Meditation and brain wave states

What actually happens to your brain when you meditate?   I teach this in my ‘Learn to Meditate’ class.  I’d like to share this with you.

If you have ever meditated, I would bet money that you have fallen asleep, and falling asleep during meditation may even be one of your biggest meditation challenges.  The ideal state for meditation is just before you feel that you’re falling asleep, but are still lucid.

Here are the different major brain wave states:

Meditation brain wave states

BETA – the state when we are fully awake, conscious, interacting with our environment, and going about our normal day to day activities. The outer world is more real than our inner world.  80% of what we process is visual.  When we are in ‘high beta’, we tend to over analyze, and we may have trouble thinking objectively. Good answers are not found in this state of high beta.  The brain & body are out of balance.

ALPHA – the state we are in when we close our eyes, turn inwards and relax.  The inner world is more real than the outer world.  Our brain waves start to slow down.  When we begin a meditation session, we move from Beta to Alpha. We may stay in Alpha for the entire meditation session, which is a good meditative state.

THETA – the state for optimal meditation.  We are in our subconscious mind, a dreamy state. The body is asleep but the mind is lucid and awake.  We get sleepy, and our head may bob up and down.  We lose track of our body and of time (where you may not ‘feel’ parts of your body, and you do not have a sense or care about time). This is when creation can happen. This is when we tap into our subconscious to get clarity of thought, deep relaxation, and change our state of being – whatever our particular goal of meditation is.  This is when the brain is most ‘plastic’ and can be retrained.

We enter the Theta state at least twice per day – when we are waking up in the morning and as we fall asleep at night.  If you pay attention, you will notice what this state feels like.  You can enter the Theta state during a deep meditation.

DELTA – the state of deep restorative sleep. (Meditation cannot happen when you’re sleeping!)

Perhaps the next time you meditate, try to be more self-aware and see if you may be able to recognize when you are in these different states.


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7 thoughts on “Meditation and brain wave states

  1. One way to help train yourself to know when you are entering these states is to use an EEG biofeedback device like this:
    I haven’t tried this myself, but have read a few studies that found that biofeedback helped people identify what these states felt like, which makes it easier to return to these states.

    • that would be really interesting to use when working long hours on a painting… there are times when the painting process is almost magical, as if another presence has taken control and you awaken later to ask, ‘where did THAT come from?’ or “how did i do that?”…..

      • Yes, in Theta state that’s where amazing creation can happen. Even in alpha state creation is good – certainly better than in Beta state. So as an artist, if you take the time to relax and ‘get into the zone’, I’m sure you will find that creation comes much easier for you!

        Thanks for writing and have a great day,

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