In the middle of May I spent a remarkable week at The Monroe Institute, a retreat center in rural Virginia, dedicated to research, exploration and experiential teaching about expansion of human consciousness. The above photo is of an enormous pink quartz crystal from Brazil that is on their beautiful grounds. Their method involves the use of a sound technology called Hemi-Sync™. I believe that this technology may have broad applicability for treatment of common psychiatric symptoms such as depression, anxiety, insomnia and distractibility. Clinical application of Hemi-Sync™ intrigues me, as it may qualify as an effective, natural, health enhancing alternative to psychiatric medications, which often have very unwelcome and distressing side effects.
Robert Monroe, a successful radio broadcasting executive in the 1950’s, founded The Monroe Institute in 1974 and was the originator of the Hemi-Sync™ technology. Initially his research was directed towards investigation of the possibility of learning while sleeping. This interest was eventually transformed into an exploration of non-ordinary states of consciousness. Bob Monroe observed that certain sounds create a Frequency Following Response in the electrical activity of the brain. Specific sounds could be blended and sequenced to gently induce the brain into various states, ranging from deep relaxation or sleep, to expanded states of awareness and other “extraordinary” states. This discovery became the foundation for the Hemi-Synch™ technology.
“The audio-guidance process works through the generation of complex, multilayered audio signals, which act together to create a resonance that is reflected in unique brain wave forms characteristic of specific states of consciousness. The result is a focused, whole-brain state known as hemispheric synchronization, or Hemi-Sync, where the left and right hemispheres are working together in a state of coherence. Different Hemi-Sync signals are used to facilitate deep relaxation, focused attention or other desired states. Hemi-Sync is said to produce a focused, coherent mind.”
“Depending on the intended goals, music, verbal guidance or subtle sound effects are combined with Hemi-Sync to strengthen its effectiveness. Users remain in total control as these recordings do not contain subliminal messages. Hemispheric synchronization does occur naturally in daily life, but typically only for random, brief periods of time. Hemi-Sync can assist individuals in achieving and sustaining this highly productive, coherent, brain wave state.”
I experienced deeper more profound states of relaxation with Hemi-synch than with any other guided meditation/visualization I have previously tried. The head of a Buddhist monastery remarked upon trying Hemi-Sync, that his monks achieve the state induced by the Hemi-Sync technology only after twenty years of meditating.
Upon return from The Monroe Institute, I suggested to a number of patients in my practice to experiment with guided meditations in which Hemi-Sync are embedded, and we will see what the results are over time.
If you are interested in visiting The Monroe Institute, the initial program offered to all visitors is the Gateway Voyage,™ a six day spiritual retreat, where participants are introduced to different states of consciousness induced by guided meditations in which the Hemi-Synch technology is embedded. The Monroe Institute is non-denominational and promotes no doctrine.
At the heart of the program, is the objective to help participants investigate and explore experientially the reality that they are more than their physical bodies. In addition, there are informal lectures, group discussions, educational videos, and a tour of the research laboratory. “The Gateway Voyage is a method of discovery where one can explore different states of consciousness through direct experience. By exploring our internal world, we are able to understand in greater depth the nature of our own reality and our relationship to the universe. We utilize an audio-guidance technology as a tool to access these levels of awareness which assists one in knowing that we are more than our physical bodies.”
I recommend ordering audio recordings of the program beforehand and working with them for several months in advance, as to get the most out of the experience.
There are a number of free audio downloads on The Monroe Institute website that you can try. I am include a link to a 45 minute progressive relaxation/meditation called Healing Journeys. Before you try it, read through the “How to Listen” guidelines below.
- For at least one half hour prior to listening to this exercise, refrain from eating heavily, drinking alcohol, or using drugs.
- Go to the bathroom and empty your bladder.
- Loosen any tight clothing and remove shoes, eyeglasses, and contact lenses.
- Adjust the volume to a low comfortable level. It is only important that you hear the words; your your brain will automatically respond to the background sound.
- Use stereo headphones.
- Listen in a room with low light where there will be no interruptions for the duration of the exercise.
- Have a blanket available.
- Lie down or sit in a comfortable position. Keep your head supported.
- If you have an itch, scratch. You will be able to easily return to your pattern of relaxation.
- Visualize yourself doing what the words state.
- It is not important that you stay awake. The exercise will be equally effective if you fall asleep while listening.
- This exercise will alter your state of consciousness. Therefore, do not listen while driving or operating heavy equipment.
- Do not listen to this exercise if you have a history or tendency toward seizures.
- Do not use with other light and sound devices.
Dr. Tsafrir: Thank you for the link to the audios. It has taken me several days to find the time to fulfill all the “how to listen” requirements. I have used guided-imagery and progressive relaxation techniques before, but with the addition of the stereo tones I felt a definite perceptual difference. I found that listening to the “Intro to TMI Audio Guidance” gave me a better understanding of the underlying concepts.
I browsed through the “Explorer” topics, and I can see that TMI is perfectly at ease with leaving the beaten path. This may make some people uncomfortable, but I find it intriguing! I am not averse to visiting “The Woo-niverse” on occasion.
Thank you so much for writing and I am glad to have introduced you to something new. The Monroe Institute is off the beaten path, but I have feeling that its truly a pioneer, and as we learn more, that it will prove to be way ahead of its time. If you find yourself with the money and time, I highly recommend attending their program on site. I am only beginning to metabolize and integrate what I experienced there, and I think the way I will feel about it will evolve over time. But it is absolutely fascinating, that is for sure. There is a set of CD’s called Inner States and the last recording is called Luminosity, which I love. If you would like to explore more Hemi-Sync audio, that is wonderful one to try. I have found that now when I meditate without Hemi-Sync, I am able to go into deeper trance states more quickly than before I worked with it. the technology is like training wheels. Eventually it becomes unnecessary.
Have you used this in comparison with any other products? I know there are thousands of binaural beat products, but the SAM technology seems more unique. I have been using binaural beats with mixed results for a few years. Mostly, I use it to help with my sleep. I don’t have insomnia, just really bad sleep quality. The tracks seem to help by forcing me into the theta and delta waves for longer.
Overall, I think I have noticed a greater amount of awareness since using the tracks. I feel like I am on the verge of figuring something out about the world. I do notice patterns and synchronicities that I might have missed previously.
A couple months ago, I started using an hour long track that focused on theta waves. I have had some interesting results from it that I am not sure I am comfortable discussing openly. Although, it seems to fit with some of the research on the Monroe site.
I am definitely going to work with the forgiveness track from Monroe. This is an area that I definitely need to work on 🙂
Hi Jason, Thanks for writing.
No, I have not explored other technologies in this domaine, and am relatively new to the Monroe Institute materials. I am intrigued by what you wrote. There is definitely much to explore with this technology. There is one CD from the Monroe Institute called Restorative Sleep which I recommend to an acquaintance with long standing insomnia and she has had great results with it. Over time I will have a better sense of things when I have more feedback from my patients in addition to my own investigations on myself.