When I heard about an upcoming conference entitled
biohacking, which features neuroscientific expert and the founder of BrainTap
Dr. Patrick Porter, I was immediately intrigued to have an interview with him.
There were various questions and a few concerns on my mind, but I was rather
surprised that Dr. Porter was not only able to assuage and dispel my fears and worries but he also provided me
with significant and highly interesting information to boot.
My first concern was related to the brain itself.
Currently, many psychologists are using the brain as the focal point for
treatments that follow the lines and logic of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and
Positive Psychology. Although I support both, I also caution against them
because they seem to minimize other processes at work that are equally
important and essential. We are more than our brain, so to focus and locate all
and everything on this admittedly highly significant organ of our body would be
misleading while overlooking the unconscious processes occurring in the
background hidden away from our purview would be counterproductive.
Secondly, the idea of simply motivating and blindly cheerleading yourself with happy and optimistic thoughts regardless of
the facts and circumstances of one's current reality and situation can pose risks and dangers. By zooming into the positive
without acknowledging, learning from, or appreciating the power of negative
emotions, one can cause more harm than good. We are more than our brain and thoughts and there
is more to the brain than we think.
Yet Dr. Porter is a visionary not only in having used
technology at a time when most of us had not given it much thought but more importantly
using it in conjunction with the brain itself. When he said that most of the
processes of the brain are situated in the unconscious, it was music to my
ears. It was also music to my ears when he mentioned that we are living in the
best of times in which we have easy access to classical music when compared to various decades and some centuries ago, all thanks to the advent of technology.
He further explained that there are three brains to speak of that are interconnected and that work together. We have the level of thought in our cranium, but we also have a heart-brain connected and tied with our emotions as well as a gut-brain, which is in constant communication with the rest of our nervous system.
When we say things like, my heart is not in it, we
are pointing to that kind of experience. This becomes also important for the
choice of profession as there tend to be more heart attacks on Monday mornings
as opposed to any other day and time of the week. Likewise, we feel those butterflies or knots
in our stomach, where our gut-bio is in direct communication with our brain via
neuron connections, not to mention our gut feeling, the cradle of our
As to Positive Psychology, Dr. Porter agreed with me
that it is important to go through different processes to reach a healthier and
higher state. We cannot look past or ignore current difficulties nor the
predicaments and traumas of the past. However, we need to be aware of them,
process them, and deal with them but should not unnecessarily harbor or linger there for too long. In many cases, sensations and feelings of gratitude can help us bridge
Yet it is of utmost importance to have a positive
outlook on life, something that both Dr. Porter and I strongly and intuitively
believe in. It is not a matter of deluding or misleading oneself, and it is
also not merely about seeing the glass as half empty or half full. It is rather
an essential building block towards happiness because negativity would always
stop you in your tracks and pull you down. In fact, while positivity has the
power to turn on gene expressions, negativity can do the exact opposite. Furthermore,
keeping the brain positive will help to keep the immune system functioning at
its highest level, generally referred to as psycho-immunology.
Our optimistic outlook was not the only thing we had
in common. We both believe in the influence of evolution on psychological
processes, ancient traditions that form the often unconscious matrix, and collective
basis of modern habits and proclivities. For instance, it comes as no surprise
that our romantic dates often include candlelight to set the scene, similar to
how we would gather around the fire to relax, unwind, and tell stories at night
after a long day of work, an activity that may have led to love-making, even for
our ancestors. A similar influence has been the correlation between watching
cave paintings under the influence of flickering lights and our modern
equivalent of watching movies in a dark room via projections on a white screen.
What exactly is Brain Tap and how does it work? My
answer is that I am not so sure. Dr. Porter gave explanations of the processes
of how and why it works, but I think that it would be one of the cases where one
needs to personally experience it to get the full gist of it. Also, he has such
a profound in-depth knowledge of the brain, energy levels, and technology with a
combination of various fields including quantum physics that it becomes a bit difficult
to follow and keep up with the theoretical frameworks. Nonetheless, I will try to
paraphrase it to the best of my knowledge, but it is my recommendation to
listen to him explain it directly (you have a link to the interview at the
bottom of the post).
It appears that it consists of the integrated use of
light, sound, and vibration therapy that would affect and elicit certain
specific and targeted brain waves and frequencies, all of which are part of a process called biohacking, a measurable and scientific manner of using
technological and digital tools to upgrade our biological systems. This has
been mainly used for treatments of brain recovery, such as dementia and
concussions, but it can also be applied to PTSD, different types of trauma as
well as conditions like attention deficit disorder and dyslexia. Moreover, it
can also be used to boost and improve overall mental health and life
This technology-driven meditation would include guided imagery. In fact, visualization can have a significant impact in terms of health and well-being. Studies show that simply visualizing events can
reduce anxiety and improve performance. Athletes often prepare before important events and matches by mentalizing their movements, while job seekers would
mentally and emotionally go over and rehearse their interview, and some may
even do the same before a romantic date.
To throw light into the mix is indeed ingenious. In fact,
it is not surprising that it would have profound effects. First off, when we
immerse ourselves and bask in the sunlight, various healthy and soothing, feel-good
conscious and unconscious processes are set in motion. It is the lack of light,
the darkness of night during which our body prepares for restful and refreshing
sleep. It is then not surprising that light plays a significant role in our sleep
cycle via the production and regulation of melatonin.
However, light, sound, and vibrations can also be part
of meditation practices. Different colors and sounds evoke different kinds of
feelings and sensations, and one can purposefully use light to address
and heal certain parts and aspects. With BrainTap, Dr. Porter is using his knowledge
and experience to channel the effects of light onto the person’s health and
Light in its purest form is also a staple of
spirituality, whether we talk about, figuratively or literally, seeing the
light, whether in front of us or at the end of the tunnel, or whether we refer to spirits and
angels as moving points in light, with auras and halos of light emanating from them as well as the quintessential experience of enlightenment
of the Buddha; all in all, light is quite often associated with spirituality.
I am aware that some may shudder at the mention of
spirituality and would perhaps prefer science without any such metaphysical intrusions.
But I would disagree. Many psychological and certain philosophical traditions,
and, in fact, even certain atheists are not averse to the importance and
influence of spirituality to give meaning, shape, and purpose to one’s life and
This is also apparent in the move towards and
embrace of mindfulness in different approaches to therapy. I think that
mindfulness is often misunderstood and most likely also misused, but it is easily
the most important aspect of connecting with one’s authentic or higher self.
But first, we need to be clear about what we mean by mindfulness.
I gasped at how perfectly Dr. Porter captured my own
feelings and understanding of mindfulness. It is simply being in the present, and it is not merely doing meditation and yoga once or twice a day. Mindfulness
needs to be constant and ever-present. We need to be mindful eaters, parents,
students, and teachers, employees and bosses, patients and doctors. It is not
one thing that can be separated, but it is all things with each one at a time, and this mindful awareness can help unlock and activate our potential that is patiently waiting to be discovered deep inside
Without mindfulness, the connection with the present
and our present thoughts, feelings, and sensations, we could be at best only
half alive. But to create any lasting change or happiness, we need to consciously
create our life. A lot of people go through their days on autopilot, with their
brains stuck in its default mode network, or are driven by their desire to
perform, do better, and advance in their careers, or they may simply want to
make more money. Although this is commendable, at the same time, it
is important to note and realize that time is much more than mere money.
But we also need to let time run its course. On one
hand, we need time off. These moments of rest, downtime, and me-time are essential not
only for health but also for productivity. On the other hand, there are many cases
where we cannot and should not press or accelerate time. When Dr. Porter
mentions that you can reach the state of mind of a practicing Buddhist monk, I
I think in matters of health and wellness, it is not
time that should be of the essence but making sure that one is on the right
path. Many are so driven by quick results and outcomes and are frustrated when
that does not occur as quickly as they wish. This is a fallacy. Patience needs
to be fostered as one walks towards one's goal. Certain therapies may take years
and as long as some progress is made on a regular basis, I certainly see no
harm in that.
Healing is a process in both senses of the word. Apart
from taking its time and resisting one’s temptation of rushing or accelerating
it, we also need to process and digest the information and experiences. The
same is true for personal development or spiritual experiences. Although we
have an idealized fantasy of being clubbed over the head with a sudden insight,
an unannounced visit by the Holy Spirit, or an experience of enlightenment, the truth is it
takes a substantial amount of effort. It is best to synergize various aspects
and create safe and healthy conditions to release pent-up feelings and
energy and reboot our brain before expecting any of it to take place.
In a similar vein, we need to practice our mindfulness
and train our brains. We do not just wake up knowing how to do things but like
athletes, we need to train our body and mind towards it. It may look easy, but
it involves time and effort and constant and consistent dedication. When we come to think of it, the brain itself is a muscle, and there are different ways of
strengthening and fomenting it with healthy habits and practices. Although
some are born with innate characteristics, those still need to be discovered,
developed, and come to the foreground.
Technology can certainly help us along the way, but the onus would still remain on us. As Dr. Porter himself states, he teaches people how to think but not what to think. We need to own our health by stepping up and taking responsibility for our own well-being. The space and the tools are there, but we need to create the necessary change and learn from our challenges and stress.
We cannot expect technology to give us everything served on a plate or a platter; the world of The Matrix in which you can download languages and skills and make them your own does not exist. And this is for the better. Because when things take their time and are bound with effort, not only do we learn and remember them better, but we appreciate them more.
For the full-length interview on YouTube with Dr. Patrick Porter, please click here.
If you prefer to listen to the interview, here is the link to my podcast: Arash's World Podcast