18th November 2015
Guest Writer for Wake Up World
There was Granny who had a brace of flying ducks. They spent most of their time sitting and resting on a nearby shed watching the neighbourhood. Every now and then Granny would catch a duck for a dinner. She threw duck food on the ground then waited for them to come closer until she was able to catch one after a short chase.
Years passed and Granny no longer had the strength to chase ducks. But she had an idea. She pulled a few feathers from each duck tail to stop them flying away from her. It solved the problem but what happened next was totally unexpected.
The new generation of ducks born from non flying parents did not even try to fly. They had all the feathers needed to be able to fly but no one to show them that they could. The best they could do with their wings was merely correct their balance or fly just above the ground which felt more like fast running. They led their lives in a flat world never being aware of the true potential of their wings.
Many generations of ducks had passed and one day a new duck flew over from far away. It quickly showed granny’s ducks what their wings are for and within a short time they could fly too. They were amazed by true potential of their wings. They were flying high feeling safe, free and powerful, enjoying a new perspective. Can you imagine this feeling?
Do you know you are equipped with a sense which helps you to create more harmony, peace and love in your life? A sense which underlies all other senses and gives you the ability to choose happiness? You are relying on this sense everyday but without realising its full potential, like a duck who does not know it can fly.
I called it sense of synchrony. I hope you will soon realise that you can easily understand what synchrony means and, more importantly, you can recognise when synchrony happens. Then you will be only one step away from learning how to allow more synchrony into your life.
What is Synchrony?
According to The Oxford dictionary – synchrony is simultaneous action, development, or occurrence; it is a state of operating or developing according to the same time scale as something else. I would suggest to simplify it a bit and say that synchrony is when two (or more) behave as one.
The best example to explain it is rowing. If you picture a team of rowers rhythmically moving their oars you will quickly understand what ‘behaving as one’ means. Think about people dancing together to the same rhythm, chanting or doing mexican wave on the stadium, singing in a choir, marching in a column or clapping after a concert. Now, watch a video below.
The same can happen in a less mechanistic and more emotional dimension¹. Think about the mother feeling for her baby and living through her baby’s ups and downs (sometimes for far too long). There are whole nations going through the same emotional events together. Euphoria, when a national team is winning or shared sadness when someone important dies. We say we gel with someone, we are on the same wave or we are tuned to each other. Falling in love or being in love is another example and this includes sex (which is best is when partners finish together). When we are in true love we are ready to commit ourselves completely. It is because we feel like one organism and whatever happens to our partner happens to us. By improving his/her life we improve our own. The same applies to a group of real friends who are happy only when everyone in the group is happy. They are naturally kind and helpful to each other. Many team players report that when they are well teamed (I would say, synchronised) with the rest of the team some kind of magic happens. They start feeling connected and energised, being able to perform a lot better. It easy to notice an emotional component of ‘haka’. Watch a clip below.
The same may happen to colleagues at work. You may remember a scene from the film ‘Wolf from Wall street’ when they were banging their fists against their chests and feeling almost ecstatic. You can watch the video below to watch it again.
The same may happen when you watch a film or read a book. You emotionally connect with the main character and for the time of watching or reading you live his/her life. In other words you lose yourself and you immerse in the book or film. I am sure many of you enjoyed Harry Potter’s life, watching it through his eyes.
People can also synchronise having the same thoughts or ideas. I can only mention that Google indexes 620 million groups on Facebook. Each one gathering people linked together and exchanging thoughts about the same issue/topic/idea. As far as I am concerned, recent social media success is driven by people following their sense of synchrony.
Another interesting fact it that most people are able to say when synchrony happens by observing others. You probably would notice when the music is out of tune or singers in the choir are not well synchronised with each other. You could say when two people are good friends only by observing them for a moment or that a couple are in love. It is easy for most of us to say if a book or film is good and worth recommending because we can easily immerse in it.
You may have already realised that synchrony is a synonym of harmony, unity, empathy, love and compassion. We feel connected through synchronising our activity and it positively influences our relationships (it applies also to small children in a simple activity like drumming or bouncing ², ³). Synchrony happens when we cooperate, connect, accept, live in peace and trust each other. In all these situations we feel that something good is happening to us and to the World around us. We feel content and happy, we feel pleasure and joy.
I have shown you many manifestations of synchrony and I hope you agree now that you can easily sense when synchrony happens.
How Synchrony Happens
The first person who observed and described synchrony (synchronisation) was Christian Huygens, Dutch mathematician, astronomer and physicist. To his surprise, he detected an ‘odd kind of sympathy’ between two pendulum clocks hanging from the same wooden beam. This is his first drawing presenting synchrony.
He wrote that the clocks were ‘so much in agreement that they never receded the least bit from each other and that the sound of each of them was always heard simultaneously’. He was baffled by this at first but he eventually realised that the synchronisation of the two clocks rhythm had been caused by the almost unnoticeable motion of the wooden beam. His experiment was repeated many times since. See video below.
In the video above metronomes are placed on a board being initially completely desynchronised. The board sits on two rollers which allow it to move. Gentle movements of the board allow the metronomes to synchronise. After short time they click together in a very regular rhythm.
If we watch this experiment carefully we can say a lot about how synchrony happens.
- Firstly, it happens between independent oscillators – metronomes. The word independent means that each oscillator has its own source of energy and can move without help or influence of others.
- Secondly, it requires medium. Something which connects metronomes and allow them to communicate.
- Thirdly, it happens on its own. Metronomes do not do synchronisation. It happens to them.
- Fourthly, it needs time.
- Finally, when one of metronomes loses synchrony and become ‘alienated’ it has a chance to re-synchronise as long as it is connected with the rest.
I guess you would agree that it is easy to ‘translate’ mechanical movements of metronomes to a team of rowers. Yet, to my surprise, I found it is also very transferable to people’s psychology. The ‘mechanism’ of two people becoming the best of friends or true lovers is similar to the mechanism of synchrony emerging between oscillators.
Lets go through it together.
- Firstly, they should stay independent, respect each other and give themselves freedom to leave.
- Secondly, they would have to be connected by a common medium. It could be a passion, regular activity, same interest, same ideas, same type of music, etc. It can be many of those mediums and they may change with time.
- Thirdly, they can not make true friendship or love. They can only let it happen to them. If one of them tries to force it (usually having their own egoistic agenda) friendship or love will never be true and unconditional.
- Fourthly, they have to stay connected for some time (usually going through many ups and downs) before they feel they are best friends or true lovers.
- Finally, when one of them goes away, they still have a chance to re-establish friendship as long as they stay connected.
Can you see it now? It is the same process happening in mechanistic and emotional dimension. But how is this possible? Where is the link ?
Synchrony in the Brain
You might be aware that all stimuli like sounds, light, touch and smell once registered by receptors, (inside your ears, eyes, skin and nose) become small electric currents travelling along nerves towards our brain. In the brain these currents oscillate along brain cells and our reality is shaped. These currents can be recorded on the graph as traces of zig zags which are called brain waves. Researches have found that those brain waves can synchronise in certain circumstances.
For example, the report of studies on Loving-kindness Meditation (which is one of the most ancient forms of Buddhist practice) showed that long-term meditators can self-induce high-amplitude gamma brain waves synchrony.4 It means that purposely triggering feeling of love towards self and other people can generate synchrony between different parts of the brain. It is almost like one part of the brain could represent self and other part represents another person (similarly to two connected metronomes). When these two parts are in synchrony you feel for him/her being emotionally connected.
Another scientist who looked at synchrony in the brain is Dr Lester Fehmi from Princeton. He has been researching a specific brain waves pattern called – the whole brain synchrony in alpha frequency.5 Dr Fehmi found that electric signals in the brain can become synchronous when someone becomes aware of space between and inside physical objects. According to Dr Fehmi when it happens it changes the insight about reality triggering feeling of oneness, wholeness and unity with everything. Dr Fehmi designed a series of mind exercises which help to practice it. I personally found them shockingly effective in making my mind completely relaxed and putting me into ‘zone’. They are also very useful in controlling physical pain, stopping ‘mental chatter’ and unwanted feelings like anxiety or frustration. I promote Dr Fehmi’s work on my website and I design mind exercises based on his findings. The last series of them I produce with my friends Jan Owen and Peter Parker. You can find it here.
You see now that there is a direct link between the way we feel and the brain activity (because small electrical charges in the brain behave like independent metronomes). I believe this is the reason why the rules about generating synchrony in a mechanistic and emotional dimension are so similar. The difference between Loving-kindness Meditation and Dr Fehmi’s approach is in brain waves frequency. When it is fast (gamma brain waves) you feel synchronised with one person or a group of friends. When it is slower (alpha brain waves) you feel oneness with the whole universe.
What Can You Do Differently Now?
Imagine you notice a red head girl/boy dressed in black in a library searching for a book with vegetarian recipes. You would like to make friends with him/her. Can you say what you would have to do to make a good environment for a true friendship or maybe even love flourish between you and her/him?
Lets try it together again.
- Firstly, let her/him be independent. Stay respectful and let her/him to not accept your offer to connect or to leave when she/he wants.
- Secondly, find a medium which will help you to connect. It could be anything which she/he and you might be into (books, vegetarianism, type of music, attitude towards life, passion, etc).
- Thirdly, let it happen to you. Let go your agenda (whatever it could be) and do not force friendship to happen.
- Fourthly, stay connected and give it time. Be patient and trust it is going to happen.
- Finally, when she/he goes away remember it may happen again if only you stay connected (but remember the first and the third condition).
Can you see how easy is to understand it now?
You can think about your relationships with other people, with your family and friends. Feel how much synchrony is there. Think what you could change to allow even more synchrony to happen.
We all feel synchrony is important and we welcome more synchrony into our lives. We dream about true love and a real friend, we dance together to the rhythm for hours, we chant in a stadium, we surf on the same wave of life and we play team sports. All this give us pleasure and joy. I hope you understand that we all are able to sense when synchrony happens around us, but more importantly you know how to allow more synchrony happen to you. Enjoy 🙂
-  Drumming in groups facilitates social synchronization in preschool children. Kirschner S, Tomasello M. J Exp Child Psychol. 2009 Mar;102(3):299-314. [PubMed]
-  Interpersonal Synchrony Increases Prosocial Behaviour in Infants – video abstract
-  Long-term meditators self-induce high-amplitude gamma synchrony during mental practice. Antoine Lutz, Lawrence L. Greischar, Nancy B. Rawlings, Matthieu Ricard, Richard J. Davidson. PNAS November 16, 2004 vol. 101 no. 46. [PNAS]
-  Attention and Neurofeedback Synchrony Training: Clinical Results and Their Significance. J. T. McKnight, PhD L. G. Fehmi, PhD. Journal of Neurotherapy, Vol. 5(1/2) 2001. [JoN]
Previous articles by Tomasz Kopec MD:
About the author:
From Tomasz Kopec MD: I enjoy helping people and making the Universe a happier place. Fortunately, I work as a family doctor and this is a part of my job description. For many years I had some questions at the back of my mind, like: what is happiness, what is love, who we are, where we go after death, where this all suffering is coming from…? I have been a regular meditator since I was a teenager (mostly Zen tradition) and I was searching for answers in my head and in my heart.
My turning point was reading a book The Open Focus Brain by Dr. Lester Fehmi. He runs a neurofeedback clinic for attention disorders at Princeton, New Jersey, US. I enrolled an Open Focus workshop and I became a true enthusiast of Dr. Fehmi’s approach. I love it because it beautifully connects the western scientific way of thinking with far east approach to reality. It also gives a very simple, practical solutions to a physical pan, anxiety, insomnia, creativity etc. I would like to make Open Focus a lot more recognizable because it is worth it!
To learn more about Open Focus, visit: