Can BWE Freqs Hold You Back?

Discussion in 'Meditation Chatter Box' started by Oneironaut, Apr 5, 2010.

  1. Oneironaut

    Oneironaut Member

    I apologize if this has been answered before (I know it has been asked, but I cannot find a direct answer):
    Is is possible that listening to an entrainment frequency can "hold" the listener at a higher level than they could possibly achieve without the stimulus? For example, if I listen to Lifeflow 10, is it possible that my brain will entrain to the 10Hz signal and thereby "resist" going to a lower overall brain state, say, one that is theta dominated? If so, then an experienced meditator might find the LF10 experience to be somewhat superficial compared to his or her normal (un-entrained) meditation. Put another way, he/she could go deeper without the stimulus.

    I believe this opens a bit of a can of worms for BWE in general when compared to traditional meditation. Without entrainment, whatever brainwave state is appropriate (whatever complex of frequencies in whatever parts of the brain) can naturally emerge as a result of the meditation technique, without being dominated by the technique itself. With entrainment, this natural emergence could well be sidetracked or limited in some way.

    Without a feedback loop (where the entrainment system bases its stimulus on a real-time measurement of the entrained brain), I'm not sure BWE can ever hope for anything more than "training wheels" for those who otherwise would not learn to meditate. The important thing with training wheels is knowing when to take them off so that you can really ride a bike...
  2. pollyanna

    pollyanna Super Moderator

  3. Oneironaut

    Oneironaut Member

    Thanks for the links. I still do not see where my question is directly addressed, but reading between the lines, it appears the answer is "yes". To the extent that the brain entrains to the stimulus frequency, that could interfere with the natural emergence of other dominant frequencies during meditation.
    This is partly implied by a statement in the 3rd link you included: "If you have been meditating successfully for many years you may choose to move down the levels faster."
    Meaning, if I can naturally achieve a theta-dominated state via traditional meditation, I may well feel "stuck" at alpha when listening to LF10, 9, 8, etc.
    Again, probably best to use these CDs to get started meditating, but with the aim to meditate without an external stimulus as soon as possible. If you are already a meditator, it isn't clear to me how BWE really helps. At least, the situation is a bit more complicated in that case.
  4. Midnight

    Midnight Member

    Hey Oneironaut,

    The way I see it, if you're an experienced meditator, the need to start at the upper levels and progress down further is unecessary. If you believe you get into at least theta without any aid, then you should probably start within the theta range (LF7-LF4). I have read that entrainment keeps you at a certain frequency, therefore preventing you from going too high, or too low, so I believe you are right in that aspect.

    However, lifeflow is a TOOL. Tools are mostly aids. And it is wonderful in that aspect. To treat it as something more would be misleading. And yes, I myself been guilty of that, and only recently I've changed my beliefs to treat it as a tool, and not a miracle drug.

    In that sense, yes, they are training wheels. I don't believe that is meant to be a secret. They are designed to make it easier to stay in a state, and they work wonderfully for that. Thanks to lifeflow aiding my meditation, my scattered, aimless thoughts have cleared up, i feel much more balanced, mindfulness is a snap and I realize that even if things don't go my way, life is still good. I'm sure that I would be able to meditate without lifeflow, but I enjoy using lifeflow because I prefer the sounds and it does stabilize a state. In the future, I will probably practice meditation more without it, however.

    And the delta levels are always available to you, if you feel that upper levels are no longer necessary.:)
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2010
  5. Oneironaut

    Oneironaut Member

    Thanks Midnight. Good to hear your experience - I think we are in basic agreement about the "bounding" effect that could be possible with BWE. Again, without a good way to measure one's brain state, it's really hard to know what is going on inside the head during meditation (at least, from an outside perspective - I know what's going on from an inside perspective!). The solution to all this is perhaps a truly interactive BWE system, one that combines measurement and stimulus - that would be something really fun to try.

    In any case, I think we will hit our limits in terms of what we can measure regarding brain states and what that really tells us about all that is going on during the meditative state.
    Fully agree with you, and I believe with the Lifeflow folks in general, that this is a tool - a means to an end, not an end in itself. That is refreshing in an industry that seems marked by far too much hype and greed, in my humble opinion. Kudos to the Lifeflow people/product.

    (Sorry for the delayed response...I believe I am in some sort of time warp with the forum until I prove myself not to be...undesirable.)
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2010
  6. Edwin

    Edwin Member

    I think that it would be wrong to look at LifeFlow meditation vs normal meditation.

    They are two different things.
    In normal meditation the brain attempts to increase synchrony between the left and the right brain hemisphere. This is not a simple task, as different parts of the brain can have different brainwave frequency's at the same time.

    With LifeFlow meditation, the brain tries to bring all parts of the brain to one brainwave frequency, improving the chances for synchrony to occur.
    check out this link for more info
  7. pollyanna

    pollyanna Super Moderator

    Hi again Oneironaut,

    Nobody here is undesirable and all questions are welcome.

    I have used LifeFlow for just over 3 years, including the Gamma Tracks and I still use the Alpha levels and continue to benefit with them. I can meditate without the tracks which is nice, however, because meditating with LifeFlow has improved my life in so many ways, for me, it will be a lifelong tool.

    I gave the threads to enable you to read how a variety of people had benefited from the BWE within LifeFlow and how it had improved their meditation.

    Some had felt stuck after years of meditation and using LifeFlow enabled them to move on. I personally saw no marked improvements in my daily life through meditation until I practised with LifeFlow and now there are immense changes which have accumulated over time.

    The support staff are always extremely helpful with enquiries (maybe starting with LF7) I believe each level has it’s own benefits and the whole system is very versatile, although this is just my opinion.

    I wish you continued peace and joy :) :) :)
  8. Oneironaut

    Oneironaut Member

    Yes Edwin, I completely agree. My experience with BWE tells me that the state it engenders and the states achieved via traditional meditation are quite different. I can't say this scientifically, because I don't own an EEG, but experientially, the two states are quite different.

    Thanks for the Whole Brain link. I had a lot of fun making the girl spin one way and then the other - good test to make sure both of my hemispheres are working this morning!
  9. Itlandm

    Itlandm Member

    From what I have read, stable theta waves during unaided meditation are quite rare. Gurus and some monks and nuns can voluntarily go into such a state, but hobby meditators (that would be very nearly all westerners) can only enter it on accident or at least only some days, even after years. So I would not worry overmuch on behalf of the average customer.

    A more relevant problem as I see it is putting on alpha tracks as you go to sleep. This could rob you of precious deep sleep which is concentrated at the beginning of the night. I certainly cannot forbid anyone, but I think it is a bad idea to use alpha as a sleeping aid.

    As for meditation, you may want to sample each track for some days and you may find a point where they catch up with you. For me, LF8 very much clicked. I was not really in much doubt when I first heard it. You may not have quite that lucky a hit, but you should probably be able to notice approximately where the crossing point is.

    As I see it, LifeFlow is a toolkit. Meditating at the slowest possible frequency need not always be the goal. As you probably already read, the different frequencies correspond vaguely to certain natural endochrine functions. At least this way, you have the possibility of entering these various states when you want to.
  10. Midnight

    Midnight Member

    I'm curious about what exactly the differences are in mediation with lifeflow, and meditation without. I'm unable to find a better way to put this, but is one better than the other? Two sides of the same coin? etc? I'd like to know more.
  11. Oneironaut

    Oneironaut Member

    @Itlandm: Stable theta waves during meditation may well be rare - I have no idea. I guess my point isn't so much that meditation is about achieving a certain threshold on the electro-encepholgram (something akin to enjoying a movie by watching the TV from behind using a magnetometer...), but that if BWE does what is claimed, it might well interfere with the natural emergence of whatever brain state naturally correlates with "deep meditation". Frankly, I believe an accomplished meditator would just "meditate right past" the stimulus, ignoring it as much as whatever other outside disturbances there might be.

    Similarly, I think we are all accomplished "meditators" when it comes to sleep. I'm not sure an alpha track would dissuade the sleeping brain from achieving delta and the normal cycles from deep sleep to REM during the course of the night. To the extent that you are having trouble sleeping, yes, I would agree that trying to do so in the presence of an alpha track would probably not be a good idea.

    I guess that my conclusion was similar to yours: if a BWE track that is dominant at one frequency feels like it is holding you back, try another one that seems to pull you deeper. In the limit, my suspicion is that whatever brain states are achieved during meditation, they are much more complex than anything any BWE wizard has thought up yet. EEG traces are, at best, a crude analogy for what is really going on in the brain (and we haven't even touched the other domains of mind, soul, and spirit!).

    We all seem to agree that entrainment can be a useful tool, especially for those who would otherwise not meditate at all. I'm just sort of exploring what the limits of that tool might be relative to the broader goal of why one would meditate in the first place. Training wheels may be a great way to learn how to ride a bike, but probably achieve a point of diminishing returns reasonably quickly (i.e., don't use them during the Tour de France).
  12. Oneironaut

    Oneironaut Member

    I'm not qualified to comment on Lifeflow, specifically. The differences I have observed during natural meditation and "induced" meditation are quite clear, but perhaps, as noted in the post above to Itlandm, because my ability to meditate is not yet sufficiently developed where I can entirely ignore the stimulus, and thus, it seems to interfere with the natural process. Fundamentally, this comes to the point of my original post: whatever happens during unaided meditation, it takes its own path, emerges as it will, and develops at its own pace. Who knows what that path is and why it goes as it goes? Who knows how it differs from one sitting to another, over time? But clearly, it is not sufficiently predictable to the point that you can just follow some basic frequencies on a CD and expect the two experiences to be the same. Yes, entrainment can get you started, give you a taste...but it isn't a substitute for the real thing. (I have the same opinion of psychotropics, by the way, for somewhat different reasons).

    Bottom line, natural meditation is non-linear, unpredictable, capricious...something that emerges as the meditator learns to "be" rather than to "become", something that appears only as we learn to stop trying to coerce it. At a minimum, to be effective, BWE would require a feedback loop (the stimulus is predicated on a real-time measurement of what is going on in the brain). Even then, I think we have much to learn before we can really assess the complexities of these brain states, let alone understand their ramifications for the mind and soul. At present, BWE appears to be a potentially a good way to get started meditating, but not a substitute for allowing the natural process to unfold.
  13. Midnight

    Midnight Member

    Interesting post, oneironaut.

    However, I think there are a few misconceptions within it...

    Listening to Lifeflow does not equal meditation, and when you say one would ignore the stimulus and move right past it, it gives someone the impression that meditating is the same as just listening to Lifeflow.

    Regardless of whether you're focusing on the sound, the brain picks up the entrainment frequencies even when you're not paying attention to them. I never really listen to the lifeflow track, I ignore it too, but it keeps my brain at a certain wavelength.

    In that certain wavelength, it is easier to come upon a meditative state. The wavelength isn't the state itself but more of a roadmap to it.

    I also get the impression from your post that meditating with BWE is less genuine that unaided meditation (which is probably the wrong phrase to use, as any meditation technique is used as an aid) and from my experience that is untrue.

    Anyways, thanks to your posts, I'm inspired to meditate without the use of LF, alongside my meditation with it. I believe both are helpful, and while they may seem like training wheels, I now think that isn't the most accurate analogy. Rather, instead of training wheels, they are like automatic stabilizers that pilots use when they fly planes. Sure, you can pilot it all by yourself, but the stabilizers just make it easier. :)
  14. Edwin

    Edwin Member

  15. Oneironaut

    Oneironaut Member

    There may well be misconceptions, but certainly not the one you point out. If you go back and read my posts, it should be very clear that I certainly do *not* equate the entrainment stimulus with the state of meditation. My position is precisely the opposite. In fact, I will go further and say that I do not equate the measurable brain state during meditation with the interior experience of meditation; they are clearly correlated, but they are patently *not* the same thing.

    Let's back up a bit: there are three broad categories of stimuli that might be relevant to meditation. The first could be considered noises that amount to nothing more than distractions, i.e., they do nothing to engender a meditative state, and, particularly in novices, are more likely to inhibit the emergence of a meditative state. Try to meditate while someone is operating a jack-hammer. It can be done, but I believe a novice would find it difficult. In the next category are noises that *do* engender a meditative state. This would include chanting, Tibetan bells, running water, rain, etc. These sorts of outside stimuli tend to help one enter a quiet state of mind that is conducive to a deeper meditative state. The third category includes the entrainment stimuli, which "actively" establish a brainwave state similar to themselves within the listening brain. If this stimulus and the brainwave state it induces are in a particular range, then it is conducive to the emergence of a meditative state.

    None of these outside stimuli are the same as all. And for that matter, neither are the measurable brain states that show up on the EEG the same as meditation, though they appear to be correlated.

    Now, if we agree that the entrainment stimulus is capable of establishing a correlative brain state, then the premise of my original post is that that stimulus will also hold or maintain the same brain state, even if the emerging brain state would like to go elsewhere. Thus, the entrainment frequency may well help establish a state of mind that is conducive to deeper meditation, but then do the opposite, actually deterring the establishment of brain state that correlates with a "deeper" meditation experience.

    All this assumes a novice meditator, or to use Itlandm's wonderful term, hobbyist meditator. When I mentioned being able to meditate "past" the stimulus, I was referring to "accomplished meditators", which would mean "not hobbyists". An advanced meditator can certainly meditate past distracting stimuli, so I simply made the assumption that he or she could also meditate past the entrainment stimulus. For example, this would mean to ignore an alpha entrainment stimulus at 10Hz (indicative of a light meditative state) and go into a deep meditative state that exhibits brain state frequencies well below this level.
  16. Ta-tsu-wa

    Ta-tsu-wa Member

    It's been intriguing to observe this thread as it develops. Some excellent points have been made by everyone.

    The efficacy of an entrainment track rests upon two considerations. The first is its mechanical aspect, and second, is the directed intention supplied by the listener. We could think about these two things in much the same way the debate about "nature vs. nurture" presents itself. In the final analysis both sides play their role with each having it's unique effects while at the same time interrelating with the other. Neither is entirely an island unto itself.

    From the purely mechanical standpoint, an entrainment track acts like a magnet, drawing the brainwaves towards itself. It has no way of knowing whether that person's brainwaves start off either above or below its targeted range, and if it could care it wouldn't. A 10Hz track pulls brainwaves towards the 10Hz target, whether those brainwaves have an initial starting rate of 15Hz or 5Hz. That would be a purely mechanistic principle in operation. So in fact if you wanted to get down to, say, a 6Hz theta brainwave state, playing that 10Hz track would eventually have a tendency to work against you. It would be continually pulling at you towards its 10Hz target frequency.

    But there is also the intention of the listener that comes into play. If I were so inclined and set my desire upon it, I could seek to enter a meditative state that typically associates itself with brainwaves slower than 10Hz. Perhaps I would succeed in this, and perhaps I wouldn't. However, even if successful, the whole time I would be in opposition to the 10Hz track playing in the background. While this might only create a minimal amount of tension, it would nenetheless still be tension which is contrary to the purpose of the meditative state.

    Precisely this sort of conflict is the reason, as has been discussed here before, it's probably best when using a single frequency entrainment track at bedtime that we do not play it looped all night. The sleep cycle traverses the Alpha to Delta spectrum of brainwaves repeatedly during sleep and in fact it is necessary for it to do so. Any entrainment track that inhibits the free flow of this process will potentially be disruptive to sleep.

    So could you override the track and reach deeper brainwave frequencies? Perhaps. But why would you want to? If your intention is to reach slower brainwave states, why not just use a slower entrainment track so as to eliminate any conflict?

    At the same time, it is a sad mistake to think that a person should skip the upper levels of the Lifeflow suite of tracks because they are somehow at a "more advanced" level, and therefore feel that spending time in states of meditation characterized by Alpha states of brainwaves would be something of a waste of their time. Again, as has been discussed here before, there are a myriad of benefits to be obtained from each level throughout a person's entire life. We speak of some states of meditation as being "deeper" than others and there is the tacit presumption that "deeper" = "better/more desirable". This simply isn't true. No state of meditation is "better" than another in any absolute sense. Each is important and each should be regularly experienced all throughout a person's life.

    It is advisable to have some meditative sessions that do not involve the use of entrainment, if for no other reason than to assess whether or not a person has become competent at arriving at a state of meditation without assistance. One of the hallmarks of knowing when it is time to move to the next progressive track in the Lifeflow series is in being able to recognize and enter a meditative state consistently with or without the aid of a track. Once you have attained this ability you will almost certainly be familiar with what that meditative state feels like and be capable of reproducing it on demand. At that point moving on to the next is both appropriate and much easier.

    Once a person has reached the last track and is conversant with entering meditation using it they can then go back and use all the other tracks (to quote Midnight's brilliant analogy) as "stabilizers" for ongoing meditation practice.

    Vis-a-vis' the idea that meditation aided by an entrainment track is in some way "artificial" or "not as desirable" as meditation without the use of a track, this, I think, strays from the mark. An entrainment track simply facilitates the creation of the environment in which meditation can occur. What is manifest in that environment falls more under the auspices of the intentions held by the person rather than of any mechanical properties of the track itself. As indicated above, a person would want to choose a track commensurate with the brainwave state they seek to reproduce, but once in that state there is no difference between that and if you had entered it without entrainment aid. If your intention is to move from one brainwave state to another during meditation, then you would either need a track that changed frequencies at intervals, or else not use an entrainment track.
  17. Itlandm

    Itlandm Member

    Yes. Using external "training wheels" for meditation has a tradition of thousands of years. Mantra, counting to ten, concentrating on the breath passing through the nostril, etc... any of these has been considered to be meditation by novices through the ages, but all of them are training wheels that help still the waves of the mind so meditation can take hold.

    Brainwave entrainment happens to be the best training wheels devised so far. The technique also has other effects, but it works best with meditation and meditation works quite excellently with it. Because it is by its nature passive - it is at least as effective when you don't pay attention to it - you do not need to "let go" of it as you transition into meditation proper. It is quite a nifty invention.

    The meditation I originally learned from the co-presence in my soul, some 30 years ago, does not now require any support when I feel the need for it. I will close my eyes and in less than the time it takes to draw breath, I am in the stillness of my heart's keep. But this is indeed a different experience from meditating with the various tracks of LifeFlow. Better? Depends on for what.
  18. Midnight

    Midnight Member

    I know that you know (lol) that listening to LF does not equal meditation. It was just kind of the meaning that was implied from your post. You didn't mean it, but just the way you worded it made it different from your intended purpose. Or perhaps the way I read it at the time, I intrepreted it differently.

    I would like to address a different point you made though: That using BWE turns meditation into a predictable, linear process. From my experience, it is definately not. Every single one of my sessions is unique. Listening to LF, you do learn to "be". Using entrainment tracks requires everything that is required of the mind in traditional meditation, only it is much easier to relax and slip into that state. The growth and nature of one's growth as one meditates with BWE and learns to be is the same as a monk's or anybody else for that matter. It has to be genuine, or BWE is little more than pretty sounds.

    The only difference I can think of between someone who meditates with BWE and someone who doesn't is that their mind is allowed to progress through deeper states and move through different waves at it's own pace. Whether that's more beneficial or not, I cannot answer.
  19. Oneironaut

    Oneironaut Member

    @Ta-tsu-wa: Great post, and I believe we are all on the same wavelength (unavoidable pun), for the most part. Just a couple of issues to keep the dialog going.

    First, the issue of "deeper": All of the wisdom traditions that include meditation talk about the goal of "deeper" meditation, and there is definitely a relationship between "advanced meditators" and the ability to "go deep in meditation". Everywhere you look you see hierarchies to guide the "devotee" through the development of consciousness that results from the practice of the techniques. Now, what that really means is a whole different discussion, but for sure, none of the traditions meant that it has anything to do with how much beta, alpha, theta, or delta waves one exhibited on an EEG. Perhaps this has more to do with one's goals regarding meditation. From a personal standpoint, I would say meditation is a tool to support the ongoing development of awareness and is thus part of a process of unfolding that does have a definite progression (from dirt to divinity...). For me, there is a clear correlation between meditations I would characterize as "deep" and more feelings of peace and bliss, not just "on the cusion", but throughout life.

    And so back to the original question: it's not a matter of whether meditation aided by an entrainment track is in some way "artificial" or "not as desirable" - rather, does the entrainment process somehow "bound" the meditation experience, causing it to follow a path other than what would naturally emerge? I asked the question because I have felt like I was having this experience personally when I used BWE vs. when I didn't.

    So, @Itlandm: Sure, there are lots of techniques in the traditions to help bring about meditative states; however, there is a big difference with BWE, namely, the entrainment process, the "magnet" that Ta-tsu-wa talked about, goes along its own path, independent of the will or the evolving inner state of the meditator. Jappa or mantra or whatever does not act in the same way and is fully connected to the volition of the meditator.

    *If* BWE works the way you describe, where it initiates the meditative state and then gets out of the way, not interfering with whatever arises internally, then the answer to my original question would be "No" (and all would be well in BWE land).

    @Midnight: Sorry Midnight, you have misunderstood my point again. I did not mean to imply that because what arises during natural meditation is non-linear and unpredictable, that meditations where an entrainment track is used are therefore linear and predictable. However, the entrainment track itself *is*, of course, linear and predictable (barring some unforeseen failure of your CD player...). Therefore, back to the original issue: if the brain state entrains to the BWE stimulus *and* the arising experience in meditation follows the brain state, then is the experience during meditation somehow bounded by the entrainment track, i.e., not free to go where it will? You seem to have come back to this same question yourself in your last paragraph: "The only difference I can think of between someone who meditates with BWE and someone who doesn't is that their mind is allowed to progress through deeper states and move through different waves at it's own pace."
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2010
  20. Midnight

    Midnight Member

    Oh gotcha, glad that's cleared up.

    Well I'm guessing what you mean by "bounded" is that your brainwaves stay at or near one wavelength. This is true. But the actual experience of meditation does not feel at all like you're being restricted by the track. I mean, there can be points where one has entrained themselves to a certain frequency, so that the use of one track might be unnecessary. That's when you move on to the next one. And so on. At least that's my understanding.

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