In 1665, an ailing Dutch scientist named Christiaan Huygens was recovering in bed from a brief illness. Inspired by Galileo, nine years earlier he’d invented and constructed the first pendulum clock. Bedridden and bored, he became entranced with and mystified by two pendulum clocks swinging in the same display case.
He wondered why the clocks always ended up swinging in perfect synchrony after about half an hour, regardless of how many times he set them into unsynchronized motion. We now call this “anti-phase synchronization,” but in the mid-17th century, Huygens described the phenomenon as “an odd kind of sympathy.”
He theorized that the swings caused imperceptible movements in the beam connecting the two clocks. But when he presented his theory to the Royal Society of London, scientists dismissed it.
Huygens would later write the first treatise on probability theory, work out the formula for centripetal force, and publish the first mathematical theory of light. But it would take 335 years to learn that he was, after all, mostly right about the “odd sympathy” he observed from his sickbed. Georgia Tech physicists recreated his clock apparatus in 2000 and found that swinging pendulums indeed exert tiny forces on each other through a connecting beam — and those tiny forces eventually move them into synchrony. (It’s not unlike this.)
In Search of ‘Odd Sympathy’
A friend recently shared a nugget of advice she’d read online, aimed at those prone to discouragement and despair about the world’s crazy-scary state. For anyone overwhelmed by the contrast between the immensity of the problems and the realistic measure of any one individual’s capacity to influence them. Her counsel? Try turning a bit more attention away from our exclusive”trance-like fixation” on the federal level in favor of the grassroots and more local levels. Where systems are a little lighter on their feet and more influence-able.
When the sounds, sights, and actions in the world are an unrelenting daily assault on our nervous systems, are so threatening and polarizing, is there a possibility for something as “local” and personal as mindful movement or a contemplative practice to influence the larger picture?
If we can create a little local synchronized swinging, and cheer on the next person to do the same, and the next, is it possible to together exert some forces on the beam that connects us?
It seems like a worthy inquiry. Minimally, we might feel a little less like caged gerbils running madly on a wheel going nowhere. And learn that consuming nonstop breaking news isn’t the healthiest way to live or best approach for creating positive change in the world. And maybe there’s even more to it: like discovering we can’t fix much of anything else until we make our own internal calibrations and repairs.
The world needs us in the best, clearest, and most conscious shape we can be just now. Compassionate action springs from compassionate minds.
The Mindful Unplug Experience 2019: Exploring Presence Through the Senses
Over two-thirds of the spots available for the fourth annual running of The Mindful Unplug Experience (13-20 July 2019) at Feathered Pipe Ranch are spoken for. In other words, if you’re particular about your lodging choice, sign up soon.
This retreat rekindles skills, practices, and attitudes that cultivate easier navigation of this often-challenging human incarnation and help you sketch your very own map for more mindful living. Mornings during our full-moon-bathed week will be about all-levels, breath-focused yoga, mindful movement, and user-friendly meditation. Afternoons are about sensory awareness as a gateway to mindfulness. And evenings are for restorative practices and dharma inquiry. In between scheduled activities, we’ve baked in ample stretches of free time for savoring great fare, guilt-free napping, nature strolling, paddling in the sparkling lake, or enjoying healing bodywork.
The guide team for 2019 includes yours truly (move and meditate) Zane Williams (see anew), Annie Moyer (dharma). and Amir Tahami (restore and relax). And?
— We’ve got a fabulous addition to our 2019 guide team. The dynamic and charismatic educator in the field of rhythm, sound, and music, Matthew Marsolek, will be our experiential sound guide for next summer’s Unplug. Matthew is a “son of the Ranch” who’s known and loved that sacred land for many years. If you’d like a little glimpse into the gifts that Matthew offers the world, check this out.
More welcome news: bring a friend that’s a Ranch first-timer and you’ll each save $100. And yes, these discounts are combine-able. Partial scholarships are also available for The Mindful Unplug.
About Anne Jablonski
A Yoga-Alliance registered teacher (RYT 500) in Virginia, Anne teaches at Sun & Moon Yoga Studio, serves as President of the Feathered Pipe Foundation (she midwifed the Mindful Unplug!) and works for busy startup companies. She knows all about what it’s like to yearn for practical ways to insert pauses into a heavily scheduled, rat-race-y life. Anne’s mission is to return you home with skills to plug back in consciously so you can step back into the world of noise and technology equipped to nourish and safeguard your own health — and apply your consciousness for good of all. Anne’s teaching draws on inspiration from her most influential teachers: Erich Schiffmann, every fine poet, her cheeky teacher within, and the Feathered Pipe Ranch itself.
Learn more about Anne: yogasetfree.com