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 intuition.
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 the gap.
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 satisfaction.
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 well-being.
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 experiences.
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 of us.
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 pause.
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