If you’ve seen 2001: A Space Odyssey you’re probably familiar with the movie’s iconic theme song. The piece –Also Sprach Zarathustra by composer Richard Strauss – starts quietly with a low, almost menacing organ. The composer holds the notes for about twenty seconds then breaks the tension with a soft horn that builds into a triumphant bum-bum. A lumbering bass drum enters with what has become an instantly recognizable cadence that resets the music and starts the theme over again.
I picked this piece of music because it’s familiar but also to illustrate a point. What would happen if the horn players came in late or played the wrong note? Imagine that familiar drum line sped up or otherwise out of time. These tiny miscues produce big changes in how the composition sounds and feels. The musicians are not synchronized and the song quickly descends into discordant chaos.
The human body is an instrument and much like an instrument it needs to be tuned. Stress knocks us out of balance and moves us from living in creation to living in survival. Stress hormones prime the brain and body to prepare for some dire emergency that may or may not come. When this happens over and over again, the different parts of the brain stop working together and instead focus energy on their individual but separate needs. The effect in the brain is similar to an out of sync orchestra.
A lot of us live our lives in a state of constant stress. Think about your day for a moment. What did you do? Maybe you went to work where you had to give a presentation to an important client. You were so busy you forgot to eat. Afterwards you had to take your daughter to soccer practice then run a few errands only to get stuck in traffic on the way back to picking up your daughter. When you finally get home you’re too tired to cook so you order pizza. Your son asks for help with his homework, your husband says the car is acting funny and you forgot to call the plumber to see if he could fix that leaky faucet.
Sound familiar? What you may not realize is this constant state of arousal creates a very specific type of brain wave. These brain waves cue the nervous system to respond in the appropriate way. When you’re in high-Beta (like the above example) you’re focusing your attention outward. You’re devoting all of your time, energy and thoughts to the external world. This ramps up your endocrine system to produce stress chemicals to help you get through the moment but if the moment never passes your body can never recover. People who live in high-Beta are much more susceptible to illness and chronic conditions like high blood pressure, anxiety and digestive disturbances – to name a few.
Getting out of this cycle is not only important for our health it’s also a necessary component of change. When we’re in Beta we’re in survival and so obsessed with thinking about what just happened (the familiar past) and what might happen (the predictable future) that we can’t live in the present moment. As we know from the Quantum Model of Reality the present moment is a time of creation where possibility exists.
Finding the present moment requires moving from Beta to Alpha to Theta. Alpha waves are like a door that allows you to move from your conscious mind, past your analytical mind into your subconscious mind. When you’re in Theta the body is asleep but the mind is awake. This is important because if you’ve been living in high-Beta then your body has become the mind. In Theta you can begin to rewire your brain and change those habits that have you stuck in a perpetual state of stress.
Training your mind to make the transition from Beta to Theta requires meditation. When you close your eyes and begin meditating you start to block out the external world which makes it easier to go inside. Doing so allows you to leave that familiar identity behind and brings you closer to the present moment where you are no body, no one, no thing, no where in no time. In that moment you create coherence, pull your brain and body into homeostasis and become an instrument in tune.
As you can imagine, even just taking daily small moments for meditation to reach this present state of mind and body, allows your nervous system to recalibrate back into harmony and balance. The regular practice of this activity will help you to maintain internal order – independent of the conditions in your external environment. Students in our work who practice meditation everyday have made this a skill.
Delta, Alpha and Gamma Waves Explained
When you’re in a deep sleep then you’re very likely in Delta. When we’re born we spend the first few years of our lives in Delta. Because we haven’t developed an analytical mind the information we receive goes straight to our subconscious. In time we begin to begin to create associative memories whereby we make connections between external stimuli and changes to our internal chemistry. A classic example of this is when a baby cries in order to get fed.
When you close your eyes you begin to block out the external world and enter Alpha. We are generally more relaxed in Alpha which allows the brain to slip into a light meditative state. The development of these types of brain waves allows for the creation of the analytical mind. It is here where we first being to draw deeper conclusions about how the world works and the cause and effect of behavior.
Gamma waves are associated with higher brain function. In this heightened level of consciousness you are happier and more compassionate. Gamma waves allow us to make sense of the world around us help us to remember.