To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring – it was peace. ~Milan Kundera
Last week I read about entrainment. I’d never heard of it, but the article immediately grabbed my attention because all day I’d been so caught up in a frenzied pace that I could barely slow down enough to read the piece. The Theory of Entrainment says that rhythmic beings will gradually alter their movements so they’re moving together in the same rhythm. Listen to the harmonious chirping of crickets sometime, or watch fireflies flash in unison. Clocks with swinging pendulums that hang on the same wall will eventually sync up. People do it too. We align ourselves to the rhythms and pace around us.
I have a first hand example. I’m in a group exercise class, and we work on muscle strength and endurance in choreographed movements set to funky music. I love it. We follow the same routine for about ten weeks, so we have enough time to learn the moves and how to set up our bar for the next tune. The reps are beautifully coordinated to the measures, speeding up or slowing down, depending on the beat. I’m usually able to enter the music and forget my real world for an hour.
But in today’s class, being ultra distracted because of my growing To-Do list, my mind continued to wander from the moment. A guy in front of me kept ˜jumping the gun.’ He’d return to a standing position without holding the squat long enough and get himself off tempo. He was continually ahead of the music by at least two counts. As my mind traveled it’s own path, I’d suddenly catch myself following his lead “ or aligning myself to his rhythm. Even though I’d determined to block him out, he was still in my peripheral vision and when I wasn’t focused on the instructor, or better, hearing the music and being really present, my overhead presses synced with his out-of-step moves.
I struggled to refocus each time it happened until finally the class was over. I left frustrated and wondered how often I let the pace of people around me, often virtual strangers, affect the kind of day I had. It was easy to identify some situations where I seem to automatically sync up. I commute for an hour to work. My route is mostly interstate, which is not such a good thing when slowing down has become a metaphor for how you want to live. As other vehicles whiz past, my car often gets drawn into maintaining their speed. The hustle and bustle of Christmas is another time my rhythm speeds up to match the excitement in the air. And without a doubt, there are many others.
Back at home, I decided to do a little more reading about this entrainment business. Frank Lipman, an integrative physician, wrote Total Renewal and Revive. According to Lipman, our bodies respond to the rhythms of our environment. That might be a good thing if we lived on a deserted island. But most of us are surrounded by an excess of noise pollution every day and are often in contact with the overly-stressed. According to Lipman, our internal and external rhythms are linked. He further asserts that the two rhythms are in fact, inseparable.
In order to avoid the feelings of depletion that modern life can cause, we can follow Lipman’s advice. We can step back on occasion to evaluate our pace during the day. If we are mirroring the stressful tempo of the world around us, we can do ourselves a favor and slow down. Do whatever it takes to mentally separate from the tumult surrounding us. Listen to music. Take a walk, or breathe from the belly “ deeply and slowly “ for about ten counts. I think we’ll enjoy life more and experience less stress.
Editor’s Note: Candyce Deal is a freelance writer in north Georgia and has written for national consumer and trade magazines including Working Mother, 1,001 Home Ideas, Mothers Today, Baby Talk, Home Life, Living With Preschoolers, Marriage & Family, Marriage Partnership, Vibrant Life, and others. And, we’re delighted she writes on a variety of Lifestyle topics for us at After Fifty Living. Visit her at her webiste: http://CandyceDeal.com.