The "hardware" reasons for why we think the way we do
I now want to briefly introduce you to "Why we think the way we do" from the perspective of the physiology and neurology - the "hardware" - of our minds.
In 1996 Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a Harvard-trained and published neuroanatomist experienced a severe haemorrhage in the left hemisphere of her brain. Dr Taylor got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: She had a massive stroke, and watched as her brain functions - motion, speech, self-awareness all shut down one by one.
As well as gaining a first-hand insight into brain recovery for stroke victims - and for which she has become a powerful voice - her experience provides a fascinating and direct insight into the roles and functions of the "left brain" and "right brain".
"Our right hemisphere is all about this present moment. It's all about right here right now. Our right hemisphere, it thinks in pictures and it learns kinaesthetically through the movement of our bodies. Information in the form of energy streams in simultaneously through all of our sensory systems. And then it explodes into this enormous collage of what this present moment looks like. What this present moment smells like and tastes like, what it feels like and what it sounds like.
I am an energy being connected to the energy all around me through the consciousness of my right hemisphere. We are energy beings connected to one another through the consciousness of our right hemispheres as one human family. And right here, right now, all we are brothers and sisters on this planet, here to make the world a better place. And in this moment we are perfect. We are whole. And we are beautiful."
"My left hemisphere is a very different place. Our left hemisphere thinks linearly and methodically. Our left hemisphere is all about the past, and it's all about the future. Our left hemisphere is designed to take that enormous collage of the present moment. And start picking details and more details and more details about those details. It then categorizes and organizes all that information. Associates it with everything in the past we've ever learned and projects into the future all of our possibilities.
And our left hemisphere thinks in language. It's that ongoing brain chatter that connects me and my internal world to my external world. It's that little voice that says to me, "Hey, you gotta remember to pick up bananas on your way home, and eat 'em in the morning." It's that calculating intelligence that reminds me when I have to do my laundry. But perhaps most important, it's that little voice that says to me, "I am. I am." And as soon as my left hemisphere says to me "I am," I become separate. I become a single solid individual separate from the energy flow around me and separate from you."
Here is a film clip of Jill Bolte speaking of her experiences. [This clip is about 20 mins long.]
Why does this matter - how is this relevant to how we think and how we stop thinking?
The relevance of this understanding of the neurology of left-brain/ right-brain balance is that it is the crux of the whole "balanced" or integrated approach to life.
In my view, there are very finite limits to a solely "rational" approach to how to change your life. However, given the present level of the physical evolution of the human brain with the "hard wired default setting" of a left-brain orientation and understanding of life, it is fairly clear that there is a case for investigating and practising techniques, tools and processes that increase and strengthen left-right brain balance.
Personally, I find it interesting to see the gradual but increasing convergence of previously disparate areas of human understanding in areas such as quantum physics, neurology and the predominantly [but not exclusively] eastern disciplines of various meditation practises.
I also feel that the increasing understanding of the underlying neurological basis of human behaviour and experience moves these disciplines and practises more into the mainstream, and away from the domain of "belief systems" which has previously excluded many who have difficulty accepting their relevance in a "rational" secular society.
We don't have to "believe" anything or subscribe to any particular religious or philosophical perspective to be able to practise and benefit from tools, practises and techniques that help us achieve balanced brains.
When we engage with these meditation practises, all that we are doing is re-shaping or re-programming the physical neurological connections between the left and right lobes of our brains via the corpus-callosum to achieve the lived experience of a physiologically better balanced brain!
At a reductionist level - this is the whole point of meditation and many other spiritual and personal development practises. The truly integrated perspective on managing personal change (and indeed absolutely everything) is achieved by any and all means that strengthens the left-brain/right-brain connection.
We have the technology!
The (balanced brain) benefits of meditation are fairly well known but, and as I rapidly discovered, the downside to all this is that meditation is simple in theory but very hard in practise.
For a start it takes considerable discipline and that requires serious motivation. Then there's the time it takes. Ten minutes twice a week just won't do it. You need to do at least two thirty-minute sessions a day EVERY day - as an absolute minimum.
And even more depressing is the elapsed time required to START to see any benefit. It can take months of disciplined persistent (and consistent) practise to start to see any serious lasting benefit.
And even longer for the big juicy benefits - like being able to control your mind, stop your thoughts at will, acquiring deep insights into the nature of oneself and the world "out there" takes many (ten plus) years of meditation practise.
Meditation is fundamentally a re-programming of the brain
So, in a nutshell the reason why meditation takes so long to deliver significant and lasting personal change is because the meditator is, (quite literally) at the physiological level, re-wiring or re-routing the neurological pathways in their own brain.
Initially this is primarily between left and right brain, and then from the balance achieved there, between all 4 major brain centres. So meditation is fundamentally a re-programming of the brain.
The easy way to balance your brain with brainwave entrainment via binaural beats
Brainwave entrainment or "brainwave synchronization," is any practice that aims to cause brainwave frequency to fall into step with a periodic stimulus having a frequency corresponding to the intended brain-state - for example, to induce sleep, creativity, meditative states etc.
In October 1973 a breakthrough report "Auditory Beats in the Brain" by Dr. Gerald Oster of the Mt. Sinai Medical Center was published in the Scientific American.
It explained, that when tones of different frequencies were presented separately to each ear, pulsation's called binaural beats occurred in the brain.
This resulted in the whole brain becoming "entrained" to the internal beat and resonating to that frequency.
So in essence what this discovery revealed is that when our brainwave patterns are subject to binaural beats the brain can be entrained in a variety of ways that can positively affect moods, creativity, memory capacity, "brain balancing" and other benefits.
Put simply, the regular use of a binaural beat based meditation product can considerably speed up this whole reprogramming process - and at considerably less time than it takes via traditional meditation.
And better still, the only effort required is physically putting on headphones and sitting in a chair for 30-60 minutes a day!
Next Article: Mindfulness is a spontaneous state
Return to full list: Supporting Articles