Update on trailer, brainwave optimization, TRE and shaking medicine

My Spartan Carousel trailer is still not here. Southeastern Washington state, usually somewhat desert-y, has had unusual flooding on the Columbia and Yakima Rivers. Although my trailer has been on high ground, the road to it has been underwater. However, it’s finally drying up, and a truck may be able to get in there and start its journey here any day now!

I’ve been having dreams about it for a couple of weeks now. Have talked to a handyman with RV experience about helping me get it operational.

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It’s been almost a week since I did brainwave optimization at Neuro Beginnings. What I notice is that my thoughts and emotions seem clearer and I feel more together, sparkly, and capable than before.

Meditation and doing something physically active in nature, like walking or swimming or kayaking, each day seem to be really helping.

I am more aware of my mind than ever, and notice how untamed it often is, and yet it functions pretty well! I work on actively calming it (moving from beta to alpha) several times a day. When I meditate, I surrender from alpha into theta.

I’ve borrowed the book Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain,by David Eagleman, which “navigates the depths of the unconscious brain,” according to the book jacket. I am very much looking forward to reading it after I finish my current book.

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I have experienced some spontaneous shaking, i.e., trembling without doing the trauma releasing exercises. A couple of times, I’ve noticed tension in my body and just laid down and shook for 5 minutes. Nice!

If I haven’t had any spontaneous shaking, I do the exercises about once a week. More of my body is involved. If you remember, at first it was just my legs, then my left arm and shoulder, and it has continued to spread.

I notice that I do less of the fine quivering or trembling, although I still experience that in my legs. I do more shaking, rocking, rolling, flapping, circling, twirling — repetitive movements of all kinds.

My body seems to like to do quite a variety of these, not staying in any one pattern for more than 15-20 seconds.

Then I lie still for a while, not knowing if I’m “done” shaking. I discovered that if I straighten my legs, sometimes they still need to shake. So my feet move back in forth, in unison and in opposition, and sometimes my heels bounce!

I’m also noticing that after I’ve laid on the floor and shaken, sometimes when I stand, my body still wants to make rhythmic movements for a while. These seem more dance-like, but it’s more like I am being moved than deliberately moving.

More and more I notice the feeling state I’m in after I tremble or shake. It’s like the channels are cleared out. I feel lighter, more open, more centered. My vibrations feel stronger and higher. I feel very balanced between mind and heart.

It is definitely a good feeling to have, a very pleasant state to be in, a kind of quiet, subtle ecstasy.

I wonder if I’m moving from the trauma releasing exercises into shaking medicine. Will keep you posted on that!

My experience with brainwave optimization

Last week I did brainwave optimization, aka brain training, at NeuroBeginnings.  I did the baseline assessment in May and wrote about it here. It’s an astounding new technology with huge potential to alleviate suffering and help people’s brains function optimally without spending a minor (or major) fortune on health care.

Gigi Turner, owner of NeuroBeginnings, likes to schedule the training to start within two weeks of the initial assessment, but we had to work around finishing my 3M contract, which was hard to pin down. You need a full week as free of demands as possible so you can integrate the brain training. It’s a wonderful activity for a vacation (or stay-cation if you live in Austin). 

By the way, Gigi is hard-working, personable, and adorable. She’s easy to relate to, and you know she’s working for your best interests. She’s a woman after my own heart, fascinated with the brain and its workings, making the world a better place one brain at a time.

I did two sessions per day, Monday through Friday, one at 9 am and another at 12:30 pm, each lasting about an hour and forty-five minutes.

Between the morning and afternoon sessions, I hung out at the Zilker Botanical Gardens or walked along Barton Creek. It felt great to move after being still, and being outdoors in scenic nature was refreshing. I’d get lunch at the Daily Juice or Whole Foods, something light and very healthy.

During each session, I sat in a special recliner and either watched a computer monitor or just relaxed doing nothing. Gigi attached electrodes to my head and moved them to various places — frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital lobes.

There were several exercises I did in every session: sitting and watching a bar move to a lower position,  reclining with the lights off and relaxing deeply, imagining/remembering an activity that uses all the senses, and visualizing a guided meditation.

During all the exercises, I heard musical notes playing. Gigi said you actually want them to stay in the background and not think about it too much. They are random notes, not playing a tune, not rhythmic, not even music — just random notes. There are a variety of musical sounds. You might hear the random notes played on a guitar, xylophone, steel drum, bells, or piano.

I am a thinker. I have a very active mind, and I’m gaining facility in switching from that active, inquiring, analytical state to more relaxed states.

I noticed that I liked it when a lot of notes played fairly densely, and I didn’t like it when one note played over and over, or when there was a long silence. I wanted the “music” to be pleasing to my ears.

A couple of times I would recognize a fragment of a song in a string of 3 or 4 notes and smile to myself. I noticed that if I was getting one note repeatedly, I could move my eyes, and the sound would shift. That’s an NLP trick!

The sounds reflect current brainwave activity, allowing the brain to “see” itself, as Lee Gerdes says in his book, Limitless You. You do occasionally view your brain activity on the monitor, but mostly the brain is hearing itself, and the more in harmony and cohesive the brain gets, the more the sounds reflect that.

You don’t have to do anything. The brain adjusts itself. At least, that’s how I think it works.

Watching the bar was hardest for me. I tried too hard, and it strained my eyes (I wear contacts and need to blink often — did you know your brainwaves change when you close your eyes, even to blink?). I stopped drinking green tea in the morning and brought eyedrops, attempting to make this exercise easier to accomplish.

I finally started getting the hang of it on Friday when I imagined that the sound of the air conditioning was a waterfall that was very nearby. When my attention was split between listening to the “waterfall” and gazing beneath the bar (rather than staring intently at it), I made progress.

I believe that exercise was about my “thinking” mind — aka bringing down my beta waves.

I went into brain training wanting to get rid of any remaining dysfunctional patterns from my childhood trauma and years of PTSD. Most of the changes took place in the frontal and occipital lobes — the center for executive functioning and the visual cortex, respectively. After my last session, Gigi gave me printouts showing how my brainwaves in those lobes had changed over the week of training. She got my left and right hemispheres more in sync in those lobes.

I loved the relaxation exercises. It turns out I’m very good at going into alpha! As I got used to the process, I got pretty good at dropping into theta and good at noticing the difference between alpha and theta. (Theta is where deep healing occurs.) I dropped into delta (sleep) a few times, especially after lunch, at first, but as the week progressed, I was able to stay awake in theta for longer periods.

I really loved the task of imagining I was entering a house, walking upstairs, and entering three rooms. Each day I created different rooms. Here are some juicy ones:

  • A room full of guides — lamas, teachers, angels, masters, buddhas and boddhisattvas, yogis, healers, shamans, seers — who included me and gave me gifts, laying their hands on me.
  • A room of possibilities that I’d like to manifest — travel, prosperity, success, joy, gifts and talents and skills, love, creativity, equanimity, health, goodness.
  • A room containing my fears and obstacles, with wonderful resources to address each one.
  • A room of gratitude for past, present, and future.
  • A room where I gave my gifts and resources to those who needed them.
  • A room of beginner’s mind.
  • A room for my future sage elder self.
  • A room of intuition.

Also, the Jean Houston guided meditation of cleansing the senses works well here. Having NLP training was useful!

During the five days of training, I didn’t experience any sudden or drastic changes in brain functioning, but each day I felt a little bit sharper, more present, more centered.

I learned that my brain operations were actually in pretty good shape to start with, and with a few tweaks it will operate even better. The changes will continue to manifest over a period of months after the training.

To get the most from it, the instructions are that for at least the next three weeks, I need to avoid alcohol and recreational drugs, exercise/walk daily, eat a lot of protein, and drink plenty of water.

It would be helpful to practice awareness through progressive relaxation, visualization while listening to a CD Gigi gave me (I liked the sound of a stream during some of the sessions, which has become an anchor), and doing breathwork.

I also need to postpone appointments for other therapeutic modalities until three weeks have passed, so I’ll need to make some phone calls on Monday.

If you’re interested, I recommend calling NeuroBeginnings for a baseline assessment. Her number is 512-699-6593. The baseline assessment currently costs $160. The entire cost, at present, is $1,635, if I remember correctly. Compared to doctor visits and medication, brain training could actually save you time, money, and side effects. 

I’m going to wait at least three months before going back for a tune-up unless something drastic happens, and then I hope to try one of their new gamma wave protocols.

I look forward to noticing improvements in my brain’s functioning and sharing them with you!

Starting the process of brainwave optimization

Yesterday I did something I’ve wanted to do ever since I learned about it. I had an assessment of how my brainwaves are working.

I learned that I still have traces of fight-or-flight activity stemming from PTSD. Forty something years after the trauma, after nearly 20 years of yoga, psychotherapy, releasing the traumatic energy block a la Waking the Tiger, over 5 years of meditation, learning NLP, and doing the trauma releasing exercises, this pattern (although much less than it was) is still present in my energy field. All of those healing modalities have helped and been completely worthwhile, to be sure.

Fight-or-flight is a wonderful instinct to have — when there’s something to fight or flee from. The problem is when there’s nothing in the environment to fear, but I am still tense or jumpy. It’s a brainwave pattern.

I’ve wondered how can I know I’ve completely recovered from trauma. The trauma happened when I was young, so I don’t have an adult baseline of well-being to compare to. I’d really like to know that I’m over it and don’t need to spend any more energy on it. Ever.

The aftereffects of a trauma can last a lifetime. I’d like to experience what it is like to be untraumatized. I can’t change the past, but I can change my brain wave patterns and therefore my life.  

Here’s how the process has gone so far. I made an appointment with Gigi Turner at NeuroBeginnings. That is one of three Austin affiliates offering brainwave optimization using the equipment and software and training provided by Brain State Technologies (BST).

The founder of BST, Lee Gerdes, has written a book, Limitless You: The Infinite Possibilities of a Balanced Brain. I have just gotten the book myself. One of the testimonials on the back cover mentions “restoring … humans to a joyful and highly functional state in their daily life.” Yeah.

All of these companies are staying busy, from what I hear, and I’m sure they are all very competent at doing what they do. I connected well with Gigi on the phone and identified with her as a working woman, so I chose her. She’s also the most highly trained BST certified technician in town.

At my first appointment, she had me fill out an extensive online questionnaire. I’m pretty sure they ask about so many issues because BST wants to collect as much data as it can. All in the name of compassionate science. This is a fascinating frontier that I’ve blogged about before.

At the end of the questionnaire, I identified my top reasons for wanting to do this. I listed well-being and happiness first. And, oh yeah, I wouldn’t mind having better spiritual development and meditation, cognitive improvement, social interactions, etc.

Gigi had me sit in a recliner. She put some electrodes on my earlobes and scalp. She then asked me to close my eyes for 2-3 minutes. Then she asked me to open my eyes partially. Then she asked me to open my eyes completely. With eyes open, she had me do an exercise like repeat strings of numbers.

Meanwhile, a big computer monitor with a split screen is showing my left and right hemisphere activity as colors — blues, green, red, each color representing a range of brainwaves like beta, alpha, theta, delta — streaming by.

Pretty and fascinating. I wonder what this means.

Then she’d move the electrodes and repeat the process for a different area of my brain, getting readings for the frontal lobe, parietal, temporal, occipital, cingulate gyrus, and midline, if I remember accurately.

With my eyes open, I’d do a different exercise for each area. I solved math problems aloud, read to myself and answered a question, listened to Gigi reading and answered a question, and just looked around the room.

At the end, she removed the electrodes and showed me a summary on the computer of my assessment. (It’s proprietary, so I didn’t get a copy. Darn! I love looking at data, seeing what pops out.)

Basically for each area of the brain, there’s data about the left and right hemispheres, about each brainwave type, and about ratios between types (such as between beta and theta), as far as I could tell. I bet there’s also data about the brain’s flexibility in moving from eyes closed, partly open, to wide open, and how well it functions doing each assigned task.

From experience, the BST-trained technicians have come to recognize “brainwave signatures” for various conditions like PTSD, ADHD, and so on. But it’s really not meant as a diagnostic tool. It’s meant to be used to harmonize and balance the brain, and this is the starting place.

They also can tell what range the numbers “should” be in for optimal functioning. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with being out of range. I imagine some gifts and talents that people have developed (math prodigy, psychic) rely on being out of normal range while doing that activity. The question is, are they happy and healthy? Can their brainwaves change to meet the situation, or are they in a dysfunctional pattern?

Even if you don’t have anything like PTSD, you can probably benefit from tuning up your brain. The literature says it can help with addictions, anger, anxiety, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, compulsive behaviors, eating disorders, learning difficulties, obsessive thinking, panic attacks, poor memory, sleeping difficulties, stress, and a host of other issues.

So it is possible that with the training, I can completely retrain my brain to operate as if I never had PTSD.

I can be less jumpy and experience even more well-being. I’m looking forward to that.

I can also learn to focus better on reading material that is, ahem, less than compelling. Like textbooks and other dry material.

I’m a pretty good sleeper, but Gigi says that optimizing my brain waves will help me sleep even better, waking up even more refreshed. Wow. I’ve had insomnia before and have great compassion for people with sleep problems. I’m looking forward to sleeping more restfully.

BST affiliates can also do things like increase beta in the left hemisphere and increase alpha in the right hemisphere. Yeah, let those hemispheres specialize even more! I imagine this would make someone more cognitively adept when they need to be and happier the rest of the time. I’ll have some of that, too!

So I’m going to do it later this month, when my contract job is completely done. You need to be able to come in for a couple of hours a day every day, or even twice a day, which is why I’ve waited until now.

I understand the process uses sound, and that you actually “observe” your brain waves and optimize them yourself, creating the balance and harmony you desire, rather than matching an external norm.

I will report back here at Well:bodymindheartspirit.

New time for restorative yoga class

Because of the especially beautiful spring Sundays, which no one wants to miss out on, and the longer days, I’m pushing the time of my restorative yoga class back.

Starting Sunday, April 3, the class begins at 7:30 pm and ends at 9:00 pm. Read Yoga Offerings on this blog for more information about this class, which I call Unwinding.

Get your Sunday chores done, eat a light dinner, and then come to the class for some deep, deep relaxation.

You’ll sleep better and feel better on Monday morning. Start your week out well.

As I’ve mentioned before, people need activity, sleep, and rest. There are many ways to rest, and it’s as much about allowing your mind to relax as your body. Theta waves are not just a stage you move through quickly as you fall asleep and as you wake up.

Include some restful activity in every day. Daydream. Meditate. Stare at a fire. Slow down and let your mind relax.

Would you like some theta brain waves with that?

According to the book I’m reading, What Really Matters: The Search for Wisdom in America, many of the biofeedback pioneers viewed the early focus on training people to experience the alpha range of brain waves as a mistake. Elmer Green, biofeedback pioneer said,

Alpha is finally only an idling state. It’s ten times better than beta when you’re tense, but beyond a certain level of relaxation, it doesn’t have that much to offer by itself. If you want to truly grow, the only way you’re going to do that is through the deeper state of theta. That’s where you can interrogate the unconscious and even gain the ability to reprogram it. The true value of alpha is that it’s a necessary bridge between beta and theta.

Green did research on theta in the early 1970s. Neurofeedback studies of yogis and monks showed that as they moved into deep levels of meditation, alpha eventually gave way to long trains of theta waves. Zen masters have described this deep state as having access to some deeper level of truth or knowing.

The challenge is to learn how to experience theta without falling asleep. Our most common experience of a pure theta state is in those moments when we are falling asleep or awakening, when our minds let go of rational thought and often spontaneously form images.

We found theta to be associated with a deeply internalized state. The state of deep quietness of body, emotions, and mind…achieved in theta training seems to build a bridge between conscious and unconscious processes and allows usually “unheard” things to come to consciousness. It’s as if you have two radio signals. One is loud, the other is very soft and faint. To hear the faint one, you have to turn the loud one down. We go into theta to get this loud noise of normal waking consciousness turned off, so we can hear the softer voice underneath. And we do that because the breadth of our consciousness turns out to extend far beyond what we’re usually conscious of.

The book goes on to relate studies done by Green and associates where they trained themselves and others to relax the body, quiet the mind, let go of emotional tension, and increase theta while remaining awake enough to be aware of the imagery that arose.

College students so trained were able to recall rich imagery, including long-forgotten childhood events. After the studies, a significant percentage of students reported positive changes, including greater clarity, more energy, improved relationships, and better concentration and recall.

Green went to India to study brain wave patterns of advanced yogis and tested Ram Sharma, who could produce nearly pure theta waves on command while remaining fully conscious, unheard of in the West.

Green later said the value of theta training…

…is the relatively rapid development of a skill in shifting, without years of trial-and-error meditation, into a state of consciousness in which one comes face to face with one’s Self…. You can feel all the mental, physical, and emotional things going on around you and in you and yet not be identified with the individual pieces.

So how can you experience theta without a neurofeedback machine? I’ve experienced it when receiving cranio-sacral therapy, esoteric acupuncture, regular acupuncture, and massage, and also through meditation.

Once experienced, it becomes easier to re-experience.

Craniosacral therapy, brain waves

Confession: I am a brain geek. I’ve been lucky enough in this lifetime to have worked for 3 years with Nina Davis, craniosacral therapist extraordinaire, and I can’t thank her enough for sharing her work with me.

CST is usually subtle. The one time it wasn’t subtle was when she worked on my locus ceruleus, a “blue spot” in the brain stem that is affected by trauma. When it opened up or unfroze or however it changed, I experienced profound, deep relaxation with no internal images or dialog. Just deep black restful awareness. It was like bliss.

I recommend CST for all trauma survivors. Trauma rewires the brain in a dysfunctional way, and your full recovery depends on you (with whatever help you can get) rewiring it back to a healthy state.

(Besides this, Nina has shown me how acutely a person can develop her sensory acuity, to the point where she’s aware of tiny structures and processes inside her own brain and body and in mine as well, using her fingertips and awareness. She’s just brilliant, like a Bene Gesserit from Dune. I have some perception of my energy body and can feel shifts, but she’s got the detailed inner anatomy down.)

I’ve read articles about scientific studies of long-time meditators that concluded that  meditation affects your brain waves in a positive way. I  believe it, based on 6 months of daily meditation. I experience my energy field differently, although my physical body is feeling pretty good too these days. It’s as if my brain waves are oscillating in more synchrony than before, which is pleasant and self-reinforcing.

I am very curious about brain waves. They are bioelectricity, and there are machines that give you visual feedback of your brain activity. Here’s what I know (from reading A Symphony in the Brain and Wikipedia):

  • Brain waves correspond to mental states, and we usually experience a mixture of states.
  • Delta waves predominate when you’re asleep. They’re at the lowest hertz, 0-4.
  • Next higher, theta waves occur in the hypnogogic state, when you’re falling asleep or waking and your mind feels pleasantly fuzzy and untethered to waking life. When you visualize something, and when you inhibit/repress, you’re in the theta wave range, 4-7 hertz. Associated with relaxed, meditative, creative states. Healing of trauma occurs in this state, where you unrepress traumatic memories by reimagining the trauma as a witness, not a participant, which makes it safe(r).
  • Alpha waves, 8-12 hertz, were discovered first, thus alpha. You can access the alpha state by imagining space inside your body, such as the space between your eyes, or bringing your attention to how your body. Occurs with relaxation. More accessible with your eyes closed; opening your eyes often brings you out of it.
  • Beta state, 13-30 hertz, is often referred to as normal waking consciousness. They’re active when you are mentally aroused, or having a conversation, or feeling anxious. Ask someone to solve a math problem, and they’ll be experiencing beta waves (so will you, probably). Interestingly, people with ADHD have too much theta in proportion to the amount of beta waves that they have. Retraining consists of lowering theta and raising beta from 9:1 to 3:1. Body movement usually takes you out of beta.
  • The new kid on the brain wave block, gamma waves (25-100 hertz) weren’t measured until people began using digital rather than analog EEG equipment to read brain waves. Studies of Tibetan monks with over 10,000 hours of meditation experience conclude that gamma waves correlate to transcendental meditative states. Also occurs during synesthesia (feeling a color, seeing a sound, etc.). Gamma may signify “binding” of neurons into a network. (Hmm, I’ve heard  that neurons that fire together, wire together. Could gamma be where they wire together? If so, it’s prime territory for learning.)

I would love to have a portable EEG machine and electrodes like Ken Wilber uses in the YouTube video where he shuts down his brain waves. It would be fun to play with and learn from. One researcher claims that each hertz is associated with specific mental activity. That would be fun to experiment with!

I wonder what we would see if both Nina and I were hooked up to EEG machines when we were doing craniosacral therapy. What happens when I’m doing yoga, meditating, drawing, petting my cat — what states occur?

I’ve also learned that you can get a “brain tune-up”. A company called Brain States Technology (with three affiliates in Austin at present) uses a new strategy for working with EEG readouts and improving brain functioning. Rather than using a medical model (specifically retraining the brain not to have epileptic seizures or ADHD), they simply show you how to optimize your brain waves, right to left and front to back. So, for instance, you might have less delta and theta when awake, and more beta in the left hemisphere and more alpha in the right.

I’m gathering information and considering doing it.

I’m interested in increasing my gamma waves, which may signify a mental state called “unity of consciousness.” The jury is still out on this (and scientific juries take a notoriously long time to agree on things).

In the meantime, the man who brought us the Delta Sleep System CD has now created one to optimize gamma waves, Gamma Meditation System. I’m ordering it.