Paraliminals Review: Can a CD Really Boost Your Brain Power and Performance?
I started using Paraliminals because I was having heart palpitations. In the last couple months of my graduate program, I was so stressed out that I couldn't sleep, couldn't focus on anything besides my dissertation (and sometimes not even that), and when I tried to relax, my heart would get all fluttery and weird. It was really scary and I couldn't figure out how to stop it.
Right around that time, Learning Strategies (makers & marketers of the Paraliminal CDs) offered a free trial download of the Peak Performance CD. So one day, in a busy coffee shop, with my computer open and all my notes and papers spread out around me, I downloaded and listened. And--whoa.
From crazy to calm in three minutes or less
I went from being anxious and stressed to sitting, calm and cool, in my own little bubble of peace. It was that fast and that amazing. All the noise around me fell away, my muscles relaxed, and I had an intense 20-minute meditation in the middle of a busy public place. When the Paraliminal finished, I opened my eyes, returned to my computer, and wrote five fast dissertation pages that I'd been struggling to get through all week. It was like a mini-miracle.
More on Brain Waves
14 - 40 Hz. Normal waking consciousness. Associated with logic and reasoning.
7.5 - 14 Hz. Deep relaxation and day-dreaming. Enhanced intuition, learning, visualization.
4 - 7.5 Hz. Associated with deep meditation, light sleep, and REM dreaming. In theta state, the subconsious in dominant.
0.5 - 4 Hz. Present in deep, dreamless sleep.
25 - 100 Hz. (but usually more than 40 Hz.) The most recently discovered state and one associated with burst of insight. Brain studies done on advanced Tibetan monks show them in a gamma state that is distinctly different than the state achieved by less experienced meditators.
Binaural beats for deeper meditation
I've never been a huge fan of meditation or relaxation CDs. And those that claim to help alter your behavior, break a habit, or solve a problem--well, those never really work, do they? At best, they'll help you get to sleep a little quicker.
But Paraliminals are really different from a regular subliminal recordings or relaxation CDs. They use a combination of neurolinguistic programming and binaural beats to actually alter your brain waves. The idea here is that if you listen to two different sound frequencies, one in each ear, the interaction of the two frequencies creates a sort of pulsing or hum that actually influences your brain waves. As a result, the right frequencies can induce a meditative state in a listener.
This is pretty much what happens when you meditate on your own. You start out in a state of beta brain waves, with the electrical impulses in your brain clicking along at somewhere between 14 and 40 cycles per second. This is your normal waking state and while it's associated with logic, reasoning, and alertness, it's also where you're most like to feel stress and anxiety. As you settle into your meditation, your brainwaves slow into alpha state (7-13 cycles per second) and you'll likely feel calm and relaxed. Alpha state hovers between your conscious and subconscious minds: it enhances visualization and imagination, improves memory, and primes your brain to learn quickly and well.
Alpha state for personal progress
This means that if you're trying to learn a new skill, change your behavior, or relieve stress and anxiety, alpha state is a good state to be in. And that's where Paraliminals come in. Each CD is designed to accomplish something fairly specific, ranging from eliminating procrastination to improving health to enhancing memory to altering a limiting belief. The CDs each feature spoken words, soothing sounds (lapping waves and the like), and music.
But here's what's different: There's a different soundtrack going in each ear. In one ear you might be hearing a fable about planting seeds that will bear good fruit, while in the other you're being asked to think back over significant moments in your past. Of course, you can't do both at the same time -- but it doesn't matter. Listen to one, listen to the other, let your mind drift and focus on both or neither. It's all good. It sounds weird, I know -- but in practice, it's so cool.
When I have a really good meditation session (which, frankly, are few and far between because I'm not super consistent about meditating), I can feel my brain downshift at some point. My limbs get heavy and if feels like my brain is somehow more powerful, but working less hard. If that makes sense. And when I listen to a Paraliminal, I get almost the same sensation. Not quite identical, but as soon as the binaural beats kick in, I can feel myself falling into something...else.
So I'm a fan of Paraliminals for that reason alone.
But even better, they actually pretty much do what they say they'll do. They're not magic, of course, but "Deep Relaxation" is deeply relaxing; "10 Minute Supercharger" is energizing; "Power Thinking" helps focus me; and "Belief" has the power to engender actual psychological insight. Crazy, but true.
Paraliminals really work
Again, I'm not promising magic here. But I've used a bunch of Paraliminals pretty regularly at certain points, and my experience has been overwhelmingly positive. I love some more than others, though, so here are the highlights:
Designed to prepare you for a performance, speech, or competition. Contains two programs, one to use in the weeks before the big day (to get you in the right mindset) and one to prepare you immediately before the big day. Or hour.
This was my very first Paraliminal experience, so I have a soft spot for it. I used it extensively before my dissertation defense, about which I was a wreck (see heart palpitations, above), and I use it a lot before interviews. I've gotten more jobs than I've lost, although I realize that's hardly conclusive evidence.
Intended to help overcome ineffective thought patterns, inspire new perceptions, and enhance ideal mental and emotional states.
So this Paraliminal is the most nebulous (of my favorites, that is) in terms of what it actually does--but I love it the most. It makes me calm and focused and my brain works really well after I've used it. That's the best I can describe it. It has Bob Proctor's voice on it (in addition to Paul Scheele, who is on all the Paralminals, I think) and something about the combination really works for me.
The ultimate relaxation CD. It's longer than other Paraliminals (30 minutes versus the usual 20) and is, as advertised, deeply relaxing. Has a nifty feature whereby you can choose whether you want to wake up (because you will almost definitely be asleep) when the program is over or just stay asleep. Sometimes I wake up when I didn't mean to -- but I've never kept sleeping when I didn't want to.
I give this CD full credit for preventing a heart attack in the last stages of my dissertation. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have ever fallen asleep at night, but for this CD. Oddly enough, I find this CD relieves (my) anxiety much better than the "Anxiety Free" Paraliminal, which doesn't do much for me.
Fast and energizing. Makes for a really great recharge on those days when you're tired or sleepy and can't get much done.
I'm not quite as passionate about this CD as the others -- but I do rely on it during stressful/busy times when I don't get enough sleep.
Helps identify and overcome blocks and limiting beliefs.
Ahh, Belief. I have only used this CD twice I think. The first time, I experienced a pretty amazing flah of insight and self-knowlege that I was able to translate into actual behavioral change. The second time, nothing much seemed to happen...but looking back on it, I can see that the limiting belief I identified has altered. Or is altering, maybe. It's just been slow. So again -- no magic here, but SO much cheaper than therapy.
Paraliminals Are Worth the Price
At $29.95 per CD, Paraliminals aren't super-cheap. But they're not out of sight either. And you can maybe score a cheaper copy on eBay.
There's cheaper stuff out there, though I don't know how other programs stack up against Paraliminals, which (have I mentioned?) are pretty freaking great.
Or you can go a lot more expensive. Programs like Omharmonics start at $150, while the Holosync program -- the mack daddy of binaural beat meditation programs, from whom Learning Strategies licenses their binaural beat technology -- runs close to $200 for just the first level. There are many more, and the price goes up. For the record, though, I've tried the free demo from both Omharmonics and Holosync and neither rocked my world.
Of course, it's pretty easy to lay down a lot of cash at Learning Strategies, which has all kinds of tempting programs. If you're anything like me, once you get on board with the awesomeness of Paraliminals, you're going to be tempted by the Ultimate You Library. This is basically a giant collection of Paraliminals -- you can choose between most of the Paraliminals (26) for more than $500 or ALL the Paraliminals for a whopping $800. (And I just want to say here, that while, yes, I did buy the Ultimate You library, I got a whopping discount on it and spent WAY less that $500. Don't judge me.)
So but anyway, no matter how tempted you are by the Ultimate You Library (and c'mon, I know there are some of you who will be), here's why it won't be worth it: There is no way that you could listen to all, or even very many, of these CDs on any kind of regular basis. There are too many and you have a life. Plus, you're going to find a few that you really, really like and those are the one you'll go back to. As you can see from my chart up there, I have five that I love. I listened to maybe another seven or eight that I thought I should listen to...but I didn't go back to them. So I've ended up selling off almost all of my Paraliminal collection. Many of the CDs I never even listened to.
But four or five Paraliminals is kind of a sweet spot. So once you've tried your first and find yourself hooked, I would take the advice on the Learning Strategies website: follow your intuition and choose a few Paraliminals that just seem right to you. I bet you'll find some gems.