Brainwaves and Altered Conscious States


From a scientific perspective, in the physical body the basis for all our thoughts, emotions and behaviours is the communication between neurons and pathways within our brains. Synchronised electrical pulses from masses of neurons creates our brainwaves which can be detected and monitored by sensors placed on the scalp (EEG).

The various bandwidths of our brainwaves related to their specific functions but really describe a continuum of consciousness ranging from slow to fast, subtle to loud and functional to complex. They change depending on what we are doing and feeling at the time.

Lower frequency brainwaves are like deep penetrating drum beats, and show up when we are tired, slow, sluggish or dreaming. Higher frequency brainwaves are like a subtle high pitched flute and show up when we are wired or hyper-alert.

Whilst brainwaves are highly complex and reflect different aspects depending on their exact location in the brain, below is a general basic guide measured in Hertz (cycles per second) and grouped into slow, moderate and fast waves.

Infra-Low brainwaves – not a lot is known due them being so slow they are difficult to detect and measure. They appear to have a major role in brain timing and network function.

Delta brainwaves are slow, loud brainwaves (low frequency and deeply penetrating, like a drum beat). They are generated in deepest meditation, dreamless/deep sleep or unconsciousness. They suspend external awareness and are the source of empathy. Healing and regeneration are stimulated in this state, and that is why deep restorative sleep is so essential to the healing process.

Theta brainwaves happen in sleep, but also in deep mediation, trace, hypnosis, or lucid dreaming. They are the gateway to learning, memory, and intuition. Senses are withdrawn from the external world and focused on signals originating from within the body. We might feel it as we wake or drift off to sleep. Here we dream, have vivid imagery, intuition and gain information beyond our normal conscious awareness. It’s where we hold, our fears, troubled history, and nightmares. It is where Shamans go to facilitate their journeying.

Alpha brainwaves happen in the quite “flow”, Daydreams, Creative Visualisation, Connection to the subconscious, light sleep and in some meditative states. It’s a resting state for the brain, being in the moment, the NOW. They help mental coordination, calmness, alertness, mind/body integration and learning. This is the first port of call to be able to connect to your guides or spirits.

Beta brainwaves are our normal waking state of full consciousness when attention is directed towards cognitive tasks and the outside world. It’s a ‘fast’ activity, alert, attentive, engaged in problem solving, judgment, decision making, or focused mental activity. There are three bands to Beta:
• Lo-Beta (Beta1, 12-15Hz) ‘fast idle’, or musing
• Beta (Beta2, 15-22Hz) is high engagement or actively figuring something out. Hi-Beta (Beta3, 22-38Hz) is highly complex thought, integrating new experiences, high anxiety, or excitement.
Continual high frequency processing isn’t efficient and takes a lot of energy. You usually wont get any psychic or intuitive insights in the beta state because your conscious mind is fully engaged.

Gamma brainwaves are the most subtle, but fastest high frequency waves and happen when simultaneous processing of information from different brain areas occurs. Information passes rapidly and quietly. Gamma brainwaves pass information rapidly and quietly. The mind has to be quite to access it. It deals with universal love, altruism and higher needs. It operates above the frequency of neural firing so it is still unknown how it actually is generated. It is speculated that gamma rhythms modulate perception and consciousness, and that a greater presence of gamma relates to expanded consciousness and spiritual awakening.

Our brainwave profile and our daily experience of the world are inseparable. When our brainwaves are out of balance there will be problems in our emotional, mental or physical health.

Any process that changes your perception changes your brainwaves. Over the long term, traditional eastern methods (such as meditation, creative visualisation and yoga) train your brainwaves into balance. Altering our brainwaves also alters our state of consciousness, which is essential in psychic development and shamanic practice.