The Deeper Meaning of Entrainment

The Tao never does anything,
yet through it all things are done.

If powerful men and women
could center themselves in it,
the whole world would be transformed
by itself, in its natural rhythms.

~ Lao Tzu

If you “Google” the term “entrainment,” you’ll find dozens of responses, many of them pertaining to brainwave entrainment, which has become increasingly popular in the last two decades. While entrainment as “To pull or draw along after itself,”  the field of biomusicology refers to it as “the synchronization of organisms to an external rhythm.” [i]

In essence, entrainment refers to a natural phenomenon in which one entity resonates synchronously with another in response to its dominant frequency of vibration. And whether this resonance occurs on a gross or subtle level, it invariably involves rhythm.

We tend to associate rhythm and entrainment with music and sound, ignoring just how pervasive they are in the world around us and within us. Indeed, the human heart’s rhythms play a vital role in producing waves of blood, sound and electromagnetism, all of which either entrain or influence every cell in the body to varying degrees. [ii]  Researchers at the University of Arizona have discovered evidence that the heart’s energetic field exerts an entrainment effect upon the brain. They also showed that heart-focused attention increased this heart-brain entrainment. [iii]

Entraining to the Heart of Compassion

The world’s spiritual traditions implore us to allow our hearts and conditioned minds to be entrained to the heart of compassion, the indwelling Spirit that beats the heart and animates all things. And when learning from a genuine spiritual master,  the object is not to understand the words she speaks, but rather to entrain to her silent presence, the radiant field of light and wisdom that activates the student’s capacity to awaken (as long as the student is open and ready, that is).

Entraining the Conditioned Mind to the SatGuru Within


A powerful example of this subtle type of entrainment was seen in Shivabalayogi, the self-realized yogi whose main teaching was transmitted not by words but by the powerful field of shakti he emitted. Before transmitting his silent teaching, however, he spent 23 hours a day in samadhi (i.e., meditative absorption) for eight years, and again 12 hours a day for another four years. Spiritual aspirants would spontaneously enter into varying degrees of samadhi simply by being in his physical presence, even as far as a block away. The deciding factor, however, was the student’s readiness and openness to entrain to his transmission.

Shivabalayogi was not transmitting anything not already present within the devotee, however. His mind had simply become so entrained to the SatGuru within us all, that very little in him obscured the natural radiance of our true nature.

Entraining to the Spirit

When the Buddha is pictured as sitting upon a lotus flower, this represents his having transcended the trammels of the mind and senses. The lotus symbolizes the opening of the Crown (pictured in Vedic tradition as a thousand-petaled lotus), and the Buddha’s position over it represents the complete and utter entrainment of his conditioned mind to his true nature. This is preceded, however, by an awakening to the truth that our finite mind and identity are not who we really are.

As the awakening deepens, the student begins to entrain to the natural rhythms of the Tao, fulfilling more of his deepest potential with less effort and less of a sense of “self”. Meditation, heart-centered mindfulness and moment-by-moment surrender allow the conditioned mind to become more deeply entrained to the indwelling Spirit, allowing more of it to shine forth.

The following statement, a paraphrase of the Tao te Ching quote mentioned above, affirms the deeper meaning of entrainment by stating:

If you and I would allow our body-mind
to entrain to the natural flow of the Tao,
our true nature would innocently radiate forth
and transform the world simply by virtue of being itself.

[i] Entrainment (biomusicology).

[ii] The Energetic Heart: Bioelectromagnetic Interactions Within and Between People. McCraty, R. Retrieved from 2003.

[iii] Heart-focused attention and heart-brain synchronization: Energetic and physiological mechanisms. Song, L, Schwartz, G, Russek, L. Altern Ther Health Med.  1998. (4)44-62.

Leave your comments below

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.