Brainwave biofeedback, the single fastest-growing field in health care today, is a scientific tool for health, meditation, psychospiritual transformation, and consciousness development.
In the 1950s, researchers began to use simple biofeedback devices to train people to control the involuntary nervous system (heart rate, respiration, and blood flow) and their brainwaves. Brainwaves are the result of the electrical activity of thought in the brain, measured in frequency (speed of the oscillation) and amplitude (signal power).
What researchers could not have anticipated was the extraordinary ability of brainwave biofeedback to heal the body and soul while expanding the mind into its seemingly unlimited potential.
In the United States, brainwave biofeedback drew scientific interest when University of Chicago professor of psychology Joe Kamiya hooked up graduate student Richard Bach to see what the brainwaves of introspection looked like. Kamiya discovered that introspection and dreaming shift the mind from active, conscious thinking to the lower and slower brainwave frequencies of inner awareness. Moreover, Bach could feel the difference between external and internal awareness, and with this felt sense of state was able to reaccess the relaxed, diffused frequencies of the alpha bandwidth (8-14 hertz, or cycles per second). Soon he impressed onlookers by using his alpha brainwaves to steer a frequency-driven model train around its track.
In the 1960s, biomedical pioneer Barry Sterman (now professor emeritus of neurobiology and psychiatry at UCLA) used brainwave biofeedback to successfully treat epilepsy. Next, Sterman discovered that producing 12-15 hertz frequencies (in the beta bandwidth) over the sensorimotor cortex of a cats brain created a rhythm that enabled cats to sleep better. Then Sterman taught more than a dozen cats to produce these beta frequencies in return for a shot of broth and milk.
The U.S. Defense Department, in an attempt to decrease the effects of a dangerous rocket fuel on military pilots, employed Sterman's cats in a study. Cats trained in 12-15 hz. sensorimotor response (SMR) in the beta range of brainwave frequencies were stronger and less suspectible to the rocket fuel; moreover, SMR training induced specific, measurable physiological changes in their bodies.
These changes included shifts in neural circuitry (that is, the electrical pathways over which brainwave impulses travel) and deeper levels of relaxation with reduced heart rate, respiration, reflex time and muscle tone.
Stirred by this research, other studies quickly followed. In subsequent decades brainwave training proved able to cure or remediate a wide array of mental, emotional and physical ills including:
Closed head injuries
Post-traumatic stress syndrome
Attention deficit disorder (ADD)
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Immune system dysfunction
Unresolved emotional and physical trauma
See Meditation & Healing for more
In the 1960s, Elmer Green, a physicist, and his wife Alyce, a biopsychologist, used the new biofeedback technology to conduct pioneering studies at the Menninger Foundation in Kansas. Their initial interest was voluntary control of the involuntary nervous system (automatic functions like heartbeat and breathing.)
The Greens used biofeedback lights and sounds to teach people to manage their blood flow in order to warm and cool their hands, reverse migraine headaches, and control stress and muscle tension. Soon they began to train waking subjects to draw up images from the subconscious, which also enhanced dream recall.
Intrigued by these results, the Greens began to work with Hindu yogis who evidenced extraordinary self-control, such as being able to horizontally balance the body on a sharp bed of nails during meditation. Other yogis could slow their physiological functions enough to lapse into comatose states and survive for three to six days without food, water or sunlight. They emerged completely unharmed and in fact were revitalized by these deep, profound meditation states.
Research projects by the Greens were funded by many progressive foundations, including the National Institute of Mental Health Research. Several of these studies yielded some startling conclusions, and taken together, produced the first scientific evidence that consciousness resides in the body, but is not limited to it.
In the early 1970s, while studying the psychokinetic powers of the Hindu Swami Rama and the healing gifts of Rolling Thunder, a Cherokee shaman, the Greens heard about and brought into their laboratory a man named Jack Schwarz, a mystical Sufi of the Islamic tradition.
Schwarz had the impressive ability to shift his brainwave frequencies into alpha (a relaxed, diffused, daydreaming state), push a long sailmaker's needle through his biceps, and demonstrate total control over bleeding and pain. The unwashed needles left no infection or puncture wound. He could also lie on a bed of nails without injury, as shown above in this photograph taken in the Greens' laboratory at the Menninger Institute.
This wasn't the first time Schwarz had performed what looked like a miracle. During the Holocaust, Nazi soldiers grilled Schwarz, a seventeen-year-old Dutchman, about his activities in the Resistance. He refused to tell any secrets, so the soldiers whipped him with cat 'o nine tails tipped with steel hooks. Covered with blood, Schwarz looked the soldiers in the eye and said, "Ich liebe dich," I love you.
The surprised Germans covered Schwarz with his shirt, but the bleeding had already stopped and the wounds were healing right before their eyes. In the United States, Jack was the subject of many studies. A yoga practitioner who had read Eastern scriptures extensively, he convinced the Greens and many others that, "All of your body is in your mind, but not all of your mind is in your body."
Elmer Green had written his doctoral dissertation on the perception of pain and knew that pain is seldom experienced if attention is turned away from the sensation. Now the couple realized that Schwarz, Swami Rama, Rolling Thunder and others who were demonstrating unusual powers of self-regulation had achieved a kind of coordination within the body-mind.
This revealed the possibility which later became a certainty that anyone with self-discipline and determination can control their states of consciousness in order to self-regulate and heal their bodies.
News of these subjects' superordinary self-control swept across America, giving rise to speculation about and studies on the relationship of the mind to the body. In the 1970s Harvard medical doctor Herbert Benson introduced the relaxation response. Others studied the efficacy of healing prayer, generating the field of psychneuroimmunology and exciting interest in the power of meditation to heal, transform and integrate the bodymind.
Over time, researchers recognized that meditation balances the brain and brings the brain into closer coordination with its nervous system, which allows the bodymind to heal and restore itself. This basic understanding sent scientists and healers in different directions. Americans largely focused on mental and physical health, with the Greens still dabbling in consciousness research. An exciting new field, neurofeedback, used EEG biofeedback to recalibrate the brain in order to heal the bodymind.
Neurofeedback therapists use lights, sounds and video manipulation to train up or down imbalanced frequencies in any area of the brain. These specialists were and still are remarkably successful in curing or lessening the effects of epilepsy, panic disorder, anxiety, depression, and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), among many other things.
Altogether, these pioneering biofeedback researchers proved that the body and mind are one and the same: heal the body, heal the mind, and vice-versa. The Greens had taken a quantum step further, in their dawning realization that everything begins and ends with consciousness.
While most Americans used EEG biofeedback to improve mental and physical health, British subject C. Maxwell Cade was drawn instead in the Greens' direction of meditation and consciousness. From his work as a government physicist who revolutionized radar, and in his private life as a Zen master and hypnotist with a strong interest in metaphysics, Cade recognized that all things including the brain are composed of the frequencies of light. Biofeedback was the scientific way to explore and map consciousness.
Cade's six-year collaboration with Ann Woolley-Hart, a biofeedback researcher working in the medical electronics department of St. Bartholomew's, London's oldest teaching hospital, produced tantalizing results. Cade and Woolley-Hart used an electrical skin-resistance (ESR) meter developed by Dr. Morton Whitby to diagnose susceptibility to cancer. Psychotherapist Carl Jung used the same ESR in one-fifth of his studies on the functioning of the unconscious mind.
Since Cade was a member of the Medical and Dental Hypnosis Society, and Woolley-Hart was using biofeedback to help people relax, they first continued with Whitby's research into preventing disease by diagnosing it before symptoms manifest. Instead, after two years of experimentation, they learned that the ultra-sensitive ESR indicated even temporary emotional disturbances and was little or no use in disease prevention.
However, the ESR was extremely useful in assessing levels of physical relaxation and arousal. Cade used it first with hypnosis subjects and soon with meditators. He discovered that the ESR could divulge whether people were really meditating or not. Two practitioners of Transcendental Meditation who were "proud of their ability to lose all touch with the physical world" turned out to have been cat-napping. Cade, a seasoned Zen practitioner, taught them the proper way to meditate.
During these experiments, Cade concluded that the commanding language style used by hypnotists did not leave subjects enough space to master their own experience in the subconscious mind. Accordingly, Cade modified the language of hypnosis, using slow, gentle guidance to usher people into the subconscious for greater self-awareness and self-guidance to creative insights and inner transformation.
This synthesis of hypnosis and meditation laid the foundation for Cade's revolutionary approach to meditation and mind expansion, which took wing with his invention of an EEG biofeedback device dedicated to the awakening of consciousness.
In 1970, Canadian researcher Terry Lesh published a paper on the subjective descriptions of thousands of meditators on how it feels to descend into a deep meditation state. Cade and Woolley-Hart correlated the Lesh scale to their ESR, which Cade used on Woolley-Hart herself three years later when she was diagnosed with cancer. Refusing radiology and traditional treatment, she asked Cade to guide her into deep relaxation and make suggestions of healing and empowerment. He did so, and her cancer disappeared.
Cade and his wife, Isabel, crafted ESR meters on their kitchen table at home and used them in small classes to teach relaxation and spiritual training to people interested in the mind-body connection and self-mastery.
In the early 1970s, Geoffrey Blundell, an electronics engineer, attended one of Cade's ESR-biofeedback classes. Fascinated by what Cade was discovering about psychophysiology, Blundell first improved the design of the ESR. Next, he worked with Cade in the design of a multi-channel electroencephalograph (EEG) that could look at the relationship of the beta, alpha, theta and delta rhythms of each brain hemisphere and display these simultaneously.
The invention of the Mind Mirror, as they called it, enabled Cade to make startling discoveries about the brain, meditation and consciousness, the subject of his seminal book, The Awakened Mind: Biofeedback and the Development of Higher States of Awareness, published in 1979.
Students during an exercise in one of Max's classes in the 1970s, with Max and Isabel at centre. Each student is wired up both to a Mind Mirror and an ESR meter confirming their physiological responses as they go into deep relaxation.
Cade used the Mind Mirror to watch people's brainwaves, the ESR to gauge relaxation levels, and the Lesh scale to landmark and cross-correlate the depths attained. Over the next few years, he guided hundreds of Hindu yogis, spiritual healers, psychics, energy healers, and seasoned meditators into deep, profound meditation to study a variety of altered states of consciousness.
In his book, he wrote that meditation puts people "on a magic journey to the storehouse of visions and ideals." Once the mind awakens and becomes more lucid and self-aware, anyone can enjoy a creative flow of imagery, inspiration and insights that well up on their own to guide us through everyday life.
In 1973, humanistic psychologist Anna Wise, an America, began to work with Cade in London. She had survived two near-death experiences and wanted to reaccess the bliss of higher states of awareness. She was successful and consequently dedicated her life to teaching others how to awaken their minds to more expanded ways of being in the world.
In the early 1980s, with Cade's blessing and a Mind Mirror in hand, Wise left the U.K. and moved to Boulder, Colorado, where she spent the next few years measuring the brainwaves of artists, composers, dancers, inventors, mathematicisians, scientists, and the CEOs of major corporations.
She confirmed what Cade had discovered from measuring the brainwaves of a group of young filmmakers who were documenting his work. It is not just spiritually-oriented people who develop the awakened mind brainwave pattern. Drawing on the creativity, insight and healing in the subconscious naturally expands the mind, as does any kind of creative endeavor or spiritual pursuit.
For most people, learning the focused awareness of meditation and the awakened mind is a slow, uphill process. Brainwave training, a new gateway to an ancient path, measurably speeds things up.
We no longer need to meditate in a cave for twenty years to reach the deep, profound states of awareness that open, awaken and evolve the mind. EEG biofeedback awakens awareness, transforms the mind, and expands perspectives infinitely faster.
EEG biofeedback has taught us that meditation naturally awakens the mind to itself: the external awareness of the verbal beta thinking mind opens to the relaxed, diffused consciousness of visuo-spatial alpha, the creativity, insight and self-healing of the theta subconscious, and the intuition and empathy of the lowest, slowing delta brainwaves in the personal unconscious.
The open, awake and aware mind, flowing with coherent light, heals and balances the bodymind to enhance brain function, intelligence, and health. Drawing on the stream of creative insights in the subconscious, the awakened mind resolves questions, issues and challenges, which amplifies the light in the mind to further expand and evolve.
People with an awakened mind are usually high achievers at the top of their professions: excited, enthusiastic people enjoying an "aha" experience of inner and outer revelation.
Wise lists these qualities of mastery in her book, The High-Performance Mind:
People enjoying the qualities of mastery are compassionate, empathetic and helpful. They are warm, kind, peaceful and balanced people who are perceptive, insightful, and do not criticize, judge or blame others. Nor does the awakened person attempt to control the thoughts or actions of other people. A person with an awakened mind is naturally devoted to love and service arising from a deep, heartfelt devotion to humanity and God, or divine consciousness.
Expanding awareness into the subconscious and unconscious depths of the mind connects us to all that we are and can be. We gain a clear understanding of what we want out of life and how to get it, at every step on the path to mastery.
For most people, this self-directed approach to life is deeply fulfilling and translates into a sense of unbounded freedom and joy. This is the evolutionary life of self-healing, creative problem-solving, heightened intuition, inventive leadership and interpersonal success. Once we experience a higher state of awareness, the brain/mind seeks it again until found.
Clearing blocks to the expansion of consciousness merges awareness with the infinite and unlimited, which Wise terms the ineffable and some call God. In meditation, the mind expands into the pure awareness of the spirit, attuning to a constant stream of intuitive insights, higher perspectives, sensations of light, and a blissful sense of oneness that stirs love and compassion for self and all existence.
See How It Works for the brainwave patterns of meditation and the awakened mind, along with a description of a still more expanded state, the evolved mind pattern.
The latest scientific discoveries by a variety of researchers employ new brain imaging techniques to watch changes occur in different areas of the mind. These studies confirm without a doubt the discoveries of Cade and Wise, as well as the direct inner experience of everyone who comes in contact with the creative light flowing in each of us, whether in meditation or waking states.
The common ground on which meditators, spiritual seekers, and scientists meet is EEG biofeedback, video magnetic resonance imaging (shown here), and other methods of brain imaging that photograph what turns out to be the light of consciousness, vibrating in the brain as brainwaves.
While other EEG biofeedback devices have their uses, training consciousness is still best done with Cade's Mind Mirror, the ESR and the Lesh scale, all of which have stood the test of time. These psychospiritual tools for transformation enable anyone to deepen into meditation and gradually expand into the light-filled awakened mind of the masters and the evolved mind of transcendence. (See these brainwave patterns in How It Works.)
Judith Pennington, having taught this science of consciousness since year 2000, today trains people across the U.S. to meditate and awaken their minds through brainwave training. The best known teacher and writer on these principles, she uses the Lesh scale, the ESR built by Blundell, and the Mind Mirror III and signal switchbox created by Blundell's nephew, electronics engineer Neil Hancock, to train individuals and groups.
Pennington is extending the discoveries of Cade and Wise by using leading-edge research to train people to the evolved mind pattern and the still-higher brainwaves of spiritual illumination.
Cade, C. Maxwell and Nona Coxhead. The Awakened Mind: Biofeedback and the Development of Higher States of Awareness. Element Books, Shaftesbury, Dorset, England, 1989.
Green, Elmer & Alyce. Beyond Biofeedback. Delacorte Press, San Francisco, 1977.
Pennington, Judith. The Meditation Experience: A Guide to Higher States of Awareness. Soon to be published as a downloadable ebook.
Robbins, Jim. A Symphony in the Brain: The Evolution of the New Brain Wave Biofeedback.
Wise, Anna. Awakening the Mind: A Guide to Mastering the Power of Your Brain Waves. Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam. New York, 2002.
Wise, Anna. The High-Performance Mind: Mastering Brainwaves for Insight, Healing and Creativity. Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam. New York, 1995.
* www.mindmirroreeg.com Read the People section for stories about Max Cade and other early awakened mind researchers. Some of the information on this page comes from this authoritative website.
* www.annawise.com Visit this site to learn more about the late Anna Wise.
* www.futurehealth.org The most informative biofeedback research organization on the web. Contains information on the annual Winter Brain event and offers free research reporters written by leaders in this field.
* www.aapb.org (Association of Applied Psychophysiological Biofeedback). A professional organization for all kinds of biofeedback research. The largest group within the organization is that of EEG practitioners.
* www.eaglelife.com Judith Pennington's primary website opens to two free e-publications, The Still, Small Voice and OneWorld Spirit, dedicated to personal healing and consciousness expansion through meditation, brainwave mastery, sound and self-awareness.