Communication As Mutual Entrainment

Ursula LeGuin

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Awakin FeatureEvery act of communication is an act of tremendous courage in which we give ourselves over to two parallel possibilities: the possibility of planting into another mind a seed sprouted in ours and watching it blossom into a breathtaking flower of mutual understanding; and the possibility of being wholly misunderstood, reduced to a withering weed. 

Candor and clarity go a long way in fertilizing the soil, but in the end there is always a degree of unpredictability in the climate of communication — even the warmest intention can be met with frost. Yet something impels us to hold these possibilities in both hands and go on surrendering to the beauty and terror of conversation, that ancient and abiding human gift. And the most magical thing, the most sacred thing, is that whichever the outcome, we end up having transformed one another in this vulnerable-making process of speaking and listening.

Live, face-to-face human communication is intersubjective. Intersubjectivity involves a great deal more than the machine-mediated type of stimulus-response currently called “interactive.” It is not stimulus-response at all, not a mechanical alternation of precoded sending and receiving. Intersubjectivity is mutual. It is a continuous interchange between two consciousnesses. Instead of an alternation of roles between box A and box B, between active subject and passive object, it is a continuous intersubjectivity that goes both ways all the time.

If you mount two clock pendulums side by side on the wall, they will gradually begin to swing together. They synchronize each other by picking up tiny vibrations they each transmit through the wall.
Any two things that oscillate at about the same interval, if they’re physically near each other, will gradually tend to lock in and pulse at exactly the same interval. Things are lazy. It takes less energy to pulse cooperatively than to pulse in opposition. Physicists call this beautiful, economical laziness mutual phase locking, or entrainment.

All living beings are oscillators. We vibrate. Amoeba or human, we pulse, move rhythmically, change rhythmically; we keep time. You can see it in the amoeba under the microscope, vibrating in frequencies on the atomic, the molecular, the subcellular, and the cellular levels. That constant, delicate, complex throbbing is the process of life itself made visible.

We, huge many-celled creatures, have to coordinate millions of different oscillation frequencies, and interactions among frequencies, in our bodies and our environment. Most of the coordination is effected by synchronizing the pulses, by getting the beats into a master rhythm, by entrainment.

Like the two pendulums, though through more complex processes, two people together can mutually phase-lock. Successful human relationship involves entrainment -- getting in sync. If it doesn’t, the relationship is either uncomfortable or disastrous. [...]

When you speak a word to a listener, the speaking is an act. And it is a mutual act: the listener’s listening enables the speaker’s speaking. It is a shared event, intersubjective: the listener and speaker entrain with each other. Both the amoebas are equally responsible, equally physically, immediately involved in sharing bits of themselves. 

Mutual communication between speakers and listeners is a powerful act. The power of each speaker is amplified, augmented, by the entrainment of the listeners. The strength of a community is amplified, augmented by its mutual entrainment in speech.

This is why utterance is magic. Words do have power. Names have power. Words are events, they do things, change things. They transform both speaker and hearer; they feed energy back and forth and amplify it. They feed understanding or emotion back and forth and amplify it.

Ursula Kroeber Le Guin was an American science-fiction novelist. Excerpt above from 'The Magic of Real Human Conversation'.

Seed questions for reflection: What does mutual entrainment mean to you? Can you share a personal story of a time you felt mutual entrainment in your communication? What helps you to stay committed to mutual entrainment?

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7 Previous Reflections:

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    On Jul 25, 2018 Shraddha wrote:
     Once my Divine friend Dadashreeji shared in one of His sessions that we must express ourselves fully to allow our relationships to grow so that we can understand the other person. However, one must make sure that a heart talks to another heart.  I wanted to put this teaching into practice and so thought of expressing myself completely to my loved ones first. I realized that it was not easy. I found myself operating from the fear of hurting the other person or being judged. I also experienced that more often than not...we do not listen and let the person complete what he/she has to say and jump to a conclusion. What really happens is a mind is trying to express to another mind. Sometimes, when I did try to express from my heart, I realized that the heart was expressing to the mind. The only time my heart expressed to heart was when I was communicating with my Divine Friend Dadashreeji. In that moment, I operated from love even though sometimes I was expressing my intense ang... [View Full Comment]

     Once my Divine friend Dadashreeji shared in one of His sessions that we must express ourselves fully to allow our relationships to grow so that we can understand the other person. However, one must make sure that a heart talks to another heart.
     I wanted to put this teaching into practice and so thought of expressing myself completely to my loved ones first. I realized that it was not easy. I found myself operating from the fear of hurting the other person or being judged. I also experienced that more often than not...we do not listen and let the person complete what he/she has to say and jump to a conclusion. What really happens is a mind is trying to express to another mind. Sometimes, when I did try to express from my heart, I realized that the heart was expressing to the mind. The only time my heart expressed to heart was when I was communicating with my Divine Friend Dadashreeji. In that moment, I operated from love even though sometimes I was expressing my intense anger.
     I wondered why it is so easy to express myself clearly and truthfully to my Inner Divine, but so challenging when it comes to others. I realized that it is, because the communication between me and my Divine Friend Dadashreeji happens from heart to heart and the origin of our communication is love. There is no pretense, no fear of judgment or the relationship being spoilt with my Inner Divine. He understands me fully. The communication happens in the present moment, is spontaneous and there is no baggage to be carried later.
     I prayed to my Inner Divine for help and received a beautiful insight. I realized that if I have to express myself completely to others, want others to understand me, first I need to be true to myself. I need to listen from my heart when someone else is expressing to me. I need to develop patient listening so that I am able to patiently listen and let the other person complete what he/she has to say. I was reminded of how Dadashreeji patiently waits for me to finish what I have to say before He tells me something. I also need to be open to accepting other person’s truth or perspective. I need to understand others before I expect to be understood. In all, I need to operate from my heart first before I expect others to do the same.
     Above all, I cannot change myself without the grace of Dadashreeji. Connecting deeply and bonding with Him has given me positivity that expressing fully and truthfully is possible. It starts with me taking the first step.
    Thank you Dadashreeji for holding my hand while I took that first step.
    Once my Divine friend Dadashreeji shared in one of His sessions that we must express ourselves fully to allow our relationships to grow so that we can understand the other person. However, one must make sure that a heart talks to another heart.
     I wanted to put this teaching into practice and so thought of expressing myself completely to my loved ones first. I realized that it was not easy. I found myself operating from the fear of hurting the other person or being judged. I also experienced that more often than not...we do not listen and let the person complete what he/she has to say and jump to a conclusion. What really happens is a mind is trying to express to another mind. Sometimes, when I did try to express from my heart, I realized that the heart was expressing to the mind. The only time my heart expressed to heart was when I was communicating with my Divine Friend Dadashreeji. In that moment, I operated from love even though sometimes I was expressing my intense anger.
     I wondered why it is so easy to express myself clearly and truthfully to my Inner Divine, but so challenging when it comes to others. I realized that it is, because the communication between me and my Divine Friend Dadashreeji happens from heart to heart and the origin of our communication is love. There is no pretense, no fear of judgment or the relationship being spoilt with my Inner Divine. He understands me fully. The communication happens in the present moment, is spontaneous and there is no baggage to be carried later.
     I prayed to my Inner Divine for help and received a beautiful insight. I realized that if I have to express myself completely to others, want others to understand me, first I need to be true to myself. I need to listen from my heart when someone else is expressing to me. I need to develop patient listening so that I am able to patiently listen and let the other person complete what he/she has to say. I was reminded of how Dadashreeji patiently waits for me to finish what I have to say before He tells me something. I also need to be open to accepting other person’s truth or perspective. I need to understand others before I expect to be understood. In all, I need to operate from my heart first before I expect others to do the same.
     Above all, I cannot change myself without the grace of Dadashreeji. Connecting deeply and bonding with Him has given me positivity that expressing fully and truthfully is possible. It starts with me taking the first step.
    Thank you Dadashreeji for holding my hand while I took that first step.
    Shraddha

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    On Jul 24, 2018 AJ wrote:

     Twenty years ago, my younger son was born.  Our vibes have been in synch from the start.  He hears me and I hear him ... With or without words.  I enjoy his presence and he enjoys mine ... With or without words.  I do not need him beside me to feel his spirit near.  There are rhythms in nature much like his ... 


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    On Jul 24, 2018 Diane Sutton wrote:

     Wow! This adds to Masaru Emoto's experimentation with water crystals ... my thoughts ... my words ... are vibrations, rippling out from my heart ... I am personally accountable for my thoughts ... my words ... thank you for this reminder ... to be ever-Conscious of thoughts and words ...!


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    On Jul 24, 2018 Patruck Watters wrote:

     Face to face dialog (listening) is the beginning of peace.  }:- ❤️ anonemoosecmonk and Thich Nhat Hanh too 😍


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    On Jul 23, 2018 david doane wrote:
    What I say may be for the other a seed that blossoms into a breathtaking flower or it may reduce me in the other's mind to a withering weed.  I hope for the former, and know that I don't control how the other responds.  There is always unpredictability in communication.  What I do control and what is my resonsibility is to compassionately express my truth.  The control and choice we have is in what and how we communicate.  Hopefully we communicate in a way that is entrainment, which the author says physicists call mutual phase locking.  It's mutual heart to heart and even soul to soul interconnection, intervibration, synchrony.  I felt such entrainment recently as I was with a group of long time close friends.  It's entrainment being enlivening and fulfilling that helps me stay committed to it.  We are most healthy and happy when there is entrainment.  Like it or not, we are intersubjective, we do communicate, and with effort we can en... [View Full Comment]

    What I say may be for the other a seed that blossoms into a breathtaking flower or it may reduce me in the other's mind to a withering weed.  I hope for the former, and know that I don't control how the other responds.  There is always unpredictability in communication.  What I do control and what is my resonsibility is to compassionately express my truth.  The control and choice we have is in what and how we communicate.  Hopefully we communicate in a way that is entrainment, which the author says physicists call mutual phase locking.  It's mutual heart to heart and even soul to soul interconnection, intervibration, synchrony.  I felt such entrainment recently as I was with a group of long time close friends.  It's entrainment being enlivening and fulfilling that helps me stay committed to it.  We are most healthy and happy when there is entrainment.  Like it or not, we are intersubjective, we do communicate, and with effort we can entrain. 

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    On Jul 20, 2018 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
     Communication as mutual entrainment opens the door for blossoming of mutual understanding, enrichment, creativity, and bonding. In intersubjective communication words matter. What we say and how we say matter. We affect each other positively or negatively. It depends on how we synchronize the pulses of each other. As the the author Ursula Krober Le Guin says," by getting the beats into a master rhythm, by entrainment." For me, intrasubjective and intersubjective communications are intertwined.When I am in a quiet zone, I expereince such rhythmic communication within me. I am in entrainment with the voice arising in me. It is me listening to me. Such intrasubjective communication clears the clouds of opposing inner voices I  may not be awre of. Such intrasubjective communication helps me in intersubjective communications. When I am in quiet natural surroundings, I experience deep connection between me and the sight and sound of nature. This also happes when I am in entunemen... [View Full Comment]

     Communication as mutual entrainment opens the door for blossoming of mutual understanding, enrichment, creativity, and bonding. In intersubjective communication words matter. What we say and how we say matter. We affect each other positively or negatively. It depends on how we synchronize the pulses of each other. As the the author Ursula Krober Le Guin says," by getting the beats into a master rhythm, by entrainment."

    For me, intrasubjective and intersubjective communications are intertwined.When I am in a quiet zone, I expereince such rhythmic communication within me. I am in entrainment with the voice arising in me. It is me listening to me. Such intrasubjective communication clears the clouds of opposing inner voices I  may not be awre of. Such intrasubjective communication helps me in intersubjective communications.

    When I am in quiet natural surroundings, I experience deep connection between me and the sight and sound of nature. This also happes when I am in entunement with music and musiscians. What helps me is my deep and total attentivenes, my total presence, my alive quietness. This also happens in my intersubjective communicatios.It is like the author says an ancient gift. It's upto us to use it wisely.

    May we cultivate the art of communication as mutual entrainment!
    Namaste.
    Jagdsih P Dave

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