An experiment in interconnectedness

IntegratingScienceExperimentJune15You know that I write mostly on subjects like the mind-body connection, self-love, my dog Oscar who passed away last year, as well as kindness and compassion and the science of how they affect our health. But also, from time-to-time, I write on more ‘out there’ topics, like synchronicities, the nature of consciousness, and interconnectedness, as I have covered all of these subjects in some of my 8 books.

OK, so this is one of those. It’s an experiment in interconnectedness – how we are connected through space.

Quantum Physics has shown us entanglement, where the state of one particle is correlated with the state of another, irrespective of distance (and now time, it seems). Numerous studies have also show correlations between the physiological or neurological states of two people even if they are separated in space.

In June, I unexpectedly participated in such an experiment. I was running my annual 5-day ‘Integrating Science’ event, where I show people how to integrate science into their own practices. I host the event at my favourite holistic centre, Lendrick Lodge, in the Scottish countryside. As well as mainstream topics like the placebo effect, meditation, visualisation, emotional contagion, the effects of compassion and kindness on the brain, heart, and inflammatory process, I also cover more ‘out there’ subjects.

On the third evening of the course we (the participants and I) were having a discussion about the interconnectedness of life and discussing some of the scientific evidence of it. We discussed experiments that seemed to show the connections using MRI or EEG. These experiments note correlations between the neural states of people who are separated by a distance; that is, as one person’s state changes, it seems to correlate with a change in state of the other person at precisely the same time. We discussed how these correlations tend to be strongest when two subjects (people) in an experiment share an emotional bond.

One of the participants (Ann) suggested that we try our own experiment, given that by this stage of the course, the group had emotionally bonded really well. I happened to have my heart monitor with me, a device called ‘emWave’, by Heartmath, so Ann suggested we connect one of the participants to the device and then the rest of the group would ‘send’ loving and kind intentions from another room.

Another of the participants (Rebecca) volunteered to be connected to the device. I sat with her in the teaching room while the group gathered in the dining room where they would then ‘send’ their intentions to Rebecca.

When we first decided on the experiment, we had simply discussed seeing if the group could collectively focus on Rebecca and we’d see if this correlated with a change in Rebecca’s heart rhythms (as measured by the heart monitor), so I assumed they were going to focus on Rebecca within a minute or so. Unknown to me, Ann suggested to the group that they modify things.

She later told me, “I reckoned you were too attached to the outcome of the experiment so opted to try something different from what you thought we were going to do.”

So they decided to do an ‘on-off-on’ kind of experiment, where they would ‘send’ loving-kindness to Rebecca – then stop – and then start again. Ann spent some time (9 minutes) going through the set-up with the group, explaining they that would do a loving-kindness meditation directed towards Rebecca, or whichever each individual felt most comfortable with, and they’d do it for 2 minutes. The loving-kindness meditation is a Tibetan Buddhist meditation also known as ‘metta’ that has been shown to have a whole range of positive health benefits.

Following this they would do a 1-minute disconnect, where they would withdraw their focus from Rebecca and focus on something stressful in their own lives for a period of 1 minute. Following a short 15-second calm period to refocus, they would again focus on sending loving-kindness to Rebecca for another 2 minutes. So, all in, they would do 2 minutes on – 1 minute off – followed by 2 minutes on, hence ‘on-off-on’.

Throughout the whole time, Rebecca simply closed her eyes and relaxed. I sat beside her and did the same. At the end of the time the group came back into the teaching room.

We were all stunned by the results. As you can see from the charts below, the rhythms of Rebecca’s heart correlated extremely accurately with the state of the group. At the point when they first ‘sent’ loving kindness, there was an immediate and dramatic increase in the coherence of Rebecca’s heart rhythms.

OK, first a wee bit about what the heart monitor shows. It measures Heart Rate Variability (HRV), which is the difference in your heart rate as you breathe in and out. Mostly, your heart rate should increase a little as you breathe in, as the sympathetic branch of your autonomic nervous system (ANS) kicks into gear, and then it should decrease a little as the parasympathetic (vagus) branch of your ANS kicks in, initiating the ‘rest and relax’ mode. The difference between the high (on the increase) and the low (on the decrease) is called heart rate variability. When HRV is very ordered and stable (or smooth) it is referred to as coherence.

IntegratingScienceExperimentJune15At the precise moment when the group sent loving-kindness to Rebecca (at 9 minutes), there was a huge increase in the coherence of Rebecca’s heart rhythms. If the group were indeed affecting her then their collective intentions were actually affecting Rebecca’s ANS and her heart rhythms!

The group sharply withdrew their loving and kind focus on Rebecca after 2 minutes (at 11 minutes on the chart), and as you can see from the chart, this correlated with a sharp decrease in the coherence of Rebecca’s heart rhythms.

For the next 1 minute, the group did a ‘disconnect’, where they focused on something (or someone) stressful in their lives. During this time (from 11 minutes to 12min 15 seconds), Rebecca’s heart coherence dropped significantly, as you can see in the chart.

What about that extra 15 seconds? At the end of the 1-minute disconnect, the group paused for about 15 seconds to gather their focus before beginning a second 2-minute period of loving-kindness focusing on Rebecca (at 12min 15seconds). Again, this correlated with an increase in Rebecca’s heart coherence.

I find the timing up to this point really quite astonishing. The synchronisation between the intentions of the group and the changes in Rebecca’s heart rhythms is to within a few seconds.

The final 2-minute period didn’t correlate quite as well, although Rebecca’s heart rhythms remained coherent for one and a half of the two minutes (from 12min 15 seconds through until 13min 45seconds). If we were indeed seeing a connection between Rebecca and the group, which I believe we were, then there could be any number of reasons for this. Only repeats of the experiment, perhaps with more ‘on-off-on’ periods would prove for sure what we were seeing.

So assuming we are seeing true interconnectedness, what does this tell us? It tells us that we are far more connected that most of us assume. It suggests that maybe we can have health-giving effects on our loved ones even when we’re not in their presence, simply by holding an idea of them in our hearts and minds and filling this idea with love, kindness, and compassion.

On the contrary, how often do we lose ourselves in the frustrations of life? Could we be having subtle negative effects on people we mentally focus our frustrations on? Maybe. Maybe not. I’m not so sure, to be honest. We didn’t measure the negative side of things. The group didn’t send any negative intentions towards Rebecca. That would not have been right. Instead, they simply removed their positive intentions.

My gut feeling is that loving intentions are more powerful than ones based in fear. If it were the other way around, I doubt our species would have survived this long.

Connections also seem to be stronger when there is an emotional bond present, and I’d suggest that bond needs to be a warm bond, infused with empathy, compassion, love, kindness. From my reading of other experiments, I’d say empathy is key as it’s from empathy that other positive and loving intentions arise.

So I personally think people in our lives would benefit more if we tried to think of them in their best light. It can be difficult, especially when we have a lot going on and when we have issues with some people, but then almost everything can be improved with practice. Perhaps, believing that our intentions can help others could serve as motivation to practice.

And the positive emotions benefit you as well. Heartmath say that, “When you intentionally shift to a positive emotion, heart rhythms immediately change. A shift in heart rhythms, from chaotic to coherent, creates a favourable cascade of neural, hormonal, and biochemical events that benefit the entire body. The stress-reducing effects are both immediate and long-lasting.”

So here’s my advice. It’s pretty simple, really. Here it is: Try to see the best in people.

You never know what’s going on in a person’s life (or has happened in their past) that causes them to behave in the way they do. Let this simple idea guide you to at least trying to see the best in people.

 

Big thanks to:

Rebecca Ryder, Ann Hutchison, Ann Ayton, Julie Barbour, Hazel Bridgewater, Millicent Grant, Anne Hainan, Tracy Harrison, Joe Hayes, Debbie McLeod, Leslie Moultrie, Sandra Paterson, Annie Pownall, Heather Salter, Adargoma Sanabria, Carrie Sanderson, Jo Sawkins, Rosie Stevens, Sian Withers.

Thanks, also, to Lendrick Lodge, and Stephen & Victoria Mulhearn.

19 thoughts on “An experiment in interconnectedness

  1. Karon Clements

    I love this. I can relate this story to my clients and it opens their mind a little more to what I do with energy healing. Thank you

  2. Joe Hayes

    David,

    It’s brilliant you wrote about this experiment. The unity and interconnectedness of the group was not only powerfully revealing at the time but for me it has grown and spilled out to others I have met since then. It established an entangled link with those present that just keeps growing.

    Joe
    Claregate Trust

  3. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks Joe. I totally agree; the unity and connectedness was amazing and has continued to grow. 🙂

  4. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks Karon. I’m glad it might be useful to you with your clients. 🙂

  5. Great post David.

    Earlier this year I had an experience that has really opened my mind to the fact that we are connected in some way. I’ve posted in detail on my blog about it, because it really changed the way I viewed everything.

    It also made me consider how negative thoughts/emotions effect people. The implications are huge. Who would want to be a politician? 😉 Or for that matter a criminal…

    More seriously though I’m thinking like you that emotions such as love, gratitude, compassion, kindness etc are more powerful. Admittedly I don’t know whether the experimental methods that were used to show the Maharishi Effect are valid or not, but if they are it suggests a very small number of people can positively influence a much larger group.

    Looking forward to meeting you when you come to Cornwall and maybe chatting about some of this face to face 🙂

  6. Thank you David for passing on your knowleadge Here at Reiki Pillows I really struggle with getting over the way I and all this works, I know in my heart all that is true … and this is a great way for me to show others who can benifit from your experiment.
    Many thanks, Mary ( Reiki Pillows )

  7. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks Mary. I’m really pleased it’s been useful for you. 🙂

  8. David R. Hamilton PhD

    I agree with you Pete. I definitely think that, on the whole, emotions rooted in love are more powerful. On an individual basis, whoever expresses their emotion with the most intent might have more of an effect (you find that in the research around emotional contagion), but in the long-term, taking large amounts of people into consideration, love-based emotions are stronger, or at least they are more in tune with the health and thriving of our species. 🙂 See you in Cornwall.

  9. Ursula

    a very heart warming and inspiring read. So ensuring to know that we can be of support to friends and family even when physically we are not in the same room.
    Many thanks Ursula

  10. Lovely experiment. I have an emWave and hadn’t thought of using it for the purpose of demonstrating to people. So thank you!
    I agree with you about the order: starting with empathy, followed by compassion from which love naturally flows. Many people don’t realise there is a process but understanding this is helpful.
    With love and appreciation, Maggie

  11. Kum kum banerjee

    Just brilliant as usual. When are you doing workshop in hertfordshire ?

  12. Kum kum banerjee

    Just brilliant as usual.

  13. Thank you for sharing the results of your experiment, David. Not only are the results fascinating, but sharing them (I believe) adds to the general store of loving-kindness available in the world.

  14. Gerry Gardiner

    Suggested confirmation of the reality that we are all members of the human race, that we can and do affect each other hardly needs evidence. We already know it, and followers of world Faiths, or faith act on it with loving intent, whether or not there is a measurable indication with a graph. Isn’t it more about the imperative to love my often not very loveable neighbour as a life-style quite regardless of evidence.

  15. The case for negativity : if we view negative experiences or expectancies absolutely candidly , then we can learn from those bad times and thereafter effect behaviour change

  16. Ann Hutchison

    David. It was a wonderful experience to be part of this ‘experiment’ at your Integrating Science course at Lendrick Lodge. Thank you so much for your generosity of time and Spirit in allowing us the freedom to try it – even though it undoubtedly meant you would then be late home!! You also teach of the ‘ripple effect’ of our actions, and although I can only speak for myself, the ripple effect from actually seeing as well as feeling the outcome of this is becoming tsunami like in the realisation of how important our every thought really is and how much they really matter. What a wonderful group it was to be part of for those 5 days at Lendrick. We are all more powerful than we may ever know and collectively with intent who knows what we could achieve? Small things really are big!
    With metta, Ann 🙂

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