The mystical Pineal Gland and its Functions

The Pineal's location within the brain

The Pineal Gland is also called the pineal body, epiphysis or ‘Third Eye‘. It has the size of a grain of rice and the shape of a tiny pine-cone (hence its name).
It is tucked in a small groove between the two hemispheres right in the centre of your brain.
The pineal gland is not covered by the blood brain-barrier so it can secrete its hormones straight into the bloodstream.

Mystery has always surrounded this tiny organ. Modern medicine knows little about the gland’s role, but it has a rich metaphysical history. René Descartes believed the pineal was the “seat of the soul,” the interface where the mind meets the brain.

Pinealocytes

Pinealocytes

Pineal Gland’s Function

The Pineal’s function is not fully understood yet.
Pinealocytes are the main cells contained in the pineal gland. The primary function of the pinealocytes is the secretion of the hormone melatonin, which regulates your circadian rhythm, seasonal rhythm and your sleep/wake cycles.

In a study from May 2013 the researchers Barkera, Borjiginb, Lomnickaa and Strassman confirmed the existence (and, they argue, production) of dimethyltryptamine (DMT) in the pineal glands of rats. Further research has to be done to determine whether endogenous DMT in humans also originates in the pineal gland.

Pineal Gland and Third Eye

Nearly all vertebrate species possess a pineal gland. In some species of amphibians and reptiles the pineal gland is directly linked to a light-sensing organ.

The parietal eye (very small grey oval between the regular eyes) of a young bullfrog

Parietal Eye

Reptiles (mostly lizards, frogs, salamanders and some fish) have a so called parietal eye, also known as a third eye or pineal eye. This eye acts as a calendar: It can see days getting longer and nights getting shorter, and the reverse, and so tells the brain how seasons are changing. It regulates the animal’s circadian rhythm and its body temperature.

The parietal eye uses a different biochemical method of detecting light than rod cells or cone cells in a normal vertebrate eye.

Humans’ Third Eye

The human third eye is a mystical concept of an invisible eye located around the middle of the forehead, slightly above the junction of the eyebrows. This inner eye provides perception beyond ordinary sight and can lead to outer body experiences and lucid dreaming, to name a few.

Scientifically this is not understood yet. So far science has revealed that pinealocytes and photoreceptors of the retina share common components of signal transduction. Whether this supports the pineal gland’s mystical role in human consciousness remains to be seen.

The development of a bony cranium in mammals has obscured light from the brain and the mammalian pineal has lost direct contact with light. Without direct light input, a complicated neural circuitry has developed in which visual information from the photoreceptors of the retina is directed to the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalmus. Within the suprachiasmatic nucleus is an endogenous circadian clock that is reset daily to entrain the clock to the environmental lighting cycle. Output from the suprachiasmatic clock is transmitted to the pineal where during darkness the pinealocytes produce increased levels of melatonin that are released to the circulating blood.

The vastly disparate signaling systems in human photoreceptors and pinealocytes of the pineal gland may actually be variations on a common theme. As the mechanisms of phototransduction in retinal photoreceptor cells has become more clear, it has equally become apparent that pinealocytes have retained a selective group of retinal proteins that are involved in the phototransduction cascade. How the pineaIocytes utilize these proteins and whether the “retinal photoreceptor” proteins participate in signal transduction in the pineal is still unknown.
(https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF00966868?LI=true)

Hypnagogia

Hypnagogia is also referred to as ‘hypnagogic hallucinations’ or ‘hypnogogic state of consciousness’.
It is the experience of the transitional state of consciousness when you go from wakefulness to sleep. (The transitional state from sleep to wakefulness is called ‘hypnopompic’.)

In Hypnaogogia you might be seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting things, or experience a feeling of falling or floating. This is similar to when you’re dreaming, except you’re not asleep yet and still able to remember.

Experiencing these hallucinations can be confusing, because it can be hard to distinguish hallucination from reality. They create strong, intricate visual images in the mind that may be distorted in an unrealistic way. As a result, these hallucinations often cause fear. In some cases, they can cause you to suddenly jolt back to reality from the verge of sleep. ‘Hypnic Jerk’ or ‘The Kick’ as they call it in the movie ‘Inception’.)

Visual Hallucinations (Sights)

The beginnings of visual hallucinations occur as phosphenes – seemingly random speckles, lines or geometric patterns that may float around or remain still behind your closed eyelids.

When deeply immersed, you can control these patterns at will. To do this, just focus on changing the direction of the lines. Then mentally demand specific shapes and movements. After that it’s not difficult to have the phosphenes form a familiar face or animal.

Salvador Dali’s ‘The Persistence of Memory’ (1931)

Hypnagogia and Creativity

Artists have been using Hypnagogia as a key to their creativity: Salvador Dali nicknamed it “the slumber with a key,” and used it as creative inspiration for many of his imaginative paintings.

During hypnagogia, the brain is more fluid and open to making connections between seemingly unrelated ideas. This makes it so conducive to creative problem solving.

How to induce Hypnagogia

Thomas Edison and Dali often induced hypnagogia using a similar technique: Both men held something metal in their hands while they fell asleep. As their hand relaxed, the item would clang onto the floor and wake them up.

Scientists have observed the presence of both alpha brainwaves — which are the dominant brainwave mode when we are conscious but relaxed, for instance when daydreaming or meditating — and theta brainwaves, which are associated with restorative sleep, during Hypnagogia.

Therefore I suggest you try binaural beats or if you can, book a session with the Ajna Light, and make use of  brainwave entrainment to achieve more relaxed states of awareness which lead to the hypnagogic magic.

I experience visual and sensory effects every time I am under the Ajna Light and it can lead me into a deep meditation, which is an excellent primer for lucid dreaming (but that’s another post on its own).

Binaural Entrainment with Beats

Binaural Beats

Binaural beats are an auditory biohack designed to facilitate brainwave entrainment.

Just as pulses of neurons firing are measured with frequency, so too is sound.
The human ear can hear sounds with a frequency (pitch) between 30Hz and 18,000Hz.

The Range of Human Hearing

The Range of Human Hearing

 

How Binaural Beats work

Wearing headphones, you listen to an audio track that pumps one frequency or tone in one ear and a different frequency or tone in the other ear. This means that there is an almost imperceptible difference in sound coming into your left and right ear.

Hence the term bi (meaning two) and aural (of the ear). The difference in the frequency between the left and right ear will be the frequency of the beating and therefore the target frequency for your brainwave entrainment.

If you want to play around with creating some beats, check out this applet.

Often times white noise (rain) is used in conjunction with these tones to help relax the mind and put it in a more malleable state. The result is that you can target a variety of different brainwave states that can yield varied benefits.

While the effect of any form of music on a human individual is highly personal and therefore resistant to generalization, a variety of research shows potential improvements for everything from cognitive performance to enhanced relaxation.
A UK study with control group from 2005 showed significant reduction in anxiety for pre-operative patients listening to binaural beats prior to surgery (source:  http://www.binbeat.com/images/binauralsandanxiety.pdf).

Where to get Binaural Beats

You can find binaural beats tracks for sale online or on YouTube.
Aubrey Marcus, the author of ‘Own the Day, Own your Life’, has produced two albums of binaural beats. Together you can purchase them for US$35 here.

Click here to download ‘Earth Piece’ for free, Aubrey’s favourite 30 minute track for a mid-day power nap.

My favourite Binaural Beats App is Brainwave: 35 Binaural Programs.

You can get on iTunes. It’s only US$4.99 and has a programme for all sorts of occasions. Check it out. Definitely worth its money.

What are Brainwaves?

Brainwaves are a measurement of the frequency that large groups of neurons are firing in your brain in order to communicate. They form pulses measured by a device such as an EEG in Hz.

Brainwaves when you're calm and when you're anxious

Anxious & Agitated vs. Calm & Relaxed

It is a handy analogy to think of brainwaves as musical notes – the low frequency waves are like a deeply penetrating drum beat, while the higher frequency brainwaves are more like a subtle high pitched flute. Like a symphony, the higher and lower frequencies link and cohere with each other through harmonics.

The brain does not operate in just one single frequency; the full spectrum of brainwave frequencies are always running, all the time. The dominant frequency determines our mental state – and entrainment temporarily shifts our mental state by boosting one frequency to be louder than the others.

Here are the common brainwave states below:

DELTA WAVES (0.2Hz – 3Hz)

This is the time when your body can repair. Delta Waves are the slowest but loudest brainwaves (low frequency and deeply penetrating, like a drum beat). They are generated in deepest meditation and dreamless sleep. Delta waves suspend external awareness and are the source of empathy. Healing and regeneration are stimulated in this state. You will not remember anything while in Delta.

THETA WAVES (3Hz – 8Hz)

This is a deeply meditative state, associated with floating, heavy relaxation, or very light sleep. In theta, our senses are withdrawn from the external world and focused on signals originating from within. It is that twilight state which we normally only experience fleetingly as we wake or drift off to sleep. In theta we are in a dream: vivid imagery, intuition and information beyond our normal conscious awareness. It’s where we hold our ‘stuff’, our fears, troubled history, and nightmares.

ALPHA WAVES (8Hz – 12Hz)

This is the classic flow state. You are awake but relaxed and not actively ‘thinking’ about everything. Experienced meditators revealed strong increases in alpha activity. Alpha is ‘the power of now’, being here, in the present. Alpha is the resting state for the brain. It has been connected to the ability to recall memories, lessen discomfort and pain, and reduce stress and anxiety.

BETA WAVES (12Hz – 38Hz)

This is your wide awake default mode when attention is directed towards cognitive tasks and the outside world. Many people lack sufficient beta activity, which can cause challenges with focus, emotional stability, energy levels, attentiveness and concentration.
Continual high frequency processing is not a very efficient way to run the brain, as it takes a tremendous amount of energy.

GAMMA WAVES (38Hz – 42Hz)

Gamma brainwaves are the fastest of brain waves (high frequency, like a flute), and relate to simultaneous processing of information from different brain areas. It is associated with the formation of ideas, language and memory processing. The mind has to be quiet to access gamma, but it is a highly desirable state for getting shit done.
Gamma was dismissed as ‘spare brain noise’ until researchers discovered it was highly active when in states of universal love, altruism, and the ‘higher virtues’. Gamma is also above the frequency of neuronal firing, so how it is generated remains a mystery. It is speculated that gamma rhythms modulate perception and consciousness, and that a greater presence of gamma relates to expanded consciousness and spiritual emergence.

What is Brainwave Entrainment?

How many of us have struggled to relax or fall asleep after a stressful day? How many times have you tried to meditate, waiting for your brain to slow down and turn off? This problem occurs in many cases, because your brain is not in the ideal state for restfulness or relaxation.
What does determine the state of your brain? What determines your thoughts at any given moment?
At the root of all our thoughts, emotions and behaviours is the communication between neurons within our brains.

Brainwaves

Brainwaves are produced by synchronised electrical pulses from masses of neurons firing in your brain in order to communicate with each other.
They form pulses whose frequency is measured by a device such as an EEG in Hz.

Our brainwaves are a physiological reaction to our environments. They change according to what we’re doing and feeling. When slower brainwaves are dominant we can feel tired, slow, sluggish, or dreamy. The higher frequencies are dominant when we feel wired, or hyper-alert.

Brainwaves can help us optimize mental functioning for our current situations. There are five common brainwave states: gamma, beta, alpha, theta, and delta and each one is put to its highest and best use in different situations.

Brainwave Entrainment

If you are navigating daily decisions, slipping into beta frequency is the most useful. If you need to surf a big wave or write your novel, alpha frequency is helpful. And if you are trying to rest, theta frequency is most powerful. Unfortunately, it can be a slow and frustrating process trying to rely on our environment alone to get us naturally into any one of these brain-wave states, so sometimes we have to be more purposeful about it. We have to target a specific brainwave frequency.
That’s where brain-wave entrainment comes in. Entrainment can help round the corners so you can reach your intent faster and more effectively. Brainwave entrainment is a method to stimulate the brain into entering a specific state by using a pulsing sound (beats), light, or electromagnetic field. The pulses elicit the brain’s ‘frequency following’ response, encouraging the brainwaves to align to the frequency of a pulse.

Frequency Following Response

This ‘frequency following’ response of brainwave entrainment can be seen in action with those prone to epilepsy. If a strobe flashes at their seizure frequency, the brain will ‘entrain’ to the flashing light, resulting in a seizure. That’s the reason why the Ajna Light can’t be used if you’re epileptic.
On the positive side, this same mechanism is used to induce many brainwave states: such as a trance, enhanced focus, relaxation, meditation or sleep induction. The brainwave entrainment effectively pushes the entire brain into a certain state.


One way to do this is with binaural beat technology, another one is with the flickering Ajna Light.

The more we learn about brain waves, the more we understand how important they are in generating desired states of conconsciousness. Binaural beats are a very basic technology, not too dissimilar from a rhythmic beat of a drum. The Ajna Light on the other hand is hi-tech that can be combined with Binaural Beats.

With the increasingly chaotic environment in which we live, assistive technology like the Ajna Light can be a game changer for a lot of people. Brainwave entrainment is so effective, because it creates an automatic response. You don’t need to do anything special to feel the effect. The only requirement is to lay down peacefully with your eyes closed. Therefore it works for almost everyone and it allows you to experience what states of consciousness, you have usually difficulty reaching, feel like.

Why should you start drinking Bulletproof Coffee?

I like a cup of coffee – Cappuccino preferably.

Since watching “Cowspiracy” drinking regular milk from the carton to froth for my Cappuccino is not an option anymore.  Milk also has a negative effect on polyphenols, the good antioxidants in coffee. It makes them less likely to be absorbed.
Therefore I started making my own almond milk. It worked, it tastes good, but it’s pretty expensive (200g of almonds cost about USD 5.5 in Sri Lanka) and it takes planning – from start to finish you need two days of preparation before you can enjoy the milk. Apart from that it tends to separate when heated and can hardly be frothed – so, all in all not a great alternative!

Bulletproof Coffee in a handmade Tallentire House cup

Bulletproof Coffee in a handmade Tallentire House cup

I didn’t want to give up coffee entirely!
Caffeine actually has many health benefits:

  • regulates your insulin sensitivity
  • blocks inflammation to the brain

That’s when I remembered our favourite restaurant in Unawatuna, Bedspace, offered Bulletproof Coffee on their menu…

So how do you make Bulletproof Coffee?

  1. Brew  hot coffee.
  2. Using a blender, blend in
    – 2 tablespoons unsalted, grass-fed butter,
    – 2 tablespoons of C8 MCT oil or regular coconut oil,
    – a pinch of ground cinnamon,
    – a few drops of organic vanilla extract and
    – stevia or wild honey to enhance the taste.
  3. Blend for a few seconds.
  4. Enjoy.

That sounds like a fairly easy procedure. Not time consuming at all, even faster then my old habit of heating up regular milk, frothing etc.

To get grass-fed butter in Sri Lanka was a problem. I don’t know where you live, but you might be facing the same problem…
Then I found out that Anchor butter from New Zealand is pretty much only made from grass-fed cows. It’s not 100%, so they can’t advertise it on the label – still, good enough for me.

What are the benefits of Bulletproof coffee?

  • When you switch out your milk for butter in your coffee, you get 3.4 times more antioxidants
  • Butter contains butyric acid, which lowers inflamation and heals your gut.

Not convinced yet?

  • A study on rats found that coffee combined with a high fat diet, led to decreases in body weight, fat and liver triglycerides
  • Adding fat to your coffee helps you reach ketosis.

If you want to know more about how to bulletproof your life instead of just your coffee, read “Bulletproof Diet” by David Asprey on Blinkist in 15 minutes!

Blinkist is the greatest app I discovered recently on the App shop. Sign up for free and check it out!

Blinkist has over 2,000 books–in–blinks with 40 new titles added each month. Read or listen and get the key ideas from the best non-fiction books in 15 minutes. I love it!

Ketosis

Ketosis is a metabolic state where the body burns fat for energy instead of sugar.

Some people try to reach ketosis by avoiding carbohydrates in their diet, but another trick is, adding butter or MCT oil or even both to your coffee. It makes your coffee bulletproof and will help your body burn more fat as an energy source.

A ketone level of 0.6 mM* indicates ketosis. Typically, circulating levels of ketones are at ~0.1 mM in the average person after an overnight fast.
Dave Asprey who is the author of the book “Bulletproof Diet”, describes that after drinking a cup of bulletproof coffee, the blood ketone level can reach 0.7mM within 30 minutes.
People on low-carb diets have to restrict their intake of carbohydrates for three days before they can reach the same level.

*mM stands for millimolar. It’s the measuring unit of concentrations expressing the number of moles of the substance (here ketones) present in a defined volume of solution: A 1 millimolar (1 mM) solution contains 1 millimole per litre (1 mmol/l).

Optimum blood ketone levels for nutritional ketosis range from 0.5 to 3.0 mM,
according to Volek and Phinney in their best-selling book “The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Living”.

C8 MCT Oil

It is made from coconut or palm oil and has 18 times more medium-chain triglycerides than regular coconut oil.

Mediumchain triglycerides are a form of saturated fatty acid that has numerous health benefits, ranging from improved cognitive function to better weight management.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants help neutralize harmful free radicals in your body by donating an electron to the free radical’s unpaired electron.

If there are no antioxidants present, free radicals take electrons from healthy cells in the body, causing oxidative stress.

The apples above demonstrate how oxidative stress breaks down your cells, causing premature aging and disease.

 

Best antioxidant rich foods
1) Goji berries 25000 ORAC* score
2) Dark chocolate 21000 ORAC score
3) Pecan nuts 17000 ORAC score
4) Wild blueberries 14000 ORAC score
5) Elderberries 14000 ORAC score
6) Artichokes 9400 ORAC score
7) Cranberries 9500 ORAC score
8) Kidney beans 8400 ORAC score
9) Blackberries 5300 ORAC score
10) Coriander 5100 ORAC score

*ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. It’s a lab test that attempts to quantify the “total antioxidant capacity” (TAC) of a food.