ADHD: Should Hunters Use Meditation Machines or Go it Alone?
Meditation is an extraordinarily powerful way to strengthen ones’ mind and mental processes, find inner peace, and reboot the body and brain for optimal performance...
Meditation is an extraordinarily powerful way to strengthen ones’ mind and mental processes, find inner peace, and reboot the body and brain for optimal performance.
And sitting still and paying attention long enough to meditate can be damn hard for Hunters with ADHD.
Which is why I love my two meditation machines and highly recommend you check one or the other out. (I have no affiliation with either company.)
Back in the 1980s when I first started writing and speaking extensively about ADHD, my late friend Michael Hutchison (author: Mega Brain Power: Transform Your Life With Mind Machines And Brain Nutrients) and Rob Kall (who ran an annual conference on brain function and peak functioning) introduced me to “mind machines,” most also known as EEG neurofeedback devices.
EEG, or Electroencephalography, is a measure of brainwave activity, covering the types and intensity of a variety of different frequency patterns as well as their location in the brain itself.
There are specific brainwave patterns associated with the optimal states achieved by meditation, and what I’m calling my meditation machines first measure your brainwaves then feed them back to you in a way that lets you optimize the desirable frequencies and patterns associated with calmness or insight while minimizing the undesirable ones associated with being fidgety or distractible.
Because these devices are providing you with real-time feedback (mostly auditory) that rewards you when you hit the right state, they’re incredibly engaging. There are dozens of soundscapes you can choose for your feedback (I’m partial to rain and ocean waves) that are overlaid by “reward” sounds like birds chirping or waves becoming louder.
The first device, which I’ve used for years now, is from Muse, whose website is ChooseMuse.com. It wraps around your head, picking up brainwaves from your forehead against the “ground” point of your ears. It also has heart rate sensors and motion sensors and costs around $500; an older model is still generally available for around $250.
The second device, which just became available to the public in the past month, is from Sens.ai (which is also their website) and has sensors that directly contact the top and back of your skull as well as the forehead region, giving a somewhat more comprehensive brainwave analysis. It costs around $1,500.
Both are a heck of a lot cheaper than the equipment I bought back in the 1980s for my own brain-training: the first device I purchased included two IBM PC computers and a fancy brainwave-detection contraption and cost me over $20,000.
That early machine, though, taught me the usefulness of this sort of brain training. After a few weeks of regular 15-minutes-a-day practice, I found I was sleeping easier and less likely to get thrown off balance emotionally by the events of the day.
Both the Muse and the Sens.ai devices work with an app on your smartphone. With the Muse headband you use your own earbuds; the Sens.ai device is built around a pair of over-the-ear headphones.
You choose the program you want to run, depending on the goal of your meditation. Are you trying to build focus? Reduce distractability? Quiet the racing mind? Sleep better? Have better emotional regulation? Just have fun?
Both devices have programs for all these and more.
First you sit in a comfortable position and put the device on your head: you may have to moisten the sensors (the Sens.ai has a little water brush for this purpose) to give them an optimal electrical connection to your skin.
Then you select the program you want to run from their app on your smartphone, close your eyes, and listen to the instructions, the guided meditation, or the background with the reward sounds. You can choose sessions from a few minutes to much longer (start short and work your way up).
MD Magazine recently ran an article about using the Muse device to train the brains of people with ADHD: it’s title was Neurofeedback Therapy Improves Behavior Outcomes in Patients With ADHD. The author, Erica Slaughter, noted:
“Patients with ADHD show a greater ratio between the resting theta waves and the faster beta waves compared with their age- and sex-equivalent peers without ADHD, with less ability to stay focused on a task. These quantitative data are an objective indicator of cortical dysregulations that can be improved through training patients to create better pathways through physician-guided operant conditioning.”
Given that Hunters are wired to be more easily distracted, it’s entirely possible that this “objective indicator of cortical dysregulations” are as much a function of growing up soaked in the high-stim rapid-motion culture driven by TV, smartphones, and the internet. If Hunters are more vulnerable to distraction by and addiction to these modern-day forms of entertainment, they may also be more wounded by them.
In the era before TV and computers, most people read, invited people over, or attended theater for entertainment; all three required training your own brain to a certain level of stillness and self-control. But when these electronic marvels hit the scene, the need for self-regulation largely vanished: the most ADHD kids will sit still for are highly-engaging content on TV or a computer screen.
After all, hyperfocus is one of the superpowers of Hunters: it just takes something fascinating (like a mind machine program on a smartphone) to kick that hyperfocus into gear.
Thus, modern children and adults with ADHD have a steeper hill to climb when it comes to developing the skills of paying attention and staying quiet while listening to boring content. These are skill sets already built into their Farmer friends and relatives; they must be learned almost from scratch by ADHD people.
As Dr. Robert Reiner of Behavioral Associates in New York told MD Magazine:
“The overall benefit of neurofeedback amounts to increased self-regulation, whether that is better regulation of anxiety, emotional states, attentional issues, or behavioral issues. If you can identify which parts of the grid are not operating optimally, then you can begin to train those parts of the brain to come online more effectively, and it basically strengthens the entire grid.”
Of course, it’s not just people with ADHD who use and benefit from neurofeedback. Various neurofeedback systems are currently employed by 78% of Fortune 500 companies, NASA’s astronaut training center, London’s Royal College of Music, the United States Olympic Training Center, Formula 1 teams, US Special Forces and Navy Seals training centers, and others.
There are over 700 studies showing a positive outcome from EEG neurofeedback, many relating to ADHD. This is a proven technology and it really works (I can testify!).
There are also EEG Neurofeedback professionals in virtually every city in America, most of whom are trained in using EEG to moderate the symptoms of ADHD. The devices work just fine for teenagers or even slightly younger kids, as well as adults of every age.
If buying these new gee-whiz EEG devices (or going to a therapist who uses them) is beyond your budget, don’t despair. Mindfulness meditation is also a powerful way of ameliorating ADHD symptoms and doesn’t require any hardware at all.
One study published in the journal Cognitive Behavioral Practice, “Mindfulness Meditation Training for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Adulthood: Current Empirical Support, Treatment Overview, and Future Directions,” lays it clearly:
“Overall, current empirical studies support the rationale for application of mindfulness to ADHD, show that mindfulness is a feasible and well-accepted intervention in ADHD samples, and provide promising preliminary support for its efficacy.”
There are hundreds of websites that teach mindfulness meditation, although here’s a simple way to get started.
Sit in a comfortable position anywhere. You can be in a quiet meditation room or a busy airport terminal: one of the really cool things about mindfulness is that you can practice it anywhere.
Start by becoming one with your body and your place. Notice how you’re positioned, how you’re breathing, any sensations you have in your body. Then cycle through your senses three times: notice what you’re seeing, what you’re hearing, what you’re feeling, and any tastes or smells. Spend five seconds or so with each sense, then move on to the next.
Now simply attend to your own attention: notice what you’re noticing. Some people find it useful to imagine they’re sitting at a control console — like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise — just above and behind the back of their head and they’re watching their body and mind in front of them.
Notice what comes up. Thoughts will bubble up, one after the other, and some will hook onto other thoughts until you’ll discover you’ve spent a few minutes going down one long thought train and gotten lost, forgetting to pay attention to your attention.
Don’t get upset: that’s normal and happens to everybody when they start meditation practice. Just notice it. Some people use the word “thinking” and imagine they’re mentally reaching out to their thought-bubble to touch it, causing it to pop and vanish. Then another thought will bubble up, and you repeat the process.
The key to mindfulness meditation is the mindful part: attending to how you’re attending to things. Being mindful of your mind.
I’ve practiced mindfulness meditation since I was a teenager (along with a few other forms: Kriya Yoga and Transcendental Meditation) and it’s been one of the biggest gifts of my life. (My first introduction came via Ouspensky and Gurjieff: I recommend The Fourth Way, In Search of the Miraculous, and Tertium Organum.
That said, even with over 50 years of practice behind me, I still find that using the Sens.ai or Muse devices help with my distractability and racing mind, and use them regularly.