In Episode #48, Jesse interviews Bill Harris, meditation guru, founder of The Centerpointe Research Institute, and creator of Holosync Audio Technology. Bill tells us how we can gain more self-awareness in order to exercise choice in our lives, and how Holosync Technology can get us on the fast track to deep-level meditation.
We also get a sneak peek at the U.S. Military’s plans to make soldiers smarter and learn that – from a neurological standpoint – a mother’s love for her child and her dog aren’t so different.
|0:36||Introduction to Bill Harris and the Centerpointe Research Institute|
|1:31||This Week in Neuroscience: The U.S. Military's Quest to Boost IQ|
|3:32||iTunes Review thank-yous|
|4:40||Bill Harris, The Holosync Solution, and Jesse's comments on meditation|
|7:07||Bill's solutions for dealing with the human condition|
|9:06||The two criteria for whether or not you have a choice: creation and awareness|
|10:01||"Awareness creates choice"|
|10:45||Four categories of creation that we can learn to control|
|13:04||Driving a car as a metaphor for our own self-awareness and self-control|
|13:45||Bill's life-changing hack: Holosync Technology|
|18:14||Why is meditation not more commonly practiced?|
|19:57||"Meditation creates awareness"|
|20:11||Why do "purist" meditators still use traditional methods when technology exists that can speed up the process?|
|21:46||Benefits of Holosync Audio Technology|
|22:09||Bill's personal goals and next steps|
|24:13||Thank you to Bill and some love for fellow Oregonians|
|25:06||Ruthless Listener-Retention Gimmick: What Happens in Mothers' Brains When They See Their Children... And Dogs?|
|27:27||Episode #49 teaser|
Key Terms Mentioned
Episode Transcript hideshow
Voiceover: I try to imagine a fellow smarter than myself, then I try to think - what would he do?
Announcer: Charge up your axons, ready your receptors and shift your lobes in to upper beta phase. You're listening to Smart Drug Smarts - the podcast dedicated to helping you optimize your brain with the latest breakthroughs in neuroscience, nootropics and psychopharmacology.
Jesse: Hello and welcome to Smart Drug Smarts, episode number 48. We're closing in 50 episodes - which I'm so happy about that I'm lisping. This is the podcast dedicated to the improvement of your own brain by any and all means at your disposal. This week we're going to be talking about meditation. We're going to be talking about meditation with a long-time meditative guru. Not the kind with a very long beard. In fact this guy is conspicuously clean shaven and his name is Bill Harris. He's the founder of something called the Centerpointe Research Institute, based up around my hometown in Oregon, and is the creator of something called Holosync Audio Technology for inducing deep states of meditation in relative meditative lay people. So he's going to be telling us all about his 30 some years in the world of meditation and tips, tricks and technologies that he has picked up along the way.
If you hang around until the end of the episode, I'm going to tell you about some ground-breaking FMRI research going on in to the similarities and differences in reactions between mothers to their children and their dogs. So if you're a dog-lover or a dog-hater - whatever side you're on in the eternal battle of child vs dog, you'll want to stay tuned for that. But before we get into any of that let's do This Week in Neuroscience.
Voiceover: Smart Drug Smarts - This week in Neuroscience!
Jesse: So for all you sci-fi fans out there that are kinda afraid of something like The Terminator happening and government research gone awry and making hyper intelligent machines or hyper intelligent cyborgs - spiraling out of control and causing all manner of havoc for the human species. Know that all of our science fiction authors have done nothing to dissuade the U.S military from doing their darnedest to look into ways to make people and soldiers particularly smarter.
The U.S Army, Navy and Airforce are all jointly funding something called IARPA (Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity) and in turn a three-and-a-half year program called SHARP which is Strengthening Human Adaptive Reasoning and Problem-solving. Which has basically taken sort of a broad spectrum look at all possible ways of making people smarter. Everything from low-dose electrical stimulation of the brain - things that we've talked about like tDCS - to brain scanners that can fit inside of a helmet and test the level of alertness of the person wearing it and kind of let someone that, "Hey you're too sleepy to be driving this helicopter at 300 mph", if the brain readings start showing the wrong sorts of brain activation.
There's also a huge amount of research going into fixing up damaged brains, since an estimated 300,000 military personnel have been affected by brain injuries ranging from mild to severe. So they're looking within the SHARP program to create what they call Neuroprosthetics. Says Justin Sanchez, a biomedical engineer managing the program, ""We had a preliminary program in rodents to show that when there's an injury we could bridge the gap to restore the fundamental memory structure of the brain. It's quite remarkable to say that we now have enough of an understanding about the formation of these memories that we can build a prosthetic in humans." So as with many things I think that there's probably a lot of reason to suspect that this is military technology right now but we'll see a lot of this leaking down to the public and consumer sectors 10-15 years after it's super super super cutting edge within the military. That's assuming that The Terminator robots don't get loose and destroy humanity first. Let's just not worry about that now and be cautiously optimistic.
Voiceover: Smart Drugs Smarts.
Jesse: And in completely self serving news, picked up 2 more 5 star reviews on iTunes. Thank you very much to both Jedi Next Door and Podcast Junkies.com. Jedi Next Door says, "This show is hands down the most accessible and engaging resource for information on smart drugs available anywhere." He says some more stuff but I will leave it at that. That's quite awesome. And Podcast Junkies says that, "Jesse continues to get better and better with his show and is always looking to bring the best interviews, research and over-all content that he can find. I don't know many people who are as passionate about nootropics as Jesse and that enthusiasm is very infectious." Now I must admit I actually know personally Harry Duran of Podcast Junkies.com - so that is slightly biased because he's my homeboy. But thanks anyway and for those of you who like podcasts in general, which is probably all of you, definitely check out Podcast Junkies. It is a really cool podcast. You can kind of think of it being to podcasts what the Oscar awards are to movies. If you only like go see the movies that get the best picture nominations, go check out what Harry is sort of curating as far the podcast world on Podcast Junkies and you'll probably get turned on to some cool stuff.
Voiceover: Smart Drugs Smarts.
Jesse: Okay so as mentioned my interview guest this week is Bill Harris. Bill Harris is a long time name in the world of self improvement. He's been a speaker about human potential for many many years and has shared stages with people like the Dalai Lama and Sir Richard Branson. In 2003 he was invited to address the United Nations Values Caucus. He's the director of the Centerpointe Research Institute and is the creator of something called the Holosync Solution, which has been used by over 2 million people over the course of the past couple of decades. And Holosync what it is trying to address is - he's going to talk about this in the interview - but I guess let's step back for a second.
My own personal experience with meditation has been a frustrating one and I guess this is probably true for a lot of people. You read these things and you hear these anecdotal stories and it sounds like that the people who are into meditation are really into it and have such effusively good things to say about it. You have one or two reactions and you're like, "Wow! That sounds amazing. I want to get me some of that stuff." or "I couldn't possibly be that good. You're trying to sell me a line of crap. But I don't believe none of that mystic heeby-jeeby hogwash."
I tend to be one of the people who believe that "mystic heeby-jeeby hogwash". There is something to it. Science certainly seems to back it up, that long-term meditators have levels of self-control and life satisfaction, strong relationships with other people that you know are certainly very reasonable goals for any sort of human to aspire to. That said, there probably have been 3 stints in my life that I've sort of made a go at trying to become a meditator vs a non-meditator, I would certainly consider myself a non-meditator now. But in each case I just kind of petered out after giving it a good honest try because I found it time consuming and boring and I couldn't really tell honestly whether I was really getting an effect out of it in real life. Or If I was just sort of trying to psych myself into something.
But I think a lot of these problems might be that I've never really sort of fought myself through the stages of being a meditating beginner or a meditating intermediate to get to the point of being a meditative expert that actually start seeing some significant benefits. And what Bill is trying to do with the Holosync Solution is I think trying to kind of give people a pole vault across that area of meditation where you don't necessarily see the benefits in getting you quickly into a deep level of meditation, such as a real meditative master would get to after years years of practice. So with that as preamble let's dive in.
Bill Harris: I have what most people say is a very unique take on the human condition that we're all trapped in and my solutions for how to deal with that. I start off by dividing things in a very grand big picture way into those things that you can't really exercise choice about and those things you can. So first of all we don't have a choice about all kinds of physical things like the sun, weather, gravity, volcanoes, the fact that we are sensitive creatures and can be injured easily and all those sorts of things. There's a whole bunch of stuff that's just sort of built into the universe that we don't have control over.
Another thing that we don't have control over is the fact that there are around 7 billion-ish other people on the planet and they all have their own individual agenda and dammit their agenda usually is at cross-purposes with ours. Some of these things you can mitigate of course. The first category wear warm clothes when it's cold or put on sunscreen - you know there are things you can do to mitigate the physical things, but you can't really control them. And the same thing for other people. There are things you can do to become more persuasive etc.
The third category is really the big one though and things you can't have a choice about. And that is that everything in the universe is impermanent, it's always changing. Things come into being and then they are there for a while and then they fall apart or end or die or something. And so we're kind of caught in this situation where there is a bunch of stuff about being human that we can't do much about. And it's really those things I think that make us want to do stuff like take smart drugs or do other kinds of biohacks to figure out strategies for how to deal with this situation we're in. And I thought for a long time about this - like what could you have a choice about and why could these things be a choice while others can't.
So the 2 criteria that I came up with for having a choice about something are that first of all it has to be something that you are creating, that you are generating. Obviously you're not generating the weather or what other people do and that's why you can't have a choice about them. So it has to be something that comes from you somehow. There's a lot of things people are creating that they don't really realize they're creating because it's going on outside their awareness and that brings me to the second criteria which is that in order to exercise choice about what you're creating, you have to have enough awareness. And very few people do. Usually the people who'd have that kind of awareness have been meditating or practicing zen or something like that for 30 plus years. There are though some hacks to that and that's ultimately where I'm going as to describe what that is.
This leads me sort of to my first really seminal principle, which is that, "Awareness creates choice." What you're aware of that you can watch yourself create as you create it; watch the internal processes that create it, not just the results. Those things can become a choice and the corollary to that is once you have a choice, this is what I've discovered in helping close to 2 million people do what I'm talking about here, is that once you have a choice you'll always choose what serves you. What is most resourceful and you'll drop doing whatever you've been creating unconsciously outside your awareness that is sabotaging you or that screws you up.
The next thing I thought about, so what is it that people are actually creating that they could have a choice about. And I came up with 4 categories of things.
1) The first one is how you feel or more broadly the internal states you experience. This is one of the things that biohackers are very interested in. They want to be more focused and be more creative and that sort of a thing. But it also would include whether or not you're anxious or depressed or happy or joyful or have good pattern recognition. All kinds of things like that.
2) The second category is how you behave and that would include of course, getting yourself to behave when you've decided that you want to but then you find that you're procrastinating or in some way not taking the action that you know you should take or you know you want to take. But it also would include things like not behaving in ways that create consequences that you later go, "Jeez! That was a dumb thing to have done."
3) The third category is having a choice about which people or situations you attract or become attracted to. In other words people based on internal cognitive stuff, they get attracted to certain kinds of people and certain kinds of situations. Or they give off cues that attract certain other people and sometimes it ends up being people and situations that turn out to be bad news. I went for years getting attracted to the same screwed up woman over and over but in a different body each time. My whole attraction thing was happening outside my awareness. So I was doing something that was not resourceful and I wouldn't have chosen. But as long as something is autopilot outside your awareness, it's not a choice. In order to be a choice it has to be something you're creating with awareness.
4) The fourth category is what meanings you assign to what's happening around you.
So the idea is that you can gain choice over these internal processes and cause their consequences (of those 4 things) to become increasingly a choice. I don't think you can ever get to a point where they are a 100% a choice but you can make them a choice to a huge degree if you can become aware enough. You have to create enough awareness.
Jesse: Yeah, it's like the difference between a regular person stepping into a car and driving to the supermarket and somebody that is like a formula 1 driver and knows what every hum of the car means as they're taking their turns and just has a whole other level of appreciation.
Bill Harris: Driving a car is an interesting metaphor in this case because you know when you first start to drive a car there's too many things to pay attention to. It's overwhelming because you're kind of in this conscious incompetent state where you see all the things you have to control but you don't know how to do it yet. But pretty soon you'll get the hang of it and then you can drive the car and eat a sandwich, change the radio, talk to somebody all at the same time, and it's no big deal.
Jesse: You were saying that awareness is the first of 2 very important steps and I think we derailed before I got to the second one.
Bill Harris: Well the second step is you need to know where to direct that awareness. What I found is that if someone let's say practices zen for 30 years, they begin to see these internal processes and how those internal processes create those 4 things that I mentioned. So here's the hack that I sort of accidentally discovered about 29 years ago now. I ran into 2 pieces of research that really changed my life and actually have now changed the lives of at least a couple of million people. The first one was in the 1970s The Menniger Clinic, they found out what electrical brain wave patterns meditators were making. So that was known in the '70s. Then I happened to run across this paper by this researcher at Mount Sinai medical center in New York, Manhattan - a Dr. Gerald Oster.
In this paper he was describing a characteristic of the brain, that when you presented it with certain pure sine wave tones, using headphones so that you could target certain ones to the left side of the brain, certain ones to the right side of the brain; that there were 2 organelles in the brain called the olivary nuclei that would communicate with each other. So the long and short of it was that he was describing without even saying anything about a potential use for it, that you could change somebody's brain waves in this way.
So anyway after absorbing these 2 pieces of research I said, "Hmmm - these are the brainwave patterns of meditation and here's a way to change brainwave patterns. Could we actually induce mediation in this way?" So I and a couple of friends got some equipment, I borrowed some equipment from the engineering lab at the University of Portland where I was a graduate student at the time and I bought believe it or not, some other equipment I needed, I can't even remember how I figured out what I needed but I bought some equipment from a catalog for television repairmen. I think it was a frequency counter. These days there' digital equipment that makes all this a lot easier to figure out. In fact this was the days of cassette tapes. This was before CDs even.
So at any rate I started making these cassette tapes in my laboratory in my basement and a couple of friends and I started listening to these. And I remember the first time we sat down, the three of us, kind of facing each other on the floor, listening to this. When it ended we kind of opened our eyes and we were like really stoned on our own neurochemicals and we looked at each other and one of the other guys said, "Are you feeling what I'm feeling?" It sort of blew our mind that we could just listen to this and be in like the deepest meditation we'd ever experienced. And then over a period of weeks and months not only were we experiencing having our mind blown by being in this super deep state, the kind of thing that even the most accomplished 30-year meditator would have trouble accessing. We were accessing it every day easily.
But what happened to me was my depression went away, my anger went away, my whole personality changed. I became more creative, my pattern recognition increased, my ability to focus and all that stuff, all these benefits that in the years since scientists have found are benefits that come to long-term meditators started to happen. And at about the 4 year point of doing this we had about a 150 people using this. Mostly in the United States but some were in Europe too and somebody came to me and said, "You know you should really create a structured way to use this and sell it." So I created this little company literally on my kitchen table in my house. It made a whooping $12,000 the first year and was a raging success. The second year I think it made $48,000 and the third year it made about $250,000. I sort of gradually learned about how to do a business and everything. This month is our 25 year anniversary. We have over 2 million in a 193 countries who've used this. We've sold about 150 million dollars worth of this and it's not that expensive either. So it's a lot of people have used this and benefited from it. So this technology the way I do it we call - Holosync - has really become quite a phenomenon in the personal growth field.
Jesse: One of my questions that I always come to with meditation related practices in general is that the benefits that people that really get into it feel, seem to be so absolutely positive, I wonder why is this not an absolute human universal?
Bill Harris: I know exactly what you're saying and I'm ashamed at myself for not having already addressed this. If you go to let's say like this biohacking conference that I was just at this last weekend; I bet that if I ask, "How many people know that meditation is amazing and that it does all these fantastic things for your mind and bla bla bla?" Pretty much everybody would raise their hand. And then if I said, "How many do it everyday?" Then 90% of the hands would go down. If people were being honest. Because specially in the beginning it's boring, it's hard. See when you use Holosync you're immediately in this amazing place, the first time you use it. When you learn to meditate on your own, that takes a long time to get to even a partial version of that. It's because your head is screwed up when you start. It takes a while for the neuroplasticity of that stimulus to kick in and change your neuroconnections in the brain and create all these new pathways between left and right side of the brain. And all these pathways between your pre-frontal cortex and your amygdala, so that you stop being an emotional nitwit and so on and so forth. So it's hard is the short answer. That's why Holosync is so amazing. We have found over the last 25 years (29 years if you count the original group of people who were experimenting) that this creates the same benefits as meditation but about 8 times faster and that it's pretty much effortless.
To connect the dots here, because I should do that too. I started off by talking about, "Awareness creates choice." So "Awareness creates choice" ... "Meditation creates awareness" ... "Holosync meditation creates it a lot faster."
Jesse: Let me ask you this. It sounds like the technologies related to meditation have really improved over the course of the last couple of decades. How come it is that some people still are doing meditative practices for hours upon hours today? Those people are like some sort of still the purists. What's their logic behind that?
Bill Harris: To tell you the truth when I first heard about this I was a purist and I pooh poohed the whole thing. Somebody gave a cassette tape in about 1985 that had like a 10 minute long version of a very crude form of this and gave it to me and said, "Here this is a technological way to create meditation." And I went, "Oh yeah, sure." And I put it in my jacket and I completely forgot it was there. I didn't even try it. And then three or four months later I put the same jacket on, put my hands in the pocket and went, "What's this? Oh it's that cassette about that hi-tech meditation scam." So then though I tried it and I went, "Whoa, something's happening here." Even though it was only 10 minutes long, it felt like a 45 minute meditation on a really good day. And then I spent 4 years playing with it and improving it and making it a lot more potent and figuring out lot of nuances about how it works and how to tweak it and so on.
So there are people that are purists, that are sort of fundamentalists you might say in meditation and they pooh pooh it. I was interested in results So anyway this is just a really cool way to hack your own mind and to create some really amazing stuff in your head, that ordinarily is really hard work to go. We have several different scientific studies on Holosync showing that it lowers cortisol, increases DHEA, increases melatonin levels, lowers anxiety, increases quality of life on certain scales and a number of other things. We haven't done as many studies on it as I would like to but all of them have been pretty impressive.
Jesse: What are your personal goals for your own cognition and development of Holosync technology further? What do want to have happen next?
Bill Harris: Well I want to keep having some cognition. I'll be 65 in January and really as a result of all the biohack stuff that I've done, I can do 150 push-ups and I'm hardly even breathing hard when I get done. But at any rate I just went through a really nasty divorce about 3 years ago which cost me about $5 million. It's been more stressful to be in business these last few years, with the economy being really crappy and that sort of stuff. So I've been under a lot of stress and I was beginning to feel, despite everything I was doing, a little brain foggish. And I began using Holosync more regularly because I really finished our whole program many years ago, like in 1992. So I was little more sporadic in using it. So I went back to using it everyday. Now I feel all together again. That experience really told me, "Don't take any of this for granted."
First of all and that I need to continue working to keep this at an optimum level. So I want to be as sharp as I possibly can. I have this giant matrix of information on many many subjects in my head. I'm a voracious reader and I've studied many many things and I like completing that huge flowchart of everything I know in my mind and there's a high you get from wrapping your head around that stuff. And then there's a whole another high you get when you put your mind in neutral and go into this other no-mind place, which is one of the goals of meditation. Where you're sort of transcending the mind and once you can kind of have a choice about what your mind creates, which is what I was talking about earlier, and then also be able to transcend the mind and go to that place where you feel that connection to everything else in the universe.
Voiceover: Smart Drug Smarts.
Jesse: So thank you very very much to Bill Harris for joining us. Honestly as an Oregonian I got to say that I love talking with other Oregonians. Specially since I haven't lived in Oregon for almost 15 years now but there's something down home and earthy about my Oregonian brethren. Say what you will about us being hippies and meth addicts and all the aspersions you can cast at Oregonians - some of which are true. We certainly are not the most stylish dressers but nevertheless, really appreciated Bill's insight and candor and I've not yet actually tried the Holosync Technology as of this recording but I'm looking forward to trying it out really soon. As I said I've got kind of a love-hate thing going on with meditation, but there's certainly enough science behind it having huge effects on the brain, that is something that I feel like I need to climb back on the horse with. A big missing thing for me in my own self-optimization quest. But enough about me, on to the Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick.
Voiceover: Smart Drug Smarts - Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick!
Jesse: Okay so sometimes you see a scientific study happening and you're like, "That's so awesome! They were able to pull money together for that really important scientific study that they should've probably done 50 years ago." And at other times you see studies that somehow got funding - and you're like, "Really? What's that really worthy of a study?" I'm not the one to cast aspersions here. Maybe this is really something that we needed to know. But I kind of doubt it.
This was an FMRI study. FMRI is Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging if you've been living on the moon, of the brain activation patterns that mothers feel when they see pictures of their own child or pictures of their own dog or pictures of strange children or pictures of strange dogs. Finding out what the brain has to say as far as it's own areas of activation when each of those things happen. So turns out that maybe luckily or at least appropriately, there are some differences when you see your own kid and when you see your own dog. Mothers reported actually feeling similar levels of both arousal and excitement when they see their own dog or their own kid. And in this study they had cute pictures of the kids, looking cute and happy and cute pictures of the dogs, looking cute and happy.
So these are not like kids throwing temper tantrums or dogs just having shat somewhere inappropriate. But basically the kind of pictures that would predispose one thing, "Aaawww!" But when mothers saw their own kids it resulted in brain activity in the midbrain, in an area called the ventral tegmental area or the substantia nigra which is involved in reward and affiliation. Whereas dogs caused a little bit more activation in a cortical brain region, involving the fusiform gyrus, which handles visual processing of faces and social cognition. So some dissimilarities there. Now the mothers' brain's response to her own familiar kid and her own familiar dog was a lot more similar than her brain's response to unfamiliar kid and an unfamiliar dog. Which again maybe is not surprising.
We don't know what's going to happen with this study, what new breakthroughs or dramatic revamp of society are going to come from this and I also don't know if they are going to do a follow up study on how this applies to cats or whether this might differ between fathers and mothers or mothers and siblings or any of that stuff. But just know that these human-interest sort of science studies are taking place out there. Thanks science!
Voiceover: Smart Drug Smarts - the podcast so smart, we have smart in our title, twice!
Jesse: You've heard it, that is the episode. If you liked what you heard please recommend this podcast to your friends and or leave us a review on iTunes. I am happy to say that I've actually got episode number 49 lined up and ready to be interviewed in just about 24 hours time, little less than that actually. I know what it's going to be about but decency forbids me from telling you. Only to tell you that it's going to be an interesting one. And note that I'm also thinking about a special Halloween episode of Smart Drug Smarts.
I'm trying to come up with exactly what the right scary Halloween topic that still relates to nootropics would be. So if anybody's got any ideas and you want to email me about that in the next couple of days, definitely feel free to do so. The final decision has not yet been made. I'll be back at you next week, same time, same podcast and with the same unflagging commitment to helping you fine-tune the performance of your own brain. Have a great week and stay smart!
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Disclaimer: Smart Drug Smarts should be listened to for entertainment purposes only. Although some guests on the show are medical doctors, most are not and the host is just some random guy. Nothing you hear on the podcast or read on www.smartdrugsmarts.com should be considered medical advice. Consult your doctor, and use some damn common sense before doing anything that you think might have a lasting impact on your brain.