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Following the discovery in 1839 that audio impulses can have an effect on brainwave activity, binaural meditation has become a popular tool to aid relaxation. The technique relies on two different audio streams being delivered to the user, one stream to the left ear and the other to the right. The name is derived from the practice of using two — bi — streams of auditory, or aural, signals to initiate a meditative state. As the brain is not able to distinguish accurately between the two audio tracks, the resulting experience is that of a steady, rhythmic beat.
Binaural meditation utilizes an auditory medium known as binaural beats. In simple terms, these audio tracks encourage the brain to enter one of four frequency states. Each frequency state is linked to what the body is doing at a certain time, and by encouraging the brain to enter these states, one can initiate a meditative state more readily than through utilizing more common meditation techniques. The brain frequency states that can be triggered through binaural meditation are known as alpha, beta, delta, and theta states.
The most common frequency that the brain operates in is beta. At this frequency, the brain is considered to be alert and active as during waking hours. Alpha state occurs during periods of relaxation.
While remaining alert enough to react if required, the brain can still undertake actions during this state. The alpha frequency has given rise to the common term alpha sleep, which relates to those times where a person carries out an activity and yet possesses little recollection of doing it. Alpha sleep can most commonly occur during monotonous activities that are undertaken regularly and can occasionally result in potentially dangerous situations, such as when driving.
Most binaural meditation sequences will begin by bringing the brain into the alpha frequency and progressing to the theta state. The theta frequency is the key meditative state as it is the dominant brain frequency during dreams. It is in this state that people, during meditation, can experience hallucinations or visions. The final frequency is the delta state, which occurs during deep sleep.
To be successful in binaural meditation, the individual still must ignore thought patterns and disassociate from overriding feelings to enter the meditative state. The use of binaural beats should be considered a tool to assist in achieving meditation. The brain actually operates within all of the four frequencies simultaneously; one, and occasionally two, of the frequency states will be dominant at any one time. Binaural meditation encourages one frequency to become more dominant than the others. Once the rhythmic binaural beat ends, however, the brain will automatically return to the naturally experienced brain frequency.