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Trance meditation is a method of induced mental calmness that reduces the electrical cycles of the brain to a state of four to seven cycles per second or slower, known as the Theta state. This is in comparison to a normal Alpha state of 8 to 13 cycles per second characterized by a state of relaxation or daydreaming, and the fully conscious Beta state of 14 to 40 cycles per second. The practice of trance meditation has been done by many cultures throughout the centuries, and is believed to aid in problem solving, self-awareness, and a profound sense of connection to all living things.
Often, guided imagery, audio suggestions, and forms of self-hypnosis are used to guide an individual into a trance meditation, where they retain full conscious control of their mind, but withdraw physically from their immediate surroundings. One of the most popular meditation techniques uses audio guidance. It relies on sounds that have what are called binaural beats, with different sounds presented to each ear by headphones mixed by the separate hemispheres of the brain to establish a harmony of brain activity in both the left and right hemispheres. This balancing of brain activity is believed to aid in accessing higher levels of consciousness. The sounds can be composed of music or what the brain interprets as noise, and their primary role is to detach someone from normal reality by focusing his or her thoughts inward through a process known as brainwave entrainment.
Types of meditation can vary based on the experience of the practitioner and personal interpretation. Some experts believe that only deeper states of brainwave activity will lead to insight and revelation, but there are limitations to this thinking. The Delta state, where the brain cycles at 0.5 to 4 cycles per second, is both analogous to a superconscious state among those who promote doing meditation, and a state of physical coma and complete lack of awareness for those in the medical field who describe it. The Alpha state, therefore, which is the relaxed, daydreaming state of the mind that is more active than Theta, is also sometimes considered a trance meditation state of some benefit.
There is no doubt in the medical literature or in neurological studies that practicing trance meditation does change the activity level of the brain and can focus it in a way that is not normally present in waking life. The controversy arises when definitions of the benefits of this practice attempt to be quantified. The general benefits that seem to be a byproduct of a practicing trance meditation supported by academic research include reduced anxiety and better control over addictions and emotional states such as depression, an increase in intelligence and memory levels, and an improved learning ability. Since the process of trance meditation itself is unique to each individual, however, it is difficult to accurately quantify its effects for the general population, and much of the evidence as to its efficacy remains anecdotal.