Ok, we’re about to get nerdy y’all. I’ve been going deep into brain waves and how they affect every aspect of our lives – including how creative, stressed, self-aware, and empathetic we are. (R)
Yes, all of that is controlled by our brain waves – specifically, whether our brain operates at a high or low frequency, and when.
I’ve heard of this before in passing, and also how binaural beats produce sounds at these frequencies to affect our mental states. But I had no idea how big of a deal this is.
I got fully introduced to the research by a guy named Jamie Wheal, author of Stealing Fire and Founder of the Flow Genome Project.
This guy talks my language.
He did a talk on Big Think where he proposes that as religion collapses as a viable way of being, we need something new and better, but also free and scalable.
He lists several ways of attaining this enlightenment as a species, including substances (yes, like LSD), meditation, breathing, and music.
One of these tools is by manipulating (or hacking) our brain waves.
How brain waves work & types of brain waves
Turns out, most of us operate at beta frequencies while awake. This is how fast our brain buzzes when we talk, solve problems, and just do life in general.
Delta – the lowest and slowest brain wave – is the frequency our brains use while sleeping, for instance. It helps us heal, among other things.
We also usually reach alpha frequencies when we meditate or pray, and theta frequencies if you’re pretty darn good at meditating. Alpha waves also make us more creative, positive, adaptable, and feel more relaxed. Healthy levels of alpha are linked to extroversion, and not producing enough alpha waves can cause insomnia and depression. (R)
We also reach theta during peak flow or non-ordinary states. Wheal describes these as states where we feel a sense of selflessness, timelessness, effortlessness, and richness. This is very similar to Dr. Andrew Newberg’s research, where he describes transcendent spiritual states as when we lose the sense of space and time.
When we reach these transcendent flow states:
“Brainwaves slow from agitated beta to daydreamy alpha and deeper theta. Neurochemically, stress chemicals like norepinephrine and cortisol are replaced by performance-enhancing, pleasure-producing compounds such as dopamine, endorphins, anandamide, serotonin, and oxytocin.”Jamie Wheal
Research shows that meditation, prayer, and flow states make a lot of really cool stuff happen in our brains. Not only do we experience up to 6 feel-good neurochemicals, we also become smarter, more creative, more empathetic, self-aware, peaceful, able to learn faster, and more.
Research has already proven that meditation and prayer make us smarter (among other things), but now we know that part of the reason meditation is so powerful is because of how it affects our brain waves.
Check this out.
According to Wheal’s research, conscious processing is only able to handle about 120 bits of information at once. Listening to someone speak takes about 60 bits, so if we try to listen to two people speak, we’re already maxed out.
But, when we meditate, pray, reach flow or non-ordinary states, we access our unconscious mind which can handle billions of bits at once.
“We don’t need to search outside ourselves to find a credible source for miraculous insight. We have terabytes of information available to us; we just can’t tap into it in our normal state.”Jamie Wheal
Whoa – This is a big deal and has so many massive ramifications. It:
- Casts a new light on religion – is what we’ve experienced as “God” for so many millenia, actually something that’s been within us the whole time?
- Shows us a new, more powerful way of living up to our potential and becoming Limitless (you know, like the movie)
- Can plant seeds for a better world if more people learned meditation, prayer, flow states, and how to control their brain waves (a world full of peaceful, compassionate, brilliant humans??)
- Would help us navigate this increasingly fast and complex world (without depending as much on AI)
Brain wave hacking is also an excellent tool to add to our tool belt of accelerating our learning and intelligence. If you’re familiar with the work of Michael Simmons, you could add brain wave hacking to your learning stack, alongside fractal reading.
Who uses these brain tools
In his book, Wheal reveals that Navy SEALs, Google, and many scientists are revolutionizing the way we reach transcendent “flow” states. Using electroencephalograms (EEGs) and other technology, the most forward-thinking leaders are doing what they can to hack our brain waves and help us achieve these transcendent, ultra-high performance states.
Psychologists even have been using Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) or Magnetic Resonance Stimulation (MRS) to treat depression by manipulating brain waves (R). Usually this was done through large, cumbersome equipment, but now this same tech comes in wearable form (which we will talk about more later).
Tools of manipulating brain waves
The main tools of hacking our brain waves are:
- Meditation and prayer
- EEG & pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF)
- Binaural beats & music
1. Meditation & prayer
First, meditation and prayer. It has been shown that meditation can help us achieve a:
- Relaxed, creative, adaptable alpha state
- Contemplative, spiritual, transcendent theta state
- Deeply relaxing delta state during sleep
- Insightful, focused, high-performance gamma state (which advanced Buddhist meditators are able to achieve with ease)
Meditation can also increase our IQ, relieve stress and anxiety, speed up learning, and just help us become better humans in almost every way. This is due in large part because of how it affects our brain waves.
2. Binaural beats & music
Binaural beats work by entrainment – that is, they produce sound that causes your brain waves to sync with the frequencies that the beat produces.
I personally have found binaural beats to be extremely effective to go deeper into meditation (sometimes even trance-like states). It definitely helps me let go.
I have not found binaural beats to be effective for me at the beta and gamma range. Listening to gamma beats did not seem to produce a higher ability to focus or produce insightful ideas. A good house music playlist is more effective at helping me focus and solve problems than gamma-level binaural beats. But more experimentation is needed.
3. Wearables and tech
As mentioned before, MRS/TMS is a credible and effective approach used by neuropsychologists to treat depression and improve mental states. This is done commonly through pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF).
PEMF wearables are now on the market, and that’s super exciting to me (yes, it’s on my wish list to buy one). These wearable send electromagnetic pulses into your brain to manipulate brain waves to more desirable states.
I’ve got my eyes on the NeoRhythm by Omnipemf. The research and reviews seem solid, so I’m looking forward to trying it out.
Another option is through an EEG, such as the Muse 2. This is a neurofeedback device that lets you know what frequency your brain is producing at any given time. So you can see if you reach that highly-coveted gamma state during a killer night of studying.
Muse vs. PEMF
It might be good to clarify that a Muse EEG is totally different from a PEMF. The Muse is a feedback device – it gives you feedback on how deep into meditation you are. The PEMF actively sends electromagnetic energy into your brain, deepening your meditative states without any work on your part.
So which one should you choose? That depends on what you want to accomplish.
If you’d like some help getting feedback on your existing meditation practice, or starting a practice, the Muse is an excellent choice.
If you want to access deep levels of meditative and alpha states without the need for meditation, than a PEMF might be for you. It’s a bit like a microwave – you get the result really fast without a lot of work. Which might be useful if you’re in a state of depression or poor mental health and need a quick fix.
Or in my case, I am just curious on how quickly and deeply a PEMF could get me into deep alpha, delta or even theta states.
But the downside is that you’re dependent on the PEMF to get out of those negative states. Using the Muse to cultivate a true meditation practice is a more sustainable way to stay mentally healthy in the long run.
So there you go. That’s a quick-and-dirty (but hopefully mind-blowing?) intro to hacking your brain waves. Hope it helps. Let me know your experience with brain waves in the comments!