When you are trying to remember something, you instinctively might roll your eyes up toward the sky. Ever wonder why you do this? There’s a real, physically based reason.
Rolling the eyes upward is an automatic response the body makes when trying to access lost or hidden information because doing so causes the production of alpha waves in the brain and your brain doesn’t have the images of the perceptual moment competing with the images of the mind. Producing alpha waves is physiologically linked to the eyes. If you close your eyes and roll them upward, you will make even more alpha waves.
Alpha waves are present in the relaxed awareness of a daydreaming mind. An alpha state is the intermediate ground between waking and sleeping and provides a bridge to the subconscious mind. Alpha brainwaves allow for vivid, lucid imagery and can assist in creativity and insight.
Eye rolling has long been used as a meditation technique because it more quickly leads to an altered state of consciousness and the theta brain waves desired in deep meditation.
For some creative inspiration, a brief break in your day or during meditation, you can kick start your brain’s alpha waves by doing this simple but profound exercise which Anna Wise details in her book Awakening the Mind: A Guide to Harnessing the Power of Your Brainwaves:
- With your eyes closed, inhale and gently raise your eyes to look toward the center of your forehead.
- When you exhale, lower your eyes.
- Again when you inhale, gently raise your eyes behind closed eyelids.
- And when you exhale, lower your eyes again.
- Repeat for three or four more breaths.
She suggests that some people may feel more natural doing just the opposite: looking up on the exhale and down on the inhale. (I couldn’t do it at all this way!)
It is the movement of the eyes that causes the production of alpha waves. So, don’t hold your eyes continuously up. After a few minutes, the alpha producing quality of this exercise diminishes as habituation occurs. The eye muscles are delicate and easy to tire. Be careful not to strain your eyes.