Transcendental Meditation, Dr. Norman Rosenthal and Hyperarousal Trance

This weekend my husband and I went to a program at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation here in Atlanta, Georgia.  It was an interesting program presented by Dr. Norman Rosenthal, a psychiatrist originally from South Africa, now practicing in Washington, DC, and also a twenty-year researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health.  He is the psychiatrist who pioneered the study of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and has just published a book on TM:‘Transcendence: Healing and Transformation through Transendental Meditation’. (Penguin Books)

Dr. Rosenthal is an affable fellow, and presented his  talk with a slide show.  Doing so can be an issue, as slides give a visual presentation of important points, but sometimes slide shows are either too academic or just fillers where it would be better to verbally draw on the same issues with examples within the presenters experience.  To strike a correct balance isn’t easy, and not all scientists are great public speakers.  Dr. Rosenthal certainly embraces TM for the  correct reasons, and we bought his new book to get a better understanding of what he was presenting. I’ve been reading since last night and it looks to be a good book on the subject.

Both my husband and I are old enough, having been around during the ’70’s when TM was all the rage: Beatles, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi making TM a more ‘acceptable’ discipline for Westerners, many other trends that came from this very ancient discipline and some fraudulent movements, too.  Many people stuck their toes into the inviting stream of TM and after a few attempts, withdrew their feet.  It’s a discipline, after all, and reliable results need practice and continuance.

During the question and answer after his presentation, I wondered if Dr. Rosenthal had ever come across Hyperarousal Trance and asked him.  His answer shocked me: actually annoyed me that this also very ancient and cultural practice could be so misrepresented by a scientist who should know something about it.  His answer was something along the lines that Hyperarousal Trance was something that people doing ‘sex-talk’ on the internet fell into. 

My response was immediate:  “I disagree.”  My husband said Dr. Rosenthal’s face fell, and he could feel the gathering storm (in me) just by my tensing presence.  LOL!

I tried to explain something of what Hyperousal Trance was, and I have to admit that this was the FIRST time I had ever heard such an explanation. As readers here know, I have written numerous articles on Hyperarousal Trance and Belly Dance, and some of these articles have been picked up and published in magazines and blogs.  I have been a belly dancer for seven years, and just this month went back to it because I have been holding an exercise class for friends (and Husband) and I realized that Belly Dance is a good part of this routine because how much it strengthens the body core.  But way beyond this, is the issue of WHAT Hyperarousal Trance does to the mental state of the user.  Dr. Rosenthal was just  uninformed as to Hyperarousal Trance, and hopefully, he will do some research into this very useful and dynamic practice. 

I want to copy and paste something here about brain waves and how they effect all of us.  I have to check out this website more, but I think this is pretty reliable…at least to the issue of what these catagories of brain waves do.

So what exactly is a brain wave?

By attaching electrodes to the scalp and using a device known as an electroencephalogram (EEG), we can view and analyze the traces of electrical activity in the brain that represent the “brain waves”.

Like all waves, brain waves have a frequency, measured in cycles per second or Hertz (abbreviated Hz), which is the number of cycles the wave goes through in one second. So, a lower Hertz number represents a slower wave.

Brain waves are categorized by their frequency. There are four kinds brain waves generally known to science and measured by EEGs – alpha, beta, theta, and delta – and one more that has been recently discovered now that EEGs are becoming sensitive enough – gamma.

  • Beta brain waves, measured at 13-40 Hz, are the brain state of our normal waking consciousness. Nearly all forms of action, thinking, and problem solving are done with a beta brain wave. Most people spend most of their waking lives in a beta state.
  • Alpha brain waves, measured at 7-13 Hz, are the brain state of relaxation and meditation. The alpha state is associated with creativity and super learning, where the brain learns at a faster and deeper level than it does in beta. Most meditation and energy healing techniques cultivate and utilize an alpha brain wave for relaxation and healing.
  • Theta brain waves, measured at 4-7 Hz, are the brain state of REM sleep (dreams), hypnosis, lucid dreaming, and the barely conscious state just before sleeping and just after waking. Theta is the border between the conscious and the subconscious world, and by learning to use a conscious, waking Theta brain wave we can access and influence the powerful subconscious part of ourselves that is normally inaccessible to our waking minds. While in the Theta state, the mind is capable of deep and profound learning, healing, and growth – it is the brain wave where our minds can connect to the Divine and manifest changes in the material world.
  • Delta brain waves, measured at less than 4 Hz, are the brain state of deep sleep and unconsciousness.
  • Gamma brain waves, measured at 40+ Hz, are the brain state of hyperalertness, perception, and integration of sensory input. When time seems to slow down during a car accident, the brain is entering a high gamma state. Vianna teaches that when using the Theta Healing technique the brain is actually moving back and forth between the theta and gamma state.

“Theta is the border between the conscious and the subconscious world, and by learning to use a conscious, waking Theta brain wave we can access and influence the powerful subconscious part of ourselves that is normally inaccessible to our waking minds. While in the Theta state, the mind is capable of deep and profound learning, healing, and growth -“

I emphasize Theta brain wave state because this most closely relates to the Hyperarousal Trance state.  I’m no scientist, though I have worked in the biochemistry department at Emory University years ago, and read many scientific journals on biology and brains, but this, through my direct experience in HT makes ultimate sense. 

A quote from Dr. Rosenthal’s new book really grabbed my attention: it was from David Lynch who was working to bring Mulholland Drive into the highly polished movie it became.  He was a practictioner of TM and he wrote:

“Like a string of pearls, the ideas came. And they affected the beginning, the middle and the end.”

That is the best explanation of what the Hyperarousal Trance state has done for me in my writing.  In “The Zar Tales”, my second book, I have an essay in the very back of this book, trying to explain my experience as a belly dancer and also as a writer with this trance state: it makes things connect, clearer, I see the patterns in what I am researching and the cultural issues are made ‘plain’.  These things are indeed like pearls on a string, making up a whole picture or element.

Of course, the entrance into Hyperarousal Trance for me and many others has been through movement.  That’s what belly dancers do.  They move a lot.  But also, listening to the ‘ayoub’ rhythm, which is prominant in Middle Eastern/North African music is the key.  It’s actually something of a heart beat, and drummers use this to great purpose during the Zar dances (also called ‘trance dance’)  Three years ago, I was writing the novella, “The Zar Tale” and listening to what turned out to be trance dance music.  I was lost in the writing, and time passed without notice. What I thought was an hour, in reality was four hours passing.  But the quality of the writing had changed: it was much deeper, the conversations were very difference, something I don’t think I could have written in a ‘normal’ state.  I do know that I was disturbed by all of this, and only when I raised this issue with Berber and Moroccan drummers and musicians, did they laugh knowingly.  This trance was something that they fell into often, and to them, it gave endurance and substance to their music. I found endurance and substance to my writing, but I still wondered what was really going on.  I had to do what little research I could find, but I know now that Hyperarousal Trance is real and scientific.  It is not sex-talk on the internet.

I don’t see any contradictions in either the practice of TM or Hyperarousal Trance.  Both are ancient cultural practices, and it is just our ignorance as to their fullness, their relatedness to the transcendence of the human mind that stops us from embracing, exploring, acknowledging their benefits and worth.

We are poorer when we maintain our cultural bias and ignorance.

Jane Kohut-Bartels (who is also Lady Nyo)

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3 Responses to “Transcendental Meditation, Dr. Norman Rosenthal and Hyperarousal Trance”

  1. jannie funster Says:

    I sure like the idea of a dance trance. The drumming rhythms are hypnotic.

    I find it hard to be still and quiet my mind for even 5 minutes. But a dance trance or walking meditation seems to bring me peace.

    Agreed that cultural bias and ignorance is a barrier to peace, both within and without.

    Like

  2. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Jannie!

    Yes….there is so much that we westerners don’t know about this Hyperarousal Trance state. I was pretty shocked that this very well known scientist would think that HT was something to do with the internet sex chat! LOL!

    But! It is something he can discover, if he’s open enough to do so. I hope he will be, especially someone who has written such a lovely book on TM. I’ve been reading it today…

    I have composed a number of poems and tons of tanka (short!…can remember them walking…) with walking. Walking meditation is a state we can slip into when we are on familiar ground and feel safe. I am so glad you find peace in this…me, too.

    Ahh….cultural bias is something so constant because we, in the West, think we with our technology, etc…have most of the answers. We try also to pigeon hole things that we come across. I have been so amazed with the trance dance I have seen and it is scary only when we don’t understand the cultural basis for it. Trance dance is also a necessary avenue to a bit of mental health for women in the Middle East: The Zar trance dance and rituals are times when women can get together without the restrictions of religion and men. In some places in the rural middle east, it is the only form of mental health ‘clinic’ for women deeply troubled by life.

    Thank you so much, Jannie for reading and your comment.

    Lady Nyo

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    Transcendental Meditation, Dr. Norman Rosenthal and Hyperarousal Trance | Lady Nyo’s Weblog

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