Brain Salon Review

Brain Salon is a new collection of audio sessions from inspire3, the people behind the wonderful Brain Evolution package. Whereas that older package is a long-term program aimed at taking you to ever deeper levels of meditation and mental control, Brain Salon is pitched as a quick way to change your state of mind at will.

It comprises six audio recordings, each of which is designed to bring about a particular mental state. So whether you need an energy boost, a bit of creative spark, or a deep relaxation, you simply need to pick the right recording, sit back, and relax.

The recordings are supplied on a set of three CDs. There is an accompanying booklet that explains the techniques behind each audio. They work by bringing about different brainwave frequencies, which in turn stimulates brain activity in certain ways. So for example, the "Happy Pill" recording, which is designed to literally make you feel happy, works by mixing patterns of alpha, beta, and theta brainwaves in a way that triggers the release of seratonin - the brains natural "happy" chemical.

My Brain Salon review is not going to be some rehashed press release, I hate those kinds of things, they help nobody. What I plan to do here is use each CD in turn (only one per day to really gauge the effects fully), and write up my experiences. That means this review is going to end up being quite long. But it also means it will be complete and honest.

I've copied the CDs onto my iPod, so I can use them anywhere, and with earphones which not only block out any ambient noise, but also give the best experience of stereo sound. I know from Brain Evolution that the use of stereo is an essential part of the technology.

With that said, onwards with the first review!


Day 1 - Happy Pill

I've just used the "Happy Pill" recording for the first time, and I feel almost like I had a religious experience. I should emphasise that I am not religious in any way. But I can understand how people find peace and happiness in religion. This recording has brought about a level of peace and a sense of joy deeper than I thought possible. It is, in a word, phenomenal.

The recording, as all of those in Brain Salon, lasts around 30 minutes. It starts off very quietly indeed. That gave me time to get comfortable, and relax naturally. It builds very gradually to a crescendo. But it does it so slowly you don't notice it happening. There are just a few simple sounds that are used, but they have been layered together so masterfully as to create an incredibly rich and deep soundscape.

The recording makes full use of the full stereo spectrum, and more so through time. Sounds literally start moving around you in three dimensional space. So I quite literally felt myself being led on a virtual journey through sound. It's all quite effortless of course. All I had to do was press Play, and close my eyes. Everything else happened entirely on autopilot.

The first five minutes or so was calm and relaxing, then I quite quickly went into quite a deep meditation. To start with, I felt like I was being wrapped up in a warm blanket of pure happiness. It was an overwhelming calm and safe feeling. I was in a protective bubble of peace.

Around 10-15 minutes in (at a guess, I had my eyes closed), I suddenly, and without warning, found myself re-living an old childhood memory. It was a happy memory, nothing special, just a day at the swimming pool with my cousins, but I was instantly filled with an innocent childhood joy. I didn't even know I still had this memory, it's certainly not one I have recalled in at least the last twenty years. And yet there I was, vividly re-living it in every detail. The the sounds of people splashing in the water, the smell of the chlorine, the feel of the water against my skin, the laughing happy faces of my cousins. Not a care in the world, just living in the moment as only children know how. I was in that pool, and so happy I could almost cry.

The great thing about these 30 minute audios is that they give you time to slowly reach a meditative state, and then leave you time to enjoy it. Other programs I have tried will often just about get you to a decent level, then yank you back to reality with a jolt, leaving you feeling empty or dissatisfied. But with Happy Pill I could literally wallow in this joyous feeling. I had the time to explore, to notice the details - the colour of the tiles on the floor of the pool, the way the sun was streaming through the windows, the way the shadows of the leaves on the trees outside played across the surface of the pool. Tiny insignificant details that somehow made the moment.

Then very subtly - so subtly I probably wouldn't have noticed if I wasn't consciously paying attention for the purposes of this review - the soundscape changed, and ever so slowly, over a period of about five to ten minutes, it led me back out of the meditation. It brought me back gradually through higher levels, with none of that jolting or jarring that so often happens in lesser recordings.

At the end of the 30 minutes, as the sound faded out, I came out feeling a deep inner peace and joy. It's always hard to explain these kinds of emotions in words. Really they have to be experienced first hand. Right now, after the meditation, I feel refreshed in the way you might after a great relaxing vacation, or a very deep sleep. Everyday worries or concerns have evaporated away. Everything is in perspective. I have brought that childhood memory out from whatever depths it was stored in, and now it's like a little happiness-filled energy pack, powering me onwards.

I haven't tried the other 5 tracks yet, but honestly, just this one alone is more than worth the price of Brain Salon. It's going to be getting regular use!


Day 2 - Creative Spark

So it's taken a bit longer to get to review this part that I had planned. There are two reasons why. Firstly, I was hoping for a situation were some creativity is called for, thus giving the recording a good test. And secondly, that Happy Pill audio is so good I have been using it daily! My objective is to stick worth just one recording per day to keep them fully separate, so the fact I can't keep away from the Happy Pill has slowed down this review process!

Anyway, on to Creative Spark. As you can tell from the lack of design to this site, I am not a creative person. Still, we all need to think creatively from time to time, in solving problems or coming up with ideas. As it happens, today I did need to come up with some ideas. A friend had asked for some suggestions for titles for an ebook he is writing. It seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Now I have to say, I was probably most skeptical about this recording out of all the six. I'm into meditation, and I know that these kinds audios do work well (Happy Pill has me addicted!), but can they really make you burst with ideas in just 30 minutes?

I listened to this on the iPod again, with ear buds to block out external sound. The recording is much less subtle than the previous one, there isn't really the same gradual build up. Indeed, the supplied booklet says it can be used on a loop, so it needs to be more of a constant. It's also less subtle in that the sounds themselves are more "out there". They quite literally pull you from place to place - they surprise you. I found myself slowly being drawn in by a particular low sound, for example, only to suddenly be surprised by a very high sound moving from right to left.

This had a couple of effects. For one thing, it didn't take me quickly into a trance state like Happy Pill did. That may have been down to my initial skepticism of this recording, putting me in a different mental state from the off, but also because that's just not the purpose of this particular CD. The second effect was that which I just touched upon - being taken from place to place. It was like floating on the surface of a river, meandering off in one direction, then suddenly hitting a fast flowing section and being spun round a few times and pulled off in a new direction. Not in a violent way though. I did end up in something of a light trance, so these changes in mental direction were with a light touch.

The overall effect was that my thoughts started to fly all over the place. They were being slowed down, then suddenly sped up and taken off somewhere unexpected, only to later be slowed and returned to their original path, or to some completely new area entirely.

So in that respect, I would have to say that this particular audio did actually make me think creatively. Not in a structured way, but I don't suppose it's possible to be creative in a structured way - that would be a contradiction! No, by pulling my train of thought around, stretching it and reshaping it like a piece of bubblegum, it actually got me thinking of all sorts of different things. None of these had anything to do with the title of the book, at least not on the surface. But perhaps subconsciously something was going on, because when I finished listening, I picked up my notebook to jot down any ideas I could come up with right at that moment, and I surprised myself by listing out 32 different possible titles.

It's not for me to judge whether any of them are good titles, my friend will do that. But I am pretty sure I wouldn't have come up with so many without some kind of meditation. So by my somewhat unscientific measure, I have to admit the Creative Spark CD did make me creative!


Day 3 - High Energy Espresso

Don't listen to this one if you have a weak bladder! It is predominantly the sound of running water. There's some other stuff going on under the surface, but the trickling water sound is the one you can hear the most. I live on the edge of a small river, and I know the effect that sound has on guests who stay here - the bathroom gets a lot of use!

As the name suggests, this track is supposed to fill you with energy. I waited until after lunch to test it out. I tend to suffer from that all too common early afternoon lull in energy, caused by the body using its resources to digest the midday meal. I've been known to doze off in front of my computer, I don't mind admitting it. So it seemed like the perfect time to try out this particular audio.

Initially, I was disappointed. That babbling brook water sound had me nodding off to sleep, which wasn't what I was hoping for! When it finished though, I did wake up, and now feel very refreshed.

The thing is, it's hard to tell whether that's because of 15 minutes of "power napping", or because of the recording. I usually feel a little lethargic after an afternoon nap (not that I make a habit of sleeping in the afternoons you understand, it just sometimes happens!) But right now after doing the recording, I don't have any of that. I'm very alert, awake, and ready to get on with some work.

Of the three Brain Salon recordings so far, this for me is the least convincing though. It's hard to know if there was genuinely any effect, or whether my energy came from dozing off. I must also allow for the possibility that living next to the aforementioned river, I may be desensitised to the sounds used on this track, because I hear those same sounds 24 hours a day.

To summarise then, it's a nice little track that gave me 30 minutes of relaxation after which I feel full of energy, and alert. But I can't for sure say that's down to the track itself. If I wanted an "instant" energy boost, a real espresso would be a quicker solution I think.


Day 4 - Power Chill

Wow, I love this track. It's not subtle, it kicked in right away with a pretty solid alpha frequency, which got me quickly relaxed. And for a little while it stays there, just keeping me calm.

Slowly, it seemed to then start dipping me into deeper levels of consciousness. Dipping might sounds like an odd choice of word, but that's really what it's like. The audio literally dipped me into a deeper state in the way you might dip a baby into a bath of water! Each time, it pulled me in deeper, and longer, until I was completely - and blissfully - submerged in a very deep meditation.

This meditation was every bit as relaxing and deep as the Happy Pill (reviewed above on day 1), but in a different way. Whereas Happy Pill generated feelings of euphoria, the Power Chill brought about extreme relaxation. I became mentally detached from my body, and my surroundings.

The recording then essentially just kept me at that level until the end. It started pulling me out quite slowly around three minutes before the end (at a guess - my eyes were closed so I had no time reference), and as I came back to outer consciousness, I felt totally refreshed and awake. The deep relaxation has focussed my mind, and washed away any stress or negativity.

I can see several situations where this particular track is ideal. Firstly, it's perfect for use after a hard days work. It's like taking a mental shower, cleansing the mind of everything that has gone before during the day. There is a clear gap between before listening to this, and after. Everything that came before, although only 30 minutes ago, feels almost a lifetime ago. So if you have a problem of taking work problems home with you, this audio would solve that at a stroke. It's like going on vacation.

Another way I think this could be very beneficial is for bookending study sessions. Spending 30 minutes listening to the Power Chill before trying to learn something new will create the perfect mental conditions for learning. Listening again after a study session would allow what you have learnt to really sink in and take hold.

Aside from those specific situations, so far out of the four tracks I have tested, this one stands out as being the most suitable for general meditation. If you do any kind of visualisation, mental programming, goal settings, indeed any kind of mind work, this is the ideal audio track to get you to a deep level fast, and keep you there. I know I'm certainly going to be using it a lot.


Day 5 - Razor Focus

This track is very different to the others. It's designed, according to the accompanying booklet, mainly for use with your eyes open, while doing something. As the name implies, it is intended to enhance focus and concentration. It's not a meditation type track. You don't even have to use earphones to listen to it, although they say it's better if you can.

I stuck with the iPod and earbuds, as with the other recordings, for my test. This gives better stereo separation, which seems to be important for left and right brain stimulation. And of course it has the added benefit of blocking out ambient noise. Given that this one is all about concentration, blocking out noise is a good thing!

The track itself is very calming. There is an underlying alpha track which helps relax the mind, but the other layers promote focused thought. It's an unusual mix, and I've not come across anything quite like it before.

It works really well though. I had set aside a boring task I wasn't particularly looking forward too. I knew it would take about half an hour, and it required all my attention, so it seemed the perfect moment to try out this track. The recording can be looped, so using it for longer periods isn't a problem, it just so happened my task was a clean half hour. So I pressed play, and got down to work.

The results were actually very impressive. I was quite skeptical about this track. I wasn't convinced that the kinds of sounds and audio stimulation usually used for relaxation and meditation could help while very much in a working situation. But in fact it works surprisingly well. If you've ever had that feeling where you're just in the zone, and everything seems to come naturally, where you're able to do everything almost without thinking about it, then you'll know what using this track is like. Some people call it flow, and that's a great word because that's how my half hour went - everything flowed.

I got through my entire, unexciting task (preparing a script for a video presentation), calmly, and quicker than anticipated. I felt no stress (and I hate doing this particular job with a passion, so that in itself is a minor miracle), and like I say, everything just flowed. I was in the zone. And apparently my script was a good one, although of course I am taking full credit for that!

My initial scepticism has been wiped away. This is a really useable track, and one I am very happy to have on my iPod. I know it's going to get a lot of daily use. It's right up there with the Happy Pill (which is still my favourite, and is becoming something of an addiction).


Day 6 - Ultra Deep Sleep

The accompanying booklet suggests that you might never hear the end of this track, because you'll be in a deep sleep long before it finishes. I did hear the end, but that's not strictly the fault of the recording!

I ended up having to review this one a couple of times. The first time round, I thought the circumstances were ideal. I had the house to myself, I was very tired having suffered two very bad nights sleep, and I had an afternoon free. I settled down with the earphones in, and pressed play.

The sounds are relaxing indeed, and exactly the kind of thing you would expect to send you to sleep. However, just as I started drifting off, my dog started barking outside. She has perfected the most annoying bark known to mankind. She'll bark, then wait just long enough that you think she's given up, then bark again, and so on. I decided to stick with the recording to see if it could get me to sleep despite the distraction. It nearly did, I drifted in and out of conciseness, but at the end of the day, the dog won!

The second time round was much better though, it sent me of very quickly, and I did not wake up until some hours later.

So in that respect, the recording works. I do have one big problem with it though. For it to be most effective, I think it needs to be used with headphones or earbuds, and I am very wary of going to sleep while wearing those, as it's very possible for the wires to snag around your neck as you move around in your sleep. I don't know if strangulation by earbud wire is a common problem, but it's enough to make me think twice.

There are solutions, but none of them are ideal. There are bluetooth earphones available, but these all seem to have straps that go over the head or round the back of the head, to accommodate the electronics and batteries, so these are not comfortable for sleeping in. Or of course you could play the audio on a regular CD player, but that's probably only an option if you sleep alone, or your sleeping partner is ok with using the recording as well!

The last option is a SoundAsleep type pillow - one of those with a little speaker in, that only you can hear. I've had one of these for a few years, and it's brilliant. But it's only mono, so you just don't get the full stereo effect of the Ultra Deep Sleep audio. Still, it's probably the best compromise right now.


SUMMARY

That's it then, all six tracks reviewed! For me, the standout tracks are the Happy Pill which is highly addictive, and for my money, worth the price of Brain Salon all on it's own. Also the Razor Focus, which was surprisingly effective, and has been proving ever more useful since I first tried it. And Power Chill, the best all-rounder. Those three are getting daily use here, and my wife has started using Power Chill recently as well.

There are other, similar products out there, but none I've found which cover such a diverse range of uses as well as Brain Salon manages to do. It might not be the most "hi tech" package around, now that iPhone apps seem to be all the rage, but it's the content that matters, not the delivery mechanism. Besides, in CD format you have the option of playing on a regular CD player as well as an iPhone anyway. Who needs an app?

Overall I'm impressed. The Brain Salon works, the price is about right, and it has improved my life in a number of ways (more productive, happier, and more relaxed). So that's a thumbs up!


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