Meditation, as defined by Wikipedia, is about training the mind and/or inducing particular states of consciousness. There are many different ways to do this and many different goals. Some people meditate to achieve focus and insight, perhaps in a spiritual or religious context. Others meditate for health benefits or to develop psychological qualities like compassion or forgiveness. A common thread is that much practice is typically needed to train the mind in this way regardless of the goal sought.
Scientists, wanting to know what happens during meditation, have studied meditators with medical instruments such the the EEG ( short for electroencephalograph) which measures the brain’s electrical activity. This electrical activity is described in certain frequency ranges (electrical pulses per second measured in hertz). These ranges make particular wave patterns on the EEG equipment and are often referred to as “brain waves”.
For example, the brain wave corresponding to 15 to 30 hertz (pulses per second) is called the beta brainwave. It corresponds to our normal, alert waking state. As the frequency rate increases, anxiety can develop. Most of us in western culture spend most of our time in this brainwave state when we are not sleeping (delta brainwave state).
Scientists measuring the brainwaves of meditators discovered that they are able to access other brainwave states through their meditation practice. Different brainwave states correspond to different biochemical processes. For example, alpha waves correspond to a relaxed yet aware state. Time spent in alpha or theta states, both slower than beta, has been shown to reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone which ages us.
It is known that meditation requires practice, often long term practice. Sound frequencies, used in the process of brainwave entrainment can bring results much faster. Brainwave entrainment simply means that the electrical pulses of the brain will adjust to match exterior stimuli such as light or sound. So a slow rhythm of light or sound will cause the brain to slow to that same rhythm. In that way, sound can lead the brain into the desired brainwave state.
Brainwave entrainment products are often described as meditation or meditational music. But because brainwave entrainment is a physiological response, it can lead you into desired brainwave states much faster than learning to quiet your mind with meditative practice.
Brainwave entrainment recordings are available for general well being as well as a wide range of more specific benefits. They are available for skills such as concentration, and specific biochemical states such as stimulating the production of melatonin which is a sleep aid. They can also enhance your mood and introduce you to states of consciousness you haven’t explored before.
For those seeking the benefits of meditation — stress relief, better health, development of character or skills –brainwave entrainment can be a short cut that delivers those benefits sooner.
If you are interested in exploring the different types of meditation, an informal, easy-to-read guide is here.