How do you tell the difference between the song of the soul and the thoughts that echo societal messages? Frequently, the soul murmurs to the heart while communication from the collective reverberates through the mind. Over time, societal messages take precedence in our inner hearing. This post examines brain wave patterns to explore how we unconsciously absorb ideas from others and replay them in our minds, drowning out the whispers of the soul.
Brain waves, like sound frequencies, are measured in cycles per second, called Hertz (Hz). Each brain wave pattern correlates with a specific state of consciousness. In general, the slower the frequency of your brain waves, the more relaxed you feel. While various authors designate different ranges for each classification, a Scientific American article by Educator and Management Trainer Ned Herrmann states that there are four main brainwave patterns made up of the following frequency ranges[i]:
Delta (1.5-4 Hz) – slow, high amplitude waves that generate a sense of detachment from external awareness and are present during deepest meditation and sleep
Theta (5-8 Hz) – associated with drowsiness and meditation, Theta is a gateway to learning, memory, intuition and internal signals such as dreams, imagery and information beyond our normal conscious awareness
Alpha (9-14 Hz) – quietly flowing thoughts in present time that provide a resting state for the brain
Beta (15-40 Hz) – the state of normal waking consciousness associated with focused mental activity when attention is directed toward cognitive tasks
In addition to these four states of consciousness, the brain produces fast, high frequency Gamma brainwaves (faster than 40 Hz) associated with simultaneous processing of information from different brain areas. This state is only accessible when the mind is quiet. Tibetan Buddhist monks have shown a correlation between Gamma and transcendental states of consciousness.
It is important to understand that the brain of a young child operates primarily in the range of Theta which is the same state activated during hypnosis. This means that when we are children, we unconsciously absorb attitudes and beliefs from the adults in our lives, including family members, caregivers, teachers and ministers. After taking in ideas from important adults, we replay them in our mind. The content from the absorbed information remains accessible while the origin of these thoughts falls outside of our conscious awareness. Therefore, these ideas seem to be our own rather than attitudes and beliefs we have adopted from others. We rarely pause to notice which of the thoughts we think were simply accepted from others and which ones were developed by critically thinking about our own experiences and understandings of how the world works. Consequently, the clanging gongs of other people’s ideas drown out the whispers of the soul.
In late childhood, the normal waking state of consciousness shifts from Theta to Beta. Yet we continue to unintentionally take in outside information when we watch television and activate the relaxed, detached mental state associated with Alpha brainwaves. Although TV shows, advertisements and news reports can express perspectives that have nothing in common with the viewpoint of the soul, when we are in Alpha, the information soaks into our awareness and blurs the distinction between our inner wisdom and outer opinions.
How do you tell the difference between the song of the soul and the inner thoughts that echo societal messages? Next month I will describe markers I use to distuinguish between society and soul. If you feel like sharing your wisdom and experience on this topic, please use the comment box at the end of this post.
Human Brain image from an unidentified source
[i] Herrmann, N. (2018). What Is the Function of the Various Brainwaves? Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-the-function-of-t-1997-12-22/
[ii] Herrmann, N. (1989). The Creative Brain. Minneapolis, MN: Brain Book University of Minnesota.