Whether you are experienced or new to meditation, I want to talk about meditation in a new light because it might hold the key for you to 1) stick with it, 2) experience a deeper state, and/or 3) connect a meditative state to your qi gong or tai chi practice. Meditation has long held a reputation in the west that makes it seem mystical, difficult, culturally different, and not something people routinely add to their day. I think that not experiencing the benefits of meditation is the reason most people don’t understand it or know how to improve meditation. Now, with new science behind the benefits of brain entrainment a novice meditation practitioner can rapidly enter the brain states achieved by seasoned practitioners.
Brain entrainment is the use of sound or sometimes visual or tactile stimuli to cause the brain to fire at frequencies (Hertz) that are associated with desired states like creative thinking, rest, or exercise. Scientific studies have shown that the brain resonates at a specific band of frequencies during these desired states. The belief is that brain entrainment can instigate or maintain these states automatically.
When people ask me why I do qi gong, tai chi or meditate, I always start by explaining the benefits you receive after practicing for awhile. People are genuinely interested in beginning but there is often a hesitation because of the commitment of time and learning that is needed before you really start to reap the rewards.
I always wish that I could jump the skeptic ahead so that they could immediately feel the difference that internal work causes: better health, better sleep, calmness. I know they would be sold. Meditation using brain entrainment now has the potential of doing this.
Why am I advocating the use of technology to enhance internal development and your meditation?
I used to be a pretty strict Luddite when it comes my practice and meditation. No technology for me! But I hit a plateau in my progress and was actually getting a bit bored. This translated into meditating less often. I wasn’t sure if this was natural for everyone or if I was doing something wrong. Monotony or boredom is often seen as one of the disadvantages of an pursuits like tai chi and something real you have to get past if you want to make progress. So I reached out to fellow teachers who I knew were further down the path than I was. Here is what I found out:
- Meditators and practitioners that I respect were getting great results using brain entrainment
- The science behind brain entrainment research is longstanding and pretty solid (see below).
The process was pretty straight forward for me. I was struggling with knowing whether I was doing the right thing or knowing what to expect in my progress. Using sounds during my meditation infrequently showed what I should be experiencing and what to shoot for. By sitting while working on this, it also gave me an idea of what I should be feeling when standing to do qi gong or moving during tai chi. So it kind of provided me with a roadmap.
I want to share some of the research that I did to buy-in to the fact that brain entrainment is safe and effective and which brain entrainment app I think is the best.
What is brain entrainment?
Brain entrainment uses an external stimulus such as sound or light to cause brainwave frequencies to correspond with an intended brain-state for the purpose of inducing sleep or a deep meditative state. That is going to be the focus of this article but know that people are successfully using brain entrainment to concentrate at work, be more creative, and get “into the zone” for whatever they are interested in.
Simply put, your brain hums at certain frequency when you are doing specific things. Some of these states are desirable and some are chaotic and don’t let you easily do what you want to do. Brain entrainment matches frequencies that have been documented in brain entrainment studies of people undertaking specific tasks (meditating) so that you can get into the state faster and stay there longer. If you are new to the idea of brain entrainment we wrote an introduction.
The best explanation comes from the one group that is based on the research that began in the 1930s by Robert Monroe – Hemi Sync. Plug some headphones in to get the full experience or just listen along.
What does brain entrainment sound like?
Brain entrainment tones and music is pretty enjoyable actually. And there is a long history of using music and sounds in tai chi and meditation. Brain entrainment tracks are different depending on the goal. It can sound like white noise but research has advanced the technology so that it can be applied to music. Here is an example:
How do you use brainwave entrainment?
Here is the beauty of brain entrainment. You can really “stink” at meditation and begin to benefit from the process. I still meditate in quiet but have found the entrainment audio can make my meditation deeper. Additionally. I think I am more productive creatively at work when I use the beats regularly. I can’t prove this scientifically but there is a definite correlation between writing output and entrainment use. The how is easy. Here is what you do:
- Find a comfortable place free of distraction.
- Research shows that you only need 7 minutes (!) to reach entrainment but people benefit the most from crossing the 15 minute mark.
- Eyes closed or if your eyes are open focus on something like a candle or point
- Try it out for two-to-four weeks. The company listed below has a free trial period.
- If you need help to stop looking at the clock, set a timer for 5 minutes and increase the meditation time by 30 seconds each day.
“Move” Your Brain Entrainment Into Your Movements
I want to touch on something that think is HUGE! but that I haven’t seen talked about anywhere. Brain entrainment can help you maintain a meditative state throughout your day. I made progress and improved my meditation when sitting which I think is the right way to begin so you can concentrate on your mental state without other distractions. However, at the end of my sessions I started standing up and doing qi gong or the opening movements of the tai chi form to experience the same mental cleanness while moving.
This enabled a leap in my progress with tai chi. With qi gong you can definitely maintain this feeling throughout the whole set. With tai chi, it is easier on rising movements but fades in and out depending on the movement. I have sense transferred it to moving throughout the day and it is easier to call up a sort-of “memory” of the mental state when I am filling my coffee, walking my dog, etc.
What is the best brain entrainment program?
If you have had a look around you know that there are a bunch of brain entrainment programs and it’s really hard to tell what the difference is or if they will even work. I have tried a bunch and now exclusively use Hemi-Sync, short for Hemisphere Synchronization. Here’s why:
They have a huge variety of focuses to match different goals.
This is important because let’s say you try brain entrainment to improve meditation. Once you see have success you will probably want to check out how to work and sleep better. And it only starts there. There are areas of focus for pretty much anything you want to improve in your life.
They are the origins of this research and employ experts in science and technology
Nearly everyone who is creating hemisphere synchronization or binaural sounds base their research on Robert Monroe and the Monroe Institute. So why not just use the technology developed inline with the original research? That’s Hemi-Sync? What I found is that the level of detail put into each audio track is exceptional.
Monroe achieved world-wide recognition as a ground-breaking visionary and explorer of human consciousness. His pioneering research, beginning in the 1950s, led to the discovery that specific sound patterns have identifiable, beneficial effects on our capabilities. For example, certain combinations of frequencies enhance alertness; others induce sleep; and still others evoke expanded states of consciousness.
Assisted by a broad base of specialists in psychology, medicine, biochemistry, psychiatry, electrical engineering, physics, and education, Robert Monroe developed Hemi-Sync®, a low-cost, patented audio technology that facilitates enhanced performance.Hemi-Sync
They are really inexpensive
This is a really important part. At the end of the day you want to pay for something like this so that you know it works rather than listening to something free and random that you hope works. Honestly, there is no guarantee that what you find on the internet for free will work. You can buy a single track or subscribe for a few dollars and try everything for 30 days. They want you to be see successful so if it doesn’t work for you, ask for a refund within that time frame.
They are dialed in to your specific needs
Here’s the thing, what you and I need to improve are completely different. What I am going through this year versus last year is completely different. Have a look around their entire catalog but here are some of their most popular courses.