Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Conscious Movement

Reveling in the joy of movement comes naturally to life. We can see it in animals, in infants, and in ourselves. Whether in the fine motor control of the seamstress and the musician, or in the supple whole body movements of the athlete and the dancer, or in the everyday movement of walking, life is in motion. As with every other aspect of life, we can infuse our experience of movement with our spiritual pursuit.

In the practice of conscious movement we establish awareness in bodily sensations. As a starting point, we bring consciousness to simple, repetitious movements. Examples include walking, running, and exercising. Because we walk so often, walking can serve as an excellent basis for our inner work with movement. The same technique we shall describe for conscious walking applies to any type of movement, from gardening and sawing to typing, cooking, and brushing our teeth.

In walking, we begin with awareness of our feet, of the sensations of our feet touching the ground, lifting, moving forward, and touching the ground again. The practice of walking meditation, in which we typically move very slowly with full awareness of the sensations in our feet, trains us in conscious movement. Gradually, we expand the field of awareness beyond the feet, to include the sensations of the legs in movement, the arms, and the entire body. Finally, we transfer this training into awareness of sensations in walking at our ordinary pace, walking through life with full mindfulness, whether for a few steps or a thousand. Rather than mentally arriving at our destination before we get there, we continuously arrive where we are, in our body. Instead of moving from the outside, as if our body were merely an object, we move from the inside, from sensation.

Intention constitutes a crucial element of conscious movement. The complete practice of conscious movement calls for more than sensing our bodies in movement, more even than being conscious of those sensations. We need a third element: the full intention to move, to do exactly what we’re doing. Half-hearted, divided intentions lead to half-hearted presence. Whether sewing, cooking, shaving, brushing teeth, bathing, walking, running, driving a car, typing, chewing, combing hair, tying shoes, buckling a belt, buttoning buttons, or carrying out the trash, full engagement arises from the full intention to perform the action. This does not mean simply forming an intention once at the beginning, but also keeping that intention active throughout the action. We participate with intention in every moment of it. Any movement performed consciously and with whole intention has the potential to transform our life, shining awareness into the dark recesses, enlightening and enlivening us.

Finally, we may enter into sacred movement, which, to have real meaning, must at least be conscious. Sacred movement includes all rituals, gestures, and dances performed as acts of worship. Sacred movement engages the whole of our being. In it we pray, not just with our minds and hearts, but also with our bodies. In those forms of prayer that include movement, we move with particular care, with soft-heartedness filling our bodies, in an all-inclusive offering of ourselves to the Divine.

 


     

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