Saturday 18 February 2012

State versus skill

In relation to meditation, the predominant use of brainwave entrainment technologies and neurofeedback seems to be to induce a meditative experience or state.

Consider Holosync, one of the most heavily advertised of the brainwave entrainment methods:
"Holosync helps you meditate even more deeply than a Zen monk.  Get all the benefits of meditation--but without all the struggle... Holosync not only allows you to meditate more deeply than with traditional methods--it allows you to experience the benefits of meditation in a fraction of the time."

That sounds pretty good.  And how does that happen?  By just sitting quietly with earphones and listening to binaural beats.

There is abundant evidence that entrainment works to the extent that the brain can be induced to produce specific brainwaves with this technology.  However, by using this technology, do we become proficient meditators, like those who have years of practice in the traditional manner?

The methods clearly differ.  Holosync appears rather passive, while the traditional methods are more active and effortful.  One induces a state, the other involves training a skill.  It is possible that the repeated experience of meditative states, especially when done in a well thought-out sequence, could lead to deeper and deeper meditative states.  Does this endow the individual with a skill, in particular, a skill equivalent to that of a monk, one that could be used in different contexts, perhaps even continuously?  Does it endow the user with the characteristics of "mindfulness" presumably found in the monk?  I doubt it.

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