Dr. Ramesh Manocha, a medical doctor and researcher of the meditative sciences has recently pointed out in a skin-temperature test, that there is a physiological difference between ‘thoughtless awareness’ and just simple relaxation. While calming the mind and body are essential to reducing stress and the ailments that can accompany them, such as cardiac disease, weight gain, etc., changing the brain wave patterns, as is indicated in hundreds of fMRI tests, PET scans, SPECT scans, and brain imaging studies, is the secret to a true physiological and emotional breakthrough.
Thoughtless awareness can be described as holding a feather in the hand without grasping it. If the slightest wind came, the feather would be blown from the hand, but with gentle, relaxed focus, the feather stays put. This is the special state of mind that must be cultivated with a meditation practice. Advanced meditators have been able to create this soft focus with much practice, but binaural beats and other audio tools, like mantra, or Tibetan singing bowls can help a novice mimic the brain wave states that advanced Yogis and Lamas have been able to maintain for centuries. Then, due to brain flexibility, or neuroplasticity, the mind becomes conditioned to do this with greater and greater ease. Even in novice meditators, noted changes in oxygen intake, breathing rate, heart-rate and the skin’s electrical resistance is observable.
This ‘thoughtless awareness’ is characterized by certain brainwave patterns as outlined below:
- A steady pattern of alpha waves. A small number of meditators may show a drop in wave frequency to the lower part of the alpha spectrum (8 to 9 Hz), followed by the brief emergence of a theta wave pattern. Theta waves occur all the time in meditators and non-meditators, but theta waves become more pronounced in advanced meditators. They are indicative of deep, mindful relaxation. There is usually more activity in the frontal lobes of meditators, indicating that they are still focused, while being at peace. Theta waves are considered the key to the opening of the third eye, or ajna chakra in yogic texts.
- Alpha waves are also associated with mindful relaxation. During this form of wakeful rest, the posterior parts of the brain are active. The brain starts to relax, and let go of object-oriented tasks and begins relaxing deeply, but it doesn’t go into a complete void. When there is lots of alpha activity, the mind can observe a train of thought, without becoming attached to it, and integrate emotional patterns that need attention.
- Delta waves are the slowest wave pattern, with deep and long peaks and troughs. These waves are responsible for restful sleep. In experienced practitioners, it is thought that deep delta waves help a meditator uncover the unconscious mind.
- Finally, Gamma waves are what allow a meditator to be ‘alert’ and not fall asleep completely. Gamma waves increase in an experienced meditator, enabling them to sit for longer and longer periods of time, relaxing to more profound levels, without losing their overt awareness.
Obviously, all four brain wave types are essential to a truly transcendental mind. Utilizing practices like TM (transcendental meditation), Vipassana, Zen-inspired Dzogchen, or other meditation techniques can help you to cultivate these brain wave states, but you can also take a short cut and utilize binaural beat recordings, sound meditations, chakra healing music, and other ancient tools for creating the ideal brain-wave patterns in your mind.