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Drumming and Brainwaves and Creativity

drumcircle from health rhythms site

There are many personal reports and research studies on how meditation can help people be more creative.

For example, In his post 5 Keys To Freeing Up Creativity From David Lynch, David Silverman comments that multitalented artist and movie director David Lynch has “talked about freeing up his subconscious to write screenplays using TM [Transcendental Meditation].

“He believes the process helps him catch ideas on a deeper level. He feels meditation expands his consciousness, giving him access to more and deeper information, which make hunting ideas more exciting.”

In another Psych Central post, How Mindfulness Can Help Your Creativity, George Hofmann writes: “Meditation quiets the mind, and a quieter mind is more likely to have room for new and better ideas about the challenges one faces in life, business, and art.

“Researchers at the Institute for Psychological Research and Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition of Leiden University in the Netherlands found a tremendous impact of focused-attention (mindfulness) and open-monitoring meditation (observing without judging) on creativity.”

In her post How Mindful Meditation Boosts Creativity and Innovation, Bianca Rothschild declares “Mindfulness meditation is a great technique to learn to help improve creativity. It has side effects which have been shown to reduce the reactivity of the reptilian brain, increase resilience, stimulate the neocortex, as well as improve emotional intelligence. All these assist in getting ideas flowing directly to your best creative thinking brain: the neocortex.

“The Walt Disney Company was an early adopter of meditation in the workplace, as they noticed a dramatic increase in creativity after employees meditated on creative solutions.

“General Mills is another company which reports improved innovation as a result of sitting in stillness and has meditation rooms available to their staff. Google has an in house mindfulness program called ‘Search inside Yourself’ and has built a labyrinth for mindful walking meditations.”

One of the research studies she references is “Mind the Trap”: Mindfulness Practice Reduces Cognitive Rigidity.

Neuroscience and neurotech

One topic in many studies of meditation has been brainwaves, especially how the brains of people meditating slow down to alpha: 8-12 Hz or cycles per second.

Bill Harris has noted that researcher Dr. Gerald Oster of Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York conducted research since the 1950s into the effects of sound waves on brain wave patterns – the phenomenon of brainwave entrainment, which can also result from other patterned stimuli, such as flashing light.

“Oster had discovered a method, using sound, to create any desired electrical pattern in the brain, including those of meditation.”

From Bill Harris on Consciousness Technology. Harris is Director of the Centerpointe Research Institute, which publishes Holosync technology audio programs for providing the “benefits of meditation” using audio brainwave entrainment.

Personal development author and speaker Jack Canfield exclaims: “I’ve been using Holosync for years now and my meditations have gotten much deeper. I travel with the CDs, I listen to them on a daily basis. And as a result I have more freedom of expression, a greater sense of relaxation and being stress free, and a greater sense of personal power…”


This is where the idea of drumming comes in, as a form of rhythmic audio stimulation that entrains our brains to “follow” or become closer in frequency to the sound. Humans may have done this for as long as we’ve been capable of banging something to make sounds.

In his article Brain Wave Entrainment, David Mager notes “Most wisdom traditions have employed methods that allow the subjects’ brain waves to slow down such as meditation, [Hindu] kirtan, [Gregorian, Menzuma or Sufi] chanting, Hebrew davening, Native American drum circles and rain chants, Tibetan prayer bowls, and whirling dervishes and African trance dancing.

“The rhythm of these wisdom tradition technologies actually slows people’s brain waves from their normal busy brain frequency we call Beta (13-30 cycles per second or Hz), to Alpha (8-13Hz) — meditation, Theta (4-8Hz) — deep relaxation and dreaming, and Delta (.5-4Hz) — slow wave or dreamless sleep.”

[The photo of a drum circle is from HealthRHYTHMS.]



But what if you could measure the results of your meditation practice, to see how well you are increasing alpha waves, for example?

Vishen Lakhiani writes about doing just that. He is founder of Mindvalley, and notes he has been meditating since age 14, and for the last 10 years has been “building companies around mindfulness and meditation.”

He participated in a meditation “retreat” with a small group including JJ Virgin, Joe Polish, Dave Asprey (“a formidable entrepreneur behind the Bulletproof Coffee brand,” notes Lakhiani) in a venture he says is part of the “Quantified Self” movement.

Vishen Lakhiani hooked up for EEG recording

He notes, “People known as ‘biohackers‘ are measuring every aspect of their being. If you’ve ever used a sleep app on your smartphone to gauge the quality of your sleep, or if you’ve used wearable tech to record how many steps you’ve taken in a day, you’re part of the Quantified Self movement.

“In short, you’re using measurements and metrics to improve your well-being. Quantified Self is now coming to meditation in a BIG way through traditional brain-wave measurement machines… But with a fascinating twist.”

Lakhiani explains that the “scientists who developed this technology studied the brainwaves of many remarkable people. Billionaires, intuits, creatives, monks and mystics.

“What they found was that when you meditate using these methods, your brain takes on the same patterns as someone who has spent 21 to 40 YEARS in Zen meditation.”

But, he adds, “what was most surprising was the method we were learning to increase our alpha waves. The Secret is Forgiveness…we spent 7 full days focusing on it.

“And every time I did a round of forgiveness, my alpha waves would spike. The people behind the program discovered that the single biggest factor suppressing alpha waves are holding on to grudges and anger.”

From his post The Surprising Thing I Learned from Studying My Brain on Various forms of Meditation for 7 Days.

[You can read more about Dave Asprey and his company Bulletproof: The State of High Performance on my resource page Products and Programs for Creative People.]

Mindvalley offers a free Meditation Kit including a demo of the Omharmonics audio program, based on binaural beats technology. I am finding it is an energizing and stress-reducing experience to start the day.

You can see a video of Vishen Lakhiani explaining more about Omharmonics in my post Meditate to Achieve and Be More Creative.

One of the quotes I really like in that post comes from Emily Fletcher, who has her own program – she comments:

“My morning meditation is like taking a shower for my brain.”

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Drumming and Brainwaves and Creativity

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2015). Drumming and Brainwaves and Creativity. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 13, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Aug 2015
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