We have had an inquiry about a meditation CD called EquiSync which is supposed to enable a novice to “meditate like a Zen monk without the years of practice.” Is it safe? Is it okay for Catholics to use?
For those who have never heard of it. EquiSync is a product of the San Francisco-based Exploration of Consciousness Research Institute or EOC Institute. It claims to have the aim of sharing “powerful life-transforming effects of advanced brainwave entrainment audio technology with people who wish to enhance themselves on all levels, including their mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health.”
They claim to do this with highly sophisticated brainwave technology such as EquiSync which is supposedly designed to help people reach highly advanced states of meditation, thus “creating the extremely fertile environment necessary for each person to reach their ultimate potential and self-realization.”
All hype aside, EquiSync is just another form of brain entertainment products (known as brainwave entrainment) such as Holosync and Hemi-Sync, all of which create sound frequencies known as “binaural beats” which are said to influence the brain by altering its wave patterns. Producers of these products claim that listening to these sounds produces all kinds of benefits such as reduced stress, improved learning, better sleep, and even instant advanced states of meditation.
But is any of it true?
Not so much. Steven Novella, M.D., clinical neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine, says that although brainwave entrainment is a real phenomenon, it has become a “useful tool” for pseudoscientific products that make all kinds of claims for which there simply is no support.
“Entrainment is a temporary effect on the synchronization of neuronal firing – it does not improve or increase brain functioning, it does not change the hardwiring, nor does it cure any neurological disorder. There is no compelling evidence for any effect beyond the period of entrainment itself,” he explains in this blog. “ . . . [T]he science just isn’t there.”
But is it safe? Most mental health experts say brainwave entrainment is relatively safe with its greatest risk that of inducing seizures. It’s also not advised for use by children and teens because of its impact on developing brains. In addition to causing drowsiness, it can also induce an altered state of consciousness which comes with its own peculiar set of dangers. These range from inducing psychotic-like delusional thinking, panic attacks, personality changes, antisocial acting out, loss of concentration, confusion, depression, to name a few.
The author of this blog on Mental Health Daily admits that a user of brainwave entrainment could get “stuck” in an altered state and “feel weird for awhile”.
“If you experience unwanted side effects from brainwave entrainment, your best bet is to stop using it and give it a break,” the author advises. “If you overdo it, the worst that’s going to happen is you may end up stuck feeling a little weird for awhile in an ‘altered state of consciousness.’ I have personally used alpha entrainment and there were a couple of sessions that left me feeling a little out of sorts, but I eventually returned to normal.
Some of the people who commented on the Mental Health Daily blog also reported strange side effects from the use of these products.
The teens cited in this blog had an even more frightening experience while using a form of brainwave entrainment known as I-Dosing. This internet fad involves listening to two-toned audio files through headphones that give the listener a “high” similar to that of drinking or smoking pot. In this case, there were diabolical elements that quickly turned them off to this kind of entertainment.
Needless to say, there are definitely some serious issues with brainwave entrainment and anyone interested in using this technology should peruse the links provided in this article very thoroughly before subjecting their mind – and potentially their soul – to any of these products.
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