Thursday, April 21, 2011

Movement as a Meditation Practice


"Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance.  Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom." 
~Buddha
 
When you think of meditation you probably picture a monk sitting cross legged on the floor with eyes closed and palm on his knees, just sitting and sitting and sitting, right? Well that is one way to meditate but there are others worthy of exploring.

What is meditation?

Meditation is all about bringing your awareness inward in order to observe your own thoughts, learn more about your true nature or to cultivate an emotion such as love, compassion or generosity. 

Most forms of meditation use tools to focus on.  It might be your breath, it might be a visual object like a candle or it might be something tactile like a set a prayer beads.  As your mind starts to wonder you use your focal point as an anchor to bring your awareness back to your practice.

Movement as Meditation

In a movement meditation instead of a candle or prayer beads you focus on engaging your body. If your mind starts to wonder you observe those thoughts rise and then gently bring your awareness back to your movement. 

Movement meditation connects the blissful state of meditation with the body and brings it into the real world.  It is a grounded practice.

Ways to practice moving meditation

Labyrinth

One of my favorite moving meditations is walking the labyrinth.  The labyrinth looks a bit like a maze but unlike a maze which is designed in a way to get you lost a labyrinth has only one path and no choices to make.  You simply follow the path until you find yourself in the middle. 

The path twists and turns on itself in such a way that you cannot tell how far you have come or how much further you have to go.  The result is a walking meditation that is a practice in trust and being in the moment.  

I have always walked the kind of labyrinth pictured above which is originally from a cathedral in France. When I was first introduced to the labyrinth I was taught to chant “Oui, oui, oui, merci, merci, merci” with each foot step or in English “yes, yes, yes, thank you, thank you, thank you”and I have kept up the practice.  It helps me remember to be open and grateful for the experience. Chanting a mantra or affirmation as you walk further helps you anchor yourself and serves as a reminder of what your practice is all about.

There are many other styles and designs to explore.  To find one near you click here.

Yoga

Yoga can be very slow and gentle or very fast and active.  No matter what form your exercise takes it is a practice in self-awareness and compassion.  

In yoga you learn to tie your breath to you movements and listen to your body.  You learn how to be comfortable being uncomfortable, about understanding your limits and about having compassion for yourself. 
The very process of connecting the breath to mindful movement can bring about a meditative experience.

Martial Arts

Martial arts teach discipline and mindfulness, the most important elements of a moving meditation practice.  Some forms of martial arts lend themselves to meditation more easily than others.  

If you are interested in exploring martial arts find a teacher who has a philosophy of mindful practice.
  
The Runners High

You might not think of running as a mind-body practice but running lends itself to a meditative state easily. 

Running is natural for the body.  Everyone knows how to run from the time they are children.  It’s not something you need to learn how to do.  Since you do not have to focus on how to run your mind is free to slip into a meditative state.  

A regular running practice will naturally and often unexpectedly produce the coveted runners high which is truly a meditative state.  It has produced some of the most powerful moments of clarity in my life.

Try it for yourself
Any exercise or movement can be treated as an opportunity for clarity and self awareness. Simply bring your full awareness to your movement and be in the moment. 

Try one of the suggestions above or apply these concepts to your activity of choice.  A meditative state might not come automatically but with a little practice you will start to understand yourself and your body on a whole new level.

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