Alpha, Theta, Delta, Epsilon, Gamma: What Do These Brainwave States Do For You?

You may already have a good feel for where each of the different brainwave states takes you, and know intuitively what will work for you the best on a day-to-day basis with your meditation practice. If you are a little fuzzy about the differences between the brainwave states, however, and would like to have a really clear, visceral sense of what each state does for you and how they resonate with you physically, mentally, and emotionally, one way you can find out is to listen to Harmonic Resonance Meditation. HRM has 4 tracks with the same drone sounds playing in all of them, but each track entrains to a different brainwave state: alpha, theta, delta, or epsilon. Listening to HRM is how I learned to clearly distinguish what each of these four brainwave states does for me.

When Harmonic Resonance Meditation first came out, I listened to it every morning. I would ramp down from alpha to theta, down to delta, and back up to theta. Perfect. Epsilon was too strong and dreamy for me on a workday—I learned to save epsilon for weekends and became especially fond of using it when I was traveling on an airplane. I’d just play it over and over and be in a trance state, even on long transatlantic flights. It was awesome! I know that some people, however, gravitate right to epsilon for their morning meditations, and find their capacity to have deeply spiritual experiences enhanced.

Alpha: Gateway to Deeper States of Awareness

Getting a Feel for the Different Brainwave StatesSo, let’s get back to HRM’s first track, alpha, at a frequency of 8–13 Hz. Alpha is the brainwave state that is the gateway to deeper awareness from our everyday waking beta state (16–31 Hz). As you listen, can you feel when the brainwave entrainment starts working? Within about 5 minutes of starting the track, do you find yourself giving a sigh of surrender, marking your descent into a slower brainwave pattern than everyday beta? Does a feeling of contentment come over you?

In alpha, I feel a pull towards focus. I feel my body begin to relax and though my thoughts are still there, they don’t have the usual strong hold on my mind; there seems to be a quiet but determined desire to stay focused on the present. If I repeat the alpha track a second time, for example right now while writing this, the effect is mesmerizing, making me feel like I could remain focused forever.

Theta: Keeper of Hidden Emotions

Now let’s see what it feels like to drop into the theta brainwave state, at a frequency of 4-7 Hz. For me, there is a noticeable shift into a whole body experience out of just “mind,” and I immediately feel my emotional body waking up. Sometimes where there was no perception before (in alpha) of emotional turmoil or pain, in theta I become aware that there are places in my heart area that may feel desperately frustrated, angry, stifled, or exhausted. And yet, at the same time, I am held in this gentle brainwave state that lends me the inclination and the patience to sit with these feelings, watching them and feeling them, without wanting to run away. If I am in the mood to do some real work on my emotions, get to the root of what has been bothering me, gain clarity where I am feeling foggy, I will listen to theta a couple of times in a row, almost always with tangible results. Theta is where I do all my inner housecleaning.

Delta: Beneath the Surface, an Ocean of Peace

Getting a Feel for the Different Brainwave StatesThen there is delta, there for you when you want to simply meditate in a deep, peaceful place. Because in delta, with a frequency of 0.5-4 Hz, for me at least, the feelings and associated thoughts that became so apparent in theta mysteriously slip away, and a great calm comes over my mind, heart, and body. It is hard to leave the peace of delta to begin my workday—this is made easier by ramping back up through theta to alpha, or straight to alpha.

Listening to the different tracks of Harmonic Resonance Meditation, I find it fascinating that whereas in alpha I am generally aware only of the lower drone notes in the music, in theta I become aware of the pleasant high tones almost hidden in the music, subtly benign. And in delta, a sweet little melodic pattern becomes apparent, that is actually in all the tracks—just previously unnoticed. Only delta seems to bring it out for me.

Epsilon: Shapeshifter, Alterer of Time

Getting a Feel for the Different Brainwave StatesSo let me know what happens for you in epsilon. Again, since I tend to be slow to wake up in the mornings, I steer away from epsilon for my morning meditations, not wanting to get so deep that it slows me down further. I’m not in the habit of meditating in the evenings either, even though it would be very interesting to test epsilon as a sleep aid. But as I said earlier, epsilon is a lovely trance-inducing track for me (and a spiritual experience inducer for many) and turns 10-hour transatlantic flights into what feels like half the time—I disembark feeling relatively fresh and well, instead of like a sliced apple that was left in a plastic baggie for too long, forgotten in one’s pack or purse.

Gamma: Time to Rev Up!

One brainwave state that is not part of Harmonic Resonance Meditation is gamma, a state of very rapid brainwave patterns with frequencies from 32-100 Hz. iAwake will soon be releasing a new track featuring gamma waves as an addition to the brilliant Stealing Flow suite, created by Douglas Prater to enhance peak performance, focus, and creative breakthroughs. Gamma waves are very healthy for maintaining a high functioning brain, and people who have more gamma action going on are said to experience more compassion than those of us who don’t. I look forward to gaining a better understanding of how gamma and I relate to each other.

Getting a Feel for the Different Brainwave States

Find Out More About Our Different Brainwave States

So, if you want to attune yourself to the effects that different brainwave states have upon you, check out Harmonic Resonance Meditation, if you haven’t already. You’ll gain an understanding of what happens for you in the different states, and begin to have an intuitive feel for which brainwave state you want to meditate in each day. You’ll be able to tailor your meditations to your moods and inclinations and increase the effectiveness of brainwave entrainment. And if you’d like to read more about different brainwave states and how they relate to changes in our consciousness, I’d recommend Awakening the Mind: A Guide to Harnessing the Power of Your Brainwaves, by brainwave and consciousness training pioneer Anna Wise.



Heidi Mitchell Editor

Heidi Mitchell has been working with iAwake’s CEO, John Dupuy, for over 10 years as assistant and editor. John introduced her to Integral Theory and Practice and brainwave entrainment enhanced meditation in 2007. Heidi is also a freelance editor of nonfiction books, blogs, and web sites. She can be reached at

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