HAVE SPENT more than 20 years studying various
forms of meditation. Sometimes I studied from
books, but mostly I studied directly with reputable
teachers. I recited mantras, I practiced breathing
techniques, I paid attention to my breathing,
and I observed the thoughts in my mind. I practiced
yoga asanas. I stood on my head! I practiced meditating
once a day, twice a day, and three times a day.
I repeated the gyatri mantra 125,000 times in
30 days (at least I think so, I lost count so
many times, Im not sure!). I meditated early,
I meditated late, and I meditated in the middle
of the day. I went to intensive retreats. I stayed
up with the sacred fire all night (I fell asleep!
Luckily, I was sitting with a more devoted student
who kept watch while I was snoring). I gazed at
candles, I listened to tones, and I practiced
bhakti yoga, karma yoga, jnana yoga (not too much
of this, my left brain was not working well in
those days!), and hatha yoga.
even lived in a yoga ashram for more than a year.
Up at five in the morning every day for an hour
of hatha yoga and an hour of meditation and breathing
techniques. We also did breathing exercises and
meditation before lunch, and then another hour
or more of meditation and breathing before bed.
I did jala neti, sutra neti, dhoti, and lots of
other cleansing and purifying exercises. All this
was combined with a large dose of selfless service
(or at least as selfless is I was able to manage
at the time), as in the proverbial carrying of
water and cutting of wood (although we had running
water and gas heat, so we did dishes and cleaned
this was valuable experience, I learned a lot
and the practices probably set the stage for later
developments. However, as far as meditating was
concerned, I don't think I got very far. Oh, I
could sit for an hour without moving too much.
However, my mind was wandering all over the place,
my legs hurt, and I would often fall asleep. I
had no clue about whether I was close to meditation
or in meditation or on the other side of the planet
from meditation. There were no guideposts! My
teachers would tell me "keep practicing --
youll get it sooner or later" or "the
harder you try to get it, the less likely you
will be to find it." Of course "it"
wasn't "something to be found" anyway
according to all the philosophy I was learning
at the time (probably true information, but frustrating
gave up all that meditating for a while. I was
discouraged. I had worked hard. I had believed
that meditation was good for what ailed me, that
it was good for the soul and would help me find
true happiness, contentment, and enlightenment.
However, I didnt know if I was close or
a million miles away. My teachers were not forthcoming
with an analysis of my meditation practice. What
I usually heard was "keep practicing, when
you are ready you will be initiated into a higher
practice. You must prepare yourself first."
After 20 plus years, I was ready to move on.
Discovering Brainwave Biofeedback
years later I discovered brainwave biofeedback.
I had been doing biofeedback as my profession
since 1974 but had not done much with brainwave
biofeedback (neurofeedback). Neurofeedback was
unique in its ability to identify states of consciousness
and then give that information back to me in a
form I could use. What I used it for was to refine
my ability to reach specific, identifiable, desirable
states of awareness. I could sit and close my
eyes and listen to a variety of tones that told
me where I was along the spectrum of consciousness.
Was I moving closer to a meditative state? If
I was, I heard a lower tone. If I moved farther
away from a meditative state, then I heard a higher
tone. If I was falling asleep, the tones stopped
altogether, creating just enough of a change to
help me move back up out of sleep, but not so
much that it took me out of meditation.
I have been practicing meditation using neurofeedback
equipment, I have a much better sense of how to
let myself reach deeply meditative states of consciousness.
I have found these states to be intrinsically
healing. I can also bring healing imagery with
me into these states, where I am more receptive.
These healing states also facilitate access to
my own spontaneous inner healing imagery. I sometimes
experience intuitive leaps and I often have a
better perspective on my life, my relationships,
and my work when I have regular access to these
exciting it has been for me to finally experience
some of the wonderful things that were promised
when I began to practice meditation! Of course,
when I meditated in the past, I did have some
sessions where I felt I was in a peaceful state.
I was relaxed, my mind was calm, but it only lasted
for a few moments. With neurofeedback technology,
I can remain in this meditative state for a much
longer period. Neurofeedback doesnt "put
me there;" it just lets me know when Im
closer or farther away. Certainly, I move in and
out of that state, but I am more aware of where
I am in the process.
teachers of meditation would like us to believe
that this is a complex process and in some ways,
it is. The Yoga
Sutras of Patanjali talk about "stilling
the modifications of the mind" and that certainly
takes time and practice. The difference is that
this technology makes the practice significantly
more effective. Studies done by several researchers
have shown that six months to a year of practice
with neurofeedback technology results in the same
control of brainwave states that 20-year meditators
exhibit (see The
High Performance Mind: Mastering Brainwaves for
Insight, Healing, and Creativity by Anna
it is highly probable that my early practice with
meditation was a good foundation for my later
refinement of that practice with neurofeedback
technology. However, why not start right away
with neurofeedback technology, to make the time
spent much more productive?
might say that long years of practice builds character
and prepares the student for the changes that
will take place in the mind, body, and personality.
Maybe that is true. However, this is the dawning
of a new millennium and maybe we are at a point
where we are ready for a faster and more effective
way to access these meditative, healing states
of consciousness. Things happen for a reason.
are given gifts to use if we are able to accept
them. In the past, the luxury of pursuing the
spiritual path was the privilege of a selected
few. This was mostly because few could or would
persist with the training. Wouldn't it be nice
if everyone had access to these healing states
without having to spend a lifetime of intensive
practice to learn them?
are other neurotechnologies that complement neurofeedback.
Audiovisual entrainment is one. Various audio
tapes that use a variety of techniques to induce
an altered state of consciousness and certain
types of auditory and visual training can also
have beneficial effects. This is not to say that
all of this comes easily. Much of what we have
to struggle with in any spiritual pursuit is our
own fear of letting go. This fear also gets in
the way when using neurotechnology. With neurotechnology,
however, we can more easily identify the blocks
and learn to move beyond them.
1999 John S. Anderson. This article appeared earlier
in Twin Cities Wellness (April 1999). Reprinted
S. Anderson, M.A., L.A.D.C., B.C.I.A., is the director
of the Minnesota Neurotherapy Institute (MNI) in
St. Louis Park. He works with people confronting
a wide variety of personal and professional issues
including depression, anxiety, sleep and learning
disorders, heart and blood pressure problems, attention
problems, and more.
email address is email@example.com.