Madre Grande Monastery

A Sacred site for healing, teaching, ceremony, and celebration

Virtually everything in our life and world consists of rhythms. Even what we generally conceived of as material and particulate is, in its very essence, rhythmic. It should not be surprising then that rhythms are very important in our daily life in general and for our health in particular. Color, sound, light and dark daily periods, seasonal variations, mood swings, our heart rate and breathing pattern are just a small sample of rhythmic influences in our lives. Many of these will be discussed in there proper place as they apply to particular healing therapies. There are three categories of rhythms that warrant special attention: ultradian rhythms, circadian rhythms, and bio-rhythms.

Ultradian Rhythms

 Of all our body rhythms there is one that has a frequency of just 90 minutes that is, perhaps, the most important with respect to our health. It is the ultradian rhythm. All day and all night this rhythm has an effect on our brain. Our two brain hemispheres alternate in importance. First one half, say the left hemisphere, that manages our verbal, logical and sympathetic processes dominates, then the right hemisphere takes over as our creative, intuitive and parasympathetic aspect becomes dominant. Throughout the day this alternation occurs, even when we override it, usually by forcing the left side to maintain its functional dominance. As we sleep the ultradian rhythm continues by taking us into the dreaming state of REM that is so important to our health. You have probably noticed throughout the day that periodically you go into a slight dreamy state. This condition has been called the "common everyday trance" and is a sort of rest phase in the ultradian rhythm. This rest phase can be useful in hypnotic and self-hypnosis procedures. One theory of psychosomatic problems is that they result from the behavioral disruption of the ultradian rhythm that modulates both the autonomic and in the endocrine system functions. This suggests that the frequently effective psychosomatic approaches to healing such as hypnosis, autogenic training, meditation, relaxation training and the relaxation response, depend on an understanding of these two phases of the ultradian rhythm.

 Individuals who override and disrupt their ultradian cycles (by ignoring their natural periodic needs for rest in any extended performance situation, for example) are thereby setting in motion the basic physiological mechanisms of psychosomatic illness. Most of this self-induced stress can be conceptualized as left-hemispheric processes overriding their ideal balance with the right-hemispheric processes and associated parasympathetic functions. Naturalistic therapeutic hypnosis provides a comparable state wherein these ultradian cycles can simply normalize themselves and thus undercut the processes of psychosomatic illnesses at their psycho-physiological source.

Circadian Rhythms

 This rhythm is probably familiar to everyone, especially anyone who has flown any distance east or west away from their home. Jet lag and its related symptoms of disorientation and fatigue, is just one of this rhythm's manifestations. As its name implies, the circadian rhythm is approximately one day long. It adjust its length daily to match the rotaional period of the earth. It has been found to affect other life organisms as well, perhaps all, for it is know to affect plants, animals, fungi and even cyano bacteria. While this 24 hour sleep/wake cycle has been recognized for over 2000 years, it has been studied extensively for only several decades. Recently it has been found in humans to consist of at least two oscillating rhythms that are normally in homeostatic relation to one another. One rhythm controls the daily regulation of temperature, cortisol secretion, and our REM sleep. The other controls sleep and endocrine hormones released during sleep, such as growth hormones and prolactin. Life conditions that disturb these rhythms, for instance, work-shift alterations and stress induced changes in the sleep cycle, lead to breakdown in optimal functioning.

 One of the major theories of endogenous (internally caused) depression is that it is related to disruptions between the two circadian rhythms. Individual patients are found to have great variations which requires careful studies to determine effective treatment by altering the timiing of sleep cycles, exposure to extra artificial light in the morning and evening, and so on. The relationship between light and endogenous depression is traceable to the fact that there are separate neural channels linking the retina of each eye to the suprachiasmatic nuclei in the hypothalamus, that act a pacemakers for the entire endocrine system.


 Wilhelm Fleiss (1858-1928) was an otorhinolaryngolist, i.e., an ear, nose and throat doctor, with an office in Berlin. He bacame aquainted with Sigmund Freud and had an influence on Freud's theory of psychoanalysis. Fleiss thought there must be a connection between the nose and the genitals, for he found that the mucous flow in the runny noses coming to him for treatment varied depending on whether the nose was atttached to a man or to a woman. To study this relationship further, Freud sent some of his patients to Fleiss to see if their sexual neroses could be cured by treating their nasal passages with cocaine. I do not know whether the treatments were effective, but I am sure there must have been many satisfied patients and many return visits. Fleiss determined that the mucous flow in men varied on a 23 day period and 28 days for women. He, therefore, called these cycles the masculine and the feminine rhythm, respectively. Subsequent research has determined there is yet another rhythm of 33 days. These three rhythms are today known as the Physical, the Emotional, and the Mental bio-rhythms. There are many bio-graph routines available to calculate the value of each of these rhythms for any day in your life. They purport to give you valuable information as to the tone of your physical, emotional and mental state on any day, in advance. Several other bio-rhythms are hypothecated, such as, an Intuitional rhythm of 38 days and a Spiritual rhythm of 43 days, as well as several complex rhythms formed by the interrelationship of these three or four basic rhythms. The basic rhythms are indeed a fact, how they are to be interpreted is an open question, but much information is available for your personal research.