Will Brainwave Entrainment Make Me A Zen Master?

I’ve had a friend kicked off a forum for questioning the validity (and measureability) of the claims made by a certain brainwave entrainment (binaural beats) system.

On my previous blog (PeacefulProsperity.com), I had one commenter on a post about brainwave entrainment happily state “Now everyone can be a Zen Master”

So can BWE make you a Zen Master?

The Simple Answer…

No.

Before we go any further, let me say this: I like brainwave entrainment. Assuming you have reasonable expectations… it can be very beneficial.

But the claim that it can make you a Zen Master, make you meditate ‘like a Zen Master’, or ‘meditate deeper than a Zen Monk’ is ridiculous.

It is presumptuous on a variety of levels.

  • First of all... listening to recordings doesn't guarantee entrainment. It may encourage it (and there are some who argue against this as well)... but certainly doesn't guarantee it. Using a device that includes audio and visual entrainment (unlike most audio only entrainment programs) seems to further encourage it... but still doesn't guarantee it.
  • Second, research has shown that peak performers have brainwave activity in several different ranges simultaneously (see the works of the late Anna Wise)... Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta, and Gamma. So attempting to force/encourage the brain into just alpha waves or just theta waves may not be that useful (if it is even possible).
  • Perhaps most important though, to assume the only change that comes about after years of practicing meditation is a shift in brainwaves is just foolish.

But what about the opinion of someone who has taught meditation for decades?

I got to interview Author and Meditation Instructor, Shinzen Young, a few years back.

I asked his thoughts on BWE, and this was part of the response:

This is not to imply that Brainwave Entrainment isn’t useful.

Jose Silva felt it was tremendously beneficial to consciously entrain your brain to Theta and Alpha. He considered these ‘reference points’… important and useful mental/emotional experiences that you can return to again and again. But he also taught people to practice mental exercises while at alpha and theta… to make conscious use of those levels of the mind.

A variety of researchers have found BWE useful for a variety of conditions.

I’ve personally used Binaural Beats to help me go to sleep during the day… I struggled with that frequently while working an overnight job… and Dr Jeffrey Thompson’s Brainwave Suite helped me quite a bit.

Again, I’m very pro Brainwave Entrainment.

I’m just very anti Bullshit claims.

The Zen Master fantasy just happens to be one such Bullshit claim.

keep smiling,

Benjamin