Comparing alpha feedback training results to meditation results must note the differences between Zen and yoga meditation. Yoga meditation has long been known to increase alpha activity, and the same is true of Zen meditation. The superconscious states in both Zen (satori) and in yoga (samadhi) are characterized by extreme alpha activity. In studies of Zen meditators, beginners showed increases in alpha activity, primarily at the head’s back. Intermediate meditators showed the beginners’ alpha increases at the back of the head plus a spreading of alpha from the head toward the frontal areas. Advanced meditators showed the patterns of beginners and intermediate meditators but also showed a third pattern, which appeared in the deepest portion of their meditations: a slowing of the alpha frequencies (moving toward the bottom range of the 8 – 13 Hz alpha range) and also the emergence of rhythmic theta waves at the frontal locations of the brain. These rhythmic theta waves, which are unlike the theta of drowsiness, call ‘mystical theta’ because they are so often associated with mystical experiences. In the advanced Zen meditators, these rhythmic theta waves alternated with the slowed-down alpha waves.
It was as though the slow alpha had slowed in frequency sufficiently to be considered theta activity (which is 4-7 Hz). The rhythmic theta waves looked like alpha waves: they occurred in spindles with connected groups of successive waves, and they waxed and waned in amplitude just like the spindles or wave packets of alpha waves. These are referred to as mystical theta’ in the Biocybernaut Process training sessions to distinguish them from the wicket-shaped theta waves of drowsiness.
One important insight into the differences between Zen and toga meditation happens to the alpha waves in the meditator’s brain when you disturb them. In a non-meditator with the alpha present, a disturbance causes the alpha to ‘block’ or disappear. After a short while, the alpha comes back. If you make the same disturbance (say a click sound) again and again, eventually, the alpha of the non-meditator does not block anymore. It has adapted or habituated to that particular disturbance.
There are substantial differences between Zen and yoga in the alpha-blocking response to stimulation, known for a long time. Studies show no blocking by external stimulation in yogic samadhi, while there is continued blocking without adaptation or habituation in Zen meditation (zazen). These results suggest comparisons with differences in Zen and yoga philosophies. Yoga philosophy is more likely to deny or devalue external reality in favor of the ‘real’ or superior reality. When absorbed in the samadhi of Yoga meditation, external stimulation was ineffective in blocking alpha. The external world had little or no effect on the yogi’s EEG. This is consistent with the beliefs of yogic philosophy, in which the external world is held to be a mere illusion or Maya in Sanskrit.
On the other hand, Zen philosophy seeks to bridge the inner and outer worlds, neither denying nor asserting the reality of either the inner or outer worlds. Yoga meditation is done with eyes closed in most traditions, and the mind is fully absorbed with inner events, to the exclusion of the outer world of the senses. On the other hand, Zen is typically done with the eyes half open, downcast, with soft-focus (i.e., blurred or defocused vision). This visual strategy could help Zen bridge the gulf between the inner and outer worlds.
These are important clues in determining which of these two meditation traditions is more like alpha feedback training. The yogic absorption into inner experience would tend to ignore stimuli from the world of the senses, including even feedback sounds (and scores), which are used to signal or give feedback about alpha waves’ presence. On the other hand, the Zen acceptance of sensory input (even as distractions) and their integration into a steady inner awareness would seem more compatible with the alpha feedback setting’s sensory processing requirements. Indeed, the alpha trainee’s requirement to open his or her eyes for several seconds every two minutes to view the digital feedback scores may be more similar to and compatible with Zen than with yoga practice. Therefore it is more suitable to compare the alpha feedback changes to those seen in Zen mediation.
6.5.1 Instant Zen
Based on several studies, including those done by Kasamatsu and Hirai in Japan, members of both Soto and Rinzai sects of Zen, and other studies were done at the Biocybernaut Institute (which can be found on our web site), there are four significant features of Zen EEG changes:
After seeing Zen-like changes in the brain waves of my Alpha One trainee and hearing them speak of their alpha experiences in ways that echoed Sengstan, the third Chinese Patriarch of Zen (Chien-Chih Seng-tan, circa 600 AD), I decided to compare formally compare the results of seven-day Alpha One feedback training to the EEGs of Zen masters and long-term advanced practitioners of Zen meditation.
I randomly selected records of 17 alpha feedback subjects from my university database of EEG Alpha One feedback training. These American men and women chosen from my database were right-handed and had completed all seven days of the Alpha One feedback training. They were all volunteers who did not have any prior meditative practice, Zen, yoga, or otherwise.
All eight head sites where EEG measurements were recorded showed significant increases in both broadband alpha and slow alpha, just like in the most advanced Zen meditators. The Alpha One feedback trainees showed significant increases in both fast theta and slow theta at the two frontal sites: F3 and F4. This amazing Zen-like pattern of brain waves changes of the Alpha One feedback trainees is shown in the following Excel chart:
It is quite remarkable that all eight head sites showed significant increases in broadband alpha and slow alpha activity. Remarkable for two reasons:
We know that technology speeds things up, and EEG feedback may accelerate the processes of intense concentration, inner focus, and self-control seen in Zen meditation. EEG feedback amplifies the subtle internal signals to make it easier to master the subtleties of one’s own brain activity. Amplifying the brain’s tiny signals so that they can be easily perceived (seen, heard, or felt) makes it so much easier to learn the implications of our brain waves in every area of our lives.
There is yet one further consideration: the frontal theta increases. Only those advanced Zen meditators with 21 to 40 years of experience showed theta activity in their meditation records (this theta alternated with their slowed alpha activity). Yet, the 7-day alpha feedback trainees showed this same result. The alpha trainees had highly significant increases of both fast theta and slow theta activity at both the left and right frontal sites. It is exciting to see that alpha feedback training, done according to the Biocybernaut Process guidelines, also increases theta EEG activity and does so in the patterns seen only among the most advanced Zen meditators.
Future alpha and theta feedback studies may well see benefits in design, execution, interpretation, and application from a greater understanding of Zen philosophy, Zen practice, and the Zen progression of mental states from beginner’s mind, through kensho (an initial, brief experience of awakening or enlightenment, a flash of insight) culminating in satori (a deeper experience of enlightenment, a feeling of infinite space).
There are many practical applications of such skillful control of one’s mind. We’ve already covered how peak performance in sports is preceded by an increase in alpha brain waves, especially in the left hemisphere. Learning to extend one’s moments of peak performance what athletes call staying in ‘the Zone’-through properly designed programs of EEG feedback training is now a realistic goal of alpha feedback training. Slightly more difficult is the goal of learning how to enter ‘the Zone’ whenever peak performance is required. Attainment of these goals promises the rewards of peak performance for athletics, business, science, education, the arts, and perhaps in every area of human endeavor where people are in search of excellence and are striving for mastery.