5

I read about binaural tones and am about to experiment with them in my meditation sessions. I read that studies show mixed results, with 7Hz frequencies improving focus and 15Hz impeding concentration. What have you read? Have you any experiences or anecdotal stories to speak of? Can you recommend for or against?

Some recent research coming out of the neurosciences reveals that brain imaging shows alterations in brainwave patterns typically only induced by meditative states. Therefore, is it logical to conclude that binaural beats can extend the powers of meditation?

Some claim the following frequencies are supposed to promote the following brain wavelengths and mental states and stages of consciousness:

  • 0.1 - 0.4 Hz: Epsilon waves -- high-level inspiration states, spiritual insight
  • 0.5 - 3.5 Hz: Delta waves -- pain relief, relaxation, reduced anxiety, feelings of unity, nerve cell regeneration
  • 4 - 6.5 Hz: Theta waves -- Shamanic state of consciousness, Tibetan Buddhist chants, astral projection, increased problem solving, increased extrasensory perception
  • 8 - 12 Hz: Alpha waves -- awareness of body imbalances, mental stability, faster learning, release of serotonin neural transmitter, centering, transitional point
  • 13 - 29 Hz: Beta waves -- power of visualization, conceptualization, healing, mind-body unity, increased cognitive functions, calculations
  • 30 - 40 Hz: Gamma waves -- awakening of mid-chakras, Christ consciousness

And many, many more; I'm not going to endorse these claims, but I will say this: meditation itself has been shown, now backed by science, with the advent of brain imaging technologies indicate to be connected to changes in brain activity, patterns and states, to produce extraordinary changes in the body and mind, from healing to stress reduction to endorphin release.

Before arbitrarily dismissing the possibilities (which I've observed is common when someone lacks knowledge of the facts and any practical experience with a subject): over the years I've read books by the likes of Pema Chödrön on various meditation techniques -- sound, visualization, transcendental, walking, etc. -- and am open to experimenting with any and all and prefer to diversify my techniques and practices in order to allow more "wiggle room" for the Universal to make inputs, if you will -- if prayer is talking and meditation is listening, then there are many forms of listening.

Perhaps it's not so much a question of whether these wavelengths promote these effects, or whether meditation promotes these wavelengths; rather, does one optional meditation technique combining audio technology enhance meditation?

BTW, I'm not a believer, I'm not a skeptic, I don't even identify as agnostic, I simply seek the truth and want to experience as much as I can in this physical form, if I am indeed a spiritual being just passing through....

  • 1
    FWIW, I've had little success getting binaural sounds to help me even though I've tried off and on, but listening to the sound of a gong or zen bell will almost always get me into a higher state of concentration. A lot of this effect depends on the intention of the prayer bell (sound) inviter. If a monk invites a prayer bell with a strong resolution for mindfulness energy to penetrate the cosmos, the listener will be impacted. Check out the music of Kip Mazuy on youtube for something similar in the Hindu tradition. – Buddho Jun 24 '15 at 21:56
  • 1
    You might consider this question about music during meditation: buddhism.stackexchange.com/questions/8228/…. Overall, the body is designed to respond to the senses, and the brain is designed to sort out the input, so it is inevitable that some things will be 'helpful' and others a 'hindrance' and that it will change over time. Do what works. – user2341 Jun 25 '15 at 12:01
4

I think this comes from a a common misapprehension of what meditation is and what it's supposed to do. Simply sitting down on the cushion in search of a "bliss out" experience or for the purposes of changing one's consciousness is a dead end that even the Buddha wandered down early in his spiritual career (e.g. his time with Uddaka Ramaputta and Alara Kalama).

Just changing brain waves literally disembodies your practice. It bypasses the our physical form which is perhaps our greatest ally and teacher on the path. The path meditation is a gestalt that incorporates not just changes in brain patterns, but everything from how you cope with the pain in your legs and back, the effort and resolve it takes to sit day in and day out with no immediately perceivable results, the psychological snags we have to work through etc. etc. etc. [x1,000!]

What you described may causes changes in consciousness, but these changes will ultimately prove to be superficial. They are mere vacations from our suffering and not a complete termination of their causes.

3

Some sounds can help meditation. The vibrations arising from loudly reciting Bija mantras like Om can put one's mind at rest. Binaural sounds seem to work similarly.

In Vajrayana Buddhism and Hinduism, the term bīja is used for mystical "seed syllables" contained within mantras. (source)

Likewise pressing one's tongue against the roof of the mouth calms the mind, as does yogic breathing.

They are not essential, but if we know what we are doing they can help. Conversely, by misapplication, they can also hinder.

For example, when our concentration has passed higher than the point of a specific mantra or binaural sound, using them will bring us down in my experience.

Likewise yogic breathing exercises done without expert knowledge can lead to health problems and dullness of mind.

I think given the risks, we must let this binaural audio technology evolve some more before depending on them. Pressing the tongue against the roof of the mouth, and uttering Om or other seed syllables have stood the test of time. The tongue technique is difficult to get wrong, and thus has the endorsement of the Buddha.

If while he is giving attention to stilling the thought-formation of those thoughts, there still arise in him evil unwholesome thoughts connected with desire, with hate, and with delusion, then, with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth, he should beat down, constrain and crush mind with mind() (*).

-- Vitakkasanthāna Sutta, [Bodhi Trans.] (MN 20)

3

Some sounds can help, but the purpose (the aim or intention) of practice is independence, so you must master the meditation regardless of sound.

  • Are you suggesting there is virtue in practicing meditation without sound? Sound should supplement but not substitute a sitting practice? On a related note, in the city, it's almost impossible to obtain total silence. I think there is value in practicing meditation in spite of unwanted sound (accepting/adapting--after all, we rarely go through life in complete quiet), which surprises me when meditators complain about outside noise during their sessions, as though they're struggling to be in control of their environment, when so many factors are out of our control, such as street noise. – sss4r Jun 24 '15 at 21:23
  • 1
    thats it. I preffer to do my sitting practice in silence, but always have some city noise out there, and that is not a problem, when you strenght your attention, you could do it with or without sound. – el3ctron Jun 24 '15 at 21:32
  • 1
    Hi el3ctron and welcome to Buddhism SE. We have put together some guidelines for new users: meta.buddhism.stackexchange.com/questions/1502/…. – Lanka Jun 24 '15 at 21:45
  • 1
    Something's not right about the grammar in the last edit. I think "has its scope on independence" should be changed, at most, to "has a focus on independence"--as it stands, the meaning is lost. – sss4r Jun 24 '15 at 22:37
  • 1
    I like this answer (so I upvoted it) but I find it ironic that in order to move toward Unity we need to work on Independence! Amusing contradiction. – user2341 Jun 25 '15 at 12:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.