Alpha Waves and Your Spirit Part 1


As a word smith, I very much enjoyed the book “Blink.”  It is written by a man who does not believe in the human spirit, but who wrote an entire book about it.  Wild, huh?!

He brings together a remarkable number of other people’s research projects, showing beyond a question of a shadow of a doubt, that there is a whole lot of stuff going on in your brain that is not going on in the brain itself.  This, of course, is the human spirit that he does not believe in!

It amuses me to watch the effort he went to in describing the reality of the spirit, while dodging any mention of the word at all.

I am finding the same confabulation in the scientific discussions of alpha waves in the brain.  The authors report the reality of what actually goes on, while gently avoiding the fact that there are internal contradictions to what they say.

However, when you take the contradictory dynamics of the alpha waves, and plug in the existence of the human spirit, a lot of things suddenly make sense and are not contradictions at all.

Let’s build out the basic concept as presented in the standard science papers on the subject.  Our brain waves vary in speed.  They are arbitrarily categorized by different Greek letters based on how many waves occur in a second.

For starters, we have Beta and Alpha waves.  The divisions are a bit arbitrary so will vary from writer to writer, but Alpha waves are generally in the range of 8 to 12 waves (or cycles) per second.  Beta waves are faster at 13 waves per second and up.  The precise high end varies a lot depending on the writer’s opinion.

With that framework, let’s switch now to a basic EEG using the International 10-20 protocol.  After we wire someone up, we do two standard exercises designed to test for basic brain function.  As I facetious tell our clients, these are designed to see if you have a brain and brought it with you today.

During the first four minute test, I have them think gentle, pleasant thoughts with their eyes closed.  The objective is for them to relax from the hustle and bustle of getting wired up with all the attendant physical and emotional stimulation.  We want them awake, but calm.  Thinking, but not problem solving.  In a good mood, but not excited about wonderful stuff.

In this framework of peace and pleasure, the normal brain will default to generating Alpha waves in the occipital region (roughly at the base of the skull).  Alpha waves are categorized as brain activity when you are awake (different waves when you are asleep) but not so awake you are working at any level.

Then we make one minor change in the exercise and ask the volunteer to do another four minutes of approximately the same thoughts, but with their eyes open this time.  And the predicted result of that small change is that they will shift from Alpha waves to having a high percentage of the faster Beta waves generated by your brain.

It makes sense.  Even if you are not TRYING to problem solve, just having a visual field, even something as boring as looking at an office wall, causes your brain to ramp up, run a little faster, in preparation for interpreting and acting on any salient data that happens to float by, even though you were told NOT to problem solve.

Think of the parallel to your computer.  The hard drive is drifting along at a mellow speed while you write an e-mail, but as soon as you open a video clip you hear the hard drive rev up as it is having to work harder to process a much more intense batch of data than the simple e-mail you were working on.

Same thing with the brain.  Simple thoughts, no problem solving, no big emotion — Alpha waves.  When you add the visual field or start thinking purposefully in a specific direction, the center of activity moves from the base of the skull to higher up in the brain, and you switch to Beta waves that are faster, as you prepare to crunch the data.

No problem, right?  Clean, simple, logical.  Two gears in your transmission (I know, we will add more later, but let’s keep it simple for now).  Your engine can idle in Alpha or move down the road in Beta.

Now that it is nice, neat and simple, let’s throw in a joker and mess things up.

Around the world, and across the centuries, people have instinctively closed their eyes when praying.  This is not unique to a particular church or secular culture.

But wait.  Prayer is a pretty intentional process.  We are thinking.  Solving a problem.  We are deliberately crafting thoughts toward an objective, whether the objective is worship or intercession, most of our thoughts in prayer are not an engine idling.

So . . . why do we instinctively shift away from the standard higher energy Beta waves when we pray, by closing our eyes?  Is it possible that it has something to do with the spirit?  I don’t know, but I find it an interesting anomaly.

Here is another problem.  Various research associates extreme accuracy in controlled sports with the athlete’s brain getting to Alpha wave state.  So if you are competing in marksmanship, for example, the best shooters are those who can dial back from the Beta waves (problem solving speed) and get to the Alpha wave state.  In this non-problem solving mode, they solve the problem of accurate shooting.

Huh?

Is there any chance that this has something to do with the human spirit?  Is it possible that the soul/brain/Beta wave combination is not as sophisticated as the human spirit, so it has to be gotten out of the way?  Can it be that this athlete is actually hitting the bulls eye, because his spirit made the final calculations not his soul?

Here is another.  This researcher obviously failed charm school, but if you can get past his three categories of people, he makes an interesting assertion.

“Creativity is another activity for which Alpha brain waves are helpful. Scientists have shown that highly creative people have different brain waves from normal and non-creative people. In order to have a creative inspiration, your brain needs to be able to generate a big burst of Alpha brain waves, mostly on the left side of the brain. The brains of creative people can generate these big Alpha brain wave bursts, and do so when they are faced with problems to solve.

“Normal and non-creative people do not produce Alpha brainwave increases when they are faced with problems, and so they can not come up with creative ideas and solutions. Any time you have an insight or an inspiration, you know your brain just produced more Alpha waves than usual. Increased creativity is helpful for everyone. One way to increase creativity is to increase Alpha brain waves.”

This excerpt is from http://www.biocybernaut.com/about/brainwaves/alpha.htm.  His credibility is dimmed by the lack of evidence for his assertions, and by the fact that he is selling a doodad that will help you improve your life by being able to generate Alpha waves on demand, but suppose there is something to what he says.

Suppose creativity is linked to Alpha waves?  Isn’t that paradoxical?  Alpha waves are our default when we are mellow, not thinking about problems.  They are reduced or diminished in volume as soon as the eyes open and we shift to Beta waves to solve life’s problems.

But to solve the really big problems that require highly creative thinking we slow down instead of speeding up?  Really?  Isn’t that counter-intuitive?

Yes, it is, unless perhaps the objective of the Alpha waves is to reduce the chatter coming from the soul/brain partnership, so that the spirit can step to the front and do the heavy lifting instead.

I clearly don’t know that for sure.  My questions stem from my interpretation of other people’s interpretation of yet another person’s granular research.

All I am saying is that a paradigm without the human spirit creates some problematic interpretation.  When you redesign the boundaries of your paradigm to include the human spirit, some of the data fits much better.

And, as I work through the EEGs we have, I will be following the trail of Alpha wave/spirit activity closely.  We just might possibly end up with some hard data to support this half baked potato!

Check back in a few days for a couple follow up articles on the messy mysteries of those not-so-boring Alpha waves.

Copyright January 2013 by Arthur Burk

From home

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23 Responses to Alpha Waves and Your Spirit Part 1

  1. Hi Arthur, all,

    I’m new to your teachings and have been listening and reading to hours of content over the past few days. I am seeking wholeness, and someone lead me to your material, although my wife already knew of you and has your book “Blessings Your Spirit.”

    I’m pondering on the application of your teachings, Arthur, specifically in the field of mental health (in its simpler form – depression, and more complex – personality disorders).

    I’m very intrigued by the relationship between sound and healing. Seeing that this is a place of exchange for such ideas, I’m wondering if I may share this instrumental song and hear your comments on how you perceived it affects you. I titled it “Soul Whisperer”, it is a spontaneous improvisation which I then colored with added sounds.

    In my own journey, God has given me music as a language. At age 12 I was stuttering, living in terror of abuse (of all sorts) at home, on the street and at school every day. And it came every day. Discovering the world of sound through an acoustic piano at home, a strange phenomenon would occurred which I later in life described as “tuning the soul.” I’ve had a long life since, and many more shattering experiences.

    So I’m wondering, if my spirit, soul and body are all involved in the creation of the music, if there can be clues in my music which are specifically designed to bring healing, repair or wholeness to me as well.

    If sharing these links is inappropriate, I apologize in advance and please let me know so I won’t repeat the mistake. I’m hungry for conversation on this topic, as it concerns my own health. I wonder how I can learn to unpack the gift God has for me in the music and creativity He has given me – and then go and apply what I gain to bring healing to other shattered souls as well.

    So much to learn, so little time…

    Blessings,

    André

    • SLG says:

      Andre, thanks for your sensitivity to our policy, but there was no offense in asking the question and posting the link.

      I listened to some of it and found it beneficial. On the one hand, I don’t care for digital music. The acoustical construct of digital music is quite contrary to original design. Music made by constant vibration — any natural instrument — is far more user friendly for the brain and hence the rest of our nature. That said, there are few options for that outside of live music, since the day of cathode tubes and vinyl records is long gone. We deal with the realities that digital music transmits quickly across the world.

      You are part of an emerging niche that I feel will eventually be very potent in the alternative healing panorama. The only soft spot is that right now the range of available music is narrow and the specificity is limited. So for example, if I wanted healing music, there are probably 50 sources out there. A small range.

      But if I narrowed that to music to recover from the trauma of an automobile accident yesterday, or music to recover from the trauma of an automobile accident 27 years ago, there is little that is that specific to those areas of the brain.

      So I applaud you for your pioneering and hope you have extraordinary insight and creativity. The world needs you because of all the people like me who are not musicians. We can admire your tool from the outside, but it is not within our range of skill sets to produce what you are doing.

      • Andre Lefebvre says:

        (Sorry if this appears twice, it didn’t show up at first).

        Thank you Arthur, for the gracious response. I do share your insight on acoustic vs digital, there is nothing that draws music from me like a good simple acoustic piano (in tune of course, as out of tune is like a broken mirror). Acoustic instruments have this more organic “breathing rhythm” over attack, decay, sustain and release. And the textures are felt more deeply, I agree.

        Albeit with digital sounds, we find today many instruments have been sampled from acoustic sources and so simply explode the palette of sound textures we can reach.
        As for this song, it is a journey in itself, so there is a resolve coming during the second part of the piece. I could say it was an improvisation for self-medication… 🙂

        I’ve been finding my niche in church by playing during the “ministry times” at the end of services, where it was all about creating a sonic backdrop for prayer, or facilitating prayer and intercession all-nighters (those were the days). Being on a healing journey to live free from medication and walk in wholeness, I do hope to create more music in the near future, and for the purpose of bringing healing to many as they seek God’s presence and embrace, or just plain throw themselves at His mercy.

        If you would be interested, I would be curious to send you full albums I’ve created (all instrumental). You could email me at soulcanvas@gmail.com whenever you like.

        Blessings and thanks for the encouraging words! We’re all here for a reason and a season… 🙂

        André

        • Here is a song which central theme was born spontaneously during intercession for a friend’s father afflicted of cancer. This is a more melodic song with further arrangements. It’s titled The Healing Song. It has seemed very relevant to many people over the years. I’m just starting to grasp that I don’t really know what I’m doing… 🙂

          Again, reaching for understanding and grasping for connections between music and the human body, soul and spirit. I’m being introduced to modeled prayer and understanding of revelations you shared with a mutual acquaintance. Feeling quite vulnerable doing this here, but hope it will be a blessing to someone and inspire some insights.

          Blessings,

          Andre

          • Melissa says:

            Andre,

            I think you bring up some very interesting ideas. I am also a musician (violist) and have been very interested in how my music can bring healing or even messages to people when I play. I have a classical music training, but began to branch out when playing on worship teams, asking Father to hear the music of heaven and be able to play it. In some ways, that was only the beginning of my musical journey. Later, when playing instrumental music at an open house for a bed and breakfast, I became bored enough with Christmas carols to ask Father for a specific song for each person who entered the room. There was something that leapt in my spirit in response and I noticed changes in people from when they entered the room until they left, whether they stopped to listen or not. I’m not sure that I have tried to characterize the music that I play by any particular flavor, but more, am trying to hear and play songs that Father directs me to play for particular people in particular places. I guess I see it as not only for healing, but something that can bring encouragement, hope, God’s word etc. What I find interesting is that when I go to that level of improvisation, it takes a lot of letting go and closing my eyes and closing everything else out. In addition, at a certain point, I feel that I am playing words or prayers over people and I am not really thinking about the music per se, instead, I am thinking of the messages/scriptures that I feel that I am playing over that person. It would certainly be interesting to have a conversation about this in further depth!

            • SLG says:

              Melissa, that is way cool.

            • Andre Lefebvre says:

              I am tracking, Melissa… 🙂 I believe in the prophetic nature of artistic expression. It is a language in itself. As a classically trained person, you have repeated other people’s “art words” for in order to learn your craft, and it is so amazing that you have been able to let go of the training wheels, under inspiration, and through intercession. Music is certainly powerful in that it will reach people while they are not even “paying attention”, bypass the mind (and maybe the soul) to connect with their spirit. Instrumental music is fascinating. Like water, it finds the path of least resistance…

              I always improvise, because I don’t know anything else, I don’t have any formal training but developed my own musical “grammar”. The way I see it, is that we play the notes “intentionally”, and they are received as such. I’ve played in so many various settings, public and private, streets, subways, churches, weddings, malls, homes, one airport, bars, formal and informal… and the greatest joy has always come from connecting with that trigger moment where I would be intentionally “having a conversation” with people through music. People don’t know why they feel much better, but they often take the time to come and thank you for it.

              People come to these spaces with their own stories, their day is still being sorted emotionally and mentally, and many will go out in the hope to find some distraction, relief, peace, change. For you to be there as an prophetic minstrel, playing hope and love, dignity and value, and have the Father’s invitation to His embrace pouring through your music, is indeed very precious. For some, it’s much more than entertainment, their spirit rises to attention somehow, they feel like they are being “crowned” with life-giving significance. The spirit “knows” what the soul can’t explain because it’s beyond words and logic.

              Pray God leads them as they go back into their lives, to seek for that inimitable “taste” experience again, and see them find it soon.

              I wonder if this is something you also have experienced: at some point as I play, I start feeling heavy, my eyes want to shut, I am a bit out of breath, wanting to just melt into the experience. Coming out of that place isn’t sudden either, I need a buffer time to do so.

              Regards and Blessings, and thanks for sharing your amazing stories!

              Andre
              (P.S. Do you have any of your music online?)

  2. lindaangelcounseling says:

    Going to try to keep up with you! 🙂 Great work, you amaze me!

  3. don hank says:

    Often thought about how much someone’s spirit might make him do certain things on the (pro) sports field and mulling this post over for a week now brings up a possibly unrelated thought. But anyway That thought is (not sure if you can pull this up on youtube) but I remember from 20 yrs back; closeups of Fernando Valenzuela. As he did the last of his pitching motion,
    always had his eyes 100 percent closed! It was maybe even more than just the last half.

  4. jackbaumgartner says:

    My art teacher who instructed me from 4th grade until 12th, continually stressed “slower is faster”, especially to the fourth graders wielding glue and scissors. As far as a contradiction standing for a principle goes, (it seems related to your article though not how my teacher intended it) and has evolved and taken on a part in a deeper meaning with me throughout my life as an artist and maker. It echoes quietly in how and when I make “decisions”, which I identify with my spirit and intuition. I wish I knew how to describe it effectively.

  5. Susan Reeve says:

    May I add just a bit more to my thought? I think that when you doing what God has given you to do – art, writing, praying, etc – in the midst of that moment time and other senses are suspended to focus more deeply with the spirit on that one particular action. Perhaps this is what is being seen in the waves.

  6. Susan Reeve says:

    In the TV series “Craft in America” a part of PBS, the episode called “Crossroads” explored the use of attaching an EKG to the artist and then to a spectator of the art. I found it fascinating. As an artist I have found myself in a “different” place while in the midst of making something. I don’t have my eyes closed but I am deeply focused.

    • Arthur Burk says:

      Susan was it an EEG or an EKG? There is a bit of a difference. I would love to know how they did it.

      • Susan Reeve says:

        If you are interested in viewing the show it is the last segment of the episode called “Crossroads”, focusing on an artist, Lisa Cook. Greg Siegle, a phd from the University of Pittsburgh is doing the study. He works with patients with emotional problems (depression) so once a year works with an artist to look at their brain waves. During the show he points out to the artist the difference in her waves when her eyes are shut and then open. The show does not say what equipment they are using but show the artist wearing a head grear like a helmet of some sort while looking at her waves. A visitor at her show is wearing something with more wires. I may be able to send you an email of pictures.

  7. Janis says:

    Dear Arthur,
    I want to read ‘Blink’. I have observed ‘blinks’ that are game-changers, probably not the same thing. I know eyes talk, and brain research knows a lot about eye position & brain activity (Super Spellers, Inc when my son was 10 – 20 years ago now!). Neurological pathways that have been altered by life’s activities, such as long-term drug use. Not to mention habitual thought/emotion patterns that program the brain’s pathways and must be re-programmed (‘renewing of the mind’ is how the Bible addresses that.

    The contradictions you have brought up make things very interesting. I remember from my science classes that the Principle that operates when God’s physical Laws have been ‘discovered’, such as those regarding gravity or light, each time as Science continues to dig deeper over the years, learn more, measure more completely, the anomalies discovered create increasing difficulties in applying these Laws to the current level of technology, until someone discovers a bigger Law, more encompassing, that explains all we already know, and many (never all) of the inconsistencies left over under the prior ‘Law’. Einstein’s Theories made that leap in physics, but now so much more has been actually observed that his Theory of Relativity can’t explain all, so we have new paradigms of Quantum Physics being shaped, and shaping yet again more technologies, including how our brain / mind works. When the Laws are true Principles, the ultimate end points us to God, so, for example, the Big Bang Theory keep being tweaked & refined because it never can fully explain what the physical evidence shows us because it demands there be no Creator behind creation.

    So it makes complete sense to me when you say that, by incorporating the active human spirit into the whole of the picture, data begins to make sense that seemed nonsense in the previous no-human spirit paradigm.
    Forge on, Arthur, leader of the pack!

  8. I wonder if that same alpha state is what takes over when one is playing an instrument- I found that when I played I ceased thinking about what the actual note was because of its placement on the staff or the key the piece was in. I would simply note the time and key at the beginning and my eyes would follow along and translate it directly to my fingers without my brain being overly involved. I always found it very calming and yet engaging at the same time. I sometimes experience the same thing when typing an extended piece. It would be interesting to hook someone up while they were playing an instrument!

  9. Deborah Rivera says:

    Great post. Just wanted to say that as a painter, I have experienced this process many times.
    Your description is so helpful. I may start out with general idea of what to paint. As I enter into
    the process, I am aware of resting in the spirit for creative guidance. It is a relaxing, unfolding process and I invariably end up with a painting that is far different form anything I set out to do and
    is far more dynamic than my original intention. I know when I am finished because the painting
    becomes something that ” speaks ” to me and others and I feel content. My understanding of this process is that the Holy Spirit is part of the guiding and discovering procees with my spirit. I now understand more about the specific brain waves involved in the creative process.
    Thanks agin Arthur, so helpful and inspiring, Deborah

  10. don hank says:

    Very Interesting. Always wondered about what Balaam was talking about with his eyes.
    Balaam always kept trying to deny God. When God knocked him over with the weight of a prophesy I believe he was maybe trying to deny his own spirit which would have maybe testified of God over and above the prophesy. “Who falls down with eyes wide open”. Numbers 24:4

  11. Tracy says:

    Yes! Dialling back to Alpha has everything to do with creativity. I am essentially a highly creative person…a creative thinker, artistic and musical. However, my “day job”, as it were, is administrative and (for me, anyway) highly stressful. When I am doing admin I am completely out of my comfort zone. If I wish to move from administration to, say, writing a piece of prose or drawing a picture, it is definitely NOT a short and easy hop. It’s safe to say that I need a mini-sabbatical (an few hours or days) to re-energise my creativity (even though it’s always idling away impatiently in the background). Having flicked through Julia Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way” it seems she has worked out a method or a way where you can train yourself to switch on your creativity effortlessly. Not sure if it works, I have never tried it. So, for instance, if I determine on a Saturday morning that I would like to paint for an hour in the afternoon starting at 2pm, I would have to start winding down from about 11am…watering the garden, doing mundane little tasks like sweeping the drive, packing the linen cupboard….meaningless light activity. Maybe put on some music and sit down with a cup of tea inbetween all of the above. By 2pm I am raring to go. I would love to be able to move quickly between the two phases, but then I wonder…would I be acting contrary to the “process” or would I be striving to achieve once again and, in so doing, defeat the object. Just thinking.

    • Katharine says:

      I totally identify with you Tracy but personally I have never gone the step to put it into words, I just thought I was a obsessive compulsive about my atmosphere and environment the way I had to do the mundane tasks first – thinking it was bringing order rather than the transition – (I just had that thought before reading this morning) – before I could be on my game so to speak creatively in my thinking and writing. This is truly a positive light bulb moment.

      • Arthur Burk says:

        I think you two are confusing laterality with brain waves. You may wish to go on our You Tube channel and listen to the clips on how to intentionally move from left brain thinking to right brain and back again.

  12. Pat says:

    Fascinating, as always. I have noticed in recent years, I thought as I’ve gotten older, that in order to speak deeper thoughts and to do ministry, I close my eyes. I know, it violates the “rules” of ministry, but if I’m trying to really hear and speak, my eyes are closed. I’m easily distractable, so it makes sense that my spirit wants to shift to more of the alpha state.

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