In the CHAPTER FOUR Beta waves are the patterns that we predominantly emit from our brain during everyday, wakeful states. They are related to external activities, extroversion. When we utilize the brain for rational thinking, when we use the senses, when we are anxious, tense and in ‘normal’ frames of mind, beta waves are emitted. They are of low amplitude and high frequency with over 13 cycles per second.
Alpha waves are most noticeably emitted during milder states of meditation. They are related to a relaxed state of mind, passivity and a non-anxious and tensionless state. They are very much related to creativity, so that during periods of creativity alpha waves are profusely emitted. They manifest when the rational mind and senses become inoperative. Studies on yogis and Zen Buddhists while in states of meditation have confirmed these generalizations about alpha waves. They are associated with passive awareness, a distinctive characteristic of meditation. Alpha waves have frequencies ranging from 8 to 13 cycles per second.
Theta waves are profusely emitted during sleep. They are associated with the unconscious mind and occur when deep unconscious data or impressions bubble to the surface and to conscious awareness. Theta waves are manifested during deep states of meditation, during intense creativity, ecstasy and receptivity of extrasensory perception. Many children emit this type of wave during the waking state, though this is more rare in adults. Theta waves have a frequency range of 4 to 7 cycles per second.
Delta waves are high amplitude waves with frequencies below 4 cycles per second. Less is known about this type of wave emission, though it has been closely linked with deep, dreamless sleep. In this state there is great receptivity to learning. In other words, people in this kind of state can absorb learning, perhaps from a tape recorder, even while asleep. Knowledge seems to be directly absorbed into the unconscious mind, bypassing the sense organs.
The reader should appreciate that this classification is arbitrary. The classification should not be considered as a rigid and natural division. A person who has sufficient mental control, such as an advanced yogi, can move progressively from one state to the next at will. He can start off in the beta range of ‘normal’ wakefulness, then by willpower he can proceed to the state of mind characterized by alpha waves. At first beta waves are present, then eventually all the beta waves disappear and after some time theta waves will start to appear. If there is no sleep, then deep states of meditation will be attained,
progressively becoming deeper as the theta waves predominate more and more. Eventually he can manifest delta waves, which are normally associated with deep sleep. However, we will speculate, and it is only supposition, that during meditation the predominance of delta waves corresponds to very high states of meditation and perhaps even samadhi.
These wave patterns can be detected by means of an electrical system known as electroencephalograph (EEG). This is an amplifier system that detects electrical activities that occur within the brain, which are picked up by means of electrodes fixed to the side of the head. These electrical patterns can then be recorded on a graph by means of a pen-recorder, which immediately indicates the type of wave being emitted. In turn, the states of mind of the person can be read from the shape of the waves. This type of instrument is used mainly for research and in pathology but is, however, out of the question for the person in the street. To cater for his need, various companies have manufactured, at very reasonable prices, simple instruments that will allow anyone to detect the wave form being emitted from his brain. The most common, and also the simplest, consists of a headphone and an instrument that gives audible and variable sounds that correspond to the fluctuations in brainwave activity. Another type only emits a sound when one starts producing a certain type of brainwave. Various other types are available and many more are sure to be developed.
How does biofeedback help one to meditate? By knowing one’s particular brainwave activity at any given
time, one can take conscious steps to change the wave pattern to the desired state. In this way one can change one’s state of mind. However, great practice is required; one is unlikely to be able to pick up a biofeedback instrument and immediately change one’s state of mind, but with practice one will be able to attain states of meditation.
How can one consciously change the brainwave emissions? At first this seems impossible, for the wave form is a function of the mind itself. It might seem surprising that all that is required is practice and perseverance, but this is exactly the same thing that we do with everything in life. We learn to walk, to speak, to read, all by persistent effort. Research has shown that all body processes can be controlled, even the so-called automatic or vegetative functions, such as heartbeat, respiration, etc. This is something that yogis have been doing for thousands of years. Yet it is only recently that it has been taken seriously by modern science.
Scientific tests, some also utilizing biofeedback, but measuring emissions from particular organs, have shown that the heart and other organs can be slowed down or speeded up by mere willpower. It is only a matter of practice. It is the same with the control of brainwaves. Each person must work out his own method. For example, one person may try too hard to change the brainwaves from say beta to the more relaxing alpha state. The very intensity may cause more tension, and perhaps more prominent beta waves. Some people find that the best method is merely to think about the change and the
change automatically takes place, but each individual must find his own technique.
One can of course attain high meditational states without biofeedback, as people have done throughout history. Great yogis, Zen Buddhists, etc., hardly need the aid of biofeedback instrumentation, for they can change their state of mind almost at will, such is their sensitivity. However, the biofeedback technique holds great potential for beginners and for those people who even after constant practice are not making any noticeable progress in meditation. Most of us are so insensitive that we lack the ability to feel whether we are becoming more relaxed, more tense, or whether we are remaining in the same frame of mind. Biofeedback will indicate to the meditator whether progress is being made or not. So useful is this system that some yoga teachers are already using it for themselves and their students.
To sum up, we can say biofeedback is in its infancy, yet it seems to promise great possibilities for the future. A further point is that it is increasingly being adopted by young people who have been using large amounts of drugs for their glimpses of the beyond. It will give the same results with practice but without the damaging effects associated with most drugs. It will complement meditation and will bring meaningful meditational experiences into the range of all people. Meditation coupled with biofeedback could do much to raise the level of mind, or the level of consciousness in the world.
The reader might be interested in the differences that
exist between the brainwaves emitted during meditation and the other states which are often closely related to meditation, namely trance and hypnotism. There is little or even no correlation. During trance and hypnotic states, wave emission actually takes the form suggested by the hypnotist. These states are usually typified by beta emissions which are characteristic of our normal extroverted state of mind, and are certainly not related to meditation.
Every cell contains infinite knowledge
Scientists have developed an appreciation of the complexity of each and every cell in the body. They have been able to build a model of the so-called DNA molecule, the molecule of life. This is the molecule that transmits all the characteristics of the mother and father to the son and daughter. It is contained in the sperm and in the ova. Not only this, it is contained in every cell of the body.
Scientists have only formulated its physical shape and confirmed that it is concerned with moulding individual characteristics such as hair colour, height, size of feet and the pattern of growth from childhood to adulthood. It is the blueprint, the underlying plan of life. It is this molecule that fixes our basic mode of life and we must obey its orders throughout our lives. Of course there are other things that affect our lives: the environment, our circumstances, our interactions with other people. Yet it is the DNA molecule which fixes much of the mode of our lives.
Now this scientific viewpoint is moving very close to the yogic viewpoint. Yoga has always regarded each and every cell in the body as having consciousness. In other words the underlying existence of each and every cell is consciousness. Its manifestation can be regarded as the physical nature of the cell, the DNA molecule being the blueprint for human life. The primordial pattern of human existence is fixed and directed by the consciousness of the cell; the molecular structure discovered by scientists is merely the executor, the thing that implements the will of the cell consciousness. Scientists have taken the pattern of the DNA molecule as being the instrument that guides life along certain directions; they have missed the underlying principle behind the DNA molecule itself, that is, consciousness.