If you’ve ever been in the presence of a deeply calm person, or perhaps a spiritual master, you may have noticed something quite intriguing. Your breathing will tend to slow down, and the body settles into a relaxed state. In short, the powerful resonance of the serene energy field of a regular meditator, or spiritual master, has the capacity to influence you, and you will find that you naturally sync to their tranquil and expanded consciousness. This process is called ‘entrainment’ and it can also be used consciously by counsellors, people working in trauma, yoga teachers, parents, in the workplace or in any relationships.
The gravitational pull towards synchronicity is one of the founding principles of the natural world. It is observable in our everyday lives and immortalised by the theories of Quantum physics. This basic law of physics teaches us that everything in the universe is made up of particles or waves, vibrating like strings at different frequencies. From the cells in our own bodies to the light and sound waves that echo through the cosmos. Within these vibrational phenomena, resonating particles will communicate with, and influence each other.
The vibrational frequency of two objects in contact will frequently fall into sync. When the frequencies are the same, it is called ‘resonance’. But when a vibrational body of a stronger resonance influences another in its field, leading the beat, it is called entrainment.
Our bodies naturally entrain to external rhythms without us really noticing. The leading beat may come from a piece of music; influencing our internal rhythm through waves of sound. It may be the waves of light which set our circadian rhythms. Phases of the moon entrain hormonal cycles, and our own breath influences our heart beat and respiration.
In coming to understand the power of entrainment and the effect it can have on our being, we can use it to harmonise and heal our physical, emotional and spiritual bodies.
The Importance of Resonance
According to science, entrainment exists for the purpose of conserving energy. That is, it takes less energy to work in harmony with another body, than to work against it. Examples of entrainment for this purpose are everywhere from the biological and pharmacological, to the psychological and sociological. So for example, a counsellor supporting someone with deep anxiety or trauma can regulate their breathing to influence their client, so that the client can slow down, let go of their anxiety, and then be able to express themselves better.
The etymology of the word ‘entrains’ dates to 16th century France. At this time, it was used in the field of chemistry to describe the way in which one element magnetically impacts on other, collecting it up and dragging it along in its wake.
The Pendulum Phenomenon
Later, in the 17th century, Dutch physicist, Christian Huygens, used the term entrainment during his many encounters with physics. Huygens, who invented the grandfather clock, famously observed entrainment at work amongst the swinging pendulums of his machines. Setting a room full of pendulum clocks in motion at different paces, Huygen left them, only to find on his return that they had all fallen into sync. Evidently, the material in the clock pendulum is inanimate, unlike the cardiac beat of a human heart filled with blood, energy and impulse. Yet even still, the matter within and around the pendulum communicated, achieving synchronicity.
When quantum theorists say everything in the universe is vibrating, they mean everything. Even the clock itself is comprised of particles resonating together to create a united front that is matter.
Entrainment in Relationships
But what happens when life’s grand pacemaker is no longer good for us? Becoming aware of, and questioning the value of an entraining force is important. In a social setting, for example, the external influence may be another person or idea. As humans, we often fall into sync with a dominant personality, perhaps mimicking their body language, intonation and style without realising.
If a dominant energy in a close relationship pervades for too long, the less dominant person may begin to feel they have lost their way. Resisting entrainment to the dominant force will usually bring disharmony, and require more energy, so the dynamic continues longer than it should. If the rhythm is not reset to one that resonates, allowing both in the relationship a chance to lead the beat, the relationship cannot remain healthy.
The Beat of Modern Life
The external rhythm set by modern life is fast, and in order to stay in step we must speed up as well. This creates a kind of synchronicity between ourselves and society, which works to a degree, but has the effect of influencing the rhythm of our natural state of being. In order to truly thrive, we must learn to disengage from this external beat, and reset our own rhythm. This we can do by actively entraining to a more gentle, restorative beat through meditation.
Meditation creates space from our thoughts, reminding us that the thinking mind is not always our best guide. Many of us exist more comfortably in a state of conflict than one of peace; permitting ourselves to be governed by chronic anxiety. Societal messages fuel self-doubt in individuals, and opposing them just takes too much energy. We naturally become entrained to those larger energies, and learn to live with them.
Thought processes ruled by fear, anxiety, and resignation directly impact our physical body. In tuning into society we can lose our internal balance. And in the absence of homeostasis, Illness and disease set in. We can learn to entrain ourselves through practices that will anchor in certain states in the body and nervous system. One of the most common methods is through the breath. Regular, active resetting is necessary. Here are some simple yet effective ways to do this.
Ancient Healing Practices to Reset Yourself
As individuals, we can use breath entrainment at home to heal physical and emotional pain. Mediation through breath will calm the parasympathetic nervous system. This impacts significantly on digestion, hormonal balance, mood balance, and sleep.
Slowing our respiration also calms our brain wave activity, allowing us to access our subconscious. Becoming aware of emotions is rarely comfortable. But in order to rebalance, we must.
The fact is, anger, anxiety and grief use up massive amounts of energy and chronically affect our health. We know this, but somehow these emotions seem bigger than us. A mediation practice will not ask you to stop feeling these things, but allow you some time to recalibrate.
Tuning into universal energy offers you a break from your socially constructed world. Here you can spend some time with a different rhythm, allowing your body can entrain to a source of energy that is not interested in passing judgment. When you are unable to harmonise your energy with the person or people causing you pain, harmonising with the universal principle of compassion will see the energy return to you.
Spiritual practices across the world incorporate sound entrainment to harmonise their internal frequencies. One of these methods is chanting. Sound, like light, moves in waves. The frequency of sounds waves will influence our bodies towards a particular state. Chanting or prayer recital makes use of harmonics to center the physical body and achieve a greater communion with the spirit world. Native American Indian, Tibetan, Indian and Gregorian chanting are just a few mesmerising examples of this ancient practice.
Energetic healers make use of therapeutic tools to entrain the body towards a more balanced state. Traditional practices such as Reiki use the frequency of energy to shift energy before it becomes matter. In the case of sound healers, entrainment tools such as Tibetan bowls, bells, tuning forks and mediations using binaural beats are all used to reset vibrations.
Permission to Heal
Healing practices such as these use energy, rather than medications or supplements, to influence matter. From the perspective of quantum physics this makes perfect sense. Yet for many, the human mind still resists, unable to accept perhaps that something we can’t see, such as light or sound waves, can impact so remarkably on matter, such as our bodies.
As the bond between science and spirituality grows ever fonder, our human minds approach a time when simple healing methods such as entrainment can be used, daily, to guide our physical, emotional, and spiritual bodies towards harmony. If we let them.