Reprogramming my Mind in 4 Days: Chaos to Zen
Updated: Nov 21
A look at how to turn off unwanted survival responses in the modern world.
I’d like to spare you the minute details of an entire week of training to optimize my brain and nervous system function (maybe another time), so I’ll stick with a series of interesting findings. Over the course of the week, I’ve spent 15 hours in a small pod (looks like a mini space ship) with electrodes stuck on my head connected to a device that gives me sound-based feedback through headphones. This is called neuro-feedback, and it is to help my brain maintain certain states of consciousness to aid in the process of rewiring.
These states can be achieved without neurofeedback, and we can change them at will if trained, the neurofeedback aids in the training, sort of like training wheels.
My goal was to achieve more presence, freedom, and peace in my mind. A place that has previously been the source of much conflict and chaos. Another goal was simple to find a next level of performance.
All of these goals help move away from the possibility of an unlived life. One that is constantly stuck in the past or future.
What Are Brainwaves?
Brainwaves are like the rhythmic pulses of your brain. They're electrical signals created by your brain cells, or neurons, as they communicate with each other. These waves happen at different speeds and are measured in Hertz (Hz), which is just a fancy way of counting cycles per second.
The Five Brainwave Types
Gamma Waves (30-100 Hz): Gamma waves are the fastest brainwaves and are associated with high-level cognitive functions. They are linked to processes like perception, problem-solving, and consciousness. They are most prominent when you are intensely focused, actively learning, or deeply engaged in a task.
Beta Waves (12-30 Hz): Beta waves are associated with alert and awake states of consciousness. They are prevalent when you are engaged in activities that require active thinking, problem-solving, and concentration. They are also present during stress and anxiety.
Alpha Waves (8-12 Hz): Alpha waves are associated with a relaxed, yet alert, state of mind. They are often observed when you are awake but in a state of relaxation, such as during meditation or when daydreaming. Alpha waves can promote a sense of calm and creativity.
Theta Waves (4-8 Hz): Theta waves are linked to states of deep relaxation, daydreaming, and light sleep, such as the early stages of non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. They are also associated with creative thinking, intuition, and memory consolidation.
Delta Waves (0.5-4 Hz): Delta waves are the slowest brainwaves and are most prominent during deep, restorative sleep or during states of unconsciousness, such as in deep meditation or under anesthesia. They are crucial for physical and mental recovery and healing.
Each of these brainwaves serves a specific purpose and plays a role in our overall cognitive and emotional well-being. The balance and interaction of these brainwave types contribute to our ability to adapt to various tasks and situations throughout the day.
The graphs you see below could not possibly describe the whole experience, but they are a good representation of activity. The lines depict different brain waves that we all have. I don't expect you to understand each wave.
If you look at the first screenshot, you’ll see that the waves are very erratic, overlapping, with wide swings in amplitude. This shows my brain activity when using specific mental processing techniques to work through deeply triggering inner conflicts for myself personally. You can almost imagine what’s going on in my head by looking at the graph. This type of pattern is described by neuroscientists as inefficient, showing that these kinds of emotional effects hinder our brain's optimal function.
The second screen shows my brain about three days later. After consistently processing these experiences that had otherwise been shoved away in a box and ignored, you can see a massive difference. The same experiences caused a completely different reaction in my brain waves. The waves look far more organized and coherent, signifying more efficiency.
To me, this is always fascinating. It shows that events of the deep past can still cause huge inefficiencies and negative experiences within us, but if we process them properly, we can go back to a place where our nervous system does not react with a survival response. I can’t think of many things more important for all aspects of life.
So what does “processing mean?” I’m not going to go too deep into this, and I’m not sure anyone fully understands. But the best way to visualize it is a baby “processes” emotion by screaming, crying, moving their body, etc. Then they can go back to being happy as if nothing ever happened. They have moved energy.
Emotion = Energy in Motion.
So what happens when we stop the motion, as we do when we get older.
It Gets Stuck.
And so do we.
I’ve used many different forms of processing, in this particular instance, we used a sequence of deliberate meditation to work through the experience and help our bodies and minds reframe the story that we have in our heads about something that happened that is causing a survival response or a “trigger.”
The key here is that there is always a story attached to experience, so the mind can make sense of it. The key to freedom lies in the story.
"The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek." - Joseph Campbell
In order to fully process an experience, it means revisiting it and often making the negative emotion as strong as possible, no longer shoving it away in a box, but letting it out. From there we can understand what its there to teach us, and use positive emotions to change the associated experience.
Change the frame, Change the game.
We are all responsible
Brainwave synchronization is the process of brainwaves of different people aligning when we are interacting or even just in the same physical space. This is a very interesting phenomenon, specifically because it shows the scaling effect of how we show up and how it affects our teams or tribes.
I would hope that each leader takes a look at the power this can have and thinks about its application to their ecosystem. This is why I believe it is our responsibility to ensure we aid others not only in their performance but also in the protection of their psyche.
Our resilience can be transferred and absorbed. This is why we train executives and teams specifically in this domain.
I want to recognize that this is a small snippet of what is going on inside the complex human system, but it is fascinating to try and understand how this could affect the performance and satisfaction of individuals and organizations.
More on how to do this on your own through writing here.