Bill Harris has been involved in personal development for more than 30 years as a seeker, teacher, public speaker, author, musician, composer, therapist, workshop leader and business owner. He is founder and director of Centerpointe Research Institute, and is the creator of 'The Holosync SolutionTM' program. This program utilizes an audio technology called Holosync, embedded beneath soothing music and environmental sounds on CD or cassette tape, to create states of deep meditation, producing a dramatic acceleration in mental, emotional and spiritual growth. Harris started Centerpointe Research Institute in 1989 with borrowed recording equipment set up on his kitchen table. Since then, Centerpointe has grown to include more than 100,000 participants in 172 countries. His most recent book, Thresholds of the Mind, describes the research and process that makes this technology effective. He spoke with The EDGE about the Holosync technology from his office in Portland, Ore.
What is meditation?
Bill Harris: To describe what meditation is, you really have to consider where meditation came from and the reason it was developed. It comes out of the descriptions of reality that mystics have imparted to their students for many, many years. If you spoke to a mystic in the East he would tell you that reality is satchidananda. "Sat" represents the idea of omnipresence, that there is one energy in the universe that is everywhere, everywhen, and that everything is made up of this energy, that everything is a dance, the play, the flux of this one energy. Quantum mechanic physicists are telling us the same thing now, so this is not just some sort of mystical, airy fairy thing. This is backed up by the latest in scientific thinking. But, the mystics went further than just saying that everything is the play of one energy.
They also said, and this is the "chid" part, that this energy is aware, that it's aware of itself being everything and being everywhere. And because of the fact that it knows that it's everywhere and everywhen, and that there's nothing outside of it, nothing to get, nowhere to go, nothing to be afraid of, this energy is happy, peaceful and blissful, which is the "ananda" part. So, the teacher would tell the disciples that this energy, this one energy of all and everything that is eternally happy and peaceful, is their true nature. And then someone would raise their hand in the back row and say, "Well, yeah, but if that's true, then why do I feel so lousy so often?" And the teacher would say, "Well, the reason is because your mind gets in the way of knowing who you really are." You are this happy, peaceful, blissful being, but you don't often experience it, because of your mind. So technologies and techniques have been developed over the years to still the mind and to get beyond the mind - and the most effective of those is meditation. The real reason for meditation is the attempt to try to get at who you really are and to experience it directly, without having the mind intervene.
What's happening on a physical level, or a mental, emotional or spiritual level, when we meditate?
Harris: When you meditate, you are focusing on something, whether it's a candle flame or the breath going in or out or a mantra or a prayer, or whatever it happens to be. You're focusing on something, and that focusing in the brain creates a couple of things. It causes the electrical patterns in the brain to slow down and relax, but at the same time it causes what's called the amplitude of the brain-waves, the power of the brain-waves, to increase.
If you look at a pictorial representation of the brain-waves, normal waking consciousness, a Beta brain-wave pattern, this is a fine saw-toothed pattern where the waveform is not very high or powerful. As you slow the brain down into an Alpha brain-wave pattern, the next slower category, the height or power of the waveform increases, and if you go even deeper still, to the Theta, it increases even more. Finally, if you go to the deepest brain-wave pattern, Delta, the height of the waveform, the amplitude, is the highest and the power of the waveform is the highest, too. If you look at waves at the beach, the powerful ones are the ones that are high, that are tall. And with sound waves, the higher the waveform then the louder the wave is.
So as you meditate, the brain-waves decelerate and become more powerful, and the brain cannot handle this increased power without creating new neural connections, without creating new communication inside the brain. As people meditate, they begin to perceive the interconnectedness and the oneness of things rather than continuing to see things in terms of separation, because there is more communication in the brain.
Also, the two sides of the brain begin to work together, which is called brain synchrony or brain synchronization. Electrical patterns begin to fire together in the same rhythm. It's really a balancing of the brain, and that also contributes to people seeing things in terms of how they are connected - and people feel more calm, more peaceful. Some hormonal and neurotransmitter-oriented changes also occur. Different hormones and neurotransmitters are created in greater amounts and a few neurotransmitters associated with stress, such as cortisol, are decreased. That's another reason why people become more peaceful when they meditate.
The problem with traditional meditation, and I practiced traditional meditation in a very disciplined way for 16 years before I discovered the Holosync audio technology that we use here at Centerpointe, is that it is very slow and it takes many years to develop the skill of focusing the mind and getting to the point where really deep and substantial changes begin to happen. Most people get discouraged before that point and become irregular in their practice. It's very difficult to sustain a long-term meditation practice for many years. We live in a society that's based on fast food and fast everything. People want fast results, and you don't really get fast results form traditional meditation. You really can't get great results with 20 minutes twice a day or an hour a day. You will get some health benefits and feel more relaxed, but to get the really substantial mental, emotional and spiritual changes that meditation is capable of providing, a person needs to meditate many, many hours a day for many, many years.
Back in the 1970s, the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement and a few others, including researchers at the Menninger Clinic, studied meditators while they were meditating. They measured their brain-wave patterns and discovered some other things that were happening while they were meditating. From this research, people began to be aware that when people meditate they go into an Alpha state and that, if they get really good at it, they make little excursions for a few moments at a time down into a Theta brain-wave pattern.
So, there was this body of knowledge that began to accumulate about what was going on in the brain when people meditated. In October 1973, a researcher in New York at Mt. Sinai Medical Center, Dr. Gerald Oster, published a paper in Scientific American called "Auditory Beats in the Brain." Oster found that when the brain was subjected to sine wave tones of very precise frequencies in certain combinations, different brain-wave patterns could be created. In fact, any brain-wave pattern could be created, and he described how a standing wave would be created in the brain that the entire brain would become entrained to. In this way, the brain-wave patterns of super-learning, enhanced creativity, sleep, deep meditation and a variety of others could be created, very effortlessly and very easily.
So a number of people, including myself, said, "Gee, if these are the brain-wave patterns of meditation and we can create them this easily, would we, if we did this, have the same benefits, the same experiences as people who were doing a very deep, long term meditation practice?" What happened was really beyond our wildest dreams, because not only could we take ourselves into the brain-wave patterns of extremely deep meditation, but we could take ourselves even deeper, which really accelerated the whole process. And we could do it very, very precisely and we could do it every time, starting with the very first time. People who did this began to have classical meditation experiences right from the beginning. They began to have the kinds of really powerful transformational changes that usually took people 10 or 20 years of intense practice to get to the point where they began to have them. So, my own experience was that after 16 years of meditating at least one and usually several hours a day, I had more happen the first year of doing this than in the entire 16 years.
We've been administrating this program now for more than 13 years and I've heard the same feedback from thousands and thousands of people, so it's quite a breakthrough in getting results. Now, some people will say, "Well, you know, you're not doing the hard work and you're not sweating it out day after day, sitting there on your meditation cushion, and so on." Well, this technology makes getting into a deep meditative state easy, but it doesn't make the part of dealing with what you have to go through to make the changes easy at all. That is why we have very extensive follow-up and support for people as they go through this.
What might that entail for a typical person going through the program?
Harris: Well, there's a big package of introductory material that explains what's likely to happen and why it's going to happen and how the process works. Then we send people a series of follow-up support letters every two weeks for the first six months that describe in greater detail what's likely to be happening and how to deal with it. We have a free online newsletter that comes to people's e-mail box every two weeks in which I write very extensive, detailed articles about the process and the brain and how this affects the brain and about spiritual growth and emotional change and all of these topics.
We also have a telephone hotline that people can call, and we have very well-trained support counselors who can help people when they're having problems. So we expend quite a bit of effort to create a relationship with those who want to do that. Some people just take this and run with it and they don't need much help and supervision, but other people do need more.
Deep meditation can create upheaval. Why? People create an internal map of reality as they're growing up. The main aim of creating this map of reality is for the person to be safe. The more there is a lack of safety in the person's childhood, the more tightly they will cling to this methodology that they created while growing up in order to be safe. So, when something that's very powerful - meditation, Holosync meditation or anything that is very powerfully transformative, including therapy - when people are really pushed to change by something, even though consciously they may want very much to make the changes that are happening, unconsciously there's a part of them that says, "Wait a minute. Being this way has kept me safe all these years. Do I really want to change this?" And so they resist it. Because of this resistance, people can create upheaval for themselves while they're doing anything that's powerfully transformational. It's only when we cling to the old way, because we think it's what keeps us safe, that people have trouble.
So, we provide all this follow-up and support to help people through this process. But the bottom line really is results. I'm interested in results. I did sweat it out sitting on my meditation cushion every day for a long time with minimal results, really, and I know many, many people who've done the same thing. They've meditated for a long time, but what they read about in all the books that they were supposed to have happen didn't really happen.
So you didn't get the results that you were expecting?
Harris: Yeah, I mean you probably know just as many people as I do who have meditated off and on for many, many years and they're pretty much substantially the same as they were when they started. I'm not saying that nothing happened. I certainly did have change, but the amount of change that I had was tens of times greater once I started using Holosync, because it just skips that whole period where you're not getting results while you're learning the technique and it also takes you much deeper. An hour of meditation a day is probably as powerful as four to six hours of traditional meditation. Another thing that's interesting is that even though people may use this program for several years without ever having once meditated in a traditional way during that time, if they stop the program and meditate in a traditional way, they find that their ability to meditate deeply is extremely enhanced.
What role does meditation play in the conscious awakening of an individual?
Harris: A person's true nature really is that they are this one energy of all and everything and that there's nothing to get, nowhere to go, nothing to be afraid of. A person's true nature really is happiness, peace, love and all those things that are kind of clichés in spiritual circles. It's not that someone who becomes enlightened or becomes more conscious achieves anything exactly; it's more that they get what's keeping them from seeing who they already are out of the way. In Eastern philosophy, it's said that you're like a mirror that reflects consciousness, but the mirror is covered with dust. Meditation is the way to wipe the dust off the mirror so you then reflect who you really are. When you are meditating, you are getting all of the stuff that's going on in the mind to calm down.
I can remember pre-Holosync that my mind was going a million miles an hour all the time. Now my mind only goes when I want it to go and the rest of the time it's just empty. When I want to use my mind, I can use it, and when I don't need to use it, it's quiet. When that happens, you are able to perceive things directly rather than having to perceive them through the veil of all this mental stuff going on. You'll be in a certain situation and you'll know just exactly what to do, because instantaneously, intuitively, you'll be able to evaluate all the interconnections of what's happening in a given moment and know just what to do. It makes life flow in a very easy way.
So for somebody who is picking up Holosync technology for the first time, what will they experience?
Harris: There are a few things on the Holosync sound tracks. First of all there is a very pleasant soundtrack of some crystal bowls and rain, and then, underneath that - and you could hear it if you knew what to listen for, but for the most part it's kind of hidden - is the Holosync audio technology.
When you sit down the first time to listen to Holosync, it will start in a brain-wave pattern that's close to where you're likely to be when you're in your normal, waking consciousness, and it will gradually slow your brain-wave patterns down from the Beta brain-wave pattern, where most people are in their normal running around during the day, to an Alpha brain-wave pattern, then to a deeper Alpha brain-wave pattern and into theta and into a deeper Theta, and finally into a Delta brain-wave pattern. It will then will hold you there - and you definitely can feel this happening.
Generally speaking, people become very relaxed, and in a lot of cases people kind of mentally kind of float away. You lose awareness of your outside environment. It's a little bit difficult to describe exactly, and the experience is not the same every time for every person. There are times, just like in traditional meditation, when you just seem to sink right down into a real transcendent state, where you're just very, very peaceful and you're just unaware of your outside circumstances and time seems to go really quickly. There are other meditations where a lot of stresses are bubbling up from the unconscious mind. When these stresses break the surface of your conscious awareness, they take the form of lots of random thoughts, or they can also take the form of little twitches or different sounds that a person might hear or little flashes of light in your visual field. These are just stresses in the nervous system bubbling up and being released.
There's a very famous story in the Transcendental Meditation movement back in the '70s when they were doing a lot of studies on TM meditators, mapping their brain-waves. One woman, after one of the meditation sessions, walked up to the researchers and said, "I just thought I'd tell you that I could not meditate today. I just couldn't get a mantra in edgewise. My mind was going a million miles an hour and I just thought you should know so you could throw out my data, because I just couldn't meditate." And the researcher said, "Well, that's very interesting that you would say that, because we were just going to take you aside to tell you that you just demonstrated the lowest, slowest, deepest state we've yet seen." She thought she wasn't meditating, but she was really meditating more deeply than anyone in the room and she had gotten down to a level in the unconscious mind where there was a lot of stuff that needed to be released - and it was getting released. That was what was accounting for all the thoughts and her inability to feel really settled.
Most Americans assume that if they're not really peaceful and their mind isn't still that they're not meditating. Meditation involves a lot of upheaval, particularly in the beginning. That's really not a bad thing. There's no right experience, and there's no wrong experience. The only thing that you can do that might be considered "wrong" is to resist whatever's happening and sometimes when you're meditating you do feel uncomfortable, and the best thing to do when that happens is to say, "Oh, good! Something big is being released." And just watch. Just notice whatever's happening. Notice if your body's uncomfortable. Notice if your mind is going a million miles an hour. Whatever's happening, just sit and say, "How interesting." And just watch it. But, that's tough for people because they have a preconceived idea that their mind is not supposed to be doing that, first of all, and it may be uncomfortable.
I said earlier that people have a vested interest in keeping the way their internal map of reality has been constructed, in keeping it the same because they created it that way to feel safe. And so, when that map of reality starts to change, people don't feel safe. When people feel discomfort when they're meditating, it's because some of that old way of being safe is being changed - and if you think that you've got to keep it that way to be safe, then you're going to resist.
A real key point that applies to meditation, or just life in general, is that all discomfort, all suffering and all pain is created by your resistance to something being the way it is. It looks like suffering and pain is caused by the thing that you're resisting, but it's really not. It's caused by the resistance itself. No matter what is happening, if you can just be totally OK with the fact that it's happening, totally emotionally okay, then whatever's going on may still have intensity, but it won't have negative intensity. People get out of suffering when they stop resisting things being the way they are. This doesn't mean that you can't do something about things being the way they are; it just means that you're not attached to a certain outcome while you're taking action. There's a big difference. The difference is when you prefer things to be a certain way you maintain your equanimity and your inner peace and your happiness regardless of what happens around you. Whereas if you're attached to things being a certain way, then you have to wait for things to be perfect in order to feel perfect - and we all know how often that happens. Not very often.
In terms of the research you do with the hundreds of thousands of people from around the world who are using your technology, are there any new surprises coming along or do you pretty much know what people are going to experience and how they're going to react to the technology?
Harris: We've been doing this for a very long time and we have a lot of people in this program. Quite frankly, many years ago we stopped seeing anything new in terms of what people experience or how they interpret it or problems that people have. We know a lot about this process because of all the feedback we've gotten. There is a 15-page paper that I wrote that summarizes a lot of the scientific research around this type of technology.
Dr. Vincent Giampapa, a noted researcher in the area of longevity and the past president of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, which board certifies doctors to practice anti-aging medicine, found in a study that several key biomarkers related to longevity were dramatically affected by Holosync. One is the hormone DHEA. The more of it you have, the more healthy you are, the less disease you have and the less stressed you are. DHEA levels go up considerably when people use Holosync, as do levels of melatonin, a powerful antioxidant and another biomarker for longevity. And the more stressed you are, the more cortisol you have. With Holosync, cortisol levels went down. I'm talking about going down, or going up, by anywhere form 50 to 300 percent. Huge changes in these biomarkers. We have a partnership right now with the National College of Naturopathic Medicine. They are now in the process of writing grants to study a number of things about what Holosync does.
I also have become very interested in the research of Daniel Amen, M.D. who has a clinic in northern California. He does brain-imaging studies that show many different psychological problems, including ADD and depression, anxiety, inability to make good decisions and a long list of other things that people generally go to therapists for. Dr. Amen has done SPECT scans on the brain showing what part of the brain is under- or over-active, and then he generally treats people holistically and with traditional drug treatments. I realized when I read his work that all of the symptoms he described are normalized when people used Holosync, so Holosync must be balancing and normalizing these different parts of the brain. So, I'm about to contact him and see if we can do some research on how Holosync affects these things. I'm just positive he'll find that with the use of Holosync, that parts of the brain return to normal.
What can people expect from the Holosync program? How long does it take for them to go through it?
Harris: The program begins with an initial level called Awakening Prologue, which takes about four months to go through, although some people take a little longer. After a point, it doesn't feel as powerful any more and you're ready to go on to the next level. It's kind of like if you were running a mile every day. At first it would be difficult, but changes would happen in your body and finally you get to the point where a mile is easy. Then you are running along saying, "You know, this isn't pushing me like it used to. I think I'll start running two miles a day." The same thing happens with Holosync. The brain is making changes, and once those new neural connections have been created, then it doesn't seem to be as powerful anymore. At that point, you're ready to go on to the next level.
After the initial level of Awakening Prologue, we begin to custom record the soundtracks, adding to them silent affirmations that are chosen by the participant and recorded in their own voice. There are 12 more levels. With each one, something called the carrier frequency used to create the Alpha, Theta, Delta brain-wave pattern is lowered, and as it becomes lower, the Holosync becomes more powerful. So when a person goes on to Awakening level one, we take them a bit deeper into Delta than we did in Awakening Prologue - and the techonology becomes much more powerful.
What's the most satisfying part of your job?
Harris: I would say the most satisfying part of my job is all the feedback we get from people. We have so many testimonial letters from people that I don't even know what to do with all of them. We have people writing to us all of the time saying, "You saved my life." Or, "I can't believe that this works as well as it does." Anywhere from two to four times a year, we meet with about 50 people at a retreat center and we do an intensive for about five days. We do about four hours a day of Holosync and do a whole lot of other things. And in this process, I get face-to-face with people using Holosync and they tell me, looking right into my eyes, what this has done for them.
It's very gratifying to know that you're really making a difference in the world, that this really works and people's lives really are changed by this. When someone has been searching for something that would really make a difference and really get rid of the depression, get rid of the anxiety, really expand their conscious awareness and get them more in touch with who they are and then they find this and it really does that, they are very, very grateful and very energized by it. I think all the people who work here with me feel the same kind of pride in the fact that they're not just coming to a job, they're doing something that really is affecting the world.
Further articles by Bill Harris...