Brain Health & Biofeedback Meditation
The Brain Health Upgrade Program (BHU) has been running since January 2019. It is a unique program available exclusively at Samahita Retreat. All programs at Samahita are embedded in the full Samahita experience, that is, with breathwork, yoga and fitness plus fresh healthy food and pleasant tropical environment. Within this context we offer BHU sessions comprised of: near infra red (NIR) and red light therapy; audio visual entrainment (AVE) and biofeedback meditation with EEG headsets (Muse). Each of these technologies offers a unique therapeutic benefit targeting the health of the brain and adjusting one’s mental state. The BHU sessions consist of: NIR, to feed our cells with energy and induce a calm state of mind; AVE, for brainwave modulation; and biofeedback meditation to direct conscious awareness towards calm attentive brainwave states.
What separates these technologies is that with NIR and AVE the participant is passive whereas with the biofeedback (Muse) device the participant becomes actively involved in the result. Also, the Muse device provides a graph with results that help assess progress. These sessions are monitored by our staff who provide guidance and assistance throughout and help interpret the results.
What we present in this article are the Muse graph results from Samahita guest Nicole Thomas, who stayed at with us during April 2019, together with an account of her personal experience and motivations for taking the program.
The image below shows Nicole’s Muse graphs recorded over a 10 day period. The line represents mental activity over the course of a 15 minute biofeedback meditation session (Day 10 was a 30min session). The y axis of the graph is the level of mental activity and the x axis time spent. The character of the line reflects mental stability and specifically whether the participant’s mind is active (upper 3rd), neutral (mid 3rd) and calm (lower 3rd). So, the peaks represent high activity (distraction) and the troughs low activity (calm, attentive awareness). Where the line of the graph remains in the lower 3rd we can conclude that the participant maintained a level of calm attentive awareness throughout the session, with occasional spikes measuring distraction.
Looking at these graphs from day 1 – 10 there is a clear progression from an erratic line towards a stable baseline. This demonstrates a gradual level of improvement over the 10 day period towards greater mental stability and, in the case of day 10, a remarkable demonstration of sustained calm, attentive awareness. Using this data we can assess, to some degree, the level of progression and improvement of the participant.
Of course in order to fully grasp the relevance and success of the BHU sessions it is essential to consider the subjective experience of the participant. Fundamental to meditation, and psychological wellbeing in general, is the inner, subjective experience without which we can not fully understand how an individual truly benefits. Nicole has kindly shared her experience through a series of questions (listed below) to add another layer of interpretation and personality to these results. Taken together we are presented with a clearer picture of the qualitative value of the overall experience.
Brain Health Questionnaire
Answered by Nicole Thomas June 2019
1. What motivated you to take the BHU program?
The brain is the most important and powerful organ and the BHU programme was a unique opportunity to explore ways to improve its health. I wanted something that would help change my thinking, to use the power of the mind to heal physical and psychological aspects of myself. Also, I had been wanting to learn how to meditate for some time and thought the programme would teach me to (not saying that it didn’t – it did help- but now I realise that meditation is not something that can be learned from someone else- comes from within).
2. How would you describe your state of mind before starting BHU
Tired, overwhelmed, working in ‘automatic’.
3. Did you experience any poor brain health symptoms
Brain fog, energy crashes, and disrupted sleep.
4. Did you have any previous experience in meditation?
I’ve tried it once before on my own.
5. Had you previously used either NIR therapy, AVE or Biofeedback meditation prior to starting BHU?
No- had not heard of any of them until finding BHU programme.
6. What were your first impressions during or after your first session?
During my first session I had an open mind to the things I was trying for the first time. I did not think much of the red light and wondered about it’s efficacy – but enjoyed the warmth from the light. The AVE made me fall asleep (only ever once in the first session), so I enjoyed that. And I didn’t understand how Muse worked properly in the first session. Overall, after the first session I felt a little spaced out, dehydrated (although I drink plenty of water), and chilled at the same time. I really enjoyed the sessions onwards and looked forward to using the AVE and Muse. Towards the end, I also enjoyed the red light as the time would pass quickly and I enjoyed the warmth.
7. Was there a pivotal moment that changed your outlook during the program? Or, as your biofeedback meditation results improved, was there a particular moment where you felt an inner shift or transformation?
I think it was the 4th/5th session where I felt the shift to a deeper level of consciousness, by choosing to surrender and trust in God, and I remember how wonderful and beautiful it felt hearing all those birds and also feeling at peace.
8. Do you feel the muse device and rain/bird audio feedback help with your meditation? (I also remember at one stage you stopped using the feedback did that improve your results?)
Yes, it really helped me understand what it was I was doing, that made me hear more birds i.e. feel calmer and more still. And towards the end, the birds and rains were annoying me, because it’s as if I was in competition with myself to hear more birds, and because I could hear things and was thinking about the sounds, I felt it was stopping me from feeling the true essence of what I was meant to be doing. The last two session I did, I didn’t listen to the feedback and those were my best results. The muse and audio feedback played a crucial role in helping me understand the tools I was using to meditate.
9. If you did feel a substantial change in physical / mental state, personal outlook or perspective what would you attribute those changes to? For example, did the environment / food / yoga / fitness or anything else on offer at Samahita contribute to these changes?
A lot of different things played a role in contributing to the changes. Firstly, reading the Gita whilst on the programme, was perhaps the most important one. It really connected me on a spiritual level. Another important factor for me were the teachers and their support, advice and overall presence, that inspired me to connect more with my own self and find the tools to meditate deeper. The environment and yoga was the next important thing- being somewhere quiet and peaceful, by the beach, being barefoot all day, and outdoors all day, all just gave me the space to relax. Not having to cook, and finding healthy food all ready, was a relief and nice to felt taken care of.
10. Fundamentally, do you feel the BHU program had a positive effect on your health, and specifically your mental state?
Yes of course. It contributed to improving my mental state, but it was not the direct cause – I was.
11. Do you have anything else to add?
Just a great thank you to you, Sarah and Gill, for being the energy you are!
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