Brainwave optimization follow-up, two years later

I received a phone call yesterday from someone who had read my original post about receiving brainwave optimization. Barbara in Houston was considering it. She’d read this blog and wanted to hear some follow-up. We had a nice long conversation, and I felt inspired by her courage.

This month marks two years since I underwent brainwave optimization — five days of twice-daily sessions designed to help my brain function better using biofeedback.

I have no regrets about doing it. I’m glad I took that leap of faith.

Of course it’s impossible to say how I might be different had I not received it. It’s also impossible to separate the BWO from the meditation, diet, yoga, and other work I’ve done. (I still think BWO is probably the equivalent of five years of daily meditation.)

What I can say is that when I compare how I experience myself now and how I experienced myself then, now is better. I feel more myself — I occupy my body and my life more fully and with more pleasure and serenity and depth and wholeness than I did before. I make better decisions. I am happier.

One of my reasons for doing it was that I had experienced trauma in my childhood that plagued me with ill effects for decades. Facing the trauma, healing and integrating it were turning points toward health in my life. I wanted to see if brainwave optimization could relieve me from any more dysfunctional patterns that might remain.

Last year, a year after undergoing BWO, I did get triggered by someone who didn’t recognize the extent of his own traumatic experiences and was unable to communicate responsibly about it. I experienced the flood of stress hormones and adrenal exhaustion that went along with being triggered.

The useful part of that experience was being able to witness how those stress hormones affected my thinking. I got a clear sense of what I’m like unaffected by trauma and what I’m like after being triggered. Day and night. Equanimity vs. fear and anger. Sunshine and butterflies vs. creepy shadows with hidden monsters.

The unpleasant part was that it took months to completely clear the effects of the cascade of stress hormones and return to robust, excellent well-being. During this time, I forgot that I could have gotten follow-up sessions of brainwave optimization, which are much less expensive than the initial assessment and 10 sessions.

In hindsight, it would have been really smart of me to experience just enough of being triggered to learn its lessons and then to shorten my suffering by going in for some follow-up work. I don’t know if it would have worked, but I believe that it would have made a difference, because when you make an effort on behalf of your own well-being, that commitment to action makes a big difference and amplifies the measures you choose to take. 

I regret now that it did not occur to me to do that.

It’s clear to me now that undergoing BWO does not give someone who’s experienced trauma a bulletproof vest against being further traumatized or being triggered. It does give you more resilience, because experiencing wholeness is so desirable. The brain is aware of its own well-being and likes it and will return to it as soon as it can. That’s a big part of how BWO works, in my understanding.

If you’re not sure your brain has experienced well-being because of past trauma, or if it’s been so long it’s hard to remember what well-being was like, I recommend getting brainwave optimization. It can’t hurt, and if it doesn’t help in the way you think it might, then at the least you’ve ruled something out on your path to recovery. You have not left that stone unturned.

And it might help in ways you haven’t thought of, so please be open to that. It’s hard to describe well-being if you’ve never experienced it. It’s hard to know what to expect before you do it.

Also, the brainwave changes keep happening for a long time after you finish the treatments. Hold your story lightly and keep a journal. I have been told by people who’ve known me for awhile that I’ve changed for the better more than anyone they know.

I also take the Buddha’s Brain supplements to support my post-BWO brain health, and I recommend that.

Buddha’s Brain supplements: an update

My October 2010 post about the supplements recommended in the book Buddha’s Brain now has links so you can order these supplements online from (which offers discounts for subscription shipping) if you wish.

Some of these supplements are difficult to find in stores, meaning Whole Foods doesn’t carry them.

Here’s the original post with the new links. None of the data has changed except an error about the recommended dosage of huperzine A. I changed mg to mcg after further research.

Two years of blogging, and happy first birthday, wellbodymindheartspirit!

Two years ago today, I posted my first blog post on this blog. Back then, this blog was called The Zafu Report. After the first year, I expanded its mission and changed the name to The Well: bodymindheartspirit. The blog has evolved as I have evolved, and it’s been a great journey of learning by doing.

I am grateful to WordPress for providing templates and widgets that make it look good and take the skill and decision-making that goes with that out of my hands, freeing me up to write.

I thought I’d celebrate by listing the most viewed posts and thanking all of you who have connected. This, by the way, is the 503rd post I’ve published, and the blog has now received 26,847 views with 156 followers. My biggest lesson: persistence pays off.

  1. Home Page has gotten 4,493 views. Of course, the home page changes with each new post, so if you click a link that takes you to the blog, Home Page is where you land.
  2. Update on my Spartan trailer has received 1,844 views and the second most comments. A lot of people using search engines to find information about Spartan trailers end up here. (“spartan trailer,” “spartan trailer for sale,” “spartan carousel,” and “spartan trailers” are among the top 10 search engine terms to steer viewers to this blog.) I feel kind of badly for them because this is not a blog about Spartans. I happen to have purchased, transported, remodeled, and moved into a Spartan Carousel in the past year, and it’s definitely part of my lifestyle redesign to a more sustainable, less stressful way of life. In that way, it fits into my main topic of wellness, and after some internal debate, I decided to post about it here. Some Spartan-appreciating readers have lingered, commented, and/or checked out vintage or, and I’ve made a few new friends whose interests jive with mine in a broader way. This particular post was added in April 2011 when I had purchased the trailer but was still awaiting title and delivery.
  3. Trauma releasing exercises has gotten 1,132 views. This post in May 2010 was written when I first revealed that I’d been experimenting with them. I’ve written a lot of posts since then about both trauma releasing exercises and shaking medicine, but this one has gotten the most views, mostly via search engines, because of the simple title.
  4. More yoga tattoos! has been viewed 566 times. That post actually links to Alison Hinks’ blog post of yoga tattoos. She’s awesome with the visuals! The internet must have many users who are hungry for tattoos relating to Asian spirituality, since “yoga tattoos,” “yoga tattoo,” and “buddha tattoo” are also among the top 10 search terms that landed viewers here. I have a yoga tattoo myself, a small OM.
  5. About me is actually a page, not a post. It’s received 500 views. I actually revise that page every so often because how I describe myself changes and will continue to change. Good for you for coming back. This page has gotten a few comments, too.
  6. Comparing trauma release and shaking medicine videos has gotten 336 views, and I’m pleased to have posted it. My exploration of these healing modalities included locating videos of each online and sharing. Curious viewers can see each modality in action.
  7. Book review: Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson is the next most viewed blog post, at 326 views. I enjoyed reading this book and writing this review. I especially liked the appendix to the book that lists supplements for optimal brain health, written by Rick Hanson’s wife, an acupuncturist. I wrote about that in Buddha’s Brain: Supplements for brain health (236 views). I take them.
  8. The left brain right brain crossover has received 322 views. That seems surprising for an anatomy topic, but I guess a lot of curious brain geeks out there are wondering about this too. I got a few comments, and it was reassuring that one reader told me, “just to let you know that you could study this for years and it would still remain an enigma. such is the complexity of the human brain – even at a macroscopic level!”
  9. Spartan Carousel has arrived! got 319 views. That was posted in late June of 2011, the day after it arrived from southeast Washington.  It has some photos, and it’s received more comments than any other post. Thank you for sharing my joyous relief at its arrival!
  10. The tenth most viewed post is Fantastic prehistoric cave art movie, posted May 17, 2011, with 307 views. I loved that film by Werner Erhardt. This post was written before I saw the movie. It included online research I did in advance of seeing it. Okay, I know I’m geeky like that! My actual review, Movie review: The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, was the 20th most viewed blog post.

So there you have it, the most viewed posts in two years of blogging. Thank you for reading.

How to get smarter

A couple of Facebook friends (thanks, Nelson and Jacqueline!) posted links to this guest blog post from Scientific American entitled You can increase your intelligence: 5 ways to maximize your cognitive potential. The author, Andrea Kuszewski, who has worked with children with Asperger’s syndrome and helped them increase their IQs, posits that IQ isn’t something that’s genetically predetermined.

Rather, we can get smarter.

I agree with this from my own experience. Clearing excess candida and getting gluten out of my diet resulted in the dissipation of a brain fog that I hadn’t even been aware of — because I had a brain fog! I remember realizing with joy that I could focus on reading difficult texts that I would have given up on before, and I could retain what I learned.

I also read the book Buddha’s Brain and take most of the recommended supplements for brain health. I’ve noticed a difference from that. My brain seems to be humming along more contentedly, and I feel more integrated.

Tell ya later about brainwave optimization!

Of course, this is anecdotal and not scientific evidence, but it seems to me that that’s always where good research starts — from noticing differences. And if it’s true for me, it’s true for me, and that’s good to know.

Kuszewski’s post draws on research findings published in 2008 that stated that you can increase your intelligence significantly through training. And she says if you can live your life by these five principles, you’ll be smarter:

1. Seek novelty. Be open to new experiences.

2. Challenge yourself. As soon as you master something, move on.

3. Think creatively. 

Creative cognition involves divergent thinking (a wide range of topics/subjects), making remote associations between ideas, switching back and forth between conventional and unconventional thinking (cognitive flexibility), and generating original, novel ideas that are also appropriate to the activity you are doing.

4. Do things the hard way. Use your skills — don’t let technology (calculators, GPS, cars) erode them.

5. Network. Expose yourself to new people, ideas, environments. Everyone benefits.

Livin’ in the suburbs, drivin’ a rental

My posting has been infrequent lately because (1) I’m working full-time on a three-month technical writing contract and (2) I just moved after selling my home of 10 years.

I thought I got rid of a lot of stuff when I got the house ready to list back in November, but when it came time to pack and move all but some basic necessities into a storage unit, I discovered that I still have way too much stuff. Gonna need another weeding when I move into my trailer.

Moving has been disorienting. I lost my little red Canon camera some time between Saturday afternoon, when I had someone take a photo of Judith Lasater and me (she created restorative yoga, would have loved to put that on my yoga page) and Wednesday morning, when I wanted to photograph some spectacular clouds and discovered my camera was not in my purse.

I’ve contacted Yoga Yoga and looked under the car seats and in the most obvious places. It will probably show up at some point. (Apparently the police found my laptop that was stolen in December! Will get that back next week!)

I also can’t find a box with my supplements in it. I take most of the supplements recommended in the book Buddha’s Brain. I’m glad I posted about them, because I may need to go buy replacements, and that book is deep in a box in storage.

Yesterday I completely forgot the PIN for my debit card. Proof that nourishing those neurotransmitters makes a tangible difference!

Adding to my feelings of disorientation and insecurity, I’ve been having car problems since Dec. 23. I took it back to the shop twice for problems; then when it overheated, I took it to a different shop, and that shop discovered it had a blown head gasket, which none of the previous shops had discovered.

I’m ready for my car to be fixed completely! And I hear myself whining and know that I created this. Well, maybe not all of it, but I wanted a change. And here I am. Livin’ in the suburbs, drivin’ a rental, camera-less and supplement-less. Oh well!

A couple of positive notes: Mango handled the move really well. This was our first move together. I bought him a top-loading cat carrier — much easier to get him into it. I moved him with the last load, and he meowed most of the way. He’s been super affectionate and hasn’t even tried to go outside yet.

And…he’s been behaving in a frisky manner! Running and jumping up on furniture with a goofy look on his face! I think he likes this place — a big house with three people to give him attention.

The other note: Saturday, in the midst of moving, I took a restorative yoga workshop with Judith Lasater, who created restorative yoga. I’m so glad I  did. I’ll post about that separately.

Anyway, here I am living in Wells Branch with Katie and Keith and Mango, while I work on this contract job and purchase, get transported, and set up my next home, a vintage trailer. Stay tuned for more adventures!

Buddha’s Brain: supplements for brain health

June 2, 2012: I’ve updated this post with links for the supplements if you want to order online. Some of them are not readily available in stores like Whole Foods.


When I read the book Buddha’s Brain, I was very impressed by an appendix, Nutritional Neurochemistry, by Jan Hanson. She’s an acupunturist who has specialized in clinical nutrition for many years.

I’ve been following Hanson’s suggestions and taking supplements for about six weeks now. I take the minimum amount suggested. I feel better! My memory is better, I sleep better, and I focus better. My mood may be a little better—I wasn’t depressed before, and I generally feel buoyant already.

I haven’t noticed any changes in my digestion (the other area that neurotransmitters affect), but I take great care with my diet, having been tested for food sensitivities years ago and generally following a Type O Gatherer genotype diet. I eat well, going light on grains, beans, and dairy (mostly limited to yogurt and kefir), eating lots of fruits and veggies including green juices, and buying fresh and organic.

I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist, just someone in pursuit of health and well-being. I’m going to repeat some of what Jan Hanson says here in the hopes that if you’re really interested in this topic, you’ll click the link above, buy the book, and read it yourself. The world needs more people who are working toward functioning at 100 percent of their capabilities!

Base  your decisions either on testing or on self-observation.

  • If you have problems with sleep or digestion, supplement for serotonin.
  • If you have memory issues, build acetylcholine.
  • If your energy is low, build norepinephrine and dopamine.
  • These last two and serotonin help with mood.

Since supplements are expensive, it seems wise to start with your diet, because you gotta eat anyway. In general, eat lots of protein (a serving the size of a pack of cards at each meal) and at least 3 cups of veggies per day. Protein includes nuts, dairy, seeds, eggs, legumes, and grains, as well as meat, poultry, and fish and seafood.

Foods that are particularly good for brain health: berries, egg yolks, beef, liver, and dairy fats. I prefer grass-fed bison to beef and suggest avoiding liver unless it’s from a really clean source. Eggs with orange yolks from free-range chickens rock!

Foods that are not good for brain health: those with refined sugar and/or refined flour. You probably know this already.

If you think your body may disagree with some foods, either get tested for food sensitivities (chiropractors and naturopaths offer this) or eliminate suspects for a week or two and notice if you feel better, think more clearly, digest more easily, and have more energy. Anything your body is sensitive to causes an inflammatory reaction throughout your body, and inflammation is an enemy of your brain.

Supplements for basic brain health

Hanson recommends multivitamins with 10 to 25 times the daily value of all the B vitamins. For adults, that means at least the following amounts:

  • 12 mg of thiamin (B1)
  • 13 mg of riboflavin (B2)
  • 160 mg of niacin (B3); you may need a separate supplement* to get this much, and I recommend the no-flush kind
  • 50 mg of pantothenic acid (B5)
  • 17 mg of pyridoxine (B6)
  • 24 mcg of B12

Check your multivitamin label and if these amounts are not provided, find one that does. I like Source of Life food-based vitamins.

Vitamins B6 and B12 and folic acid play a crucial role in the production of many neurotransmitters:

  • Be sure to get 50 mg of B6 in the form of pyridoxal-5-phosphate (P5P) on an empty stomach in the morning. I have not found this form in a multivitamin, so I take a separate supplement. B vitamins are water soluble; any excess is excreted, so it’s okay if you take too much (at least from what I read now).
  • Take 800 mcg or more of folic acid, which is twice as much as most multis contain, so you’ll need a separate supplement.
  • Get at least 24 mcg of B12, which multis usually have.

Make sure you’re getting 400 IU of Vitamin E, at least half of which is gamma-tocopherol (not the more common alpha-tocopherol, which multivitamins usually contain).

Get 100 percent or more of the daily value of minerals. The Source of Life multi mentioned above includes the minerals below.

Iron plays a big role in brain health. If you think you might be low in iron, get tested, and supplement if you need it.

  • 1000 (men) or 1200 (women) mg of calcium (usually supplements are needed; I like New Chapter Bone Strength Take Care)
  • 20-35 mcg of chromium
  • 900 mcg of copper
  • 8 mg of iron (18 for menstruating women; Source of Life’s multivitamin offers this much iron—see link above)
  • 320-410 mg of magnesium
  • 1.8 to 2.3 mg of manganese
  • 45 mcg of molybdenum
  • 700 mg of phosphorus
  • 4.7 g of potassium
  • 55 mcg of selenium
  • 8 to 11 mg of zinc

Get enough omega-3 fatty acids. The benefits are better growth of neurons, mood elevation, and slowing of dementia. She recommends fish oil containing about 500 mg each of DHA and EPA daily—high quality, molecularly distilled. I like New Chapter Wholemega. It’s from sustainably caught wild Alaskan salmon.

Note: If you want to avoid fish oil, you can take a tablespoon of flax seed oil and 500 mg of DHA from algae daily.

Supplementing for neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitter supplements should be taken carefully. Start with the smallest dosage, try one new one at a time, and discontinue if you have negative side affects. Do not combine neurotransmitter supplements with antidepressants or psychotropic medications.

Hanson recommends building serotonin first. Serotonin supports mood, digestion, and sleep. Take 50-200 mg of 5-HTP in the morning or 500-1,500 mg of tryptophan before bed. If you need help sleeping, tryptophan at night is probably the better choice.

Norepinephrine and dopamine support energy, mood, and attention. Dopamine transforms into norepinephrine, so supplementation is the same for each: take L-phenylalanine or L-tyrosine, and start with 500 mg on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning. The maximum dose is 1,500 mg, which may be too stimulating for some.

Acetylcholine supports memory and attention. Take phosphatidylserine (PS), 100-300 mg per day. Also take acetyl-L-carnitine, 500-1,000 mg first thing on an empty stomach. Take huperzine A, 50-200 mcg per day. Hanson recommends finding which combination works best for you.

*The supplement links are based on the recommended minimum dosages given in Buddha’s Brain. I am a small person, and these dosages work for me. If you are larger or more in need of neurotransmitter supplementation for particular purposes such as sleep, attention, or memory, you can experiment with taking up to the maximum recommended, only making one change at a time and making gradual changes. Many of the supplements may be ordered from Amazon on a subscription basis, saving you money.

Book review: Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson

I finally finished reading this book. It’s not long or particularly difficult to read, I just had a lot of other things going on. I started reading it the first week of July, so it’s taken about 3-1/2 weeks to finish. Not bad for nonfiction, in my opinion.

The full title is Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom, by Rich Hanson, Ph.D., with Richard Mendius, MD. Daniel Siegel wrote the foreword, and Jack Kornfeld wrote the preface. Big names in American Buddhism.

I expected something more related to Buddha’s teachings. Instead, it combines neuroscience with meditation and Buddhist practice. The book has a lot of brain science in it, but it’s written at a level that almost anyone who’s had a biology course in college (or a bright high-schooler) can understand. People who don’t like science can skip over those parts and still get a lot out of it.

The book contains four sections, on the causes of suffering, happiness, love, and wisdom. Each chapter has a nice summary of key points.

The book also contains an appendix on nutritional neurochemistry, that is, how you can support your brain’s functioning through skillful nutrition. It was written by Jan Hanson (whom I take to be the author’s wife), L.Ac.

This information has already influenced my diet and supplements.

Some fundamentals that underlie the rest of the book are:

  • The mind depends on the brain. Actually, the mind is what the brain does.
  • The brain evolved to help you survive, but its three primary strategies — separation, stopping change, and grasping pleasure/avoiding pain — make you suffer.
  • The path of awakening is described as uncovering your true nature that was always present, as transforming your mind and body, or as both.
  • Small actions every day add up to large changes over time — you are building new neural structure.
  • Wholesome changes in many brains could tip the world in a better direction.

I learned a lot and recommend this book for anyone interested in the meditating brain and fully awakening their body/mind.