Maybe you’re new to movement. Maybe you’ve been on the couch for the last few years. Or, maybe you’re an experienced athlete, but you’re stuck in a movement rut and you need some inspiration. Where do you turn for instruction? Well, maybe you don’t need instruction. Maybe what you really need is yourself, your own body and your own experience.
To begin, forget all the talk about expert knowledge, biomechanics, exercise science and “perfect form.” Forget about doing it “right.” You’ve got everything you need right now. After all, your body is home to the most sophisticated nervous system in the known universe. Even in an untrained state, your body is capable of amazing feats of learning and discovery. We are wired for movement and plasticity. We are hyper-capable.
So begin with a beginner’s mind and a beginner’s movement. Start with a simple movement shape: any direction, any speed, any angle. Try a reach, a push or a pull. Maybe just an easy circle. Find a path that feels good, something that’s pain free, something with potential.
Do a couple of reps to smooth it out and then express it more completely. Exaggerate it. Make the movement more expansive, complete and powerful. Bring more and more of your body into it, integrating your hips and core. Get every muscle into the act, especially your feet and legs. (Bend your knees!)
Now the real fun begins. As you warm to the experience, bring more and more of your mind, spirit and imagination into the movement. Breathe, not just with the muscles of your torso and chest, but with your whole body. Bring the totality of your life into the experience. Amplify whatever you’re feeling at the moment, whether it’s anxiety, fear, stress, joy, desire or passion. Emotion is raw material that you can use to feed the fire of your movement.
As you get deeper into the experience, reach out further and bring the entire power of the earth, the biosphere and the cosmos into your movement. Integrate the power of the wind, the ocean, the crashing waves, the strike of lightning and the spirit that animates every animal that’s ever lived. It’s all right there, waiting for you to gather, concentrate and express.
Perhaps this sounds a little bit outrageous and unconventional; tapping into the power of the universe may strike you as extraordinary or even weird. But in fact, this is a normal part of the human experience. Don’t forget this simple but incredible fact: our bodies are made of stardust. The forces that made this incredibly vast and beautiful universe made us too. Every atom in our muscles, our hearts, our lungs and our brains was forged in supernova explosions billions of years ago. We are embedded in the same energy that animates galaxies, solar systems and planets. The incredible thing is not that we can access this power; the incredible (and disturbing) thing is that we so often fail to do so.
The problem, of course, is that we forget ourselves and our true nature. As we grow into adulthood, we lose touch with our primal energies and the energy of the biosphere. We get distracted by carrots and sticks, rules and responsibilities. We get locked into trivialities, side-tracked by flashing lights, novelties and the latest fashions of the day. Running from one amusement to the next, we literally forget who we are. And of course, sedentary behavior make it all worse. Static bodies simply cannot sense a dynamic world. Without movement, we cannot feel our bodies or their relationship to the world; it is no wonder that we become diseased.
It’s all a question of attention. When we’re born, the power of the cosmos flows through every cell in our bodies. We can feel the potential and our imagination runs wild. But as we age, we get lulled into a kind of waking sleep. We get seduced by the familiar and the regular. By adulthood, this fantastic universe begins to feel predictable, even boring. We lose touch with the primal energies of Life and our bodies, minds and spirits begin to fall into a state of chronic dullness, grayness, triviality and pain.
This reminds us why mindfulness practices are so valuable. As we become more mindful and less distracted, we can keep our attention focused on the staggering and awesome fact of our lives in this immense and glorious universe. We wake up, over and over again, to the fantastic powers of nature that lie all around us and inside of us.
And so the task before us is one of remembering, through movement and meditation. Don’t wait until you’re “in shape” to move powerfully. Don’t wait for some future moment to integrate your life into a single powerful whole. Don’t wait until a big competition or some “peak experience.” You can harness the power of nature right now. It is in you and has been since before you were born. Every atom in your body is ancient beyond imagining and is pulsing with potential.
You are the artist of your body, your movement and your education. Stop waiting for instruction. You don’t need more information. You don’t need someone to hold a clipboard (clipbored) and count your reps. You were born with everything you need. You are far more intelligent and expansive than you realize.
When your body is made of stardust, anything is possible.