It's only natural that in a technological era, ancient spiritual practices such as yoga and Buddhist meditation would be studied using the instruments of technology. The trend first came under public scrutiny in the 1960s, when the Transcendental Meditation movement publicized EEG readings that showed that meditators produced increased peaceful alpha wave brainwave activity while practicing their technique. Since then, the connection between brainwave activity and spirituality has attracted even more interest and debate.

Countless other studies using EEGs and even more sophisticated brain scanners have been used to monitor the brain activity of meditators inside and outside of the TM community since the sixties. Generally speaking, increased alpha brain wave activity was revealed in the majority of popular meditation techniques. This led researchers to suggest that it looked like alpha was the meditation frequency.

However, a more recent study on a Tibetan Buddhist meditator revealed that he emitted large amounts of gamma waves when he meditated on loving kindness. Since gamma waves are a faster frequency than even the fastest beta waves we emit during normal waking consciousness, the researchers were bemused. Thinking there must be something wrong with their equipment, they tested more monks and even threw in a control group of non-meditators for good measure. There was nothing wrong with the equipment. The meditating monks exhibited gamma wave activity thirty times stronger than that of the students.

Still other studies have uncovered waking delta waves to be predominant in some long-term meditators. Delta waves are normally associated with deep, unconscious sleep, so when prolific author and Zen practitioner Ken Wilber exhibited predominant delta wave activity while engaging in public speaking, it stupefied the researchers who conducted the experiment.

Ken Wilber's delta waves added fuel to speculation and claims that the delta range is the frequency of spiritual enlightenment. However, delta waves also occur as the predominant brain wave activity in infants and adults who have brain tumors. While some of Wilber's more ardent followers may have jumped to the conclusion that his unusual brainwave activity was proof of his enlightenment, he was not so presumptuous and just found the experiment interesting.

Thanks to the modern PC and some cool new software, it is now possible for anybody with a little background knowledge to produce their own brainwave entrainment CDs and MP3s. Hence, there has been an explosion of bwe meditation products offered online. Which one should you choose, given the fact that some believe alpha, some say delta and still others suggest that gamma are the magic bullets of techno-meditation?

The object of research is to uncover facts. So far, the facts about a clear correlation between spirituality and specific brainwave activity have eluded independent researchers. Instead of pigeonholing states of consciousness with general brainwave activity, they are looking more deeply before jumping to conclusions. As brainwave entrainment product users, perhaps we would do well to consider ourselves fellow researchers rather than followers. In a very real sense, after all, we are the guinea pigs in a fascinating ongoing experiment.

In the meantime, whether we choose to experiment with brainwave entrainment or not, it is worth remembering that most of these studies have been conducted on traditional meditators. There is ample scientific evidence that traditional meditation creates beneficial brainwave patterns and even more anecdotal (subjective) evidence that meditation is enjoyable and relaxing and leads to an ever-deepening appreciation of the spiritual side of life.

If for no other reason than that you may one day find yourself without access to an iPod, why not learn a traditional meditation technique? Traditional meditation has a three thousand year old history, while at around thirty years of age, techno-meditation is still in its infancy. By all means, try bwe. Brainwave entrainment really works and can help you explore areas of consciousness that may have eluded you before. From the evidence, though, it seems clear that it is not the Holy Grail - at least not yet.

Author's Bio: 

Rob Schneider has been a meditator since the late sixties, when he taught hatha yoga at a meditation retreat in Northern California. Since then he has continued to study just about everything to do with spirituality, both Western and Eastern. He is currently interested in brainwave entrainment. Rob is the "proprietor" of a small online Bookshop, Brainwaves Books and Stuff.