It’s a lovely Sunday afternoon. Partly cloudy, warm. Still. Very still. I am sitting on the newly expanded terrace, sipping a cup of tea, and looking out to the Pacific. The clouds appear stationary in the sky, waiting there on the horizon in varying shades of pearly gray, blue and white, just hanging out, in no hurry to go anywhere. The neighborhood is quiet—a few birds chirping, a distant dog barking. The farm has been abuzz with so much activity for the past six months that this respite from movement feels odd.
I have had a lot of reason to think about movement. I moved out of the hobbit house in January, so the house could move upwards and outwards to incorporate new spaces, open up to new vistas. I moved across the world to visit my daughter, Sarah, in China. I moved in with my son, Phillip, while the construction was happening. I moved forward with completing and launching a book, Risking Everything: Coming Out in Coffee Land. I moved on from the last vestiges of an old, non-viable friendship. I moved back into the hobbit house (which now almost resembles a grown up house!). Dianne and I have moved deeper in our relationship. Moving…always moving. In. Out. Across, Up, down, forward, on. Moving.
We call ourselves human beings. When we meet someone, we say, “How are you doing?” I think it might be more accurate to ask, “How are you moving?” and to call ourselves “human movings.”
Think about it. Think about the language we use. “She’s moving up the corporate ladder.” “He’s moving on from that situation.” “Move over.” “They’re moving in on us.” “We are on the move.” “Get a move on!” “Move it!”
Even at apparent rest, even when life seems to be going nowhere, there is movement. Air moves in and out of our lungs. Our hearts move blood from one side to the other. Electrical impulses move through our brains, triggering muscles that move to pick up the teacup, click the keyboard, answer the phone, experience a moment of insight. The earth moves through space. Electrons, in seemingly inanimate objects, dance without ceasing. All of it…motion.
I have started taking yoga classes again after a hiatus of many years, and this regular practice of controlled, conscious motion is making me more aware of how I move. Am I stiff…here, in the neck? Why is that? Is the movement forward fluid or painful? Can I move more deeply into a back bend today than yesterday—or is something stopping me? Is my breath moving easily or coming in labored gasps? Is my mind wandering away to the ever-present list of To Do’s that make up my days? What do I need to adjust? If I move my weight from the ball to the heel of my foot for greater balance, will I find centeredness in a one-legged pose—or will I topple clumsily and have to begin again? What needs to change? How do I move differently, right here, right now?
And, how do the ways I move (or don’t) in yoga reflect how I move through life? Am I in such a hurry moving from one task to the next that I increase my stress and anxiety, in an effort to get it all done? Am I hardly moving at all, and feeling dulled by the inertia? Are my movements efficient or scattered? Do the events that happen, the reactions of others, cause me to lose my center and throw me off balance? Am I moving unconsciously, always focused on the past or future, missing the now? How much effort am I expending, moving through my life?
The phenomenon of motion has fascinated scientists through the ages. Sir Isaac Newton was one of the first to mathematically describe what he called, The Three Laws of Motion. Summarized very briefly, they can be read as:
1. Every body persists in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward, except when it is compelled to change its state by an external force.
2. The change of momentum of a body is proportional to the force impressed on the body, and happens along the straight line on which that force is impressed.
3. To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.
Motion is energy. Life is energy. As humans, we have many options for directing the energy of motion and thus influencing the course of our lives. If we are stuck, we will stay stuck until we create motion to move us out of “stuckness”—or until life throws something our way that propels us, willingly or un. We can choose to direct the rate of motion, sometimes, by monitoring and consciously directing the amount of force or impulse we bring to bear on ourselves or a situation. And, finally, no matter what we choose, or don’t, there will be a reaction in the Universe. We don’t exist in isolation, any of us. Throw a rock into a pond and watch the ripples expand, ever and ever and ever out, the vibration carrying into the far distant shore, on and on. Motion.
A light breeze has begun to move through the tall purple grasses. The clouds have moved away from the sun and the Ghost Kitty has stretched herself out to capture the warmth. A hen just laid an egg—I can tell because she is announcing her achievement with great, crowing pride. The neighbor’s child is moving around beyond the hedges, chatting to his father, whistling for his puppy. In the span of fifteen minutes, life has moved on, changed, shifted. Did you notice?
How are you moving? Are you moving gracefully, consciously through your days? And if you are, how are you doing it? Or, are you stuck, feeling unable to move at all, frustrated and anxious? Are you moving frenetically, a whirling dervish out of control, unable to come to a place of rest, propelled willy-nilly by external forces? Do you feel buffeted by things, situations, people? What motion can you initiate, what impulse can you bring to bear that will change the direction, the pace, and the reactions of the world around you to your movements?
Sometimes life calls on us to make major shifts, great leaps of motion in a different direction. Sometimes the smallest of adjustments can result in a radical change of perspective and experience. Not moving at all, staying frozen in inertia, is not an option. That is called death…and even then, the electrons in your matter will continue to dance.
How are you moving these days? I’d love to hear.