I was first introduced to meditation in my early 20's, and try as I might I could not sit in stillness. The more I tried to empty my mind and quiet my thoughts the stronger they roared for attention.
Dance classes were my first experience with movement on a consistent basis. I found I could easily focus and all my roaring thoughts were quiet. Gone.
I felt like I could just be.
Since I couldn't seem to achieve that same state on my meditation pillow, I thought I might be able to draw from the experience of my dancing days. My hope was that I could find a similarity between movement and stillness that would inform my new practice.
BRIDGE THE GAP
Each day, as I took my place at the Ballet barre, the weight of the world would instantly lift. I would leave the studio walking a little taller and with a renewed energy wondering,
Of course nothing about my life was different before or after those hours spent in class, but somehow I always felt so different afterward. I had shifted.
Just because I didn't call the studio my meditation space, or call my classes a meditation practice didn't mean that I wasn't meditating.
Arriving at a peaceful present state through movement is just as valuable as sitting in stillness.
MOVEMENT AS MEDITATION
Pilates is another moving meditation of mine. I have been athletic my entire life but few activities have given me the same mind quieting effects as Dance, Rock Climbing and Pilates.
In all three of these activities awareness is key.
There is a technique to learn, an order to follow, transitions to master, movements that must be performed with ease and grace...Oh and are you breathing?!
There isn't a moment to get a thought in edge wise!
If your mind does happen to wander, there are consequences.
In Rock Climbing, your life literally depends on you staying focused. In Dance, you could lose your balance and fall or run into the person dancing next to you. In Pilates, The Reformer will let you know with a loud BANG! that your mind has wandered.
All of this focused thinking creates presence in the moment.
Presence IS the goal of meditation.
Meditation (def.) - Bringing your attention back to the present state. To focus one's thoughts. To reflect on.
DOING VS. BEING
Scientific research put out by the authors of the book Mindfulness have concluded that we have two modes. Doing and being.
Doing mode thinks. It gets us from point a to point b. None of us would get very far in life if we didn't have a doing mode.
Being mode is our true nature. It puts us back in control of our lives because it's not dependent on external circumstances for happiness. Being mode is cultivated through meditation.
I was finally putting it together.
My movement practices were replacing one kind of thought for another. Nonetheless, they were disrupting those cyclical and unhelpful patterns of thought.
Then something cool happened.
I started to see my thoughts whiz on by like the New York Stock Exchange. You know that bar at the bottom of the TV screen that constantly runs up-to-date information on each stock? It's exhausting. It never stops. But I realized that if I don't reach out and grab one of those "stocks", aka thoughts, they go away just as fast as they came.
I began to choose what I wanted to engage with and what I allowed to pass right on by.
I was literally moving my way into stillness.
A DAILY PRACTICE
These days, I enjoy practicing both movement and stillness meditation. I have found that each style informs the other, increasing the effectiveness of both.