A decade ago, certainly two decades ago, very few had heard of gamma frequency brain waves. Alpha was all the rage in the sixties and seventies. Meditation, they said, helped us because it helped us immerse in the alpha state. So did, marijuana and LSD.

Traditionally, brain researchers talked about four states in which our brains worked. The normal human, if at all there is something that we can call a normal human being, operated in the beta frequency brain wave pattern. Scientifically, this was the range between 12 and 20 cycles /second or Hertz to use the technical term. In beta, we were predictable.

As our brain slowed down, strange things happened. At the alpha frequency wave level of 8 to 12 Hertz, we relaxed. We also become highly infleuncible. This is the state in which we get hypnotized. We know now that most us stay in this alpha state till adolescence. Because of the high degree of infleuncibility, many mind control systems such as Silva and visualization systems such as Shakti Gawain’s recommended progressive relaxation exercises that took us down to the alpha level, before we or someone else programmed our brain.

Alpha and the states below are the region of brain washing. In theta, between 4 and 8 Hertz, we dream. In delta, between 1 and 4, we sleep. At zero, we are dead.

Children below the age of 7 have brain wave patterns in theta and delta. Between 7 and 12, they move up to alpha. The younger they are , the more influencible they are. This is how all conditioning works. From childhood we get conditioned by our caregivers and elders, not merely because they talk at us so much, but because nature programmed us that way.  For once, we have a reason not to blame our parents.

Alpha generators were all the rage some thirty years ago. If you had no time to meditate, and were prudish enough not to try marijuana, you bought a widget and plugged it generally to your wrist and relaxed till it beeped. Some worked by playing a sound into one’s ears. This was also called biofeedback. We programmed ourselves into a relaxed state in which good things happened to us. Our blood pressure went down, skin conductivity reduced and generally our cells felt happy and danced.

That was the theory. New age gurus recommended that one does this naturally through meditation. Mavericks said why wait, smoke grass and feel happy. What is all the fuss about, they said.I have no scientific proof and i wonder if governmnets have studied the ill effects of such artificial means of messing around with our brains, the same way as they have spent billions of dollars researching marijuana. Do these biofeedback gizmos dope us the same way as drugs do?

Twenty years later, with advanced brain monitoring gadgets and willing Tibetan monks, scientists found out that when serious meditation happens the brain gets excited. It does not slow down. Bit of a set back for New Age gurus, but they are resilient. What are a few Hertzs between to enlightened people?

We now know, courtesy Harvard Medical School and their cohorts, that serious meditation and other highly mind intensive activities generate brain wave frequencies far in excess of 3o Hertz. They call these waves gamma frequency waves. Gamma waves make us operate at our peak level. Actually, it’s the other way around, isn’t it?  So, we now have gamma frequency generators. What’s new?

Some years ago, a Qui Gong specialist, who was peddling German biofeedback , read mind control, gadgets in Singapore invited me to try one of these machines. It measured brain wave patterns and in some unexplained way helped change them. I was willing as long as he did a free analysis of a group to whom i was teaching some meditation techniques.  He also tested me.

After half of an hour of meditation, my brain waves in gamma matched what the machine produced in half an hour. In my students, half of hour of meditation produced significant changes in the brain wave pattern. This man’s analyser told him that there was better harmony and balance of Qui in our body mind system. For the uninitiated, Qui in Chinese, or Chi or Ki in japanese refer to the inherent energy within us.

The man said logically, why waste your time training yourself in meditation? I offer you half an hour of my machine in comfortable surrounding along with other goodies for $ 30. Come in and get yourself high, he said. I guess he had  a point.Or did he?

Delta, theta, alpha, beta or gamma, these waves reflect states of our mind. They tell us how we work in certain situations. We can, by our own efforts, to move from one state to another, as we do from the waking state to the dream state and the sleep state. Using sleeping pills over insomnia is a desperate solution, one that even doctors do not recommend.

Do i get the same high plugged into a machine or music piped into my ears as i do when i seriously meditate? No way! Do my brain waves know the difference? Seemingly no.

I guess then it’s our choice what we prefer. I guess a hamburger with oily chips to go appeases hunger as a salad does. The stomach does not know the difference. Or does it?