Mittwoch, 31. Oktober 2012

Free Binaural Stuff

1. The MetaMind Mindmachine
The MetaMindMachine is an open source brainwave entrainment software and runs on Java. There are some preset settings as well as the possibility to generate tracks on your own.
For visual brainwave entrainment you may either use the screen or use an USB goggle.

2. Healingbeats.com
You can find the possibility to stream 9 different binaural tracks on this page. The Tracks are named like Euphoria, Through the mind, out of body, and so on.

3. Thenaural Binaural Beat Generator
Gnaural, like the MetaMind Mindmachine, creates the beats at the moment you are listening to them. There also are presets and the possibility to create your own binaural tracks.

4. Boxed Nirvana
This Mp3-file sounds somehow esoteric: It is said to stimulate your energy body to make an out of body experience possible. Anyway: it's up to you if you believe in astral journeys or out of body experiences but in the lucid dreamers community there is a something like the minimum consensus: If you have something that facilitates astral journeys it will facilitate a WILD as well.
So you can skip fruitless arguments and just discuss your experiences. 
In the Astralpulse forum the Mp3 got good feedback. 
5. Lucidquest
Lucidquest offers brainwave entrainment tracks witch cost but there are two free samples: The 8-Minute-Brain-Stretch and the Mind-Meditation-Balance-Exercise.
 
I didn't find any study about isochronic tones. Supposedly isochronic tones work even better than binaural beats. 
The principle of Isochronic Tones is similar to a shamanic drum: frequent stimulation of certain frequencies.

Breaking down the wall

Chapter 23 in Thomas Yuschak's book 'Advanced Lucid Dreaming' tells about a variation of the WILD technique which he calls 'Breaking Down the Wall'. 
What impresses me is the fact that it is not only a method of entering a dream conciously but this method improves dream recall as well. He claims that practicing this technique is about ten times more useful for building a good dream recall than writing a dream journal. But he recommends writing a dream journal as well. 

The Wall

Between dream and waking reality there is, according to Yuschak, a wall. If you pass the barrier or wall you forget much details and information which are natural for you in waking reality. And vice-versa if you go back from the dream to waking reality you forget much of the information which is natural to you when you were still dreaming.

In a much smaller scale you may compare it to the fact that when you enter another room you forget why you came here. You just can't remember. But if you go back to the other room you will remember again.

There is the unsolved question if you are conscious the whole night long, even in the deepest moments of sleep and you just can't remember the next day or if your consciousness is just switched off when you are in deep sleep.
Yuschak presumes that consciousness remains the whole night long but you can't remember the following day.

But how can we increase the flow of memories between the different states?
And how how much easier will be recognizing the dream if you remember ten times more from waking life?

Breaking it down

But how to break down the wall between the different states of consciousness?

According to Yuschak there are two ways to remember things: Remembering facts and remembering events.
While passing into the dream it's quite easy to remember facts like your name, address and so on. But remembering events is quite more difficult.
And that's the key to this method.

Visualisation

One basic principle of 'breaking down the wall' is visualization.
Yuschak distinguishes between two ways of visualization:
Active visualization and passive visualization.
If you close your eyes and create internal images, that's active visualization. This way is quite familiar. But there is another kind of visualization when you just close your eyes and let the internal pictures stream, the passive one. 

Both ways have certain advantages and disadvantages when starting a lucid dream. He created a synthesis of this methods: the Seeded Visualization which combines the advantages of both methods:

If you are very relaxed and tired and you start seeing internal pictures (passive visualization). You seed this pictures from time to time leading them into a desired direction (active).
If the pictures develop a momentum of their own you will seed them again. 

The Transition 

To increase your event-based memory you choose an event from waking life you want to experience again.
You start your WILD attempt as usual: Go to bed and wait for hypnagogic imagery. When the first image appears you start with the seeded visualization:

The appearing pictures will be seeded with details and impressions of the specific event and then you let go again and let the pictures develop a momentum of their own again.
You go on like that for a short time. The hypnagogigc imagery becomes more and more vivid.

Now you are almost in a lucid dream. After the transition you direct your dream towards the event and you will experience it again instead of just remembering.

If you practice that regularly you will increase your dream recall as well the memory of you waking life when you are in a dream.

And this increased memory of your waking life increases your awareness in the dream which enables you to recognize that you are dreaming.

Samstag, 27. Oktober 2012

Dream Incubation

Dream Incubation means in the broadest sense influencing your dream content with actions done in waking life. 
Nowadays dream incubation resembles the 'enkoimesis', the sacred temple sleep which was practiced in ancient Greece. A person who was searching for advice or healing spent a night in a god's temple to get a piece of advice for his life or a certain remedy for his disease from his dreams. 
But one doesn't have to travel to Greece and sleep in temples. Incubating certain dreams works well in your home too.

Topics:

The topics of dream incubation are more wide-ranging nowadays. Some dreamers choose to incubate a hedonistic dream whereas other dreamers prefer dreams which lead to spiritual or psychological insights.
Whatever you want: you may ask your dream for advice about everything you want: Love and relationships, personal growth, career, even where to spend your next vacation... anything.
Or just entertaining purposes or to induce lucid dreams. 

Methods

1. The easiest way to induce a dream about a certain topic is auto suggestion. When going to bed you set your intention to dream about the topic you have chosen. This method can be combined with visualization and the WBTB technique.

2. The dream incubation routine by Michael Patrick Kepe:

2.1: Understanding how your dreams work

The first step is to understand how your dreams work, the mechanisms when you incorporate events of your daily life into your dreams. You may check your dream diary to find some rules or relationships with your daily life.

2.2 Your current topic

Choose the topic you want to dream about. If you have little experience choose the topic as specific as possible and choose a topic which has a certain importance to you.

2.3. Keep your waking mind busy with the topic

Think about your topic in waking life. Think about it, collect some ideas, daydream, try brainstorming or even a complete different method. Your decision to keep your mind busy with the topic is important.

2.4. Specification and verbalization while falling asleep

Specify your topic. When you are falling asleep you keep your specified topic in mind. Stephen LaBerge recommends to visualize the desired situation. Paul Tholey suggests to fall asleep with the intention to have a lucid dream tonight.

2.5. Patience and persistence for the next days and weeks

Kepe recommends to stay with one topic for at least one week. After that you may switch to an net topic. Psychologist Christoph Gassmann even recommends to dwell on a topic for several weeks.

2.6. Post-processing and execution (if possible)

Now it's about evaluating the dreams. If you asked for advice in dreams you may check if you can apply it.

See also:

Chapter about Dream Incubation in the Wikibook Lucid Dreaming

Dream incubation Tutorial by Michael Patrick Kepe (german)

'The Three "Only" Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence, and Imagination' by Robert Moss at amazon.com

'Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming' by Stephen LaBerge at Amazon.com

Samstag, 20. Oktober 2012

DIY-Binaural Beats

Binaural Beats are the most familiar way of acoustic brainwave entrainment. Two slighty different tones are played via headphones into each ear which results in an interference beat. The human brain tries to adapt this frequency which may result in interesting states of mind like better sleep and concentration, relaxation and so on. 

If you want to do some personal research with Binaural and Isochronic Beats, it's easy to create your own via the freeware program Audacity.

Isochronic Beats:
You change your mental state with a monotonous beat. This idea is very old. Shamans used a drum for entering a numinous state which enables them to enter the spirit world even 9000 years ago. They mostly use a beat of 210 bpm which equals 3.5 Hz and entrains a low theta state in the human brain.

Monaural and binaural Beats
If two tones of similar frequency interfere there will be an effect in which the both tones extinguish or amplify their intensity which results in the sound of a beat of the difference of the tones. 
If you use stereo headphones the beat will originate in your head. That makes the binaural beats more effective than the monaural ones.

Strategy
My aim is to create a sound file which entrains the frequencies of 3,8 Hz, 9Hz and 16Hz in my brain. 
But why these frequencies?

Low theta waves are linked with journeys into inner worlds. 3.8 Hz results from my personal preferences. The usual 3.5 Hz which are used in shamanic techniques I considered a little too slow, 4 Hz too fast.

9 Hz, says Thomas Yuschak, are linked with lucidity in dreams. Further research supports this thesis.
The 16 Hz I just guessed to be linked with concentration.
In some lucid dreams beta and gamma waves are increased in the brain.

Isochronic sound:
I chose the isocronic track to have a frequency of 9 Hz. In Audacity I use the option of 'create' - 'click-track' with parameters of individual click duration = 80 msec, click sound: noise, and midi pitch strong/weak pitch of 100 or 99. Maximum frequency is 270 bpm as there is a limit for the maximum frequency. After creating I double the speed. You may play around with all those parameters just as it sounds good to you. Finally I use the equalizer to make the sound less monotonous. 

Binaural Portion:
You create a new soundtrack and create a single sine tone of a pleasant frequency. Most people like frequencies in the range of 100 to 400 Hz best.
Then you create another soundtrack and create a new Sine tone of the just created frequency plus the frequency you want to entrain.
You may start e.g. at one soundtrack with 150 Hz and on the next soundtrack you use 166 Hz which entrains a medium beta state.
You even have the possibility to create a dynamic tone which alters the frequency with time.
That is good if you want to start with the entrainment at a certain frequency and slightly change it to another. 

It is important to make sure that one of the track is completely on the left channel and the other one on the right to create the binaural effect.

Monaural Portion:
The monaural effect is a mix of isochronic and binaural beats: It is based on the effect of interference but not in stereo so the beat is not generated within one's head.  That makes this effect the weakest.

So I use the phaser or tremolo effect of 3.8 Hz on the sine waves of the binaural portion.

So we're done.

You may export this track as an MP3-file you should make sure that the conversion rate is bigger than 196 kbs.

Of course this article is purely for informational purposes and you experiment at your own risk.

Samstag, 13. Oktober 2012

The Ganzfeld Effect

[1]



Using the Ganzfeld effect is a quite cheap way to enter inner realms. 
You cover your eyes with bisected ping pong balls which are illuminated with a red light. If you open your eyes you will see a plain white or red area with no contrasts or patterns (Ganzfeld means whole field in German). You use headphones and listen to a continuous sound like white, pink or brown noise, which drowns out every external sound. After a certain period of time you will get used to this sound. 

This leads to a state of sensory deprivation. If you are deprived from external stimuli your brain enters unusual states. 
Brain levels of Noradrenaline, Endorphines and Dopamine in your brain are increased. 

Due to the lack of external stimuli your brain will start to focus on your inner world and internal pictures will start. Open eye visuals will rise from your unconscious mind within five and thirty minutes.

You may buy ping pong balls in every big supermarket for about $1. Use a sharp knife to halve one and a pair of scissors to optimize the form as you may see
here.
The white noise you may download at www.iso-tones.com or if you prefer other sounds you may create them via Audacity. Or maybe the easiest way: just turn a radio out of tune.
To get a red light shining on the ganzfeld glasses I use a color changing lamp from Ikea. I can switch to different colors in the whole spectrum.

Parapsycholgists use this kind of effect to do research about telepathy. [2],[3].
But I am more interested in the psychonautic effects of this method.

Personal experience:
Open eye visuals differ if you are tired or rested. If I start a ganzfeld experiment tired, I see geometric patterns very quickly which morph into pictures and scenes. If I start rested, this will be delayed but more intense. 

The body sensations impress me as well. Internal feelings of flowing, feeling that head and body are one, feeling one with the ganzfeld. 

I was able to hear music in the white noise. I really liked it.

See also:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ganzfeld_effect 
http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/graphics/011109_hacking_your_brain/

Montag, 8. Oktober 2012

Binaural Beats

Binaural Beats are a possibility to influence the state of your brain via sounds. 
They consist of two tones of a slightly different frequency which are played via stereo headphones in each ear. Due to interference effects in your brain you can hear a beat of the difference of the two frequencies if the tones do not differ more than 30Hz.
If you hear a tone with a frequency of 220 Hz in your right ear and one with a frequency of 232 Hz in your left ear you will hear a beat of 12 Hz in your head.

Your brain tries to adapt this frequency and produces more brainwaves of this frequency difference.

That's the theory.
Practice unfortunately is a little more difficult.
Robert Monroe and Kelley Howell who provide a wide range of binaural beat brainwave entrainment spent much time and money for the development of their tracks.
In his book 'Far Journeys' Monroe writes that he did more than 60 000 sessions of research with his volunteers to find the optimal sounds to entrain the brains of his clients to get the wanted effects.
Kelley Howell even managed to weave the binaural sounds into music which makes it much more pleasant to listen.

Requirements

The effectiveness of binaural beats depends on further parameters:
The ability to let go, the feeling and the faith one has towards this method and the current mood. [1], [7]
You may support the process of entraining certain frequencies in your brain with relaxation techniques, visualization and affirmations. If you darken the room and deprive your senses you may amplify the effect even more.

Research

Listening to binaural beats in a high beta range improves concentration and awareness as well as mood [3] and memory performance [6], [7].
Binaural Beats in low frequency ranges improve anesthesia: The state of people under anesthesia is permanently controlled. If the anesthesy becomes unstable they get a dose of Fentanyl. With the aid of binaural beats the dosage of Fentanyl can be significantly reduced. [4] What impresses me is the fact that it is not necessary that the patients do not have to be awake to make the binaural beats work. 

One study about panic disorders had positive yet not significant results [5].

My personal experience

Does this work for me?
Good question. I have spent a lot of money on binaural stuff so far. Something around $400.
And yes, I can feel an effect, for example hypnagogic states, falling asleep faster, getting more and more relaxed, whole body vibrations, sexual arousal. (Kinda weird what stuff I spent money for)

One problem I had was a lack of sleep due to my work and family situation. Most time I apply somehow relaxing binaural beats I immediately fall asleep. That gave me some problems testing my CDs.
Except the times I drank to much caffeine but wanted to fall asleep with sleeping aids. That worked wonderful.

But in times I had enough of sleep and listening to the tones and sounds I could let go and ride the wave of relaxation and good feelings. It took me somewhat of 20 sessions to learn to just let go and feel the effect.

But up to now I didnot have a lucid dream or an OOBE which was definitely caused by one of my CDs.

Literature:

[1]  Inducing Altered States of Consciousness with Binaural Beat Technology
[2] Binaural-Beat Induced Theta EEG Activity and Hypnotic Susceptibility

[3] Binaural Auditory Beats Affect Vigilance Performance and Mood
[4] Hemispheric-synchronisation during anaesthesia: a double-blind randomised trial using audiotapes for intra-operative nociception control
[5] Use of binaural beat tapes for treatment of anxiety: a pilot study of tape preference and outcomes.
[6] An Empirical Investigation Into the Effect of Beta Frequency Binaural-beat Audio Signals on Four Measures of Human Memory
[7] Accessing Anomalous States of Consciousness with a Binaural Beat Technology


Books:

Nur in deinem Kopf - Das Update für Geist und Gehirn von Arvid Leyh - German Edition

Far Journeys by Robert Monroe

Dienstag, 2. Oktober 2012

Mirror Neurons and Vera Birkenbihl

A short time ago I started researching about the topic of mirror neurons. Mirror Neurons are neurons that fire when you perform a certain action as well as when you see someone performing this action.
The function of these neurons is not exactly clear. One theory is that they are important for learning new skills by imitation.

The mirror neurons were discovered in 1995 by an Italian research team working with macaque monkeys.

Vera Birkenbihl, a German coach and inventor of brain-friendly learning, writes how to consciously apply the mirror neurons for learning a new skill.
Mirror neurons, she claims, are active when: 
  • you watch someone performing a certain task
  • you perform this task by your own
  • you think about performing a the certain task
  • someone reminds you of this certain task
If you want to learn any skill, e.g. dancing, martial arts or meditation, you can improve just by watching experts performing the skill and keep thinking about that skill.
Maybe this theory can explain the success of the Satsang movement. Satsang means just sitting in a room together with a guru or enlightened person. Some people feel very meditative after that. Maybe seeing the skilled meditator activates similar brain regions in people who look at them.

But advertisement uses the mirror neurons for manipulating us. Every time I watch TV and see someone having a pizza in this stupid pizza ad, I become hungry. I even feel my saliva flow.
Maybe food ads make us fat? Anyway I skipped watching TV for reasons other that this.

But what about lucid dreaming?
In the German lucid dreamers community, there was a discussion about learning how to lucid dream. A very skilled lucid dreamer told about a friend of him who never practices reality checks or any LD technique but he has a lucid dream every night after they met.
Strange effect. I think about mirror neurons.
Maybe you can use this effect if you attend a lucid dreaming gatherings or watch lucid dreamers tell about their experiences on video or youtube.

But now for something completely different:
Vera Birkenbihl reports in her book  'Das neue Stroh im Kopf', unfortunately not published in english language, about a study of mental training and muscle development:
She quotes a study on leg fracture patients. They were separated into two groups. Group 1 just had their leg in plaster, group 2 had their legs in plaster as well, but they had the task to do a mental walkaway for ten minutes a day.

The results:
  1. group 2 had significantly less muscle atrophy
  2. group 2 needed 2 weeks less to recover
  3. group 2 had less impairments in their ability to move the legs after the plaster was removed.
Wow.

Again something completely different:

What I really consider a strange capability of our mind is this and this.