T H E N E W B I O F E E D B A C K
Biofeedback, the hip fad that promised cosmic consciousness and panacean answers to human ills, is dead. But rising from its ashes is a new, practical biofeedback, an electron microscope of inner space, that has been validated by thousands of research studies. Feedback can be applied to almost any measurable behaviour. Its an added tool that allows more information to flow between the mind and the body. Biofeedback simultaneously isolates, magnifies, and feeds back information about tiny, normally imperceptible behaviour changes as they occur. This amplified information helps the individual to influence those inner changes.
Practical biofeedback requires the combined application of effective hardware and a subject willing to practice long and hard on the machine. It is no miracle, not even a mystery. In the past, biofeedback was seen as impractical because the required equipment was expensive and laboratory-bound. But technological advances have reduced size and cost to the point where the techniques are beginning to have importance in real life.
It may at first seem odd that the above definitions and differentiations between extrapersonal and transpersonal are useful in a discussion of biofeedback training. “After all,” it might be said, “biofeedback means machines. And machines cannot produce either psychic or spiritual events. Correct?” Yes. But a misunderstanding often hinges on the idea that biofeedback machines produce something, or do something to people. They do not. They only detect, and display to a person’s cortex, information about normally hidden processes of the body. But since the body reflects the brain, and the brain reflects the mind, and the two (brain and mind) are not separate while we have a body (even in out-of-body experiences), it can be inferred that becoming aware of the body means becoming aware of the mind. This logic, this argument, is useful and sometimes adequate for satisfying, or pacifying, the left cortex, but it is not always needed.
From an arational, pragmatic experiential point of view, we are again and again told by yogis (and by research subjects and patients trained in psychophysiologic self-regulation), that becoming aware of normally involuntary physiological processes is linked with becoming aware of normally uncomcious psychological processes. This experiential fact is beginning to have significant applications in psychiatry. Regarding the mind-body linkage, it is worth noting that there is no such thing as training the body. There is only the training of the CNS (Central Nervous System). And in our view, consciousness is the most essential factor in developing self-regulation skills in the CNS, regardless of which neural and biochemical- mechanisms of the body reflect these skills. As conscious autonomic skills become habitual, they can be allowed to sink from consciousness; but, of course, as with a striate skill, they can be “called up” for examination and modification at any time.
If you work in a job where you stay in the same position all day, feedback equipment may help to relive the strain. You’ll attach a join angle monitor to your hip or knee, a pressure transducer on your chair, or a strain gauge on your back. When you’re in the right position, they will remain silent. But you’ll get a warning if you move too far from the healthiest, most efficient posture. The feedback will cut your risk of back pain and muscle aches and will bring you more energy on the job. Researchers have been training people to activate parts of the brain and the turn on different different brain wave frequencies. Already computers have been connected with electroencephalographic brain wave monitors. They turn tape recordings or video terminals on and off, depending on the individuals brain-wave state. This technology is still in its infancy, but eventually you’ll be able to enhance your reading speed and information retention. For more information please see above.