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A Zen alarm clock sounds a Tibetan-style chime in decreasing time intervals to wake a person slowly and peacefully over the course of a 10-minute period. This 10-minute period is known as the golden ratio progression. The Zen alarm clock is promoted as a tool for dream work, affirmations, yoga sessions, and meetings. Models of the clock are often handsomely styled and are considered furniture for tabletops, dressers, mantles, or desks.
Most Zen alarm clocks are made from wood, including maple and walnut, and are battery operated to avoid the electromagnetic fields produced by electric devices. A traditional Zen alarm clock is pyramid-shaped, with a round analog face. The face often includes a Chinese or Tibetan motif, and a slender, alloy tube is positioned along the base.
The Zen alarm clock can come in a "B" tone model, or an "E" tone model. The internal mechanism strikes the hollow tube to create the chime, and the tube can be shifted small degrees to refine the pitch to personal taste. The scale is based on Pythagorean tuning, named after the Greek philosopher, Pythagoras. Many online retailers who sell Zen alarm clocks feature a sound file to hear the tone.
The chime strikes once, resonating up to 30 seconds or more. If not turned off, the Zen alarm clock will strike again, slightly louder, about 3.5 minutes later. The third chime sounds at about 2.5 minutes, then at 1.5 minutes, 1 minute, 30 seconds, 21 seconds, 15, and 8 seconds, counting down. When the Zen alarm clock reaches the end of the golden ratio progression, it chimes every 5 seconds until switched off.
The gradual progression of the Zen alarm clock allows a sleeper to wake as peacefully as he or she falls asleep. Not only is this thought to be more pleasing, but dreams often occur just before waking. By using a Zen alarm clock, those interested in dream work can float in and out of the dream state with more dream retention. Setting the clock to other intervals and volumes can be useful for dream work at other periods throughout the night.
The Zen alarm clock can also be used for affirmations, meditation, or yoga sessions. Some people like to use a Zen alarm clock to end meetings. The first "warning" chime allows people to finish up conversations over the course of the golden ratio progression.
The Zen alarm clock also comes in digital models that resemble travel clocks. The digital models are often encased in fine wooden boxes that open to reveal a liquid crystal display (LCD) and a panel of buttons for configuring the chime as desired.