Registered Users: Entrainment - Coherence p. 2

Chapter 38 The Power of Intention and Entrainment

The Power of Intention
For a moment, let us step away from our discussion of the history of t’ai-chi to look at the psycho-physiological foundations of the art. Over the last twenty-five years, a new category of mind-body research has emerged which demonstrates that when one’s bio-rhythms attain a state of synchrony, one can non-physically influence an external physical target. This groundbreaking research suggests that human intention may soon be recognized as a force of nature, but then, why is this discussion relevant to the topic of t’ai-chi?

Here, we will describe how this special mind-body state, when matched with the power of intention, adds a kind of magic to athletic performance. In the examples that follow, that magic materializes as the ability to control an opponent with the most minimal touch.

For me, the heart-pulse and entrainment technique has been life changing. I use it to deepen awareness of my energetic body, ground myself, and open channels of empathy and patience. It also helps me stay poised and clear headed in stressful situations and when I perform. It is really something.
––––-David Walton, actor

Introduction to Entrainment
The practitioner’s ability to entrain biological rhythms may be a new way to investigate the genesis of t’ai-chi. As introduced earlier, entrainment refers to the ability to synchronize one’s biological rhythms. Applied as the key to unlocking t’ai-chi’s highest secrets, entrainment involves the unconscious pairing of skill with a type of biofeedback training.

T’ai-chi pioneers would not have understood the psycho-physiology of biofeedback training. However, they would have noticed how the power of attention could merge with physical skill in a special way that produces a more advanced level of performance. In the current vernacular, this would be called being “in the zone.”

Clues to this kind of superior performance are provided by scientific studies of the power of intention. To demonstrate that human potential could be awakened through the synchronization of one’s biological rhythms, in one of his experiments, Stanford University professor emeritus William Tiller relied on a gas-discharge device to test whether a person could influence the apparatus through intention alone. Results showed that when a person attained the entrained mind-body harmonious state, and then intended to interact with the gas-discharge device, they could cause the device to generate an electrostatic discharge. This occurred when the individual was standing next to, but not making contact with, the device.  In other words, the experimental results suggest that intention acted as a physical force! Expanding on his intention experiments, Tiller conducted many other kinds of studies to test and verify that intention could act as a real force.  Some of these are described in Section X.

However, although studies describing the potential of entrainment are impressive, some evidence suggests that the physiological state may be even more powerful in settings that demand optimal human performance. The relationship between the harmony of mind-body states and the power of intention as a demonstrable force made me wonder if this insight into human potential could provide a new way of unlocking some of the secrets of the early t’ai-chi masters.

Diagram 7-8

When two pendulum clocks are mounted side by side on the same wall, they gradually come to swing in synchrony (becoming “in phase” or “in sync”). In this state, the two clocks generate the wave in the right-hand panel. This is a classic example of the phenomenon of entrainment, which occurs throughout nature (both in nonliving systems and in living organisms). In general, when systems entrain, they operate with increased efficiency. In the human body, the heart––as the body’s most powerful rhythmic oscillator––is the central “pendulum” that sets the stage for entrainment of other physiological systems.
                 Source: HeartMath Foundation ®

Illustration based one provided by the HeartMath Foundation

Advanced Mind-Body States in Contact Sports
With the participation of our organization’s martial arts students, we began informal research to investigate how entrainment might be applied to mock, but aggressive, close combat. However, there was a hurdle that had to be overcome. Since the literature describing the induction of entrainment was based on a time-consuming relaxation process, we needed a faster, near instantaneous, way to induce the entrained state in athletes while they were performing. We needed to develop a technique that could quickly induce synchrony between a practitioner’s biological rhythms under the stressful conditions of aggressive mock combat.

Consider the illustration presented in Figure 7-8, which defines entrainment as the ability to bring various biological oscillators into “phase,” or harmony. The figure shows a drawing based on one from the HeartMath Institute that illustrates how the pendulums of two grandfather clocks, set side-by-side, will synchronize with each other. Applied to human beings, entrainment describes how various biological rhythms also synchronize and, like the swinging pendulums of the grandfather clocks, can also entrain, or synchronize, with each other.  

Diagram 7-10
Three Biological Oscillators Becoming in Sync
The figure depicts three biological oscillators, HRV (Heart Rate Variability), pulse transit time ** and respiration becoming synchronized in one subject before and after use of an emotional self-management technique. Compare the left side of three graphs (before application of the emotional management technique) to the right (after application).
From William Tiller, et al, “Cardiac coherence: A new, non-invasive measure of autonomic nervous system order,”

** Pulse Transit Time (PTT) is the time it takes the pulse pressure waveform to propagate through a length of the arterial tree.