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The Rhythm of Life - Entrainment

From Timeshifting: Creating More
Time to Enjoy Your Life

by Stephen Rechtshaffen, MD

Everything moves in rhythm. Atomic particles, waves of electrons, molecules in wood and rocks, grass and trees, mammals and birds, and we ourselves - all are dominated by rhythm. In us, as in all animals, the heart is most noticeable rhythmic; but the blood pumped in our hearts, along with the organs, muscles, and sinews nourished by our blood, also move in rhythm whether we're conscious of it or not. Our breath, the most obvious manifestation of our inner condition, quickens or slows according to our state of mind or level of physical excitement.

The world is thus alive with a myriad of rhythms. "Entrainment" is the process by which these rhythms fall into synchronization with each other.

For the last hundred years or so, Western society has set an overly fast rhythm, a rhythm that varies only in that it is continually getting faster, urging us to do more, produce more, learn more. This rhythm of fast and still faster is a relatively new phenomenon, and no one seems to know how to vary it. Most of us don't even think of varying it, because society judges it "productive", and because we as individuals are so entrained with it that we don't consciously realize we want to change it.

Even if we recognize something is wrong, we don't know how to change the rhythm, how to entrain with something slower, more "human". Most of us don't know how to shift time. We don't know how to pause for contemplation, to take time for ourselves, to go from the frenetic to the peaceful, to truly relax, to take note, to feel.

We have forgotten how to rest. To remember, we must entrain with rhythms other than society's. And we are best off, I think, starting with our own.

One of the simplest and most effective ways to become present in our life is to pay attention to our breathing. Breathing is a way of bringing us mentally and emotionally back to center; it is a deep and integrating rhythm of the body. By allowing ourselves to become-conscious of our breathing, we begin to slow down into the breath and allow ourselves to set a rhythm for the body that is peaceful, calm, and healthy.

Try it now! Fill your lungs completely, slowly, and let the air out slowly, deliberately. Do it a few times. "Watch" your breath as it comes in, watch it as it goes out. Feels good, doesn't it? Closing your eyes is particularly helpful. Our eyes scan the world, mirroring the flitting and skimming of our mind, and shutting them draws us out of the automatic, almost robotic rhythm to which we entrain without realizing it.

Rhythm is powerful, sometimes you must fight against it, sometimes let yourself flow with it. Knowing whether to fight it or flow with it depends, first, on recognizing it for what it is. Begin by simply becoming aware of different rhythms as you go through your days. Do that, and you can learn to change them, and by so doing, set your own pace.