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EEG AND THE BRAINWAVES OF CONSCIOUSNESS

A chapter from the Textbook of Neurofeedback, EEG Biofeedback and Brain Self Regulation
edited by Rob Kall, Joe Kamiya and Gary Schwartz

EEG AND THE BRAINWAVES OF CONSCIOUSNESS

BY ANNA WISEAnna Wise.gif (5837 bytes)

Anna Wise
http://www.annawise.com
Hospitals use electroencephalography to measure the electrical activity of the brain generally for the purpose of diagnosing brain disorders and discovering the physical location of a brain problem. The purpose that I have for measuring the electrical activity of the brain is very different and is focussed on understanding the way in which the brainwaves reflect the state of consciousness. Therefore the two types of EEG instrumentation are necessarily dissimilar. In order to understand consciousness as a reflection of brainwave patterns (or brainwave patterns as a reflection of consciousness), I need an instant frequency analysis and display of the spectrum of brainwave frequencies. This allows me to correlate the subjective state of the individual with his or her brainwave pattern.

My work is built on the original research of the distinguished late British psychophysiologist and biophysicist C. Maxwell Cade. Cade was a Fellow of many prestigious British Institutes including the Royal Society of Medicine and the Institute of Electrical Engineers. As both a scientist and a meditation and martial arts practitioner of long standing, Cade became interested in determining the brainwave pattern of "higher states of consciousness". To this end, in 1974, he invented, with British electronics expert Geoffrey Blundell, the Mind Mirror(TM) EEG. Using this unique method of band pass filtering with spectral analysis, he measured the brainwaves of accomplished meditators, spiritual teachers, and healers to look for a common thread within the combination of frequencies they produced. He found what he was looking for, a brainwave pattern he labeled "The Awakened Mind". The Awakened Mind brainwave pattern is a combination of brainwave frequencies consisting of beta, alpha, theta and delta in a particular proportion and relation to each other, in both hemispheres simultaneously.

What follows is a brief history and technical description of the instrumentation. After that, we will look at the importance of the interrelationship of the brainwave frequencies and using EEGs to train states of consciousness.


THE MIND MIRROR

As Cade explained in his book on this subject THE AWAKENED MIND, co-authored by Nona Coxhead and published in 1979 by Delacorte Press, the Mind Mirror(TM) was a form of electroencephalograph that had never been produced before. It was a two channel EEG consisting of twenty-four rows of Light Emitting Diodes arranged in two vertical columns of twelve rows each, one column for each hemisphere. The amplitude was displayed in microvolts
on the horizontal axis of each frequency.
The LEDs along the two central columns
represented 0 mv. with values increasing
as the lights moved closer to the edges. 1

The frequencies that Cade and Blundell originally used were 40 hz., 33 hz., 26 hz., 20 hz., 16 hz., 12 hz., 10.5 hz., 9 hz., 7 hz., 5 hz., 3 hz., and 1.5 hz. These were later updated in the Mind Mirror(TM) II to fourteen frequencies is each hemisphere: 38 hz., 30 hz., 24 hz., 19 hz., 15 hz., 12.5 hz., 10.5 hz., 9 hz., 7.5 hz., 6 hz., 4.5 hz., 2.75 hz., 1.5 hz., and 0.75 hz. This increase gave us an additional frequency in both the theta and the alpha ranges, thereby increasing the accuracy of the information. This method of displaying the pattern was the first of its kind. Aesthetically pleasing, it was easy to conceptualize the changing interplay of frequencies.

The latest model, Mind Mirror(TM) III, developed in 1992 by Neil Hancock of Biomonitors in conjunction with Blundell, made significant changes by digitizing the instrument. Biomonitors technical description is as follows: "The Mind Mirror(TM) III is a twin channel EEG which performs instant frequency analysis and displays the results on horizontal bar graphs on a LCD screen. Expanding bar graphs moving left show the magnitude of the signal in the left hemisphere. Expanding bar graphs moving right show the magnitude of the signal in the right hemisphere. Each bar graph represents the output of one filter. The bar graphs are centered on the following frequencies: 0.75 hz., 1.5 hz., 3 hz., 4.5 hz., 6 hz., 7.5 hz., 9 hz., 10.5 hz., 12.5 hz., 15 hz., 19 hz., 24 hz., 30 hz., and 38 hz. The bandwidth of each bar graph is adjusted so that the 3db loss points coincide with the equivalent points of the adjacent filter. A separate EMG bar graph displays the magnitude of frequencies in a 100 to 200 hz. window.

"Maximum input sensitivity is 3 microvolts. The wide band noise is less than 1 microvolt. The sensitivity may be switched between 3, 5, 10, 30, 50 or 100 microvolt rms. The CMR response is better than 60db. A built in test oscillator checks the performance of the Mind Mirror(TM) III and, when connected to a subject, is used to check the quality of the head contact.

"The last 30 minutes of use is automatically recorded and can be sent after the session to a MS-DOS computer. Realtime communications uses a fiber optic lead which plugs into the back of the unit. The Mind Mirror(TM) III uses a microprocessor to process the signals and then displays them on LCD."

While digitizing the Mind Mirror(TM) offers considerable technical advantages, the heart of the instrument, the band pass filtering, remains the same, providing the instant frequency analysis that can both identify and help train an Awakened Mind.


THE INTERRELATIONSHIP OF BRAINWAVE FREQUENCIES

We have a finely woven, intricate, interrelationship of brainwave frequencies that delicately determines our state of consciousness. Singlemindedly developing a specific category of brainwave can do more harm than good. By following a brainwave development plan that does not take into account all of the frequencies in combination, you may be exacerbating an already existing problem rather than improving your state of consciousness.

First let us focus individually on the four categories of brainwave frequencies, beta, alpha, theta, and delta. Then we will look at a variety of combinations. The drawings below represent Mind Mirror patterns of the specific brainwaves described.

BETA WAVES generally are thought to range from 14 to about 26 hz., with the frequencies above that being referred to as "fast beta" or "high beta". Beta is the normal wking state of consciousness where external attention and conscious thought processes occur ranging from panic to calm, alert thinking.
ALPHA WAVES are usually considered to fall between 8 to 14 hz. This is a kind of neutral or natural state of mind where the individual may experience relaxed detached awareness, imagery or daydreaming. Alpha provides the bridge between the conscious mind of beta and the subconscious mind of theta. However, alpha alone does not give the depth of meditation or inner experience it was once thought to. (Some people easily produce it watching T.V.!)
THETA WAVES are usually thought to range between 4 to 8 hz. This is the subconscious mind. Present in dreaming sleep, deep meditation, creative inspiration and spiritual awakening, theta provides the "depth, breadth, and height" of experience in higher states of consciousness when produced in combination with other brainwaves. However, alone, the content of theta will not be remembered because it is below the level of conscious awareness.
Delta Waves are usually thought to range from 0.5 to 4 hz. They are what is left turned on when the rest of us turns off and goes to sleep-- the unconscious. However, they are also produced in some people in a waking state. Here they act as a kind of "radar", reaching out and seeking information on the most unconscious levels. They provide the individual with deep intuition and empathy and are present in many psi experiences including extrasensory perception, telepathy, and healing.

The combination of these four categories of brainwaves determines our state of consciousness at any given time. The drawings below represent some common patterns.


Beta and delta is a frequent combination for people having a brainwave profile taken with their eyes open in a waking state. This can also be called alpha blocking. With the beta, they
are thinking and with the delta
they are trying to understand on
an unconscious or intuitive level
what is going on. 6


Beta and alpha, with or without delta is a common pattern for people trying to begin to
meditate or relax but who
are unsuccessful at stilling
their minds. 7



Alpha, with low frequency theta beginning to develop, and occasionally large flares of delta indicates that the individual is going deeper in meditation,
subconscious insight is
emerging and the thought
process is quiet. 8


Alpha, theta, and delta is a deep
meditation pattern, however, the
delta is not essential to the
experience of meditation. 9

When the meditator loses the alpha waves and goes into a pattern of theta and delta, I know that
he has lost conscious awareness
and will not be able to remember
the content of his meditation. 10
A brief intervention of verbal feedback at this point is often enough to bring the bridge of alpha back so that he may resume his meditation and maintain some level of conscious awareness.


Beta and theta indicates that the individual is conscious and thinking, but there is also
subconscious "content"
that is not being accessed. 11

A HIERARCHY OF BRAINWAVES?

Many people have the misconception that the four categories of brainwaves have some magical hierarchical order. This is absolutely false. Like the misconceptions of old that alpha alone was meditation or a "higher state of consciousness", (when many people simply produce it by closing their eyes), there are those who want to continue to oversimplify the brainwave categories. This often takes the form of beta being the "worst" brainwave, alpha beginning to be "better" with theta or even sometimes delta, being declared "best". All you need to do is try going to work without beta waves, and you will see how necessary they are. Conversely, in other schools of thought, beta is king with the lower frequencies being either irrelevant or detrimental. Not which frequency, but how the many frequencies combine, determines our optimum states of consciousness.



THE AWAKENED MIND

Exhilarated! - You know that you know. You have a sense of understanding on all levels. Perhaps your awareness and ingenuity are leading you to thoughts and acts of extraordinary creativity. Your intuitive insight into old problems makes them seem simple and easy to handle, possibly even insignificant. "Why didn't I think of this before?" or "It's so obvious!" may be your response to what, at one time, seemed like an unanswerable question. Or perhaps your experience takes the form of increased spiritual awareness. You have a feeling of greater knowledge of the universe. You are experiencing an Awakened Mind.

The Awakened Mind brainwave pattern is a combination of all four of the brainwave categories, beta, alpha, theta, and delta,, simultaneously in both hemispheres.
When you produce all of these frequencies together in the right proportion and relationship with each other, you experience the intuitive, empathetic radar of the delta waves, the creative inspiration, personal insight, and spiritual awareness of the theta waves, the bridging capacity and relaxed, detached, awareness of the alpha waves, and the external attention and ability to consciously process thought of beta waves, all at the same time!

Max Cade first measured this pattern in the spiritual domain. He saw it on Swamis and Yogis, on spiritual teachers and on healers while in the process of healing. If you break it down, you can see that it is simply the brainwaves of meditating and the brainwaves of thinking at the same time - with one notable exception. As you can see from the diagram, the amplitude of the beta of the Awakened Mind brainwave pattern reduces in the higher frequencies. People in this state of awareness and creativity do not have the excess thinking that manifests in internal list making, running commentaries, excessive subvocalization, and mental panic that accompanies the faster beta waves.


HISTORY

I worked with Max Cade in London from 1973 to 1981. Then, with Max's support and blessings, and the generous gift of a Mind Mirror(TM) from Geoffrey Blundell, I returned to the United States to bring this information home. Very little was understood at that time about the interrelationship of brainwave frequencies. I was living in Boulder, Colorado, and teaching "Biofeedback Meditation and The Awakened Mind". My path took me on one of teaching rather than research, but in the course of my work and out of personal curiosity, I have had the good fortune to measure many thousands of brainwave patterns and assist in their development.

In my work, I found that the Awakened Mind brainwave pattern was present during any kind of "peak experience" or "peak performance", regardless of the content or intention. I measured it in the creative arts: the choreographer creating a dance and the composer creating music produced the Awakened Mind pattern. I saw it in the (supposedly traditionally "left brain") world of scientists and mathematicians (another myth gone). The Awakened Mind is the "ah-ha". At the exact instant of solving the problem, or getting the insight, the pattern appears. I saw it in temples in my travel to the Far East. I saw it in homemakers who liked to sit among the flowers and "daydream". I saw it in the executive offices of multi-billion dollar corporations. And I saw it develop in my students as I trained them.


VARIETIES OF THE AWAKENED MIND

One of the areas which I have developed beyond the early work of Max Cade, is in identifying the fluid nature, changing qualities and varieties of Awakened Mind patterns. I have learned to identify the category of brainwave by cluster formation and pattern recognition as opposed to the specific frequency. The brainwaves are displayed in four clusters
representing the four categories
of each hemisphere. Within each 13
cluster there is what I call the peak frequency, or the single frequency with the strongest amplitude. The peak frequencies have to be in the right relationship to each other in order to be a proper Awakened Mind pattern.

The interrelationship of the peak frequencies within the four clusters is much more important than the frequencies themselves. Within this framework, it is possible for someone to have brainwaves at 7 hz., that behave as alpha waves through their positioning and function within the pattern as a whole and their interrelationship with the other frequencies. In the same vein, it is also possible to have a frequency of 19 hz., behave as an alpha wave, or a frequency of 9 hz. behave as a theta wave.



PATTERN RECOGNITION


In measuring brainwaves for understanding states of consciousness, it is vital that we look at the pattern as a whole rather than the individual parts. We must understand the interplay between ALL frequencies in order to understand what is actually happening within the state of consciousness. The drawings illustrate some of the varieties of Awakened Mind patterns possible and, below that, some patterns that might be mistaken for an Awakened Mind pattern but are not.



14

Varieties of Awakened Mind Patterns


The fundamental requirement for an Awakened Mind pattern is that there is an open flow of information between the conscious, subconscious and unconscious brainwaves. What takes place within each of the categories is a different question and is often contingent on the content of the mind rather than the state of consciousness.

Conversely, the figures below show brainwave patterns that ostensibly have all of the components necessary for Awakened Mind patterns - namely beta, alpha theta and delta. However, you can see that in figure 15a the distance between the alpha peak frequency and the theta peak frequency is too great - even though one is truly alpha and the other is truly theta. This creates a "bottleneck" where the flow of information is stifled, making an Awakened Mind experience impossible. Figure 15b shows the same thing, but this time the bottleneck is between the peak frequencies of beta and alpha. Figure 15c shows not an Awakened Mind, but a meditation pattern inhibited by too much beta.




15a 15b 15c

Examples of patterns mistaken for an Awakened Mind

Success interpreting the brainwave patterns lies in the ability to understand the intricacies of the interplay between frequencies. So far, I have only described static brainwave states - like pictures taken from a freeze frame on the EEG. But brainwaves do not behave in this way. They are constantly moving, changing and shifting. Another aspect of this kind of pattern recognition in reading the movement of the brainwaves and discerning the states of consciousness represented, is to understand the effects of the "organization or disorganization" of the pattern as well as the "stability" of the individual frequencies.

Analyzing the organization involves looking at how the clusters of frequencies of the categories of beta, alpha, theta and delta move in relationship to each other. ie: What is the pattern of movement of the different categories within the interrelationship? How ordered or how random is the movement? Here we must look at the way in which the major parts of the pattern work together to form a whole - not the individual frequencies.

Analyzing the stability, on the other hand, involves looking at the speed and pattern of movement and rate of change of each individual frequency within any given category of brainwave.

This paper is not long enough to go into the detail necessary to understand pattern recognition and interpretation of the moving brainwave pattern, however, I would be remiss in letting the reader think it is not a vital aspect of comprehending and training the Awakened Mind.



STATE VERSUS CONTENT

There are two ways of looking at consciousness - the "state" of consciousness, which can be defined in terms of brainwaves and in terms of experience, and the "content" of consciousness, which can be defined as the material of the mind - the thoughts, feelings, images, sensations, and attitudes that make up the substance of consciousness. State and content can either be interdependent or independent according to the situation. State can be used to access content and content can be used to access state. So far, we have primarily been discussing the state of consciousness - the actual brainwave patterns. The content of consciousness is the combination of thoughts, emotions, and perceptions contained within the state - the material of the mind.



THE STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS

There are many ways of learning how to alter your state of consciousness. It is simply a question of changing your brainwave pattern. But, obviously, it helps to know what state you are starting from, and what state you wish to go to. To this end, I begin working with any client by taking a "brainwave profile".



BRAINWAVE PROFILE

The brainwave profile has two distinct sections. I look at the brainwaves of the client while he is in an eyes open waking state and then when he is in an eyes closed relaxed or meditating state. Both sections of the profile have a series of questions, instructions, and exercises I ask the client to do, in order to get as complete a range of information about his brainwave state as I want. I observe the frequency changes, the interactions of the peak frequencies, the width of the clusters, the organization of the pattern, and the stability of the movement in a variety of different contexts. From these observations, I determine what I call a "signature pattern" for the individual. Actually each person has two signature patterns - one for eyes open and one for eyes closed. The signature pattern is NOT a stable fixed picture. Rather I have developed a way of crystallizing the movement of the brainwaves into one drawing which describes the amplitude and the movent of the frequencies. This drawing then helps me to determine what kind of training is needed and in what order.

Below is an example of a hand drawn eyes closed signature pattern. The moving dynamic pattern is captured in a static picture by the style and quality of the lines. The solid lines are the most consistent and fixed aspects of the pattern while the broken lines denote flares of brainwaves. The style of the broken or dotted line and the distance of the connection of the flare from the main body of the pattern portray the frequency and form of movement. I will often augment the drawing with the hz. numbers of key or peak frequencies.


16


PATTERN INTERPRETATION

Pattern recognition and interpretation of a spectral analysis EEG like the Mind Mirror requires observation of many features. Besides looking at the peak frequency and the band width of each of the brainwave categories and the organization and stability of the pattern as a whole, it is important to note the repetition of identifiable, consistent, but brief states. These can occur randomly or cyclicly, and can be a vital indication of the individual's developmental status in terms of states of consciousness.

The most obvious example of this is a brief random flare of the Awakened Mind pattern. When this is observed, I must next take into account what precedes it or seems to set it off when I am making my training plan.


INDIVIDUALIZED OPTIMUM STATES

Once I have established the signature patterns of a client, the next step is to determine what his or her optimum brainwave pattern would be. Here I have to take into account the needs and expectations of the individual and the reason he or she wants brainwave training. While most clients that I see would ultimately like to have mastery over their brainwave states and be able to produce their optimum patterns at will, occasionally there are individuals who visit me for very specific reasons that have nothing to do with wishing to activate an Awakened Mind. When this occurs, even though I can see what training would be best for them in terms of peak performance states, it is important to focus on and respect theirs specific needs. However, for the purposes of this chapter, I am going to assume that the training process that we are referring to relates to maximizing brainwave mastery and developing higher states of consciousness.

As we have seen earlier, there is not one specific Awakened Mind brainwave pattern that I try to mold everyone into. There are, however, the principles of the optimum states of consciousness. If I apply these principles of the Awakened Mind to an individual's signature pattern, through a process that is almost algorithmic, I can determine what their individualized Awakened Mind pattern would look like.

So much of the rest of my work with clients, especially the "content" aspect is heuristic. However, this basic determination of the direction their Awakened Mind pattern will take when it is evolving, is important to the development of a training plan.

A brief note here: I have identified two signature patterns - one with eyes open and one with eyes closed. Since we are concerned here with discussing the development of the Awakened Mind brainwave pattern, it is most common that I use the closed eyed signature pattern as the initial basis for the training plan. This is simply because most people are already closer to it in a state of eyes closed internalization, so that makes the best starting point. Eventually, I can take them into open eyed training once they are well on the way to mastery in the closed eyed state. When people already have a reasonably accessible Awakened Mind pattern with their eyes closed, they may want to begin open eyed training.

Twenty plus year of developing brainwave training plans for clients led me to create a generalized training procedure or protocol that has the most effective and immediate impact on brainwaves for training an Awakened Mind brainwave pattern. This protocol may be followed with anyone regardless of their original state of consciousness to establish a well rounded mastery and progress towards the Awakened Mind pattern. For that reason it is especially useful in group training situations where the measurement of individual baselines or signature patterns is impossible.



WISE PROTOCOL


Eyes Closed
1. Increase relaxation
2. Access Theta
3. Reduce Beta
4. Access Alpha
5. Address Hemispheric Balance
6. Address Delta
7. Stabilize Alpha
8. Stabilize Theta
9. Alpha and Theta together
10. Add Beta for Awakened Mind
11. Stabilize Awakened Mind


Eyes Open
1. Alpha
2. Alpha and Theta
3. Awakened Mind

In individual training, this protocol can be personalized according to the original signature pattern. The order of the training process can be vital. Specific frequency training, without detailed analysis of the interrelationship of the individual's frequencies might result in a the brainwave pattern "devolving" rather than "evolving" - in other words getting worse in terms of higher states of consciousness. For example, an individual came to me with very high amplitude alpha peaking at 10.5 hz. and almost no accompanying theta in her "meditation" pattern. She wanted to use a light and sound device set on 10 hz. to "help her meditate" because she had heard alpha was good for meditation. She wondered why she could not get deep meditations.

In this case, her excessive alpha was already inhibiting the development of the theta waves. She needed to reduce her alpha in order to allow the theta to emerge. My approach with her was to sacrifice as much of the alpha as necessary, perhaps most of it initially, to get her theta to develop. Then carefully maintain the theta while adding the alpha back.

For some brainwave patterns it is advisable to work on reducing the beta waves before attempting to access and develop theta, depending on the frequencies, amplitude and characteristics of the beta waves. I must also take into account the original accessibility of the lower frequencies and their availability or resistance when I do theta eliciting tests in the initial brainwave profile.



BRAINWAVE TRAINING

Having completed the brainwave profile, determined the appropriate signature pattern, and developed an individualized protocol, we are now ready to begin the brainwave training. I will first talk about training the state of consciousness, but the use of content within the training process is, more often than not, an integrated component.



Methods: Biomonitoring versus Biofeedback
Although I frequently integrate brief periods of biofeedback into the initial stages of brainwave training, the bulk of the training sessions consists of biomonitoring and instructions based on the brainwave patterns that are being monitored. The patterns that I am looking at and the patterns I am training are complex. The process of learning begins with accessing the state that we are looking for. I have many techniques that I use to assist the individual in accessing the frequencies desired in the particular stage of training we are involved in. Biomonitoring helps me determine which combination of these techniques is appropriate to use at any given time.

Among the resources I use to affect the brainwave states are:
- Breathing techniques
- Deep psychophysiological relaxation
- Concentration exercises
- Special eye, tongue, and body positions
- The use of specific colors
- The use of specific words
- The use of specific sensory imagery: visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, gustatory, and kinesthetic
- Guided fantasy
- Traditional meditations
- "Energy" work

I monitor the brainwaves in real time and make decisions as to what will best assist the individual to access the desired frequencies most effectively. Biomonitoring can be used to effectively shape the desired pattern by instantly adjusting guidance to suit immediate needs. I watch the results and alter my instructions accordingly, often not giving any biofeedback until the desired state is reached, or at least close at hand.

Once the state we are working on is reached, I will give biofeedback so that the individual can begin to learn to recognize it. I ask him or her to find some way to "mark" the state inside -a word, image, symbol, phrase, body sensation, etc. that can be recalled later to help him or her return to the state more directly and quickly. A table of subjective landmarks with several dozen subjective experiences related to brainwave states is used to help participants find "keys" for returning to and mastering different frequency combinations. I later ask the client to recognize the state himself when he has reached it. The final stage is to be able to return to the state at will and with full awareness.

Initial biofeedback offers the individual the opportunity to experience that a particular state can be reached. For example, if he doesn't think he can produce alpha, and he can, I will give him that feedback. Biofeedback is also useful when the brainwaves fluctuate in and out of the desired state in a consistent way. Then giving the client the "now you have it, now you don't" type of information is very valuable in his learning to sustain it. However, that feedback is only valuable when the state that he is fluctuating in and out of is the desired state, not simply a portion of the desired state. If I gave alpha feedback on a flare at 12 hz., when what I am really looking for is a broad range of alpha covering 9 to 12 hz. and peaking at 10.5 hz., I would probably be giving premature biofeedback which might ultimately hinder the development of the appropriate alpha. It all depends on the organization, stability, and behavior of the other frequencies.

I rarely, if ever, give single frequency biofeedback without taking into account the pattern as a whole. If, for example, I were to give feedback of successful 9hz., and the individual was producing very strong amplitude in 19, 24, 30, and 38 hz., I would not be giving him the message that I want him to receive without explaining that. Otherwise, his internal experience of what he thought was only alpha would include a heavy dose of beta as well.

With advanced students I can actually give biofeedback of various frequency combinations without confusing them. For example: "Your beta has reduced appropriately. You have consistent alpha with flares of theta. Strong theta.....holding.......now its gone...... now its back........now the alpha is fading......bring it back." In this way I can help them to shape their brainwave pattern in the way they want it to be.


THE IMPORTANCE OF RELAXATION

Although I listed deep psychophysiological relaxation as simply one of the brainwave training resources above, I want to make special note of its importance for the whole of consciousness training. It is much more difficult for an individual to willingly alter his brainwave state from a place of physiological tension than from a place of deep relaxation. Beta is easier to reduce, and alpha and theta are easier to access when the body is relaxed and the client has let go as much as possible. For this reason, relaxation training is an integral part of my work with brainwaves. I use electrical skin resistance meters to measure the depth of relaxation - both for biomonitoring and biofeedback. Relaxation is also vital for developing theta waves for working with the content of consciousness.


THE CONTENT OF CONSCIOUSNESS

The content of consciousness is the material of the mind, which takes place in many forms. A useful metaphorical way of looking at it is that the brainwave pattern "contains" the content. Figure 17a shows the content of beta while thinking and figure 17b shows the content of alpha and theta while meditating. Figure 17c illustrates how an Awakened Mind pattern allows the flow of content between the subconscious and conscious mind.



17a 17b 17c

USING CONTENT TO AFFECT STATE

By accessing the subconscious and working with the material that is there, the client's
theta waves increase (figure 18).
The specific nature of the material
is not always important - what is 18
important is that it is an aspect of his subconscious. The content of theta differs from that of alpha in the style of imagery that is experienced. While alpha images can generally be colorful, distinct, and vivid, theta imagery is usually darker, fuzzier, and often more meaningful. In people with high levels of visual imagery ability, flares of theta can be accompanied by the colors of blue and purple, hence the classic phrase of inspiration, "It came to me out of the blue!"

While working with theta development and the subconscious, I draw upon the principles of gestalt, hypnotherapy, and a variety of psychological modalities, but the most important resources are intuition and common sense. I often ask the client himself what content he would like to use in his theta development work. Generally he chooses some aspect of his life with which he has had difficulty - often something fairly hidden - which is why it remains stuck in underdeveloped theta waves.


REPRESSED PSYCHOLOGICAL MATERIAL

Certain brainwave frequencies and behavior indicate to me that the individual has some sort of repressed psychological material - or important content of which he is unaware. For example, an individual might fluctuate between Figure 19a and Figure 19b while I am developing the subconscious. Figure 19a shows a brainwave state where there is a large amount of subconscious material in the theta waves but no bridge between the conscious and subconscious mind. This individual is, in all likelihood, unaware of the contents of his subconscious. When his state of consciousness changes to that depicted in Figure 19b, he has opened up the bridge of alpha, and his conscious mind is ready and usually willing to receive the information, but the theta has disappeared! The information is still not available.




19a 19b
This vacillation between the two distinct patterns can occur rapidly and in response to particular questions. In some cases, I can actually "see" the suppressed material being shunted around so that the conscious mind will not have access to it. In these cases I must work very carefully with the individuals involved to ascertain whether or not they are prepared to "release" this content and whether or not they want to continue in this way with their consciousness training. I then provide the support and follow up that is needed, or make sure that they have a therapist to whom they can take this material. I have seen memories of catastrophic fire, rape, incest, abuse, and other traumatic experiences emerge from theta development.

Once the suppressed material is released and the individual has either processed it or let go of it, the ability to access the theta state is more easily maintained. With theta developed and "cleared" so to speak, the natural tendency is to replace the trauma with creativity or spirituality.

There are two major approaches to accessing repressed psychological material through brainwave training. One is to take the individual down into theta and then slowly add the alpha bridge to his pattern. The other is to access the alpha and maintain it while developing the theta. I use different styles in working with each technique, and again make my decisions based on the individuals' needs and the behavior of the brainwave patterns as a whole including the beta waves.



THE IMPORTANCE OF THE INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIP
BETWEEN THE TRAINER AND THE CLIENT

To be most successful, my methods and equipment require a person to interface between the instruments and the individual. As you can see from the above descriptions, I place strong importance on the way that I, or those I have trained, work with clients. This is not clinical biofeedback. This is not a behavioral science. Although, I certainly incorporate aspects of behaviorism through my use of direct biofeedback, even that is done by the practitioner, not by a machine. The practitioner can then make use of how he or she gives the feedback, by changing the tone and loudness of voice and the actual wording to improve the client's self confidence and therefore his or her performance. The positive effects of the client/practitioner relationship through encouragement and validation are as important in the brainwave training of "state" as in the brainwave training through "content".



MEDITATION AND SPIRITUALITY

Spirituality is rarely addressed in the same breath as electroencephalography. Yet if we are to use electroencephalography for consciousness training, it must be. We, as human beings, have a drive towards some kind of connection with a power greater than ourselves, just as we have a drive toward reaching "higher" states of consciousness. This drive can be suppressed or sublimated by all of the myriad forms of "self-medication" including, but not limited to, alcohol, drugs, food, relationships, and work. Nevertheless, the drive is there. If it can be recognized, accepted, and even validated, the individual can be helped along his path to coming in touch with who he really is, thereby manifesting his fuller potential, not only as a spiritual, feeling, thinking human being, but as a member of the larger community of mankind. Brainwave training can assist in this process.

Meditation is perhaps the most commonly talked about and accepted "altered state of consciousness". Yet there are many different definitions, methods, philosophies, dogmas, techniques, attitudes about, approaches to, and uses for the mental state called meditation. I prefer to think of meditation only in terms of brainwave patterns - describing it as a "state" rather than as a "technique" or a "content". While there are many different nuances to the meditation state, it basically consists of alpha and theta and usually some delta. While prayer
may add beta because it is a more verbal form of meditation, and deep psychophysiological relaxation may reduce alpha because it can be a less conscious form of meditation, the similarity of the general combination of brainwaves remains in meditation, prayer, contemplation, hypnosis, auto hypnosis, guided fantasy, visualization, and deep psychophysiological relaxation. The essence of the spiritual connection seems to take place in the theta waves, with alpha providing the bridge to the conscious mind so that awareness can be maintained.

So how can we teach meditation with EEGs? Simply by brainwave training for the production of joint alpha and theta waves in the right proportion to each other, and the mastery of beta waves, you are teaching meditation. What happens in the content of this meditation state is up to both the client and the practitioner. If the state is being trained, how the content is being approached may have vital impact on the "meditator". Conversely, if only the content is being taught, as in most meditation trainings, how the state is being approached may also have vital impact on the meditator. Teaching meditation with EEGs is a natural progression of spirituality into the 21st century.

If you decide to teach meditation with electroencephalography, beware the hidden fear of many long term meditators, "Am I doing it right?" While many people learn meditation "correctly", those who have focussed entirely on technique may rightly feel that they are missing something. I had a client who had "meditated" for an hour a day every day for twelve years. He came to me because he felt he was "missing something". Through EEG measurement, we discovered he had been sitting and thinking for 12 years. After only a few sessions, he went into a deep meditation. At the end he sat bolt upright and exclaimed, "I just meditated for the first time!"

Brainwave training for the purpose of individual evolution will have a strong impact on personal spirituality. We can expect to see more integration and less distinction between the two realms of science and spirituality in the future.



ADDING THE BETA BACK

So how do we ultimately develop an Awakened Mind through brainwave training? To the state of meditation we add specific frequencies of beta waves. The optimum frequencies required depend on the frequencies of the alpha, theta, and delta waves of the meditator. Again this can be done through specific brainwave training techniques or through working with content. Some "problem-solving" meditations and "self-healing" meditations have the principles of adding the beta back built in by requiring the meditator to "think".



FEEDING BACK THE "AH-HA"

Direct open eyed biofeedback can also be used as an excellent Awakened Mind training technique. When I have a client who already moves in and out of an Awakened Mind state, I will have him look at the Mind Mirror(TM) himself during the session. Then I will get him talking about something that he finds particularly stimulating, exhilarating, or meaningful. When he happens upon an Awakened Mind state in the course of the conversation, I will point it out to him immediately so that he can see it on the EEG. Usually the impact of this is so strong on him, that he has an "ah-ha" experience when he sees the pattern. In other words, he understands on all levels of himself what he just experienced and the brainwaves he produced.
This understanding then creates another Awakened Mind pattern which I again point out, which in turn creates another Awakened Mind pattern... and another... I have seen individuals sustain this cycle once it has started for up to a dozen brief "peak experiences" at a time. They later report greater ease in both identifying and producing this state without the use of the EEG.

Which is, after all, the whole point.

© Anna Wise, 2000 November