ENTER YOUR CORE of CALM
In past posts, we have talked a lot about mindfulness techniques to regulate emotion and reduce anxiety, meditation for stress reduction, and spiritual practice to achieve balance and a sense of well being. Yet underneath the wide variety of strategies and methods for increasing our sense of overall wellbeing and maintaining our mental health lies a core “goal”. This core “goal” is to find oneself in a state of consciousness where our mind is quiet and we can regenerate, reconnect with our intuition, and “be” from that place where balance and peace resides within us. We might call this your own “Core or Calm”.
After we have spent an amount of time with a gentle, non judgmental, receiving state of awareness, without “thinking” and just “being”, we “awaken” to a more intuitive self problems seem easier to solve, and our anxieties settle down. Some people call this letting go and letting G-d”. We don’t really know what is happening, or why spending time in this state of conscious awareness has this effect, but we do know that our bodies experience physiological changes, our emotions seem to calm down and it is easier to sort out our emotions, our mind gets quieter, yet sharper, and most people will report and overall increase in feelings of well being.
This place of conscious awareness is found through yoga, prayer, mindfulness techniques, and a long repertoire of practices. Regardless of which practice you choose to use for yourself, the technique of remaining aware of your state of awareness is key. To reach the regenerative states that I am speaking about, it is helpful to be able to gently become aware of what state of consciousness you are currently “in”. Over time, you will understand how one state of consciousness is facilitative of certain “activities” or “non activities” and which state of consciousness you want to be in for different life activities. When you are busy doing your everyday activates, and you are experiencing stressors, but cannot really take a break to “meditate”, you can calm yourself down by training your mind to go into an alpha state If even for a very short while, or a few moments.
If you read my last post, you learned how to use the Stress-O-Meter to sense how you are feeling and what “coping” skills or stress reduction strategy you want to use. This takes dedication and practice and a person does not become adept over night. But if you practice this daily, then over time, it will become automatic for you. With that said, you will also benefit greatly from daily meditation, even if you simply begin with five minutes. Eventually, you will be able to increase this time to 15 minutes, and perhaps after several months you will be able to maintain a meditative state for 30 minutes or even an hour. If you reach the 15 minute daily routine, you will notice many benefits. You will likely stay in the Alpha state at first. But after regularly engaging in our practice, you will find yourself “slipping” into a theta state.
These “states” are identifiable through measuring the actual brainwaves of people when such states are induced. Imagine a light wave being measured to identify how fast it is vibrating or how long the wave is. We can do this with brain waves. I found a website that explains this in layman’s terms pretty well. BrainWorks says it like this “Brainwaves are produced by synchronised electrical pulses from masses of neurons communicating with each other.”[i] Really, this describes how they are “produced”, not what they “are”. For that we still use our imagination- but we do know they exist because of their measured behavior. Next post we will be introduced to another method of altering brainwaves called “brain entrainment” as it is becoming very popular. For now, I will leave you with a brief description of the different “states”.
1. Gamma State: (30 — 100Hz) When you are experiencing this state of conscious awareness, you are likely focused, wide awake, and fully engaged in either a physical activity, a mental activity, or both. This is the state most conducive for learning. If you become anxious, it is likely that this state of conscious awareness is over activated, and you want to slow your waves back down. If you can learn to quickly reduce your state to beta, you can return to a healthy Gamma state to continue focusing on your activity until completed and you are ready to rest from this state. You are able to retain information while in this heightened state of awareness.
2. Beta State: (13 — 30Hz) You likely spend most of you day in the Beta State. Your daily work activities that include thinking, planning, analyzing, assessing, categorizing etc… are effectively executed while in this state of conscious awareness.
3. Alpha State: (9 — 13Hz) This state of conscious awareness is a clam, relaxed and pleasurable state to be in. You will experience this after meditation, walking, a yoga class, mindfulness exercises, etc. When you are experiencing extremes distress or anxiety, it is good to take a break, and consciously ring yourself down into this state if even only for a few minutes. This will help you to “reset”. (See my last post). By spending some time in this state of conscious awareness, you will find yourself feeling more balanced. It is a reflective, and lucid state where one’s focus is not longer heightened, but rather diffused; kind of like when you first wake up in the morning after a very good night sleep; you are not all the way in the waking world- you are in it just enough to feel it. It is often explained that the hemispheres of the brain are more balanced and that the bran has achieved neural integration.
4. Theta State: (4 — 8Hz) After practicing mediation, or mindfulness, or a spiritual practice long enough, you will being to notice yourself “going deeper”. Your inner chatter will be much more quieter, and when you do notice your thoughts, you will be able to simply observe them- some mediations will train you to notice them and watch the float away, or fly away “like bluebirds”, until eventually, you are in even a deeper state where you move away from thoughts and begin to “see” in your “mind’s eye”. This is a very quiet place where your intuition become felt more strongly that your thoughts. Some people feel sleepy at this level. This is a very good state to create visualizations in. It is also a very good state where one can become “receptive” to their “inner guidance”. After spending some time in this state of consciousness, a person usually feels “regenerated”.
5. Delta State: (1—3 Hz) Some people who really mediate “religiously” can experience this very deep state of mediation while remaining aware of themselves meditating. A person who actually achieves this ability has developed a very strong observer” and is able to maintain conscious awareness of what their mind is doing while in this deep state of consciousness. Most people experience this state of consciousness during the deepest state of sleep.
My next post will examine the positive effects of altering brain waves through mediation. After that, let’s take a look at Brain Entrainment and what is that all about?
[i] What Are Branwaves; Brain Works; http://www.brainworksneurotherapy.com/what-are-brainwaves (retrieved 5/17/2015)
Photo by digitalbob8