound overloads my brain at least faster than that. Clearly that cannot be what happens, or at least not the only thing that happens.

LifeFlow takes a different approach. While meditation is optional with Holosync, it is a central part of the recommended use for LifeFlow. And LifeFlow starts with pure alpha wave soundtracks, a form of brain waves that occur naturally in humans while awake, although it is most common just as we are about to fall asleep. Still, many people experience alpha waves simply by relaxing and closing their eyes. And if that is not, rolling the eyes back gently (as if trying to look through your forehead right above your nose, the so-called “third eye”) will usually trigger it. To further recognize this type of brainwaves, you will notice that it is incompatible with mathematics and other stuff that normally would make you furrow your brows to solve problems. Even long sentences may be hard to handle in this mode. However, you are still very much aware, in fact in some ways more than before. More present, perhaps. And sounds may sometimes seem louder.

Anyway, you should be able to recognize the alpha waves from daily life. If all goes well you should be able to spend most of the meditation session in this state. Not that you can’t do that without artificial stimuli too. But after about a month, you move on to a slightly deeper alpha level. Each month you get access to a deeper frequency. After something like three or four months, you are within the range we call theta waves. I think those are kind of overrated, they appear naturally in shallow sleep if I understand it correctly. Contrary to the claims on their website, vivid dreams (REM) actually use beta, same as waking thought and experiences. Although in me at least, dreams during shallow sleep can be scaringly intense and lifelike, as I have written about earlier this spring.

Over the course of about a year, you gradually get used to lower and lower frequencies, until you can supposedly experience delta waves and remain conscious, or at least aware. I wonder about that. It probably takes much longer time for most. But at least it should be theoretically possible.

I still use Holosync to wake up in the morning. It has a great combination of the meditative background sounds and the clanging of metal bowls that helps keep one awake even if sleepy. But I am not so sure about the psychoactive effects. The standing wave seems to remain confined to the deeper layers of my brain (and it probably is real, since I seem to need less sleep when I use it regularly) but my mind is not affected, or not noticeably.

This may be just as well, since without getting used to lower frequencies gradually, I would almost certainly go into deep sleep. The ability to retain witnessing awareness during deep sleep is something only the most adept meditators experience. (Although it can happen spontaneously once or a few times in life for others. It happened to me once when I was sick and had been awake at a time where I should normally be in deep sleep. I did fall asleep again, but somehow I did not lose consciousness completely. I have described it as a single candle somehow burning in the lightless deep somewhere in the ocean, hundreds of yards below the surface and its light, but it was not actually scary, and it was not actually a candle, just the “light” of awareness. Perhaps a better description is in the song by G.O.L: “All sound had died away, and it was quite dark. But in the void and in the silence, there was still a kind of knowledge, a faint awareness. Awareness not of name or person, and not of memories of the past. The awareness knew only itself.” Unlike the rest of their song, however, the experience was absolutely peaceful and not at all creepy. Merely detached awareness, without reflection or wishes.)

Now, I have no such experiences with either Holosync or LifeFlow, and I don’t know if I ever will. Probably not. I seem to be quite resistant to the actual experiences, which is ironic since I can have intense experiences of alternate states from music or sometimes silent meditation. But I hope to continue my experiments for some time to come, if I have some time to come at all. (Not that I know anything else.)

Sitting down, shutting up


I need to calm myself down!  If you sometimes feel like that, you may want to read this. If not, you may NEED to read it…

I was thinking to write about the two brainwave entrainment systems I have tested this spring, Holosync and LifeFlow.  However, I realized that this should come first.

As I said already when I was reading up on Holosync, before buying the first (and for me, last) module: Personal growth and transformation will come in some form to virtually anyone who sets aside an hour a day for a monotonous task with a noble purpose. Or to put it more bluntly:  Sit down and shut up, and you will become a better person.

I do not know if it has always been like this. Probably, for in ages past, the day often went with simply working and caring for the most immediate needs. Only a few had the leisure to choose between wisdom and debauchery. But today, the whip we crack to keep us running is inside us rather than outside. The ever running, hectic mind will not be quiet. We work only half as much as our ancestors, and still we have barely time to sleep.

If you have been running around like that, not able to sit still for more than five minutes at best, doing “nothing” for an hour (or even a half!) can be a harrowing experience.  Bill Harris of Centerpointe and Michael Mackensie of Project Meditation both speak of “resistance” as being common, and even “upheaval” being possible, and they give much similar advice on how to deal with it.  Many of these things will happen even if you just sit there, say I.  Memories you had forgotten return out of the blue. Feelings you cannot explain suddenly arise, whether happy or sad.  You become aware of many bodily sensations that you did not notice before.  You suddenly think of a lot of things you should have done. You suddenly miss an old friend or relative that you could phone, or you realize that the house badly needs cleaning.

(Actually, unlike some respectable sages, I think the cleaning urge can be a good sign.  Sitting exercise increase the order within you, so the disorder around you become more obvious and contrary to you. I have good experience with doing some modest amount of cleaning and then returning to my position. But it is also possible that it can serve merely as a distraction, if the need is not real.)

More obvious hindrances are the intense feeling of boredom and urge to be entertained.  Normally people who have nothing else to do will sit down with the TV.  Failing that, a computer will do. It has endless entertainment and distraction.  (I feel the urge to open City of Heroes even now – I guess Goodwin is right that blogging can also be a form of spiritual exercise, “blogio divina” I think he calls it, although Google seems to not recognize that phrase.)

Failing any of these outlet, the human mind will throw itself into remembering (and often rewriting) the past, planning for the future, and constructing elaborate daydreams.  This is what I have written about so often lately, the “default network” of the brain.  (Google will offer to drown you in information about this if you don’t remember my earlier rants.) Everything to make sure we are not actually present in the moment.

Holosync, Hemisync, LifeFlow and many others may have other virtues as well, but arguably their main effect is that they keep people from escaping (or fleeing in horror) from the very act of quietude. Meditation and prayer do this as well, in addition to their own specific effects. Even listening to classic music (I recommend Back on principle) or watching art could have some effect.  And of course watching paint dry.

Before you go into any act of quietude with the sincere intention to make it part of your life, you should be prepared that resistance will appear.  The effect of quietude is growing awareness.  At first this awareness will be dispersed and unfocused, and therefore you will see these effects:  Random memories, feelings, impulses, small pains or itches or strange sensations of your body.  They are the first encounters of your awareness!  The awareness needs to be collected, tamed and trained to go beyond these distractions if you want to grow as a person.  You will meet things you have failed to integrate in the past, or as in my nightmare, thrown down in the basement and locked the door. You will even meet the collective delusions of our culture, and must go beyond these to begin to wake up.

But the first step is to stop stepping, sit down and shut up for a while.

Out of sync and shape

di090403 I have reason to believe that the word “headdesk” did not exist until the coming of  computer networks…

This morning I decided to skip the Holosync session. After all, I had slept 7 hours, slightly more than I usually did before I even started these experiments. Besides, I was planning to do a 40-minute LifeFlow 10 today, the first of these. The demos have tended to make me more sleepy rather than less, but that would be a concern for the afternoon when I did that brainwave entrainment.

But already on the commute bus to work I became very sleepy and napped for much of the way.  This is something that rarely ever happened even before I started syncing in the morning.  Perhaps if I slept only half the night or if I got up very early. But I was actually half an hour late (thank you, large intestine) and had slept for 7 hours.  Huh.  At work I became sleepy again after lunch, although 10 minutes of focused counting meditation cleared that up.  Still, later in the workday I became sleepy AGAIN and napped for 10-15 minutes.   Either the brain does get used to the morning sync or it has a really good placebo effect!

Still haven’t gotten along to testing the “industrial strength” version of LifeFlow as of 20:10 (8:10 PM DST). This is because of the Linux laptop.  I have used it almost exclusively to play music at work for a good while now, but I can do that with the Vista laptop.  It just isn’t as easy with iTunes as it is with Amarok, the KDE music player. Well, that probably does not tell you much unless you came here by searching for Amarok, KDE, or “Linux music” – and I sincerely hope this entry is many pages down on any of those searches!

Anyway, I don’t play much music anymore. It happens, but it has diminished greatly of late, and more so now that I can directly hack into my brainwaves with low-frequency sound effects. Between this and the speeches of the “researchers” in this area, my “recently played” list looks nothing like its old self.  So I took the old HP pavilion ze5600 with me home finally.

This ties in with my rant about Norton antivirus, last seen in my March 27 entry.   With my relationship to  Symantec back to enemy level (I know it’s been there once before) there is only a firewall between me and an Internet raging with worms.  Unlike viruses, which passively drift along with stuff you download (mail included), worms are actively trying to get into your computer and infect it through any one of the many thousand ports that opens you to the Internet.  The obvious solution is to have a firewall, which closes all these ports (think of them as small holes that worms may worm their way through).  My router does indeed have a great firewall, but… it gets in the way of downloading Japanese cartoons.

I have had neither the time nor the inclination lately to watch such “anime” as it is called.  But this is things that have come and gone in the past, although the fad seems to be slightly weaker each time it returns.  It seems like a reasonable goal to at least complete the series I have begun.  Besides, while it may be technically illegal, I still see it as a valuable cultural exchange that I should encourage. After all, it is not like you could rent these in your video store – or indeed any video store in the western world.  Some of them are even hard to find in Japan anymore.

Anyway, the short of it is that someone needs to run BitTorrent without a firewall, and if that someone is me, the worms don’t die.  This is where Linux comes in.   The small laptop has Ubuntu Linux instead of Windows, which means worms won’t work on it.  The two operating systems may do many of the same things, but they are very different inside.  Worms are all written for Windows, except possibly one or two for Mac.  Linux has simply too many different variants to be worth writing a worm for. It is not that it is impossible, perhaps not even harder than for Windows, but you will only infect a few machines, and then they change again.   So, by putting my Linux laptop on the network, I can download and upload anime without getting worms.

Of course, first I had to get the machine home. It is just a laptop, and I carried it in a suitable box along with cables and such.  It was not really heavy, but it still felt heavy after I had carried it long enough.  (I walk about 15 minutes from work to the bus station, and around 10 minutes from the bus stop home.)  My arms are ridiculously weaker than my legs now after I have not trained with the bow since I moved here, or years anyway.  I really should starting carrying a box with a laptop to work and back every day, except it would look kind of weird in the long run.

Connecting the laptop to the Internet was a snap, literally. I just snapped into place the network cable that I had once used for the Dell laptop.  (Unfortunately I never managed to get the Dell to run Ubuntu or Xubuntu, and then it kind of died. Or at least its screen did.)

Connecting to the home network, however, was surprisingly difficult.  I know I have done it before with an earlier laptop.  And the Ubuntu installation on Trine the tri-core computer accesses the network without a second thought.  But the laptop simply could not open the network named “ITLAND”, although it managed to see that it was there.  (It also saw a network named “WORKGROUP” that is the default Windows network, I believe, but that I thought I had removed.  This cannot be opened either.

I manage to set up access to one shared folder by using another alternative (Linux is big on alternatives). I used the choice “Connect to server” and gave the internal IP adress for the computer where my anime is stored, and the folder name on the network.  So I got around it that way.  I was also able to connect to part of the network for a while by running the network wizard on the Windows XP machine again with the same network name as originally and no other changes.  But it faded after a while, for unknown reasons.  I will probably continue to hack on it from time to time, but the temporary solution is good enough for what I wanted to do right away,  get more episodes of Astro Fighter Sunred, an old parody on the Japanese version of super heroes.

Why do I have to hack and rig these things anyway?  I should be able to rent the anime I want to see directly from the Japanese company that holds the copyright, and stream it directly to my computer using safe, reliable components of the world’s leading operating system.  There should be no need to hack, fudge, jury-rig or improvise, rely on the kindness of strangers and tiptoe on the shady side of the law.  Come the revolution, this is all going to change! But for now, Linux is the most revolutionary we have. And it gets the job done, with a little help from the Google.

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!

Holosync, a realistic view


So, will it magically fill you with overflowing happiness as soon as you press the PLAY button?

Centerpointe Research Institute, which created and sells the Holosync solution, uses exaggerated claims and unrealistic expectations to sell their product. This is not necessarily as evil as it sounds. I may post another entry on why. Let us just assume for now that for the intended target group, there may be a strong placebo effect in addition to the actual physiological effect.

I don’t expect that target group to read this blog, although you never know in this age of Google. But I will angle this at the more rational reader, who does not expect miracles. How much CAN we expect from HoloSync, then? And why?

I have used the product in some form or another for over a month now. But in the beginning I had only MP3 copies, which are less effective since MP3 is a “lossy” format, it has less detail than the audio format used on CDs, so some of the very precise sound pulses will get lost. You may still get an idea of how it works, but don’t be smart and save the money by downloading MP3 files instead of buying.

Centerpointe rushed their demo CD to me (they rush almost everything, it seems) and so I started to use that. They admit on the CD that it is not “industrial strength” – in fact, Harris uses that exact phrase – but again it gives an impression. I used this day after day until the actual product arrived on March 9, then switched over. Since then I have used the Dive, which moves gradually through alpha, theta and delta waves over the course of 30 minutes. It is not yet time to use the next track, Immersion, that is designed to keep one in delta (deep sleep like) for another 30 minutes. I have however used the Dive an extra time in the morning the last few days to compensate for lack of sleep.

So, does it compensate for lack of sleep? Not really, or not completely. Specifically, dream sleep is much more than theta waves, although they may be responsible for some of the effects of REM sleep (theta seems to be the natural rhythm of the hippocampus, the “index” of our long-term memory). I have only the briefest of dream-like flashes when using artificial theta. It is an entirely different experience, despite the theta waves. This should surprise no one. We are basically hacking the brain here. The binaural beat creates a standing wave, and it is synchronized in both hemispheres, but that does not mean it completely fills those hemispheres. It can be suppressed easily by opening my eyes and looking around, or just moving in my chair, or even by thoughts and feelings. During sleep, there is a mechanism that switches out such distractions, giving the REM sleep full reign of the brain. Well, almost. There is always some kind of gatekeeper that will try to rouse us in case of danger, but it takes very little mental space.

I am sure I can become better at accommodating the altered states, with practice. There are also differences among people in how they use their brain. But we are definitely hacking here. We are introducing a particular pattern of brainwaves that merely emulates those that arise naturally. Some differences from the real thing should be expected. Instead it is reasonable to compare it to simply going about life without the brain hacking. And compared to that, there is clearly a difference.

Getting up in the morning is noticeably easier when I know I can slip into my chair and do a Holosync Dive. The Dive goes slowly through the whole range of frequencies from beta to alpha to theta to delta, and seems to clear out the fog that tends to prevail when I normally wake up. (I believe it is alpha, it certainly feels like alpha. When I wake up, I have this relaxed awareness without volition, much like when meditating. I am aware that I have to get up and do the various things needed before going to work, but I don’t really feel that it concerns me. Well, the Dive clears out that.)

Another use is to reduce the pain and excess mucus production from my sinuses after work. These things tend to grow worse over the course of the workday, but half an hour of Dive when I get home makes me feel a lot better. Of course so does a long nap, but it is hard to time a nap well. It is hard to make it long enough to have biological effects and not go into full sleep mode.


Another side of the coin (or is it a die? It seems to have too many sides for a coin) is the actual feeling or experience. Harris frequently talks about how most people find the Holosync sessions pleasurable, a pleasant buzz, feel good, look forward to them etc. I can’t say I’ve noticed any of that. There are points during the Dive when the sound effects make me dizzy for a moment. I guess people may like that. I don’t take pleasure from alcohol either – it has no effects on me until they point where I start to get a headache and queasiness / diarrhea. So this may well say more about me than Holosync. And Harris does mention that some people don’t feel anything special, and a few even feel bad. (In the last case, they should talk to the hotline about it.)

In any case, Harris makes it clear that he sees the experience as the least important part. Whether you enjoy it, hate it or don’t care, the effects on the brain will continue to accumulate in any case. Your stress threshold will rise, you will be able to think with both sides of the brain instead of one at a time, and (especially) your awareness will expand so you not only notice the situation around you but also your own inner reactions, and this is the most important part, because if you can change them, you can change everything in your life eventually.

So if you are addicted to the Holosync experience, you should still not exceed 1 hour a day. (You can use the extra CDs that induce alpha and theta waves, but no excess delta please.) If it has no effect, just keep your eyes closed and think of whatever you want. And if it is unpleasant, just observe it in a detached manner, knowing that it is your own brain that conjures up the unpleasantness to resist change. Try to keep it up, and call or write their helpline if you find it too hard.

This seems like excellent advise. The esoteric traditions of the great world religions agree to not be distracted by great white lights and magical powers, but just keep breathing (or praying).

So yeah, I suppose it could happen that you would find Holosync intensely pleasurable, but I would not bet on it. Nor would I bet on it suddenly changing you into some kind of superhuman. But anyone who takes the time to set aside an hour a day to become a better person is sure to reap some reward from it, and if you can do it while cheating a little on sleep and slightly improving your health, so much the better.

“Welcome to the family”


Your opinion doesn’t really count when people have first decided to be nice.

I came home from work, and checked my physical mailbox. I was mildly surprised to find a package. Less surprised than last time I found a package, which was only yesterday. This one was not priority rush express, so I briefly entertained the notion that it might not be from Centerpointe Research Institute. On the other hand, I can’t think of anyone else who would send me stuff I don’t expect. It was marked as “gift” and “educational material”, which would match my longest reader, who also for a while would send me random books. (This bag was definitely book-sized.) On the other hand, I think I have convinced her to stop with that, after posting photos of my book shelves covered in two layers of books. Plus, I did not recognize the sender town.

Yes, dear reader. It is the amazing Bill Harris, founder and director of Centerpointe Research Institute, who has sent me another book, his own well-received Thresholds of the Mind. I am starting to wonder if he even turns a profit anymore. At least this was ordinary mail, and as such much cheaper than the priority express he normally uses.

The package also contained a letter. It started with “Dear friend” and concluded with “once again, welcome to the Centerpointe family”. Perhaps it was this that made me remember.

Many years ago, in my early days living in the basement apartment that was my original Chaos Node, long before the website or even before the web came to Norway, there was in the neighborhood a girl I liked. There was no romantic relationship between us, not that everyone was absolutely convinced about that, but we were good friends. Her father was also a friend of mine, I was around mid between them in age. One day he suddenly showed up at my apartment with various pieces of furniture. I guess this is a side effect of the golden rule — I can only assume he liked having people show up with furniture without asking whether he needed it. And evidently our dear friend Bill is of the same type. Welcome to the family indeed.


And yes, Bill, I am using the Awakening Prologue. Twice a day, actually, because I don’t get enough sleep at night, thanks to my sock allergy. Or whatever it is. I wake up with my feet itching like crazy. But at least I get to remember my dreams by waking up in the middle of the night, so it is good for something. This time I dreamed about a tsunami. But only a small one. Nobody died — none of the people I was with, at least. I am not so sure about the people who were wandering out staring at the starfish and stuff on the exposed sea bottom after the water had pulled out and before it came rolling back in.

I don’t think the dreams have anything to do with HoloSync. It is quite normal for me to have scary dreams in the beginning of the night – in fact, the first often starts within minutes of falling asleep – and then they gradually turn more pleasurable toward the morning.

Anyway, I had wanted to write more about HoloSync today, but then something actually happened in real life, and I remembered something I don-t think I have written about. Perhaps another time!

Oh, and the tooth from yesterday? It hurt less after half an hour with syncing, and was fine in the morning (after five hours of sleep). Yay! But I think it might be wise to try to go to bed earlier or something. I just have to find something really boring to do before bedtime. Perhaps the book Bill sent me can help with that?