Like many people, I love the idea of meditation but find it difficult to sit or lie down still for 15 minutes. (That is like, so many emails I could write!) What does always work in distilling my energies and clearing my head is the opposite of what we usually think of as ‘meditation’: Movement. My first experience with moving as meditation came in modern dance and choreography class in college. This was also the first time I came to experience dance as free expression–lyric poetry of the body. This was such an epiphany, because until then I’d equated dance with ballet, which is the expression of perfection. To be able to move without trying to be perfect or beautiful gives you an incredible amount of freedom. You don’t have to be a dancer to dance.
We are so used to expressing ourselves with words that we forget how powerful it is to express ourselves with our bodies. And this language of the body requires so much more awareness of self and surroundings than the language of words. As much as there is a “runner’s high,” there too is a “dancer’s high”–and I think it comes from this increased awareness. You can’t dance without noticing your body and everything around you–this, in turn, causes you to “get out of your head.” For me, it even brings feelings of empathy toward my body and everything else. Try this moving meditation without any judgment–it’s enlightening.
1. Start with comfortable clothing in a spacious room or open space. Music with no vocals will be helpful. It’s ideal to go barefoot–feeling the floor with the soles of your feet will reconnect you with the sense of your body, its weight and balance. Otherwise, wear ballet shoes or thin-soled sneakers. Letting your hair down might also be helpful. Feel your feet grounded and firm.
2. Without moving any part of your body, look around you and take in as much of your surroundings as you can. Feel the presence of your surroundings and become conscious of the distance between you and any object or the wall, and then from floor to ceiling (or the sky). This helps us get out of our one-dimensional thinking (constant internal monologue) and connect with other things in a three-dimensional way. Then, begin to move one-by-one your head, neck, shoulders, and hips, in order to take in your surroundings as much as possible without moving your feet.
3. Once you have a heightened awareness of the space, begin moving slowly while trying to “fill up” as much of that space as possible with your presence. Allow your body’s natural inclination for movement to come forward–twist, turn, jump, push, pull, lunge, shuffle, wave, kick, leap, crawl, swing. Try varying your levels–vertically low, medium, or high, and then laterally and diagonally. Keep your eyes open the whole time.
4. Now, focus on your movement being led by one part of your body, and carried through out the rest. Start with your fingertips–imagine that this is where all of your movement is originating, and let it lead the rest of your body. Try this with your elbows, shoulders, chest, hips, head, knees, and feet. Notice how the quality of your movement changes each time.
5. Try expressing an idea, object, or yourself through movement. What would you move like if you wanted to express a blooming flower? Or the idea of freedom, love, explosiveness, or loneliness? How would you express ‘you’ through movement–or by being still?
Just remember, there is no right or wrong way to move. If dance is a hidden language of the soul, anyone can dance to express themselves.
Body Sculpting Ballet Barre Workout
Photo: Peaceful Dumpling; Bettie Salt/Peaceful Dumpling