During your day, your brain normally moves among four brainwave patterns. The frequency of these waves is measured in Hertz.
Beta waves (12 – 30 Hertz) are the normal lively situations where you’re performing regular tasks and working efficiently.
Alpha waves (8 – 12 Hertz) are a more relaxed and reflective state, like pausing to daydream or during long bouts of fishing without catching.
Theta waves (4 – 7 Hertz) are an even more relaxed, sometimes meditative or sleepy state. Theta waves are the “sweet spot” of interest to researchers into creativity, invention and mental imagery.
Delta waves (3 – 1 Hertz) are the most relaxed, slowed-down state, present in deep, dreamless sleep.
Researchers of brainwave theory have developed various rhythmic noises that are supposed to mimic the Theta state and improve creativity. If you want to try one out, we’ve put it at the top of the current clickback. I found it annoying, but after five minutes or so it’s not so bothersome and the mind nicely wanders. I don’t think it’ll hurt you.
I’ve lingered in artists’ studios that throb with Theta rhythms in the form of “God consciousness” (Ennora, etc.) ocean waves, Mayan kalarhythms, Enya, or the dreamy magic of various Theta music meditation discs such as those offered by Dr. Jeffrey Thompson. I’ve also noticed artists who manage to get by with Johann Sebastian Bach.
It’s all about how fast your neurons are firing. In Theta, it seems the neurons fire less often but more effectively, perhaps reaching out to more distant or irregular synapses. This quality firing, in theory, unlocks metaphors and unlikely combinations that are the basis of creativity and invention. The tendency for metaphor may be cultural and augmented by an appreciation of literature, particularly poetry. Also, the happenstance language of our birth aids in the singing of our vision.
The Theta range of firings may also be somewhat responsible for a sense of pattern, continuity and design that’s a condition in all the arts. Don’t you find it wonderful when you’re just loping along, hitting on all four to seven?
Esoterica: Some researchers think the overboard use of metaphor, as might be seen in conceptual art, may actually be a sign of weak or unrefined Theta. Apart from looking at an artist’s work to see if they have “good Theta,” other brainwave indicators can be used. One method, pioneered by myself, finds out quickly if a person is able to make connections where connections may not readily appear. It’s in their ability to “get” jokes or puns. While folks who “don’t get it” may be fascinated with art and even perform on art boards and committees, my persistent observation has been that non-Thetan, non-creatives tend to be “not amused.” This system is actually quite ancient. Hilaritate bonum excogitatio, said the Roman philosopher Kjerkius Gennius (36 BC) “Good humour; good invention.”
by Julie Eliason, Royal Oak, MI, USA
I enjoyed your discussion of Theta brainwaves in relationship to creativity. When I was in college I took Abnormal Psychology and wrote a paper on the occurrence of Theta brainwaves. Research indicated that Theta brainwaves are more frequent among children, the elderly, and people who are in Primal Therapy. This therapy is a process of deep regression into childhood memories — even to cellular memories from birth and the womb experience. I have been a Primaler since 1972. With the help of this powerful therapy, I have become a functioning and very happy person. I am also an artist. Primaling has enhanced my creativity, maybe because having healed from so many childhood traumas, I have a deep connection to the child within me. Thank you for helping me see why deep regression therapy has helped my art.
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The brilliance of Arabic
by David Sims, London, UK
Your reference to research that indicates language of birth may be a factor in the ability to get puns, grasp metaphors and be creative is interesting. Languages like French and Spanish come to mind. However, the Arabic languages, in all their iterations, are probably the strongest of all. Rich puns and double entendres abound. Creativity and invention should be the strong suit of the Arabic world. What happened? Intolerance of images and the denial of some areas of scientific enquiry as demanded by religious factions are the main impediment. While generally thought to be weak in creativity, the Middle East is a garden of song, poetry and calligraphy, among other arts. Once free of despots and sectarianism, the Middle East will once again bloom.
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Getting your bearings
by Roxanne Clingman, Milwaukie, OR, USA
Edison sat in a rocker with his hand full of ball bearings and went to a theta brain wave state. If he passed through to delta, his hand would open and the bearings would fall, waking him. He reported most of his good ideas came in the rocking chair. It’s possible to easily attain theta without all of the bells and whistles, a bunch of ball bearings or twisted body positions, by using a simple mental exercises. Thanks for the breadth of subjects in your letter. Always interesting.
Oblivion almost reached
by Rich Brimer, Camarillo, CA, USA
The greatest thing happened to me tonight as I read your letter. I don’t often smoke weed but tonight was one of those nights that I did. I was laying in bed. I’m reading my email and your most recent letter came to the top so I listened to the theta wave as I was floating slightly above my being anyway… And I had this most energetic awareness and stillness that I’ve had in a long long time. The thing that disturbed me most is that you only sent a 30 second theta wave sound and then it stops abruptly. I just wish there was a way to loop it so it would play over and over and over and over — however, I’m afraid that I would get lost in my subconscious to never return. So, for that, I thank you.
(RG note) Thanks, Rich. If you go to James Nestor’s site, noted after the Theta wave on our site, you will find a version that goes on and on.
by Jan Thomson, St. Arnaud, Nelson Lakes, New Zealand
I’ve noticed that my painting is definitely influenced by whatever is playing on my iPod — and that I can influence my painting by planning what I play. Freddy Mercury certainly produces different results than J. S. Bach. But I had to abandon the Leningrad Symphony by Shostakovich today — way too depressing and fast for the poppy seed-heads I was working on. Thanks for your letters — they are a real treat for an artist who lives in a small community and works alone.
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by Jackie Knott, Fischer, TX, USA
I hear and read about the positive influence of sound for an artist but cannot fathom how it helps creativity. Modern culture assaults our senses with constant sound and then we introduce more. I seek blessed silence. Maybe it’s because my ears have been ringing for over a decade from a sound injury and all sound is distorted. But, for me, focus on the task at hand is consciously rendered without the distraction of sound. Having said that, I will admit ideas come to me in that blissful time in the early morning.
Dr. Thompson’s discs
by Gavin Logan, London, England
Dr. Jeffrey Thompson’s discs have brainwave speeds embedded into his music. I notice a change of mood and state of mind particularly when I have stress or too much going on in my life. The set includes Alpha Relaxation, Meditation, Sleep help, Healing the Mind, Creativity and Awakening. When I’m writing I keep the sound very low so it is not intrusive. I find the discs can be given multiple playing and sometimes it doesn’t matter which disc you use. I don’t like the sleep one, but as I don’t have much trouble in that way that’s okay. I prefer my own fantasies (creative inventions and ideas and plans for novels) to put me to sleep.
by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, Port Moody, BC, Canada
On my list of Theta-less sounds are music by Johnny Cash, Randy Bachman kind of rock, and some of the latest pop like Serena Ryder’s. On Theta side, there are many sounds that have a great effect, but Sorabji was the first that came to mind. I once heard some music by him on CBC radio that made my brain feel like it was plated by gold. I searched for that music for a long time and when I finally found it, it didn’t sound quite the same — It lacked the dissonant notes I have originally heard. Then I realized that I probably had interference from another radio station or something like that — so I will never hear those enchanting sounds again! In any case Sorabji has that something that works for me — here is an example.
My compliments to Mr. Kjerkius and his humor. It is so regrettable that we can’t always enjoy company of all our fellow humans. But you are right, Theta deficiency can range from stabbing to abrasive to dull to slimy. Any great occasion can drown in a perfect Theta-less storm. We have all experienced a lovely cheerful day turning into a humorless still air of despair. Failing to escape on time, one will only be able to recover through a long Delta sleep.
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Enjoy the past comments below for What brainwave are you on?…
Long Lake Park
pastel painting, 10 x 11 inches
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Marj Vetter of Three Hills, Alberta who wrote, “Something’s out of whack for me, Robert. I like to listen to rock & roll when I paint. Soon after I start, I don’t hear anything at all!”
And also Edna V. Hildebrandt of Toronto, Ontario who wrote, “I’m inspired when images of places I travelled to or memories of my childhood come to mind. That’s what brings on my creative processes.”
And also Catherine Nash of Tucson, Arizona who wrote, “My God, I vote for Bach!”