S: In this episode, number 122, you’re gonna learn how to hack your brain for increased performance, and frankly, for enlightenment. You’ll also learn how to get better sleep by reducing bluelight exposure at night and it’s not just about reducing exposure to your smartphone or to your laptop, bluelight is everywhere. Our guest today is Chris Keane. Chris is the CTO or Chief Technology Officer at both 40 Years of Zen and at BioHacked. At 40 Years of Zen, he works with a team of world class neuroscientists, software and hardware engineers, inventing neurotech to help high performing people to further enhance their neurological performance. Chris pioneered the use of complex machine learning to enable real-time tailored neurofeedback training and has conducted hundreds of hours of research on his own brain at 40 Years of Zen. At Biohacked, Chris researches and sometimes invents groundbreaking tech to take human biological performance to the next level. He’s been instrumental in creating TrueDark optical technology as part of BioHacked’s mission to stop junk light. Chris, it’s great to have you on the show.
C: It is an absolute pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.
S: We met at the Bulletproof Conference, which is an amazing conference, one of my favorites out of all the different conferences that I go to. Of course, I love BioHacking, and improving my body and brain performance. I’ve been intrigued by 40 Years of Zen, and by True Dark which are two companies that you are involved in, as well as Dave Asprey. I’ve had Dave on the show, that was an awesome episode. I’ll include a link to that episode in the show notes for this episode. Why don’t we start with 40 Years of Zen because it’s pretty out there idea to basically accomplish what would take a monk 40 years and a mountain and a cave to accomplish what you can do on maybe a weekend, or a week, or 10 days, whatever it is.
C: It’s actually five days. Sometimes when people talk about 40 Years of Zen, we talk about the whole sitting on top of a mountaintop for 40 years, and to be fair, that really sounds very attractive sometimes. I think about my life and I think, “Yeah, maybe I should go and sit on top of a mountain for 40 years.” But the reality is, no one really has time for that. What we’ve tried to do is figure out how to replicate the same brain state that you would get by sitting on a mountain, meditating, and performing internal reflection for 40 years, in about five days.
S: Wow! How does it happen, like five days of what?
C: Well, we disassemble you and we take your brain out, lubricate it a few times, and then… No. We’re using a process called neurofeedback. Probably, when I’ve just said the word neurofeedback, tons of people who are listening right now have thrown up their hands in horror and run screaming from the room. Neurofeedback generally has a less than stellar reputation, especially in the medical industry, as being kind of like quack science. When you look at the history of neurofeedback, neurofeedback started back in about the 70s when the the concept of being able to use equipment to pick up minute changes in brain state first started becoming feasible. The problem is that no one really understood without looking at it. People started making some pretty wild assumptions about what’s going on inside their head. Over time, neurofeedback developed and changed, and it’s typically used today in the medical industry as a mechanism for resolving a variety of clinical problems. For example, if you have ADHD or PTSD, or any one of those conditions where we’ve had traumas inflicted on our brain, or there’s something misfiring in our brain, neurofeedback is a choice to go to help resolve those. We do not do that. What we’ve taken is the original fundamental technologies behind neurofeedback that’s used for that, and effectively changed the focus completely, ended up developing all our own hardware, software, and processes to help high-performing brains, people who have brains that are already high-performing, and help them accomplish the next level by removing some of the things that they don’t want in there that’s taking up space unnecessarily. Improving the speed at which the neurons process, and generally, making a fuller, more whole, integrated person.
S: You use neurofeedback to ascertain if somebody is on the right track or not, in terms of improving their brainwave states. Let’s talk about these different brainwave states. What makes it so awesome and amazing to be a Zen Buddhist monk who’s meditated for 40 years on a mountaintop? What is it about their brain that’s different from ours that’s so elusive?
C: One of the things that we find in people with super high-performing brain, even when we have somebody who come to the facility that has a high-performance brain, we like to get a map of that to figure out what’s going on there so we can replicate it in other people. Invariably, what we find as the first step is that people with really high-performing brains have an extremely high level of alpha wave activity. Generally speaking, when you talk about alpha wave activity, and this is a gross simplification, I hope you bear with me for it, alpha waves help promote things like creativity, innovation, they help people make intuitive leaps that they may not have been able to make without it. People with high levels of alpha seem calmer, more relaxed, more in touch with themselves, less liable to have wild emotional swings. All of those things come from having a much higher level of alpha wave activity in your brain. When you talk about a monk who goes and sits on top of a mountain for 40 years, what they’re really doing is promoting those parts of the brain that involve making more alpha available on day-to-day basis. What we’re doing is you come visit us, and using this process of neurofeedback where you have electrodes attached to your head which is picking up what’s going inside there, and it’s feeding that information back through your ears through sound. When our systems detect a burst of alpha, you get a burst of noise in the earphones. What that’s doing is basically training your brain to make more alpha. As it goes through this process of getting a little reward every time it generates a packet of alpha, it starts linking neural pathways together that it may never have tried linking up before, and it gets a little reward of noise, and your brain says, “Oh, cool. I got a reward for doing that.” It might link up to other neural pathways that makes the noise softer and your brain says, “Oh, hang on. That made the noise softer. I didn’t like that as much.” Through that process, it keeps joining those neural networks together that are designed to promote alpha in your brain and as it joins these networks together, they get larger and larger, they get fatter and fatter, and then more alpha waves get produced in your brain. Basically, we’re treating your brain through our Pavlovian response, “Good brain, you’ve made more alpha, here’s a little reward. Now let’s do that again.” We do that over, and over, and over again. We have specific processes that we use that help people through this. But, ultimately, at the end of the day, we’re training your brain to create new neural pathways that didn’t exist before, that are 100% tailored towards creating more alpha that’s accessible to you as you’re walking around, being alive, interacting with people.
S: There’s this expression that goes something to the effect of neurons that fire together, wire together, something like that, or synapses. Something like that.
C: That’s one of the things that we do. When you go into one of our neurofeedback pods for the first time, you basically get some really simple instructions. The simple instruction is make the noise louder and more constant, and make more gongs happen, and people are like, “Noise? Gongs? What are you talking about? How do I do that?” We specifically don’t tell people how to do any of these things. We basically say, “Hop in the pod, and just make the noise louder and more gongs happen.” Your brain understands, “Oh, the noise is a reward.” It starts wiring things together to make the noise louder. When more gongs happen, that’s when both sides of your brain are doing the same thing at the same time. We like it when your brain is doing the same thing at the same time because it means, as you say, more of those neural networks are firing together in sync which increases the overall amplitude of your ability to produce alpha.
S: Somebody who’s taken this 40 Years of Zen process over the course of five days, what’s the result, besides just conceptually, they have more alpha available to them? What’s the practical benefit on a daily basis?
C: I’m gonna use myself as an example. I’ve been through the program at least a couple of times. I’ve had some pretty good results and I like talking about them, so I’m gonna use me. Before I went through the 40 Years of Zen for the first time, I was, as it turns out, a complete rage-a-holic. I enjoyed being angry, and I would find the slightest pretext to be angry about something. I didn’t even realize that that was my default mode. My default mode was I was angry. After I went through 40 Years of Zen for the first time, I went back to what was my regular day job at the time, and I had probably four or five people say to me on my very first day back at work, “Why are you so happy?” And I’m like, “Wait, hang on, I am happier. That’s amazing.” That was a self-reinforcing scenario. The more people who told me that I was happy, the happier I realized I was, and happier I became. Just having that high-level of alpha to draw upon let me step back from those things that would previously have made me angry, and look at them and say, “Is it appropriate for me to be angry about this?” If it’s appropriate for me to be angry, I’ll allow myself to feel some anger about it. If it’s not appropriate for me to be angry about it, to just let that go and then work on solving the problem rather than using up brain space to deal with just being angry about something. The other thing that really changed was that I noticed that on my first day back at work, I was getting through about 30% to 40% more work. At that point, I was involved in programming and managing a team of programmers. I wasn’t really trying to get through more work, at the end of the day, I just sat back and I realized, “Look at all that I got through today. How did I get through all of that?” It was a constant thing, so everyday, that became my new norm. I would just, on a day-to-day basis, this is how much work I would get through. The answer to that, by the way, was that I have generated such a high level of alpha in my brain on a day-to-day basis that it was super easy for me to get into an alpha flow of state. If anybody has heard about alpha or flow state, what we’re really talking about is usually alpha flow state. That’s where the level of alpha generation in your brain has increased to a point where, effectively, you’ve gone into the zone or different industries have different phrases for this, but that scenario where you’re just cracking on with work and you’re not letting anything distract you. You’re basically just producing, and feeling happy about it, and getting things done. Going through 40 Years of Zen helps you access that alpha flow state more consistently on a day-to-day basis.
S: I heard Steven Kotler talk about flow states, flow triggers, there are environmental flow triggers, and social flow triggers. There are several dozen of them. If you get into a flow state, you can accomplish a week’s worth of work in a day.
C: Yeah. If you get into a super extreme one, that is the perfect example. You get into a flow state, there are many different ways of getting into a flow state, and that is absolutely for sure. You may not realize but I used to be a motorcycle racer. I’m a tech guy and I came up in the tech industry during the Dotcom rise. When the Dotcom bubble burst, I was like, “Ehh, whatever.” I just retired and became a motorcycle racer. The great thing about motorcycle racing is that you’re in such extreme danger all the time, and you’re going 150 miles an hour. You don’t have time to make conscious decisions about stuff. Basically, your brain, to survive, has to set aside the decision-making network that you normally use on a day-to-day basis to decide about stuff. Set that aside and everything happens at a subconscious level because you have to make millisecond kind of decisions. That is an alpha flow state. What I didn’t realize was when I was racing motorcycles, effectively, what I was doing was entering this alpha flow state, and it becomes one of those things that you seek it. It’s almost like addictive but not in a bad way. You’re like, “This alpha flow state feels absolutely amazing and I wanna get into this as often as possible.” That’s why a lot of extreme athletes continue to participate in their extreme sport because when they are making those millisecond decisions in a life-threatening scenario, they’re in that alpha flow state, and they don’t really know any other way of getting there. That’s how I ended up doing 40 Years of Zen, after I decided that motorcycle racing was too dangerous and I realized that this was a specific brain state. I started looking at the tools that would be required to help people to train their own brains to enter this flow state without that 150 mile an hour risk of death.
S: Did you ever get hurt, by the way, seriously, from this hobby of yours?
C: Let’s just say yes. There were many times that I remember getting hurt and there were at least several times I remember riding onto the front straight away during the race and my very next memory is waking up in the hospital.
S: Oh boy! It’s a good thing that you decided to opt for the neurofeedback instead of extreme, life-threatening motorcycle racing. That’s intense. How long were you doing the motorcycle racing for?
C: I raced for five years, four or five years. That’s all kind of a blur because it just turns out to be a blur. I enjoyed it so much that I started my own racing school in California where we take motorcycle riders and help them improve their skills. Little knowing that we were doing was basically helping people discover this alpha state for themselves through the use of their motorcycle on a racetrack. Now, we don’t encourage people to do that anymore. Now, we encourage them to, “Hey, come see us at 40 Years of Zen instead and let’s do it without having to get on a motorcycle and without having to go ride around the race track. Let’s put you on a nice safe pod where we’ve got people who can look after you and make sure when you come out we can put you back together again.”
S: This five days, is it just sitting in a pod all the time and just hearing gongs?
C: We would love it if that was true. The downside is that the process of doing this work is incredibly, absolutely, incredibly intense. People’s brains just can’t do it. When you come to the program, it is five days, each of those days you normally spend about four hours a day in the pod in two-two hour chunks. Apart from that, what we’re doing is working on giving you the tool set that will be really useful for you while you’re sitting in the pod on how to address the neurofeedback. The things that you think about, things that you work on, ways to approach things that you’ll notice your brain is doing. We also do this deep breathing work so that you have the opportunity to talk about things that have happened to you or realizations you came to while you were in the pod and helped you reintegrate after each session. Each of the days is 100% full. It’s effectively a 12 hour day for five days. Each of those 12 hours, you are doing something super intense.
S: I’m very intrigued. I’m very interested in doing your program but I was interested before we started talking. I love brain enhancing exercises. I love biohacking. I love brain hacking. It’s right up my alley. I’m curious, what would you tell somebody who is more inclined to binge on Netflix for five days than to go through your program?
C: It’s one of those things that it’s really hard to express how absolutely wonderful this program is. When I look at my own life, I divide my life into before I did 40 Years of Zen, and after I did 40 Years of Zen. It seriously is that good and life-changing. You have those moments in your life that are memorable moments of your life, like the day you got married, or the day that you graduated, or something like that?
C: 40 Years of Zen, for me, has produced several of those moments, in addition to that one moment that I classify as the most magnificent, unbelievable moment of my life, by far. Absolutely life-changing moment.
S: You can’t just gloss over that. You have to tell us.
C: Well, I could tell you about it, the downside is that it’s gonna be quite difficult to talk about since, normally, it’s such magnificent moment that I usually start crying when I talk about it. It’s one of those things that, if you want me to start babbling on the other side of the microphone, then I’m quite happy to do it but…
S: Okay, yeah. Let’s do that then!
S: I think our listeners really need to appreciate the power of this. It’s one thing to hear it that “this is life-changing” and this isn’t the first time that I’ve ever heard that this is life-changing. I remember one of the keynotes at the Bulletproof Conference, Dr. Harry Adelson, who is an amazing guy and an amazing doctor, he’s actually a past guest on this podcast, we did a stem cell episode which is fantastic, and listeners definitely have to listen to that episode, I’ll include a link in the show notes. He said from stage that he did 40 Years of Zen, and it was profound, and life-changing for him, and I believed him. I think our listeners really need to get the depth of the power of this.
C: I’m gonna tell you a few things. Take it for what it’s worth, because I don’t want anybody to feel scared off about what I’m about to say. The reason I say that is everybody who is listening to this is a geek. Geeks, and I count myself in that grouping as well. I have been a geek my entire life. The problem with being a geek is sometimes we have difficulty accessing emotional content. That’s not true for everybody. Obviously, you can’t paint everybody with the same brush. But some of the things that happen while you’re here at 40 Years of Zen can be quite emotionally intense. I’m going to preface what I’m about to say with that. This magnificent moment of my life was as part of a process I was working on looking at and resolving my emotional response to an absolutely horrendous trauma that have occurred to me, probably the worst thing that have happened to me, and I was working on addressing that. Freeing up my brain space that had spent a lot of time churning over this one thing like a background process. I just had this background process constantly running, churning over this trauma that had occurred to me. The process of looking at that trauma, opening it up and releasing that background process, killing it, freeing up all of that processing power and memory that have been previously consumed by that is one of the things that I was working on when I was sitting there in the pod doing neurofeedback. The neurofeedback process helps you with that because it helps you understand exactly what is happening inside your brain as you’re going through this process. As part of our process, when you have finished working on something, we have a process whereby you ask a visionary being, whether it is an omnipotent being apart from you, someone who is infallible, cannot be wrong. If you’re religious, that might be Jesus or the Buddha or someone like that. In my case, my infallible being that I asked whether I’m complete is the universe. In my visionary state, the way that looks to me is I’m standing in a field and I look up at the starry sky and I say, “Have I completed this work?” If I see some shooting stars in the starry sky, that is the universe saying, “Yes, you have completed this work.” If I don’t see any shooting star, then that’s the universe saying, “Nope. You haven’t quite got it. Go back and do it again.” Basically, on a neurological basis, that’s saying, “Your brain is still processing some of this stuff and we can free up more of the resources that’s using. Go back and look at it from a slightly different angle. Come at it at a different way. Try to find a way that it’s freed up.” I just finished working on closing out this trauma and it had been an emotional process just doing that. I was already in a hyper emotional state. I stood in my field and I looked up at the starry sky. I asked if I’ve done enough, and the universe, instead of showing me some shooting stars, the universe just stopped like it was holding its breath, and then suddenly, without any other indication, the sky just burst into a million supernovas. Not just a few shooting stars here and there, the whole sky was just radiating. It was almost like a physical sensation that rocked me back into my chair. The feelings of love, and forgiveness, and acceptance that came from all of that light and happiness, coming down into me was just so life-changing. From a neurological perspective, what really happened at that moment is that I entered, for a while, what’s called a macro flow state. A macro flow state is often associated with some kind of enlightenment and hyper emotion, as opposed to a micro flow state which is what we talked about earlier, where you can focus really well on things and you get through a lot more work. A macro flow state is a spiritual enlightenment and that’s what I went through there. It just sounds kind of weird for someone to talk about it but that really changed how I looked at life and my ability to free up that serious trauma that had occurred to me. Gave me back a ton of processing ability I hadn’t even realized how much of my brain was being used up by that one thing. Getting all that back was just unbelievable. We did a before and after IQ test when I went to the program. We did one right before, and then we did another one about three months later. As it turns out, right before I’d gone through the program, I’d lost about 12 IQ points from when I was in my early 20s which is the last time I had an IQ test administered. A lot of that is natural atrophy through aging but some of that was also falling on my head repeatedly while racing motorcycles. When I did the IQ test three months after, I gained back 15 points. I was actually a couple of points back beyond where I was in my early 20s. That was reflected in my relationships and my work with other people.
S: Wow. Even more important than IQ is EQ.
C: Not being in that scenario where I’m constantly flying into angry rages and being able to actually be productive with my time, and work, and my relationships, was absolutely life-changing. My relationship with my staff changed so dramatically for the better and then I noticed that all the relationships between my staff also started changing dramatically for the better. The relationships between them and their staff started changing. The relationships between all of the teams in my organization started changing dramatically. About five months after I went through the program, my entire organization, just from me, one person having gone through the program, my entire organization was completely different, way for the better. Productivity, way up. Staff happiness, way up. It was a joy to behold.
S: That’s so cool. I’ve had some macro flow states myself and different awakened states that I’ve accessed. It’s been so profound and life-changing. It’s more than profound. It’s beyond words, it really is. One example for me was when I was in India at the Oneness Temple, Oneness University, there was this one process they had us go through where they had us visit what they called the seven realms and it was through this intense breathing process. You get kind of hyper-oxygenated from it, all tingly, and tetany feeling. I felt like I really had visited these different realms of consciousness or being omniscient and I feel forever changed from that one experience. That’s just one example. There was another one at that same event at Oneness University where we were in the temple and we were doing 52 minutes of chanting. Just repeating over, and over, and over again, “I’m existence, consciousness, bliss.” Over, and over, and over, non-stop as a group for 51 or 52 minutes. The number was important. I forget which number it is now. There was a reason why we went for that length of time. I had a profound experience from that. My wife also had a out-of-body experience from that, she felt like she was flying and she went into the consciousness of a stray dog because there were tons of stray dogs out on the campus. This is in India where lots and lots of stray dogs are. Then she was experiencing what it was like to be that stray dog. Then she flew into the consciousness of a monkey that was up on the temple because there were these monkey climbing up this huge temple. She understood that he thought that he was the king of the world up there on that temple. It’s such a profound experience. Does 40 Years of Zen bring about these sorts of awakened states just in the pod or does it also carry over into the rest of your life, like you are more likely to have these awakened states years later, months later, or whatever?
C: You know, it’s really difficult to tell. We’re still working on research around macro flow states. Certainly, what I can say is that people who have never entered a macro flow state before are more likely to access that while they’re here, doing the neurofeedback process itself. Whether you have access to macro flow state beyond that is something that we are still looking into because our sample size is still relatively small compared to the size of the human population. We’re still gathering data on that but the good news is that certainly the ability the ability to enter micro flow states, which is the ability to focus and get things done and be ultra productive is definitely enhanced by doing the 40 Years of Zen program.
S: What do you feel about the sensory deprivation experience of being in a float tank or something like that where you’re just trying to quiet your mind and elevate your consciousness without having had this training, somebody doing a sensory deprivation experience like that in a float tank, would they get a lot of value out of that or do you think not so much?
C: Yes and no. Most of the time, people who are not experienced meditators, including me, I am not an experienced meditator, the thing that they find hardest to do when they get to 40 Years of Zen is relax. When you’re sitting in the pod and just starting your Neurofeedback session, the optimum generation of alpha wave activity in your brain is when you have completely relaxed, both physically and mentally. It’s quite difficult for us to do it if you’re not used to doing it. When you go somewhere like a float tank experience, or in fact when somebody asks me, “What work should I do before I come to 40 Years of Zen for the first time?” I often do recommend, “Go do some float tank sessions.” For people who are used to it, as I’m sure you’re aware, having done it, when you first do a float tank session, if you’re not used to the whole idea, it is disturbing, or boring, or weird, and it’s hard to kind of get into because we’re just not used to relaxing our bodies. We’re used to going, doing things, we’re either asleep or we’re doing something. The whole idea that we could be awake and not doing anything is kind of alien to us because that’s not what we do as all in the Western society.
S: We’re trained to be human doers rather than human beings.
C: Yeah, exactly. Just even having that experience of going to a float tank and getting used to the idea, “Hey, for an hour, just an hour, you can lie in this float tank, in perfect darkness, in perfect quiet, and do nothing except listen to your own thoughts and feel your own body.” That process of training your body to do that, to relax into that process, is really important for people who come to do this kind of work because if you are sitting in the neurofeedback chair being all tense, physically tense or mentally tense, that’s going to be a big hindrance on the work that you’re doing. The more you are able to relax into it, the better your results is going to be.
S: That makes sense. I did this float tank experience about a year ago and it was profound for me. I don’t really like floating in the water because one, I can’t float, I sink, and I also don’t know how to swim. I also got a little bit of a fear of the water. From some tapping work I did in Zambia, I reduced that down to a manageable level. But before that, I wouldn’t even go on a canoe. I’ve never been on a canoe, I’ve never been in a kayak, I’ve never jet skied, never inner-tube, none of that. I did all those things after I did a 40-minute tapping session while I was on a Tony Robbins Platinum Partner trip.
S: Yeah, it was amazing. The guy that worked on me, who’s a world-renowned tapping expert, Fred Gallo, I actually got him on the show. We talked about that whole experience and the ideas behind what he did for me. Really, really cool stuff. Listeners, do check out that episode, it’s really fantastic. Back to the sensory deprivation experience. I’m in this tank, I’m unsure of how I’m going to feel about it but I’m open to trying new stuff and you gotta be comfortable being uncomfortable – that’s my motto. I’m in this float tank, it’s a really, really nice one, this is Just Float in Pasadena, it’s an amazing facility. Slowly the lights go down and the music fades over the course of five minutes so you kind of eased into this sensory deprivation. Maybe it was 5, 10, 15 minutes, who knows, into this hour-long process, I realized that this isn’t just an opportunity for me to quiet my mind and relax, but this is an opportunity for me to look deep inside. I exited this tank after an hour having had this profound experience with the Creator and with myself, again, life-changing. Wow. It makes me emotional just thinking about it. I was visibly different once I came out of it. My wife was with me but in a different tank so we met back up afterwards, and she’s like, “Wow, what did you go through?” I had all this clearing of stuff. I went through this process that I’ve learned in Kabbalah class, it’s like a four-step process where you recognize what hurt and traumas you inflicted on others and then you really feel it, like you get in their world and understand what it was really like for them. And then the third step is if you could do it differently, just go back in time and redo it, what would that be like? You’d get a chance to redo it. The last step in the process, the fourth step, is to essentially vow that you’re never going to inflict that kind of hurt on that person or anybody else ever again. I did that for an hour almost in that float tank and things that I had never really evaluated in my life deeply, things that I had said, and done, with my ex-wife, my kids, and with different people that I know or knew and care about, wow, that was profound. That was beyond profound. Having that sensory deprivation really take away all the distractions really made it even more powerful.
C: Absolutely. In fact, one of the things that we’ve been looking at right here is using sensory deprivation tanks, coupled with neurofeedback at the same time, to boost ability to do neural-programming. For example, learning a new language. Our research so far is showing that if you go to learn a new language while you are in a sensory deprivation tank, while also doing your feedback, you can learn the language dramatically faster than without it.
S; Wow. I’m very intrigued. I want to learn a few more languages.
C: Hopefully we’ll get to the point one day where we can just push one of those pods here and you can select Kung Fu and…
S: Oh my God. Wait a minute, I’m gonna have to be a robot.
C: I know Kung Fu.
S: That’s kind of a scary feature. Interesting. We’ve been talking a lot about alpha states but let’s zoom back out again. What are the other states and are there flow states with other brainwaves? Can you have like theta waves that get you into a flow?
C: Absolutely. When you first come to 40 Years of Zen, especially first time to the program, we’ve trained everybody at alpha. The reason we train everybody at alpha is alpha is kind of a prerequisite for getting into some of those other flow states. For example getting into theta is going to be much more difficult for somebody who can’t already get into alpha. The reason is that for example theta is the next frequency band down from alpha. Alpha is kind of centered around 10 hertz. Theta is centered around 7 hertz-ish. Theta is typically, you know when you’re on the brink of going to sleep and you have a great idea, and you’re like “Woah, that’s a great idea,” and then you wake up you can’t remember what it was.
S: Yep, that’s a shame when that happens. You’re like, “Nooo, come back.”
C: Exactly. You’re in a theta state when that happens. That kind of twilight, almost sleepy state, is theta. The problem with training people into theta states is when we first start training somebody to enter into a theta state, their brain doesn’t distinguish that from going to sleep. We’ll put you in the pod and we’ll crank up the equipment to train theta, and then you’ll drowse off to sleep in about 30 seconds. We’ll have to be continually coming in and waking you up. That’s why we first train for alpha because that basically wires up your brain to the whole idea that there are other states that it can go into. Typically, the first experience people have with theta is we’ll do combined alpha-theta training where you get one noise for alpha and a different noise for theta. That’s when you first notice that your brain starts drifting between alpha and theta and then back to alpha and then back to theta, over the course of the whole neurofeedback session. Let your brain get used to the idea that theta exists, build those theta pathways. The good thing is that doing it this way with alpha which is an awake and aware state, and theta which is more of that twilight state, is that you’re basically training your brain to have access to that theta state while you’re awake and aware and walking around and doing stuff. The benefits of theta is the same thing, when we’re just talking about when you’re about to sleep and you have a great idea, theta is typically what we would regard as a visionary state. Ideas that come to you when you’re in a theta flow state are typically those amazing, world-changing, visionary kind of ideas. It’s harder to access and it’s harder to maintain but the end result is phenomenal. We do train for theta. We also train with some lower frequencies, lower than theta. We’re still kind of exploring the results of those but they’re having some pretty wild and unexpected results. They are kind of things that I don’t like talking about in public because it’s bordering on defense-full and my scientific mind is still trying to figure out the mechanics of how some of these things are working.
S: What are the brain wave states below theta?
C: The one below is delta. Delta is typically like a dream state. When you’re asleep, you’re normally exhibiting high amount of delta. Generally, that’s how we tell when you’re working with 40 years of Zen, we’re looking at your chart constantly. When you start showing a lot of delta, we come and wake you up. That means that your brain has got tired and gone to sleep. But there is opportunities for us to do some training in those lower frequencies and the outcomes, as I mentioned, can be a little bit unexpected sometimes.
S: How does this differ from lucid dreaming? If you’re in a delta and let’s say you’re dreaming, what’s the difference between that and lucid dreaming?
C: The difference between training for a delta state and something like lucid dreaming is that you have much more control over it at a conscious level than you do over a dream. The last time you had a dream, typically, we’re subjects of our dream rather than controlling the dream. When we can train some of those lower states, we are in a position where we can start controlling the outcome at a conscious level.
S: What would be an example of some sort of powerful breakthrough, epiphany, whatever, that came out of a theta brain wave training for you?
C: Here’s the funny thing. The next version of our software, which will be started to use by our clients in a couple of weeks actually, is like a lightyear ahead of any system that exists. Our software that we have right now is already phenomenal, well beyond what people have access to out in the real world. The new version is a whole other evolution beyond that. That all came to me when I was in a theta state. I was training theta in the old software. That’s where I got the whole idea behind the new software. We’ve been busy building new software since then. It is truly unbelievable. We’re really excited that we’re coming out with that really soon.
S: Wow. How soon?
C: We’re gonna start the first customers through that in January.
S: Oh, very soon. Nice!
C: We’ve already been testing it out for ourselves for a long time. So far, my brains haven’t dribbled out through my nose and I haven’t been turned into a drooling moron, so we’re giving it a two thumbs up.
S: Okay. Passed the sniff test, very good. Is the EEG – QEEG, is that part of this process? Neurofeedback, doesn’t that include an EEG machine you’re hooked up to, you got all these wires and you’re wearing this kind of mesh thing on your head? Then you’re trying to sense what’s working and what’s not working in terms of achieving these brain wave states. Do you have that set-up in the pod where your brain’s all hooked up?
C: Yeah, we do two different types of pick up. As you just correctly identified, there is wet EEG where the electrodes are attached to your head with a gel. It’s just stuck there through hydrostatic pressure, not a glue or anything, easily washed out by shampoo. But we get the best pick up if we use the gel as a wet pick up, and that’s what you’re normally doing when you’re sitting in the pod doing neurofeedback. We have a different what we call the spider helmet. It’s a huge contraption, like a spider with 18 legs sitting on top of your head. It uses dry electrodes and we use that to do effectively an FMRI of your head to figure out what’s going on, brain activity wise. That’s one of the things that you do when you first arrive here. One of the very first things you do when you arrive at the facility is we use the spider helmet to get a really, really accurate map of what’s going on inside your head. Once we have that map, we use that to tailor your program through the entire week. At the end of the week, we have another map of your brain where we can examine the actual functional differences between when you arrived and when you left.
S: Cool. I did the acute EEG with the gel and the wet electrodes, that situation there, at Amen Clinics. I’ve actually had Dr. Daniel Amen on this podcast and it was a great episode. I’ll include a link in the show notes, listeners, for that. It’s another must-listen. I was very fascinated with that process. I didn’t do neurofeedback, we were just looking at what’s going on in my brain and that was also in conjunction with doing SPECT analysis. We’re doing a SPECT scan to see blood flow in my brain and what was hyperactive in my brain versus normal versus not active enough.
C: It’s funny you should mention the SPECT scanning at the Amen Clinics. That was the first time, when I went to have my first SPECT scan, was when I realized for the first time that I have had pretty serious damage done to my brain through motorcycle racing. They did the SPECT scan and the first thing they said was, “Have you had a stroke?”
S: Oh, wow. That’s scary.
C: It is scary. But the good news is that through the process of working on my brain with neurofeedback, in my case, in my brain, that is now all 100% resolved.
S: It’s fascinating that you can actually heal your brain. But first, you gotta know what’s going on inside your brain. If you don’t have any visual clues as to what’s happening, you’re flying blind.
C: Exactly. We don’t have any nerves that we can feel the output of or anything like that inside our brain. When we do something like a SPECT scan, we’re seeing what’s there for the first time. When we’re doing neurofeedback, we’re hearing what’s happening inside our brain for the very first time as well. There’s lots of firsts going on with our brain when we start working with it.
S: I wanted to get into, like completely switch gears, and get into the True Dark side of things. But before I do, do you have any resources that you would recommend for our listeners in this area of neurofeedback and brain training and so forth? I mentioned earlier, for example, Steven Kotler, he has a great book called, The Rise of Superman, I’ll include a link on that in the show notes. Any other resources you recommend?
C: Speaking of Steven, he’s such a great resource on this because his whole thing is looking at flow states. You’re talking about The Rise of Superman, one of Steven’s books, the one that I would also recommend you look at is Stealing Fire. It is specifically about flow states and how to inter-fold them and how we look at them in society. It’s a really interesting read.
S: Great. I’ll include that in the show notes as well. Let’s move on to True Dark. We’ve talked about it in an episode with Dave Asprey, the importance of blocking blue light because when you’re trying to fall asleep, the melatonin gets destroyed very quickly by exposure to blue light, and then not getting a good night’s sleep. Let’s dive into that side of things. By the way, I have tried out my True Dark glasses here, both the Daywalkers and I think they’re called Indigo, is that right?
S: The Twilight. I was surprised how quickly I was ready to go to sleep last night just by wearing them for 15 minutes. It really does work. Let’s go over the overall science, first of all, before we start delving into the details of the glasses and that. Melatonin and blue light, let’s start there.
C: Let’s talk about blue light to begin with. We all sit in front of computers all day underneath LED lights. We use our phones, we use our tablets, we watch TV at night, and all of those things are wonderful. Look at the quality of life that we as humans have in this day and age compared to the 1850s or earlier. Our days are much longer, they’re more fulfilling. The downside is that biologically, with all of these things around us, computer screens, phones, and gadgets, we’re basically exposing our bodies at all times of the day and night to the same levels of blue that we would experience at noon or more blue than we experience at noon. The downside is that we’re just not wired for that. Our bodies do have circadian rhythm, they do expect light to ebb and flow during the day, in terms of what time of day it is, and where the sun is in the sky. When we don’t get that, when we’re constantly hitting our bodies 100% of the time saying it’s noon, what happens is our bodies get really, really tired and it throws off our circadian rhythm, and our bodies don’t know what’s happening at what time of day. The end result is that we go through life in a constant state of fatigue and it’s effectively like we’ve got jet lag all of the time. Imagine your worst case of jet lag when you’ve flown somewhere and effectively that’s what we’re doing to our bodies all the time. What we’re trying to do these days is not cut down on the richness of our experience of life, we still want to have access to our phones, we still want to use computers, we still want to be able to watch TV. But we want to do it in a way which is appropriate to our biology. When we look at, for example, using our computer during the day, what if we could tone down the amount of blue we were getting so that instead of getting that noontime brightness 100% of the time, we’re instead getting an appropriate amount of blue in the morning, still getting noontime blue at noon, and then getting appropriate amount of blue later in the evening. That’s where the Daywalkers come in. For those of you who are listening, the Daywalkers are our yellow glasses. The whole idea behind the yellow glasses is that their entire design is not to block blue. When people talk about blue blockers, that kind of makes me cringe a little bit because if you block all blue, then you’re basically telling your body that it’s twilight all the time, it’s night time all the time which is just as bad as telling that it’s noon all the time. The yellow glasses are specifically designed to just tone down the blue. When you’re using the computer in the morning, you get a morning time level of blue. You take off the glasses over the noon hours so you get noon levels of blue. Put the glasses back on in the afternoon it tone down the blue back to levels that are compatible with human biology. That just helps your body get back into that rhythm of, “Oh yeah, blue light should be lower in the morning and brighter at noon and lower in the evening.” When you get home, you switch over to the red glasses. When you think about it, up until we had gas lighting in cities pretty much, we as humans didn’t ever see colors like blue, or green, or even yellow to a certain extent at night because our light sources were candles or fire light or some of the mechanism like that. You can’t see blue by firelight. The only colors that we would see were oranges and reds. The idea behind the Twilight glasses is that it completely illuminates all of those frequencies that activate, what’s called our melanopsin in few senses in our eyes. It allows you to just see oranges and reds which deactivates the same melanopsin senses and floods your brain naturally with melatonin. That natural melatonin is great for even brain repairs, it’s like it helps the brain rejuvenate after a long day, and coincidentally, helps put you into a deep, long sleep which is very nice.
S: Nice. Good delta brain waves there. Tie in both parts of the episode here. There are apps and tools for reducing blue light exposure in the evening. On your laptop for example, you might have f.lux installed which is free, it’s a great little app. Or on your iPhone, you got night shifts that will automatically change the hue and color of your screen on your smartphone. But that’s not sufficient because you’re still getting exposure from not just the laptop or the cell phone but also from the lighting in the room and from the television and from so many other devices.
C: Exactly. If you do a spectral analysis of the light that comes out of a bright, white LED light, it is all blue. It’s a terrible choice. You want to be eco-friendly and install LED lights, but the downside of the LED lights is that they’re terrible for your biology, at least the bright white ones are. There are what’s called warm light LED lights. They’re okay, but if you do a spectral analysis on those, you still see a pretty high level of blue. It certainly is not as bad as bright light ones. Of course, you don’t really control the lighting in your office either. If you work in an office building or something like that, the lighting in that office building is pretty much out of your control. What we’re trying to do is give people that control over their lighting environment and stop the junk light.
S: You have a special offer for listeners if they want to buy the Twilight or Daywalker or the combo of both.
C: Absolutely, so we put together a special for you. If you go to biohacked.com/geek, then you’ll be able to choose any of our products from the True Dark range and get a 10% discount.
S: Awesome! Thank you very much for that. That’s very generous and I’ll include the link also. If you’re driving and you’re listening to this episode you probably don’t want to pull over. Just go to the show notes for that link for biohacked.com/geek. Biohacked and True Dark is a company that’s jointly owned by you and Dave Asprey, right?
S: How did you guys come up or decide to form a business together? How did that transpire?
C: Dave was looking for someone specifically to help him with his subscription box. Forever, Dave has had a quarterly subscription box where he finds cool biohacking products and he wants to send them out to people but he was outsourcing that to a different company and he kind of wanted to bring it in-house. He came to me and said [inaudible [00:59:46]-[00:59:51] who can run a subscription company and I’m like, “Sure, Dave. I’ll get that set-up for you right away.” We set up a subscription box company and then we realized as part of Dave’s research, he started finding more and more examples of this junk light problem, so we started looking at ways to solve this junk light problem. That’s where we came up with True Dark brand and started manufacturing the glasses. They have been an amazing hit and I feel very happy that we’ve been able to realize how much of a problem this is in the world and come up with a solution for it. The True Dark products have completely changed my sleep patterns and how much energy I have during the day, simply because I’ve got back control of my circadian rhythm. I fall asleep when it’s appropriate. I stay awake when it’s appropriate. I rarely feel tired and I have more energy when I’m awake, that’s lovely. The other part of it is because I travel overseas a lot, the True Dark Twilight are unbelievably game-changing for jet lag. There’s no such thing as jet lag any more.
S: How does that work? I’ve tried to HumanCharger which is awesome for jet lag. I was skeptical at first, like blue light being shined through your ear canal and penetrating the skull and directly stimulating the brain, that sounds pretty out there for me but I tried it and it actually did reduce my jet lag. I’m curious how the Twilight works in that regard.
C: By the way, I also use my HumanCharger which is absolutely lovely. Make sure you use the app for that too. Time when to have the light showing and when not to have it showing. But the True Dark glasses work by effectively getting you over your jet lag, going through that whole jet lag cycle before you leave, and while you’re in the air so that when you land, you’ve already gone through the worst part of the jet lag cycle. The way you do that is by, and this is the protocol I use, and everybody does things a little bit differently. I know Dave’s protocol is slightly different but they’re effectively the same. Before I leave, I set my watch to my destination time zone and I lookup what time sunset is and what time sunrise is in my destination time zone. Wherever I‘m going to end up, I look and see what time sunset is and what time sunrise is. When the sun is down at my destination time zone, I’m wearing my True Dark Twilights. When the sun is up at my destination time zone, I’m wearing my True Dark Daywalkers. What that’s doing is it’s basically telling my body wherever it is I’m traveling through, no matter how much blue light is showing when I’m in transiting those locations, I’m telling my biology it’s night time when it’s nighttime and daytime when it’s day time. Effectively, you’re just shortcutting that whole process of arriving and feeling like your body doesn’t know what timezone is. You’re short cutting that by potentially two days depending on how long the flight is.
S: Alright, very cool. I should integrate that into my itinerary along with using the HumanCharger as far as when I kinda doze on these 10 minute blue light exposures through the HumanCharger every couple hours. I also do this Twilight and Daywalker based on the sunrise and sunset.
C: Absolutely. The only downside of course is when you’re wearing the Twilight, watching a movie on the plane looks kinda weird because it’s all black and red. It’s like a black and white movie but it’s black and red instead. But you know what, you get used to it and you get that smug little satisfaction knowing that you’re going to land and be able to leap into doing whatever you should be doing and not drag you off to the hotel and go sleep for three days.
S: For sure. And for those people who are used to curling up in bed with their smartphone and not even turning on night shift mode or anything, they’re just dousing themselves with the blue light right before they’re going to sleep, isn’t that pretty bad for their longevity and health?
C: It is absolutely terrible. They’re basically causing brain damage by doing that because they’re not letting their body release natural melatonin to help with their brain repair, so the brain never actually gets to a point where it can repair itself after a day’s hard work.
S: That’s not good. The garbage collection that the brain goes through to take the memories that are not worth keeping, and trashing those, and then the stuff that is worth keeping, committing that to long-term memory, doesn’t that disrupt the process as well?
C: It certainly does. It’s just one of those things that people can’t get out of habit of using their devices and we understand that. That’s why we have the True Dark process so that they can lie in bed and use their phone for as long as there they want and still not suffer from the damage of doing that.
S: Well, thank you for sharing so much of this awesome wisdom and these technologies. I’ll include all this stuff in the show notes. If somebody is interested in going through the 40 Years of Zen process, where do they go, what website or what phone number should they call or what have you?
C: They’ll go off to 40yearsofzen.com. They can go there and click to register interest, and one of our lovely staff will contact them to talk more about it, answer any of their questions, and help them select a date.
S: Perfect! This is not an inexpensive thing but the value is immense. Well-worth it if you got the funds to be able to afford it.
S: Cool. The True Dark glasses, best place to go again is that landing page that you set-up for the 10% offer.
C: Yep, biohacked.com/geek. You’ll see the True Dark products there and you’ll be able to choose what you like and add them to your cart and check right out.
S: Alright, perfect! Thank you so much, Chris. Thank you, listeners. We’ll catch you on the next episode of The Optimized Geek. This is your host, Stephan Spencer, signing off.