The Field Surveys VIII

Brainwaves, Neurofeedback and Meditation

Jan Lundquist

Image Credit: Entrepreneur

In an earlier piece, (Field Survey #1) I wrote briefly about the different classes of brain wave frequencies (alpha, beta, delta, gamma, and theta) and how they correlate to our physical and mental states of being.

The alpha and beta frequencies are produced during our waking hours, delta and theta are primarily associated with with sleep.  These four groups were the first brainwave frequencies to be studied.

As instrumentation capabilities improved, it became possible to pick up still other brainwave frequencies at the lower and higher ends of the measurement spectrum.  Because of these enhanced abilities, we now know that high frequency gamma waves are produced during all states of consciousness/unconsciousness, except when an individual is under deep sedation.

We have also learned that people who meditate regularly (and musicians) seem to produce more sustained bursts of gamma, at a higher end of that frequency band than those who don’t.  Perhaps this abundance of gamma has something to do with why experienced meditators often report “greater feelings of equanimity, patience, and compassion for others – even at times when they’re not meditating, such as during the workday or at dinner with family.”  [1]

Author Connor Wood tells us that researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany have come to believe that the gamma brain wave states associated with expert-level meditation have something to do with physically reshaping brain structures that persist beyond actual periods of meditation.  Data shows that expert meditators often display increased cortical thickness and more gray matter in specific parts of their brains. [1]

The ongoing studies of the gamma brainwave frequencies have also found that a gamma “burst” is often associated with those a-ha! moments when sudden insights or problem solutions occur to us.  These moments are typically preceded by a flush of alpha waves which seem to quiet the brain, followed by a momentary lull and then a flurry of gamma, approximately 1/3 of a second before the insight flashes into the conscious mind. [2]

I made use of this process long before I had any understanding of it. In my youthful, poetry writing years, when I found myself stuck for just the right line, I called upon a writing trick that never failed. I allowed myself to expand into what I thought of as the “not-doing” state and wait, knowing the solution would come, shortly thereafter, whole and complete. [3]

I was able to use this very basic form of neurofeedback as a problem solving mechanism because I had learned to identify and summon the primary sensation of spacious detachment, associated with the alpha dominant brainwave state.

The spaciousness  seems to be in and around me, and the detachment is from the problems and concerns of my normal waking hours.   Respiration slows and tension fades.  My stomach gurgles when my  abdominal muscles relax. (To hypnotherapists, these gurgles are affirmation that the trance.)

The idea of the invisible “Witness,” often mentioned in metaphysical literature of earlier centuries,  arises from this state of consciousness.  The Witness refers to the great reward of the alpha state: development of of a dispassionate and objective state of mind which greets all events with an enduring equanimity, enabling emotional control and grace under even the most trying of circumstances.

While beta frequencies are associated with our normal waking condition, alpha may be thought of as the first of the “altered states” of consciousness.  It is the gateway to the deeper states of theta and delta.  Novice meditators often report sliding right through alpha into the deep dreamless sleep associated with the delta dominant state. They have no recollection of the theta state, which the more experienced are able to enter at will.

Theta is found in the elusive moment, just before sleep. It is associated with both the REM state of dreaming and with lucid dreams.   It is most easily detected while lying on one’s back, as its arrival is announced by an unusual sensation of  heavy feeling, as sinking  into and through the cushions.  A mental gear shifts and shifts again as one drops into a dreamy awareness that then launched free of the body.

While in theta, a variety of strange landscapes, or faces, human, or otherwise, may pass before our internal eyes. Theta activates the visual cortex (which is why many  artists produce more of it than most of us). We should attach no importance to classifying these visions, but simply allow ourselves to observe them as they come and go. Whether they are psychic sights, products of our imagination, or scenes from past (or future) lives is irrelevant.  The objective is to remain in waking theta for as long as possible or until we sense that we are done with that particular session.

It is through theta that we are fully able to reap physical and mental benefits of meditation as enumerated in Scientific Benefits of Meditation – 76 things you might be missing out on.  While these benefits may be achieved through a passive experience with the theta state, when approached in a proactive manner,  it may also be a great metaphysical tool.

Theta states are the “dream time” of aboriginal peoples, and the ever present liminal world to modern mystics.  All who wander in that realm know that the work accomplished there is powerful and long lasting.

In the proactive theta state we may introduce personal, community, and social issues and conditions to be worked on by our Higher Self and Holy Spirit (and whatever angels we have on our team.) Periods of theta consciousness are ideal times to “cast our bread” upon the waters, free of expectations for how and when it will return.  

The gifts of meditation are available to anyone and everyone.  Brainwave entrainment producers offer numerous musical compositions for stimulating the production of the different types of frequencies.  If a track is claimed to reduce stress, it is probably alpha heavy.  If it is said to enhance creativity or increase ESP, it is more likely to focus on theta entrainment.

While such self help tools are nice to have, they certainly are not necessary. The human body is the most sensitive biofeedback device imaginable. By paying attention to subtle internal cues, we can learn to summon the different states of mind quite naturally. Countless blessings and amazing teachings await those who are willing to spend the time and energy to do so.


[1]  Gamma waves help meditation change the brain. Connor Wood, March 18, 2012.

[2]  Gamma Waves, “Aha” Moments & Dreaming. John A. Chavez, February 21, 2016.

[3]  This is the process that facilitated this prize winning poem.  Deathless poetry it is not, but the San Diego Press Women’s contest judges liked it:

Life is very much like
a blind man walking through a room.
Sometimes the room is familiar.
Sometimes it is strange.
But the man is always blind.